Easily one of the best parts of traveling the globe is getting to taste all of the foods the globe has to offer. When in Rome, eat traditional Italian pizza. When in Paris, maybe try some escargot, but absolutely head to a local bakery and try a couple (or five) pastries. When in Bangkok, eat real Thai food. And so on. For this very reason, food allergies that are usually manageable at home can be totally and completely soul crushing. Can’t have soy? Good luck eating in Asia. Lactose-intolerant? You’re going to have trouble everywhere. Gluten an issue? Shh, it’s OK, just let it all out.
In all seriousness, eating something you are allergic to can obviously ruin a trip—but don’t fret, you don’t have to starve.
Here are six tips to make your travel meal experience smoother:
Carry you-friendly snacks
This may sound like a bummer, but it can really make a desperate hunger moment a little less desperate. Nobody wants a “hankry” (hungry and cranky) travel buddy, so carry some snacks you know you can eat—like a granola bar or carrots, or what-have-you—just so you’re able to handle the little bit of extra effort it might take to find a place you can eat. Because, depending on the severity of your allergy, it’ll probably take a little extra time.
It isn’t always possible when you’re on the road, especially if you’re on a spontaneous trip of sorts, but if you know where exactly you’ll be ahead of time, do some Internet research and see if you can find anything. Chances are someone else with the same allergy has already done the groundwork for you.
Carry an allergy card
Don’t worry: carrying a card highlighting your food allergies in different languages does not make you a dork. It makes you wise. Don’t trust an online translator with this though. Either have someone you know who speaks the language translate it for you or head to a local college campus and get help from foreign language professors. Though you might also find that people with the same or similar allergies have already created them and have them available for download online.
Have good friends
Make sure the people you travel with are good people who understand your issue and will do what they can to ensure you have a safe traveling experience. Don’t travel with selfish jerks who are more interested in eating whatever they want whenever they want than with making sure where you eat is you-friendly and won’t threaten your health. Also: make sure they know what to do if there’s an emergency (and that they’re capable of doing it).
Carry medications at all times
If you need medicine or an Epipen for your allergy, make sure it’s with you at all times. In the slim chance you might accidentally (or on purpose depending on how severe your reaction) get a bite of something you can’t have, you’ll want to be sure you have something to soothe the symptoms or, you know, save your life.
Book a room with a fridge
If all else fails, make sure to book a room with a fridge, or—even better—a full kitchen. There’s no better way to ensure you’re having an allergy-free you-friendly meal than by cooking for yourself. Plus, shopping at local markets can be a great experience in itself, so don’t let it get you down.