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Friday, 29 July 2016

Amy Holland: Travelling with severe allergies

I am 23 years old and have had a severe allergy to peanuts and sesame all my life so have never known any different. I have always wanted to travel around Europe but always thought that going to new countries (without my mum!) would be too challenging. Although I have abroad many times before, I usually stick to resorts I know and ones where everyone can speak English! This year, I decided that I wanted to explore more cities in Europe and that by planning ahead maybe it wouldn't be as difficult as I had thought. I wanted to share my experiences of travelling around Europe as it might just give someone the confidence to travel to these places or there might be a little bit of it that would be useful in the future.

I travelled to Amsterdam, Prague, Barcelona and Lisbon, staying in mainly hotels and flying between each place. I was pleased with the airlines, where most made announcements and all refused to sell nuts on the flight. I always wipe down the areas around me on planes in case someone has eaten peanuts on the flight before. I look like a bit of a clean freak but the the tray tables never look very clean anyway!

Obviously I'm not a very adventurous eater but I don't really mind what I'm eating as long as I know it's safe and I've been fed! I felt quite nervous about eating while being away, especially in Prague, so I took loads of cereal bars and small boxes of cereals in the suitcase. It was definitely worth it even if I had to sacrifice a pair of shoes!! In two of our hotels, we had breakfast included. My initial plan was to use the allergy cards I'd brought with me but instead I smuggled a small box of cereal in to the breakfast room and had that! I knew it was safe and felt much better having that and some fruit rather than risking their food.

I can't give you a big list of restaurants as I stuck to 3 different places over the two weeks! I had emailed loads of restaurants before I went on my trip to ask whether they could cater for my allergy. Most didn't reply, some just sent the allergen menu to me and a few sent me detailed information of how they could change dishes to accommodate me. Hard Rock Cafe gave the best information and I ate there loads. I have eaten there before, and in each place they advised me on a burger without the bun which was really tasty. They were excellent with hand over notes when they changed shifts as I was also introduced to the next member of staff and the previous staff member explained the severity of my allergies to them. I had a Hard Rock Cafe in Amsterdam and Prague and honestly couldn't fault it and felt safe throughout the meal. I had also researched a place called CAU in Amsterdam who were also very good with allergies however I couldn't have much except a very fancy steak at lunchtime!

The other place I ate out at was McDonald's. I did ultimately become very bored of chicken nuggets but I wasn't really bothered as long as I ate! Obviously McDonald's were fab and although it's not very exciting, I'd much rather be safe. It was really reassuring to know there were so many McDonald's around as I knew I was safe there and that I wasn't going to die of hunger during the holiday!

Everyone I spoke to in restaurants had excellent English, I found in Barcelona there was the greatest language barrier so I stuck mainly to McDonald's while I was there. I also bought crisps and snacks for the day from supermarkets (there was a Tesco and M&S in Prague and an M&S in Amsterdam) and made sure to thoroughly check the ingredients! It was nice in M&S as although it was pricey, the ingredients were in English!

I know I said I'd write a quick message and it's actually been very long but I wanted to share my experiences. I would have loved to have this information before I went and hopefully some of it will be useful to you all.

I really enjoyed my experience there and never felt compromised by my allergies while I was away. Although my diet wasn't very exciting, all that I was bothered about was being safe and at least I could treat myself to the occasional cocktail!