Traveling with Diet Restrictions

My “mobile kitchen.” The only thing missing is my mini cooler.

Traveling with a restricted diet requires planning ahead. While driving an average of 600 miles a week for work the past two months, using a “mobile kitchen” in my hotel has been the only way my nickel food allergy didn’t ravage out of control.

Many of you know that I do eat out at restaurants from time to time. Residing in an urban area with hundreds of restaurants to choose from, I’ve already had the luxury of sifting through many of them using their menu, asking servers/cooks questions about entree ingredients, and knowing which items I can eat or cannot enjoy. However, when I travel by car to rural areas, unfortunately there aren’t as many restaurants or even grocery store choices and employees though polite aren’t necessarily as food allergy aware. As a means to keep my food on the cheap and control what I eat, I’ve developed a “mobile kitchen” system that I take with me whenever I travel by car.

Packing myself a lunch, dinner meal and breakfast for the following day, my “mobile kitchen” must include a variety of items. Typically I packed a stainless steel electric skillet, a mini cooler, plastic  reusable plates, disposable plastic utensils, a plastic cutting board and knife, a cup of rice chex in a Rubbermaid plastic container, a small bottle of olive oil, select spices, a small portion of sweet chili sauce, a 32 oz water bottle, and a sponge and small bottle of dish soap to clean everything. The day I’d be leaving, I would place a cup of rice milk, frozen chicken breast, cup of yogurt, two cheese sticks, a couple zucchinis, baby carrots, a banana, an apple, a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich and piece of bread in the cooler. When I travel for work I do receive a per diem for a hotel and meals. By using the electronic skillet in my hotel room I save money on meals, essentially pocketing the per diem.

Although I use a stainless steel skillet where some of the nickel can leach into my food, I feel it’s better than eating out, as I still control all the ingredients. I’ve found that if I use the skillet once a week and not daily it doesn’t cause my skin to react. When I camp I use a propane stove with a ceramic skillet without any issues. However, when I stay in a hotel overnight I choose to not cook in the parking lot because of the propane, but instead use my electronic skillet in my private hotel room.

This night for dinner I made myself Italian seasoned grilled chicken with a raw carrot and apple side.

Baggage fees or air travel restrictions make taking my “mobile kitchen” more challenging when I travel by airplane. Depending on how extensive my travel plans are I’ll typically find a way to make it work or stay at an extended stay hotel with a kitchenette.

When I started traveling mid-March I received my quarterly Allergic Living magazine in the mail. It felt like serendipity when I read and related to their article 1 Car, 4 Kids and 10 Allergies: How One Family Pulled Off an Epic Road Trip in my hotel room after making myself dinner. My “mobile kitchen” is the equivalent to Sarah’s “vacation box.” We all deserve to enjoy ours lives away from home regardless of our diet and/or food allergies.

If you’ve traveled with diet restrictions and used similar techniques or have your own, I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

Happy & safe travels.

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