Eli Orzessek finds the answers to your travel questions.
Are there any tour groups that cater for allergies? We would like to travel to Japan but are concerned about the food and language there. Which travel insurance company would you recommend for him? Any suggestions please on keeping him safe.
As far as destinations go, Japan is probably one of the better places to travel with a peanut allergy.
Unlike other Asian countries, peanuts and peanut oil aren't really common in traditional Japanese cuisine. I would still be wary about cross-contamination when it comes to street food, or even restaurants. And as peanut allergies can be very serious, you'll need to be cautious. However, I have read accounts from other travellers who found it to be manageable with appropriate resources and translations.
When booking hotels, it's a good idea to contact them in advance to find if they can accommodate allergies — then at least you know you'll be able to eat safely at the in-house restaurant. It may also be worth bringing a supply of safe snacks from home, just so he has something to eat if any issues arise.
You should also contact airlines in advance — some will even quarantine part of the cabin off for you, if you give them a few days' notice.
I received some advice from Dr Peter Storey of the Auckland Allergy and Eczema Clinic that you should find helpful.
He recommends purchasing foreign language travel cards that warn about your allergy, which can be shown to food service staff. One place you can buy these from is dietarycard.com I would definitely invest in something like this; communication can be difficult in Japan as not everyone speaks English. It's also worth learning a few key phrases — I found a good article online that has some translations and further advice.
"Because of the potential for an allergic reaction, we always recommend patients travel with their medications including their adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen)," Storey says.
"Even on the plane — we encourage keeping emergency medication with you in hand luggage. They should have a copy of their action plan for anaphylaxis/allergic reactions available and easily accessible at all times, together with a safe supply of food and liquids appropriate for the travel period of the flight."
I'd also recommend bringing a doctor's letter for any medication you need to bring, as Japan can be strict, and carry that Epipen wherever you go, to be on the safe side.
As far as tour groups go, I've found a couple of companies offering allergy-free travel, but they are at the luxury end of the market — Food Allergy Concierge is one and another is Artisans of Leisure, but both are US-based.
And as for insurance, I'd recommend shopping around as much as possible — TINZ covers allergies automatically as long as you were diagnosed over 12 months ago and have been stable for more than 12 months. However, those who have experienced anaphylaxis must declare it with an online medical assessment. So it really depends on your grandson's specific medical history — read the fine print and be sure to tell them everything about his condition.
If any readers would like to offer suggestions for travelling with a peanut allergy — in particular decent travel insurance options — feel free to send them in and I will pass them on to Cherry and also publish a selection.
I received a further response on Croatian kuna, from Barbara — a timely reminder that it's good to carry different payment options: "We were there last year and found we couldn't withdraw money from any ATM. Fortunately I had a cashport card. This was the only way I could get cash. We paid for hotels by credit card."