December 19, 2014

How to Handle Dietary Restrictions When You Travel

Whether you’re dealing with lactose intolerance, a vegan diet or religious dietary restrictions, planning ahead is critical for travelers with special needs.

Hacks:

Know how to get the best bang for your diet restriction buck. For example, when dining at Denny’s, customers are allowed to substitute fresh fruit for any item on a combo plate free of charge. That same service costs you precious travel bucks at the International House of Pancakes. Likewise, Chili’s restaurant offers a complimentary vegetarian black bean patty substitution with any burger order. This helps my husband and I out on the vegan travel scene, because we can order the mushroom and Swiss burger sans cheese and swap in the veggie patty. Coupons can also help you remain calorie and carnivore conscious on the road. Sweet Tomatoes, a healthy soup and salad franchise, allows patrons to sign up for savings coupons to be delivered to your email inbox. They offer many vegan, vegetarian, organic and low-calorie options.

Corporate Support:

Many airlines allow you to schedule special meals in advance. Disney is one of several theme parks that accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions for those who make advanced arrangements with guest services.  P.F. Chang’s, a restaurant chain with locations in the United States, Kuwait, Mexico and Dubai, offers both vegan and gluten-free menu selections. Panera Bread has options for vegetarians and vegans as well, along with free WiFi. In fact, it’s one of my favorite fast food options for vegans dining out.

Research:

Check menus and other online sources in advance. Groups with overlapping needs may have done the work for you. For example, those dealing with lactose intolerance may find useful information in vegan resources. Zabihah.com has a database of halal restaurants around the world, including the United States, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Happycow.net allows users to search for vegetarian-friendly restaurants by city.

Plan Ahead:

Reserve a vacation rental with a full kitchen, and book a personal chef in advance. Depending on the size of your family, it can be cheaper than dining out. Personalchefsearch.com will point you in the right direction. Opt for salads and fruits to maintain kosher and other dietary standards. Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants routinely provide a variety of vegan dishes. FIRST for Women magazine recommends making your water bottle work double duty by mixing travel-sized packages of protein powder with your water to keep you feeling fuller longer. They also advise ordering entrées in halves – one to eat immediately and one to enjoy later.