This is what a simple weekend trip away looks like sometimes for me, so getting trapped in an airport as someone with food allergies is a pretty big nightmare. You never know when a connecting flight will get cancelled! It never ceases to amaze me how few choices exist, even in some fairly large airports!
As someone who not only has celiac, but also a nut allergy and some additional sensitivities, it’s no easy feat to have a long layover or face a potential unexpected stay in an airport due to delays, etc. Even a long flight presents quite a challenge (if your symptoms are anything like mine, no way you want to risk trusting airline food)! Bringing some chips, pretzels, or crackers that suit your allergies is a good start. Be sure to put them in a hard-sided case like Tupperware so they don’t crush. Also, homemade snack mixes or granola bars are good options. Some of my favorites are pictured below; but those are just snacks really, so what about covering one or more actual meals?
For me, I’ve found packing gluten free, nut free cereal in a Ziploc-type round container (seen below) is easy. You can usually find milk to add while at the airport and cereal’s not a terrible meal. Just pack or find a plastic spoon and the Tupperware-type container can double as a bowl. It doesn’t need refrigeration or heating, so it’s good to have for any length of time. Glutino PopTarts are another hearty prepackaged option. However, this doesn’t address much of a protein need.
For that, sunbutter is an option. Beef jerky can be a good option if you’re only on a domestic flight, but usually meats and fresh produce can’t be taken internationally. Likewise, the GoPicnic boxes may suit your needs (most don’t suit me now that they contain pumpkin seeds and the crackers have soy).
(P.S. With international travel, have a plan AND a back up plan. I learned in some places you pre-clear customs out of the country, so when I brought gluten free nachos to the airport in Canada from a safe restaurant out in town, I found out I had to clear customs at the same time as security. So, I had to scarf down what I could before tossing it, which completely foiled my plan for a safe dinner before the flight and long layover!)
For planned long flights or layovers, I’ve found taking ice packs frozen solid is allowed through security, so sometimes I take frozen lunchmeat and frozen ice packs, plus some bread and make a sandwich. I also like to take cheese sticks using this method. This may only work on the flight leaving home, depending if you have a freezer at your destination, but at least it’s a solution for part of your trip!
I always bring a few slices of gluten free bread (again in Tupperware-like container so they don’t get squished). In addition to other items I mentioned, if you can find hard boiled eggs in the airport and some mayonaise and mustard packets, you can make a fairly safe egg salad sandwich. Many airports also have tuna in a can or foil pouch, so you could make a tuna salad sandwich. You can also consider bringing your own pouch of pre-packaged tuna or chicken with you, unless international regulations will stop you from doing so. You might also enjoy the canned salmon and vegetable meal from St. Dalfour (I found these on Vitacost.com).
I’ve also brought other bread items that don’t need to be kept super cold, like crepes or gluten free pancakes and can usually find some safe jelly packets or butter and syrup packets at a McDonalds or Burger King type restaurant. You can also consider getting some of these individually pre-packaged items (like hot sauce, jelly, ketchup, mustard, mayo, butter, syrup) by buying them online or at your grocery store or saving a few from your favorite restaurant and bringing them through security in your liquids bag! The environmental waste of individually packaged items is frustrating, but it’s important to stay safe, especially when traveling with food allergies, so give yourself a break and make up for it the rest of the time at home!
Another option is the “just add hot water” macaroni and cheese cups, oatmeal cups, or cup o’ soup (if they make them for your allergies). If you can’t find them in the cups, just take the packets and a Ziploc-type container or use a coffee cup. You can usually ask for a cup of hot water at any coffee place and mix away. Similarly, I’ve also asked for cups of ice after security to add to Ziploc-type bags to keep food cold. Sometimes it’s free, but even if you have to pay a little for it, it’s worth knowing you have options, right?
I also always make sure to bring an extra set of clothes. This is good advice in general in case the airline loses your luggage (or you unexpectedly have to gate-check your rolling carry-on), but especially with celiac, if you should get sick unexpectedly, it’s important to have back up options!
(As always, check the labels of items to ensure they’re safe for your allergies. I did not receive any compensation for the brands mentioned, they are just based on my personal preferences or experiences!)