9 Steps to Eating Well on Vacation While on a Special Diet

Travel tips for a special diet restrictions - ochristine

Not everyone is able to travel without worrying about their diet. Some people are even required to follow a special diet in order to maintain good health. But what happens when you want to go on vacation? How can you enjoy food and fun on vacation while also following a special diet?

Holistic Health Coach, AnnaLaura Brown dishes on nine important steps you can take to stick to your special diet while traveling:

1. Ask key questions

I’m sure this isn’t the first time you have heard this: when following a special diet while on vacation, you should plan ahead. You can’t just wing it. Beyond packing, getting a passport, and other vacation musts, planning for your trip with a special diet requires mapping out what you will eat during your vacation and asking yourself key questions.

A few questions to ask include:

  • How often will I want to eat out or will I be required to do so due to availability (or lack thereof)?

  • Am I traveling alone?

  • Will I be traveling with others and what are their dietary needs or preferences?

  • Will I have access to a kitchen or at least the basic tools for cooking at the hotel where I will be staying?

  • Will I be able to do grocery shopping at least once during my trip?

  • Will a variety of the foods I need to eat be available where I am going and will I have easy access to them?

2. Research food options

It is important to research your vacation destination's offering of foods that meet your needs, as well as grocery stores that carry a variety of the foods you need to eat.

If possible, identify at least five different places where you will be able to get foods that met your dietary needs.

If you are going somewhere that is a popular tourist destination, consider asking on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms for advice from people who have been to your travel destination.

  • For example: Disney is famous for catering to people with food allergies at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World, as well as on their cruises.

3. Call ahead

If you are having a hard time figuring out what it will be like to find food that meets your needs, consider calling the hotel where you will be staying and asking for advice. You could also find a travel agent who specializes in trips to your location and asking him or her about it.

4. Get tech-savvy

Mobile apps like "Find Me Gluten Free" are popular among travelers with special diets. While the advertised focus is on Gluten Free meals, many of those same restaurants cater to people with other food allergies or dietary needs.

  • Note: this app only works in the U.S. so crowd-source Facebook advice for an international option or refer to reviews on Trip Advisor.

5. Secure travel guides

Speaking of Trip Advisor... By securing travel guides for the area you will be visiting, such as Lonely Planet, Fodor, Trip Advisor, and Rick Steves, you can research recommended restaurants and confirm which ones (if any) will accommodate your dietary needs.

6. Home cook!

If all else fails, bring some food with you. Yes, really.

I know you are traveling and you want to bring as few things with you as possible, but the reality is when you have dietary restrictions, bringing at least some food with you is a must.

  • Examples of things you might want to bring include: dried fruits, nuts, crackers, bars, and other small snack foods.

7. Be vocal

Make sure that anyone else you are traveling with is aware of your dietary needs. If you do not live with them or if they are not someone you spend a lot of time with, then you shouldn't assume they already know and understand your special dietary restrictions.

8. Learn the language

If you are traveling to a country where the primary language is not English (or your native language), then take the time before you leave home to learn how to identify foods you cannot eat. 

It would also be beneficial to learn how to describe your diet and needs in that language as well. Even terms like "I am allergic" can keep it simple and straightforward.

9. Breathe

It isn’t the end of the world that you have to follow a special diet all the time (including while traveling) -- don't get worked up about it. You can enjoy vacation and (most) local foods, and still maintain good health by sticking to your special diet.

Yes, you may need to ask for special accommodations and yes, you may need to spend more time cooking. But how is that different from when you are at home?

With advance planning and managed expectations, you will be empowered to enjoy a gastronomic and cultural adventure, have a good time, and still return home healthy.


Save + Share this post:

Did you find this travel wellness article useful? Share with your friends.

xx Keep exploring! xx
- Olivia


About the Guest Contributor: AnnaLaura Brown is a holistic health coach who specializes in helping people with allergies, (including food allergies and food sensitivities and intolerances with a focus on gluten and dairy) and special diets for autism. An essential oil enthusiast, she has also used essential oils to help improve her health and the health of many others around the world. A former librarian, she launched herself into the health and wellness world after struggling for years with unresolved health issues that Western and traditional medicine was not solving. Grab your free copy of her simple healthy gluten free, dairy free guide and recipe book at annalaurabrown.com