How much food should I pack?
Is this enough?
Is this overkill?
Am I packing the right things?
What would I regret more - having to take excess home, or not having enough safe food while I’m away?
Will I be able to find safe brands wherever I’m going?
This dialogue runs through my mind every time I travel. It’s difficult to know what a place will be like if you haven’t been there before, whether your restaurant experiences will be successful, or whether you will find safe brands and produce in grocery stores. There are a lot of unknowns. Sometimes I visit a city and eat in restaurants every night without issue, and other times I visit that same city and have poor luck finding a safe meal to satiate my hunger. The “correct” amount of food to pack is, in my opinion, completely subjective.
If you were following my Instagram stories while I was in Maine, and later, Brooklyn, you’ll notice that I packed food, grocery shopped, and cooked. A little bit of preparedness in each area went a long way. Very little of the food I brought with me returned home to Toronto, and I was pleased about that.
Certain elements of my routine are static. I always have coffee in my hotel or Airbnb in the morning, as well as an oatmeal cup and fruit or veggies that I buy locally. I bring enough snacks for each day that I’m away, to eat later in the day while I’m out and about.
Things I always pack
Something to eat on the plane, and cutlery to eat it with
Instant coffee and chamomile tea
2 or 3 individually packaged snacks for each day that I’m away (such as Enjoy Life crunchy cookies, raisins, or FreeYumm bars)
1 oatmeal cup (Libre Naturals) for each day, plus 1 extra just in case. If I’m out of oatmeal cups I will bring a container of oats mixed with seeds
Tins of tuna with a pull top lid
Pack of Ozery pita breads
Plastic ziploc bags and a reusable container
Plastic cutlery, paper cups, paper bowls
Things I pack if my hotel has a kitchen, if I’m staying at a rental home/apartment, or if I don’t think I’ll find safe foods in my destination city
All of the above
A small kitchen sponge
Small container of dish soap
Small bottle of olive oil
Personal sized pan or pot
Flexible plastic cutting board
Starches - ex. small bag of rice or pasta
A homemade starch, such as banana or zucchini bread
Enjoy Life chocolate chips
Super Seedz pumpkin seeds
My lists have been honed over the years as I learned which items I really needed, which ones often went unused, and which ones didn’t travel well. For example, my full size jars of Sunbutter have been confiscated (turns out sunflower seed butter is a liquid) and the mini’s are not sold in Canada, so I only bring it by way of baking it into a loaf or cookies. Homemade granola bars tend to crumble in my bag, and buns or bread go stale too quickly. Paper cups for coffee can be surprisingly hard to find in some cities, and drinking hot coffee out of a plastic cup is very unpleasant.
On some trips, my food items take up about 1/3 to a 1/2 of my carry on bag, replacing items like extra shoes or dresses that people who don’t have food allergy would probably pack. For trips to resorts, or long hauls, I often bring a separate bag with my food items and check it at the airport.
Everyone does allergy travel in their own way. I’ve come to realize that the relief I feel at having basic necessities with me far outweighs any disappointment I feel at carting too much around or taking excess home.
My safety net is Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, when traveling in the US. If either of those stores are close to my hotel or rental, then I know that I will be able to find some of my safe brands, as well as produce, and kombucha. In Canada, I have home court advantage and know I’ll be able to find something at any grocery store I come across. Outside of Canada and the US, I do a quick lookup to find out where locals buy their groceries. In Europe, it’s common to find small grocery markets all over. In Mexico I tend to be able to find eggs, fruit and veggies, but have had a hard time accessing safe meats. Scope out your location and see what you can find before you begin packing.
What do you pack for allergy travel?