Conquering Dietary Restrictions on the Road

If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions, you may have already heard of allergy translation cards. These are business card sized, portable, paper cards with a detailed translation of food items and ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction or that you may simply choose to avoid for health or personal reasons. Travelers are advised to order these in advance and to keep multiple copies on their person while dining in places where your primary language is not spoken. Genius!

An example of a Gluten Allergy and Dairy Allergy card from Select Wisely

Although these cards are extremely useful, the cost may surprise you. Websites may charge between $5.00 – $10.00 per card.

Cart from Allergy Translation

It’s hard to put a cost on what could be a life-saving translation, however when urged to carry multiple cards the cost could really add up. Pair that with a trip through multiple countries and you might start thinking this: Why can’t I make my own?

The short answer is: You probably can! Just be very careful. Ensure your translation is correct, that your verbiage is appropriate, that you include potential ingredients to avoid, reactions that could occur if you consume one of those ingredients, etc. If you have life-threatening reactions to certain foods, it would also be a good idea to carry an emergency card asking to be taken the hospital.

A word of caution on translating: Although Google Translate will most likely get your point across, it may not be the most accurate for specifics. For example, using a college professor approved site such as to determine the Spanish phrase for “gluten-free,” this result appears:

Whereas this result appears using Google Translate:

While Word Reference still acknowledges that “sin gluten” can certainly mean “gluten-free,” it appears the more widely accepted way to turn the phrase is “sin TACC” or by simply referring to “wheat” which is “trigo.”

Food Allergy Research & Education Spanish Food Allergy Field Guide

So although it is entirely possibly to create these cards yourself, you might want to let the pros handle it!

A great travel option for travelers with dietary restrictions could be a tour or a cruise. Your travel agent will be able to assist with communicating your needs to the company so that they can ensure they are met every step of the way throughout your travels.

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