How To Travel With A Friend Who Can’t Eat Anything


Your vacation countdown clock is on, but your travel buddy has a plethora of dietary restrictions. Whether he or she’s paleo, vegan, gluten-free or just plain picky, here’s how to happily peruse farmer’s markets together and gorge yourself on regional specialties without anyone feeling left out.

Do your research.

Real talk: the odds of being able to customize your order at a restaurant, especially overseas, are not strong. It’s not sexy, but scoping restaurants out on Yelp or specialized food-finding apps will ease the tension of discovering the perfect meal on demand. If you’re heading somewhere without mobile service or sans data, you won’t be able to pull up Find Me Gluten Free when you’re munchy, so creating a pre-approved list might save the day.

Cook at home.

The beauty of Airbnb is that the accommodations usually come with kitchens. There’s no danger of food contamination if you’re doing the food prep yourself. Plus, if you want chicken and your friend prefers tofu, you can keep the stir fry pans completely separate.

Trade off.

There may be a restaurant you’re dying to try that doesn’t allow substitutions. And perhaps there’s a raw food bakery your friend can’t wait to check out. So if he or she has to order only appetizers for one meal and you’re nibbling on gluten-free bread for the next, just make sure the divide is a fair one.

Heads up: deciding what is “fair” is a discussion you’re going to want to have before the trip.

Support spontaneous snacks.

Choosing expensive sit-down restaurants can be a recipe for conflict, even with great pre-trip planning. But if you’re ready to grab and go whenever your paleo pal sees a cavewoman-friendly snack, you can potentially cut down on some hangry chats outside your dining location of choice.

Have meds on hand.

Even the most watchful eater can sometimes slip up with menus in foreign languages. Check with your fellow travelers to make sure everyone has the proper medication to relieve symptoms in case of a mistake, whether it’s Lactaid or an epinephrin injector. You should also know where he or she keeps the medication in case of emergency. And it doesn’t hurt to watch a couple “how to use an EpiPen” videos, just to be safe.

Learn some local lingo.

You want to be able to dine in those hole-in-the-wall gems where all the locals hang out, but you’ll find fewer people who speak English. Make sure you and your friends can both say “allergic” in the local dialect (or vegetarian/vegan/etc.).

And it’s not that we don’t have faith in your accent, but potentially, write down the list of food no-no’s in the country’s language to show to your wait staff.

Don’t debate.

This might be the most important rule when traveling with a friend with specific dining requirements. Don’t question his choice to be vegetarian while chowing on Korean barbecue. Don’t suggest she should try just a little bit of your delectable French baguette, no matter if her gluten intolerance is diagnosed or a personal preference.

Travel days are not the time to argue food morality; save it for home…or never.