Traveling with Food Intolerances on a Special Diet

I’ve written previous posts about traveling while on a special diet. You can find those posts here. Each time I travel I learn something new (meaning something happened that wasn’t optimal….mostly due to my errors)! So, I want to share what I learned with you because, really, that is the purpose of this blog….to share and learn and have fun and help others. Therefore, here is my up-to-date post on what I know about traveling while on a special diet! I hope you find it informative!

I’ve traveled several times this year; some by car and some by plane (including a recent two week trip to Europe). How I managed my food intolerance issues is basically the same: Plan ahead, stay in places with a kitchen or at least a microwave and small refrigerator, and bring food and supplies with you.

In planning ahead, think about how long your trip will be and plan enough food to eat for the duration of the trip until you can get to a kitchen. Then plan for extra food in case your travel is delayed and you are stuck somewhere for hours. For me this means I bring food in small thermoses (but not liquids if traveling by air because liquids won’t make it through security). I also bring food that is refrigerated with ice packs. (Reusable Blue Ice is fine for short plane trips and car rides, but if you are traveling on long flights where you will be going through multiple airports, pack your cold foods with ice in double bagged resealable quart sized bags, because you can replenish the ice in airports and on planes, but once the Blue Ice is no longer cold, security won’t allow it to go through.) On my most recent trip to Europe I also brought some dehydrated beans and rice with me so if I ran out of food, and there was nothing for me to eat in the airport, I could rehydrate these foods with hot water. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do this, but it gave me peace of mind knowing I had that extra food.

You also need to plan where you will be staying while on your trip. I always plan to stay in a place with a kitchen or at least a microwave and small refrigerator. It is a real bonus if there is a dishwasher and oven. Here are some photos of various kitchens in places I’ve stayed this past year:

This great kitchen was in the Palace Hotel in Salida, Colorado. It had beautiful china plates for use!


This kitchen was in Lake City, Colorado.  Our room had a western/American Indian theme.

This kitchen was in France. It can be more challenging to figure out the appliances in a foreign country but with several adults working on the situation, we got all the appliances to work.


This kitchen, in a Hilton Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida was a lifesaver! Having an oven made life so much easier for me because I could cook lots of sweet potatoes at once!


Here are my sweet potatoes about to be baked (note the parchment paper which I bring with me on trips….it makes clean-up SO much easier!)

Now that I’ve mentioned parchment paper, here’s a list of supplies that I bring (in no particular order)….

  • cutting board (because either there aren’t any or they are gross)
  • knives (one large and one small, because the knives provided are usually dull)  (omit if flying and are using only carry-on luggage)
  • vegetable peeler
  • can opener (I bring this on international travel)
  • sponge for washing dishes (because if there are any they are usually gross. I carry the sponge in a resealable plastic bag and I microwave it on high for 10 – 20 seconds periodically during my travels to keep it smelling fresh.)
  • liquid dish soap in a small plastic container
  • a few cubes of dishwasher detergent (often there isn’t enough provided and it’s a pain to buy a whole box)
  • decent sized Corelle bowl (it won’t break and it’s great for microwaving food without the food overflowing)
  • Corelle plate (also for microwaving food, and sometimes used as a cutting board)
  • parchment paper (already cut into the size pieces you want and put in a resealable plastic bag–I use this for baking sweet potatoes in an oven–makes clean up super easy)
  • backpack with wheels (a GREAT way to carry food from a grocery store–it is my carry on bag when flying) I love my backpack on wheels!
  • reusable shopping bags (I like to buy these from various places that I’ve visited. Most recently, I was stuck in the London airport for 5 hours, so I bought this bag as a consolation prize!) 
  • various sizes reseable plastic bags for storing food (snack size, sandwich size, quart and gallon size)
  • scrub brush for potatoes
  • disposable gloves (for washing dishes or scrubbing potatoes)
  • small packets of laundry detergent and dryer sheets (this isn’t food related but I bring these too. 🙂 )
  • food for traveling
  • food for while on vacation if you don’t think you can find it at a store
  • 2 smaller sized food thermoses for hot foods
  • an insulated lunch bag for cold foods
  • a few plastic storage containers for foods that go in the insulated lunch bag (these will be holding food already for your travels so it’s not like you need extras unless you want them for some reason)
  • Blue Ice to keep your food cold (but not for international travel or long trips by plane because they will defrost and security will take them. Instead, for long plane flights take quart sized resealable bags–double bag them to prevent leaks and use ice, refilling in airports or on the plane as needed.)
  • sturdy plastic silverware (I buy the kind used for camping or backpacking)
  • measuring cup (I bring a 1/3 cup measure for that is the amount of dry rice cereal I eat each morning.)
  • napkins or paper towels (just enough for the trip to your first destination)

Here’s a photo of some of my supplies for our recent trip to Europe:

On car trips, in addition to the above mentioned supplies, I bring:

  • My beloved Instant Pot (which I have yet to name, but I’m leaning towards Mrs. Potts)  🙂
  • a Duffel bag to hold my Instant Pot and all the above supplies
  • a roll of paper towels

I just returned from a two week vacation to France and Spain. We booked places that had kitchens (, AirBnB or VRBO). I made food for my trip and put some in my two thermos bottles and the rest in plastic containers in my insulated food bag. I also took extra dried food in case my trip was delayed and I was stuck somewhere. This consisted of instant rice and dehydrated refried beans. The thought was I could add hot water to these foods and they could rehydrate and it would give me something to eat if nothing suitable was available. (It’s tough when you can’t eat wheat, corn, dairy and nuts.) I also packed instant brown rice, rice cereal and packages of already cooked rice in my luggage. I wanted some quick cooking foods because I didn’t want to spend all my time cooking. I wanted to be sightseeing!  Those foods ended up being very helpful and I used them all!

I also used frozen vegetables while traveling as that was faster and easier than buying different kinds of produce and preparing them. Here is a photo of my one pot dish that I would make each night or in the morning and it’s what I ate throughout the day. It consisted of rice, beans, vegetables and sweet potatoes if I could find them. (They were few and far between in Spain and France in December).

If you are traveling in a foreign country and don’t speak the language it is a really good idea to look up words online of foods that are problematic for you so you can avoid them (eg ordering in a restaurant or looking on food labels at the store).

When traveling in foreign countries, be aware that in many grocery stores the customer is supposed to weigh and label the produce BEFORE you get to the check out cashier. Just slyly pay attention to what other shoppers are doing in the produce section and follow their example. Or you might end up like me, at the check-out register without having weighed my produce and needing to be sent back to do so!

You might find yourself in a delightful store like we did in Salinas, Spain, where there was an attendant in the produce area, who was surrounded by the produce. You asked her for what you wanted, and she selected it and put it in a bag, weighed and labeled it for you. It was like she was queen of the produce! I loved it. And I really wanted to take a photo of her surrounded by all her produce, but I didn’t want to ask her for a photo, so just imagine that delightful scene!  It was truly memorable!  🙂

Speaking of produce, I also really, really like seeing produce and foods from around the country and world. Here are a few photos:

Farmer’s Market, Seattle Washington


Roadside stand in Colorado where they were selling beans and fruit

My last suggestion is to use Uber if you are traveling in the U.S. and aren’t renting a car and public transportation isn’t available or convenient. Uber is a great way to get to and from the airport AND to the grocery store! I used Uber on my recent trip to Florida and it was a wonderful way to get around! It made grocery shopping very easy! Of course, remember to bring your rolling backpack as it makes carrying your food that much easier!  Happy travels!


4 thoughts on “Traveling with Food Intolerances on a Special Diet

  1. I agree completely with Rhoda! Thank you so much for writing your experiences down Tina. I also get crazy having to travel. That is why I don´t travel to unfamiliar places without my usual kitchen appliances: my slowjuicer, vitamix, food processor etc. etc. I might also get addicted to the instant pot like you Tina. Those soup thermoses I also still need to purchase. Very handy I guess.

    Thanks for your handy spirit Tina. I learn a lot in a short time span.

    1. You are very welcome Mai! I’m glad that what I’m writing is helpful to you. And yes, I am addicted to my Instant Pot! 🙂 If you don’t have one, you might try one sometime. They make cooking super easy! 🙂

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