The Amazing Race – 4 countries, 2 weeks
My name is Stephanie. I’m 22 years old, and I am allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. My family embarked on our first European adventure together in May. It was truly an unforgettable and memorable experience. My brother also has a peanut allergy, so we were anxious about traveling with two allergic people – but we went equipped with epinephrine auto-injectors and antihistamines, and we took steps to avoid a reaction!
We flew with British Airways, because they have a peanut-free policy. However, we didn’t realize that several of their entrees contained nuts or had “may contain traces of nuts” written on them. It was great that these were clearly labeled, but I was happy to have brought my own food for the plane, and I would recommend flying with your own safe food rather than eating what is being served.
Since we flew British Airways, we had a short layover in London, England (our first of four countries). Although all we saw in London was the inside of London-Heathrow Airport, we were hungry by the time we got there and had to eat somewhere! I was surprised that many of the sandwiches had almonds in them. Whatever country you are in, make sure you read ingredient labels and ask questions! We were able to find some safe foods, but it did take some extra time.
We then traveled to Paris, France (country #2) – a place known for decadent French pastries! Although many of the pastries I found contained nuts, I was able to enjoy a freshly baked croissant every morning! French baguettes were also fantastic. I was pleased that menus at many restaurants had each dish written in French and then translated into English with a description of the ingredients in the foods. If we were unsure what was in the dishes, we chose to eat at another cafe or restaurant, since there was plenty of selection! I was surprised at how popular Nutella was in France (I didn’t see much peanut butter), so I would be on the look-out for that if you are allergic to nuts.
We left Paris and went to Rome, Italy (country #3). The food in Rome was AMAZING, and there was delicious fresh pizza on every street corner! We went to some excellent restaurants for dinner, where you order each course separately, and we never ended a day hungry! We also found a market around the corner from where we were staying, and we were able to pack our own fresh lunches. I will certainly miss the amazing gelato (Italian ice cream) that we had nightly. Each flavour had its own scoop, so there was a smaller risk of cross-contamination, and the fruit-based flavours were usually in a different area than those with nuts.
From Paris, we traveled to Krakow, Poland (country #4). We also traveled to Zakopane, Bochnia, Oswiecim, Czestochowa, and Warsaw, Poland. We were very fortunate to be able to stay with our family in Poland. Before we arrived, they asked for a list of our allergies and which foods we were able to eat. My great aunt prepared wonderful meals and was very careful that the meals she prepared were allergy safe and that there was plenty of selection. If you are staying with family while traveling, I would highly suggest that you clearly communicate your allergies to them in advance so there are no problems when you arrive. We left Warsaw for London, England once again, and flew home.
We conquered Europe without having allergic reactions and left with many wonderful memories instead!
Some general advice from our travels:
- I wrote out a sentence explaining my allergies in French, Italian, and Polish before I left home. I carried this with me in my purse, learned how to say it, and showed it to people at bakeries or restaurants.
- Don’t forget to take your epinephrine auto-injectors!
- We stayed at apartments, so we could still buy authentic food while cooking our own meals. This was great, since we always had a fridge on hand to store fresh produce.
- Pack food for airplanes – it is not worth risking an allergic reaction on a trans-Atlantic flight – and be sure to research airline policies in advance. Inform the airline and flight staff of allergies.
Have fun, take lots of pictures, and know that traveling through Europe is possible, despite your allergies!!
For more information about travelling with allergies, check out these youth resources:
- Why Risk It? Website
- Why Risk It? Teen Allergy Video Series
- Why Risk It? Teen Allergy Blog