Planning a trip to a different region of the world when you have food allergies can take a significant amount of research and preparation. I was on a fairly tight schedule to prepare for a work trip to Thailand that came about unexpectedly. My younger self would have been more apprehensive about travel to Asia with my food allergies, but I was thrilled for a new adventure with so many years of travel experience behind me.
Since I have never been to Southeast Asia before, I spent a significant amount of time reading and researching. Below is the breakdown of questions and lists prior to my trip. I also have friends who have been to Thailand (who don’t have food allergies) and were able to give me some helpful suggestions and information about what to see and do in Thailand.
Below are some of their tips (as well as some I read) that I was told ahead of my trip which I found to be helpful and accurate.
- Don’t drink the tap water
- Consider buying a SIM card there for better mobile service
- Pack insect repellent that is at least 50% Deet
- Pack long sleeve pants and shirt for night
- Use cash when possible – credit card fraud can be a problem
Questions I Asked Myself to Prepare:
- Do I need a visa? I did not.
- Are there any immunizations I need before the trip? Yes, I went to a clinic for global travel.
- Are there any medication restrictions in Thailand? None of my medications.
- Do I have all medications filled and back-ups of each? Yes, I triple checked everything.
- Do I have copies of prescriptions in case I need to refill anything? I didn’t have these updated and had to ask.
- Do I have an updated doctor’s note for carrying epinephrine auto-injectors, food, etc.? I needed them to update my note.
- How will I translate a chef card before I travel? I had the help of someone my dad worked with in Thailand as well as a group member from Allergy Travels.
Packing for Thailand
I was traveling during summer in the southern hemisphere, so the temperatures would be high, as well as the humidity. This meant for clothing that I wanted to pack the lightest materials possible that wouldn’t cling in the heat. I also read that my shoulders needed to be covered for cultural sights, so I made sure I had a light scarf packed.
The most challenging clothing decisions were for conference attire. I needed to look professional but I also needed to be able to get back and forth to the conference center and still look put together and not a sweaty mess.
I’m an athlete, so I also needed to make sure that I had plenty of workout clothes and my running shoes. I also packed sundresses and a few pairs of light capri length pants. I only packed one sweatshirt for travel and one blazer for the conference. Everything else was tank tops, t-shirts, shorts, bathing suits, etc.
What did I pack for food?
Since this was my first trip to Southeast Asia, I over-packed food in case I had trouble dining safely. I went to many stores ahead of my trip in order to get everything I thought I might need.
- I went to REI for the purpose of buying freeze dried and/or dehydrated meals to add hot water to in case I had trouble finding food. After looking at the brand options and calling or searching online about manufacturing processes, I decided Mountain House fit my comfort level. I bought three different meal types and two of each. Tip: Always try any new foods before traveling. I bought an extra of each to try beforehand.
Other foods I packed included:
- Enjoy Life bars and Mountain Mambo trail mix
- 88 Acres bars and seed butter
- Mini boxes of raisins
- Minute Rice containers
- Made Good bars and granola cereal
- Lundberg Thin Stackers Brown Rice cakes
- Irish oatmeal packets
Did my preparation pay off?
I felt well prepared for my trip. It was important to spend the time to research so that I knew what was necessary. I ended up packing more food than I needed, but as I’ve learned from experience, it is always better to have more!