Food allergies and travelling

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

Learn how to make travel safer for a child with a food allergy.

Key points

  • With the right preparation, travelling with allergies is safe. Planning can include bringing your own food and utensils, having enough medication and learning important phrases if you are travelling to a country where you cannot speak the language.
  • Inform others of your allergies when making hotel, train or flight bookings.
  • When eating out, ask about ingredients and how the food is prepared. If you are unsure about eating something, do not eat it.

Whether it is a trip to the family cottage or a journey abroad, travel is an adventure to be shared with family and friends. However, for a person with a food allergy, travelling can be as daunting as it is exciting.

This article gives tips to help you and your family have a safe and happy trip.

Top 5 things to know about travelling with a food allergy


For more videos from SickKids experts in collaboration with Youngster, visit Youngster on YouTube.

Notify your carrier of your child’s allergy and know their policies

Tell the airline, rail or bus service about your child’s allergy when you book your tickets.

When travelling by plane or train, know the company policy about allergies. For example, some services do not let children with life-threatening allergies travel alone. Most airlines have removed peanut products from on-board service. However, this does not mean that the foods served are allergen free. It may be useful to bring wet wipes to clean any surfaces that your child may touch, such as the tray table, before eating.

With fluid restrictions on airplanes and other regulations, it is a good idea to know the laws about what is allowed on planes or when travelling across a border.

For information about travelling with medicines and medical supplies, visit your country's foreign affairs ministry or department's website. Many have pages offering advice about travel to specific countries and the rules involved in getting there.

Plan to bring food

Plan ahead to bring food and drinks with you. Pre-packaged snack foods are great for shorter trips. For longer stays, you may want to bring staple foods that might be hard to buy. These might include breads, pastas, crackers, cereal and canned goods. You may also want to mail food ahead.

Children need frequent snacks, especially while travelling. If you need to keep food and drinks cold, use an insulated bag. If you are travelling by car, put the items in a cooler. Ask if there is a fridge or freezer where you will be staying. It is a good idea to bring your own utensils and always wash your hands before eating.

Prepare for language barriers

If you travel to a country where you cannot speak the language, be sure to know how to say important words and phrases in that language. For example, be familiar with how to say the names of the foods that your child is allergic to. You may also want to know how to ask where the nearest hospital is. Practise with someone who knows the language well to make sure you can be understood. Dining cards and pocket translation guides can be useful. Just be sure that the information on the card is accurate.

If you are ever unsure of the ingredients in a food, do not let your child eat it.

Check your child’s medicines

Make sure you have all the medicines (for example, epinephrine auto-injectors) your child needs for the trip. It is often helpful to bring extra doses of the medicines. These medications should be kept close by in case they are needed. Make sure your child has a Medic Alert bracelet if they are at risk of having a serious allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.

Share allergy information

Tell your travel companions, as well as staff or flight attendants, about your child’s allergy, its severity and how they can help your child if they have a reaction. Remember to keep any medication close by. If your child is traveling alone, make sure the flight attendant knows where to find their medication if they need it.

Call ahead and ask questions

When you book a holiday, inform the hotel about your child’s allergy. You may want to speak to the chef well in advance so that the kitchen knows that special steps may be needed while you are there. Most hotels are helpful when given enough notice.

When visiting restaurants in the area, eat during off hours. This will make it easier for the kitchen to accommodate your child and take more precautions when preparing their food. Speak with your waiter or manager about the ingredients in the dishes you are ordering and how the food is prepared. Do not be afraid to overstate how serious your child’s allergy is. You want the staff to be cautious. If you are unsure, ask to go into the kitchen or speak with the chef.

Many hotels offer suites with kitchens. That way, you can bring food with you and cook it yourself. Just make sure you thoroughly clean any utensils provided before your child uses them.

Make a list of phone numbers

Bring important phone numbers with you. Include the number of your child’s doctor and those you may need in case of a medical emergency. Make sure you are able to call long distance with your cell phone.

Get travel insurance

Make sure that your insurance will cover a trip to the doctor, clinic or hospital.

Think about timing

Planes and trains may be cleaner first thing in the morning. Similarly, people may be less likely to snack on nuts in the morning.

Last updated: March 8th 2021