Tips for Travelling Overseas with Food Allergies to Ireland
I know that travelling somewhere new can be a little unnerving. Add anaphylactic food allergies to the mix and it can feel downright scary. Even though our family has travelled quite a bit, I STILL go through doubt, fear and uncertainty every time we travel. Usually when booking, and right before we leave. Even so, we still feel like travelling and the benefits of it are important for our family. Both to teach our kids (and us) that we can live a normal life with food allergies and to expand our horizons and learn, play and bond together as a family.
Our most recent family trip this summer was to Ireland. My daughter has anaphylactic peanut and tree nut allergies and a gluten intolerance. I know it usually helps to hear other people’s experiences when it comes to travel, so here’s what it was like for us to travel to Ireland with food allergies.
Safe Allergy Eats We Brought With Us
First of all, to prepare for the trip we packed lots of safe food. We brought individual packages of mac & cheese, oatmeal and chicken snacks. We brought squeezable apple sauce and LOTS of safe, pre-baked treats and candies. We also had some high-protein, gluten-free muffins with us. The chicken snacks got caught up in security a couple of times because they were packed in a tin, but having the safe protein option for a coupe of meals was worth it.
Also to prepare, I joined an Irish food allergy group way before our trip and started asking questions there.
Food Allergies at the Grocery Stores
On our first day in Dublin, we were just getting acquainted with the city and decided that eating from the grocery store was the way to go. Luckily there was a Tesco market within a 2 min walk from the hotel.
TIP: If you’re ever in doubt, you will always find something simple and safe to eat at the grocery store. Fruit, veggies, rice, grains, meat in a can and more. If you can find a hotel that’s in close proximity to the grocery store, I would highly recommend it.
That night supper for my daughter was a banana, chocolate milk and potato chips. (Ok, as I read that back I feel a bit embarrassed because we could have added a few veggies and a bit more protein to make it a bit healthier. But we were also on vacation and my daughter often doesn’t get a lot of treats, so we went with it!). The rest of us found some cheese, crackers and sandwich meat as well as a banana too.
Here’s a pic of one of the food labels in Ireland. I I don’t know what their labelling laws are, but I found it interesting how there are labels stating whether there’s nuts in the ingredients and also, whether the factory is nut-free. This must save their customer service line several calls; but do you think this is helpful, or just more confusing? We are label readers in our family, so I’m fine if there are nuts in the factory AS LONG AS THERE ARE PRECAUTIONS TO KEEP THEM OUT OF THE ITEMS THAT SHOULDN’T HAVE THEM. This label makes me feel unsure and I likely wouldn’t buy it.
Note that this type of labelling wasn’t on every product; just on a few which tells me it’s not a requirement or law.
Dining Out With Food Allergies in Ireland
In general, the hotel restaurants were pretty good about understanding cross contact and contamination. Almost every waiter we asked in the hotel restaurants would talk to the chef and then come back with options that would be safe for my daughter. What I liked was that usually the servers would bring up WHERE the food was prepared and whether there was a chance of it being contaminated with allergens on their own. This showed that they were trained and understood how to handle food allergies. Their knowledge helped us feel safer.
On the downside, even though most servers seemed to be somewhat knowledgeable about food allergies, allergy menu choices were overly simple and bordering on “boring”. For example a plain chicken breast on top of a salad. On the bright side, my daughter found a new appreciation for simple fish fillets and mashed potatoes (Ireland was FULL of potatoes made many different ways; mashed were my daughter’s favourite)!
We found a few places throughout Ireland that had “Allergy Menus”. These menus would state the allergens in each dish with a numbering system so you could choose something safe. We weren’t sure if this meant the restaurants completely understood cross contact or if they were just talking about the ingredients in each item; so we were still careful to talk with the servers in depth before ordering from these menus.
There are lots of old-fashioned pubs in Ireland (like REALLY old-fashioned with some over 500 years old). They were usually family run. Even small family-run pubs USUALLY understood cross contact for the most part, or they would listen and comply after we explained. Although some needed a bit more explanation, we lucked out because there wasn’t one place that we felt we needed to leave. Keep in mind we did try and pre-research as many restaurants as possible before we left.
Peanut and Nut Allergy-Friendly Ice Cream
We even found a nut allergy friendly ice-cream chain called Murphy’s! At the time we were there, they didn’t have any nuts in the ice creams they stocked; but since then, I have seen ice creams with nuts on their online menu. That said, they explained that they were careful to keep nuts separate from non-nut ice creams and took cross-contact precautions. If you go there, I would definitely recommend checking with the individual store to make sure they are aware of cross contact before purchasing.
Overall, I would say Ireland was quite allergy-friendly in general. I feel like they try their best to accommodate and are OPEN to serving people with food allergies. There are still times when I don’t feel the same even here in Canada, so I feel like Ireland might be slightly ahead of us on that!
Would you travel to Ireland with food allergies? If so, what questions do you have about travelling there? Post in the comments below!