I love traveling and now especially love traveling with my family. One of the unique challenges I have, but which won’t hold us back at all, is traveling with kids who have allergies. This just means we have a lot more planning to do (and maybe more luggage to carry because we need to have food backups), but our trips are just as adventurous and exciting as any other. In fact, the additional planning we have to do as parents is what inspired me to start my own travel events site to help people like us get the most out of their trips.

Dealing with Food Allergies While Traveling

However, our son is allergic to an insane number of foods.
He doesn’t have the “If it’s even in the air, he’ll go into anaphylactic shock” food allergy reaction. But he is severely allergic to a lot of common foods (dairy, eggs, most nuts, wheat, etc.) so we really have to plan in advance no matter when we travel because a hungry kid is not a happy one.
We decided to go to Germany and Austria, partly for Oktoberfest (spoiler: great for kids, which we didn’t know) and because I am (and I’d like to think the rest of the family is) a huge “Sound of Music” fan.
We settled on Munich, Salzburg, and Berlin, in that order, with a stopover in New York on the way back. We’ve learned that stopovers in the U.S. on the way back are very strategic because they break up a long flight (since we’re on the west coast) and because our son can get reaquainted to a U.S. time zone.

What We Ate

Given the many allergies our son has, he eats a vegan diet. Before our trip, we searched Yelp for restaurants that were likely to be suitable. Our son primarily eats some beans and seeds, soy, rice, quinoa, fruits and vegetables. Nowadays, there are many options that utilize those ingredients (or flours made from them). But they’re easiest to find in the United States.
Part of our trip selection involves going to cities where we think there will be some similar options and ideally, some chance of finding English speakers available to talk to. In Munich specifically and Germany broadly, we found both.
The easiest cuisines for our son are Asian (lots of rice and soy options) and Mexican (corn tortillas, rice, chips, guacamole), but we were unsure if we’d find a much of that in Munich. We had nothing to worry about.

Finding Non-Allergy Foods in Munich

We found a couple of restaurants prior to the trip that actually served mostly burgers and fries. But the menu clearly labeled items as gluten-free (in English) and the waiters spoke great English, so we asked about other allergens. We were able to order fries, some rice-based items and soy patties.
Munich is a diverse city (from a cuisine standpoint, at least) so we had no issues also finding a great sushi restaurant (veggie roles, edamame, and inari are my son’s favorites). But we also had to make sure we could get them without soy sauce (inexplicably contains wheat, but tamari sauce doesn’t). We ask all questions upfront so we know whether to eat at that place or not.
In Munich and across Germany, we discovered that restaurants as a whole do a really great job of labeling their menu items with allergen information. Maybe it’s a law? Whatever the case, it was extremely easy finding out about the major food allergens and then asking about ones that are more specific to our son.
While we did encounter some places that we had to reject, the walkability of the town made it easy to find a new spot quickly. Even more impressive, the country has an enormous vegetarian scene (Berlin is actually #1 for vegetarian food, according to some rankings) so that posed no issue whatsoever for us.

Munich

We try to travel internationally at least once a year. Our style is to make fewer but longer visits. This year, we chose to visit Germany and Austria. That was partly for Oktoberfest (spoiler: great for kids, which we didn’t know) and partly because I am (and I’d like to think the rest of the family is) a huge “Sound of Music” fan.
We settled on Munich, Salzburg, and Berlin, in that order, with a stopover in New York on the way back. We’ve learned that stopovers in the U.S. on the way back are very strategic because they break up a long flight (since we’re on the west coast) and because our son can get reaquainted to a U.S. time zone.
Our (at the time) 3-year-old son loves to fly. He’s been flying since he was 4 months old and this would be countries #4 and 5 for him. He gets excited just thinking about going to the airport, watching the planes take off and land and bringing along his Lightning McQueen suitcase. Fortunately for us, he sleeps well on planes, too. So we no longer worry about the flying process with him, which makes traveling significantly easier.

What We Did

The highlights for us, outside of Oktoberfest, were the Olympic Park and BMW museum. They are next to each other and offer great fun for kids as well as parents. The park is mostly open space now, and the stadiums are mostly unused (the swimming pool is still open, but is for members). The BMW museum featured both BMW and Mini cars and the one I most wanted to see was the new i8 electric car. It looked glamorous and something I’d love to drive at some point. My son enjoyed sitting in the Mini and on the motorcycles outside. Too bad by the time he can drive, all cars will be self-driving.

Oktoberfest

Finally, Oktoberfest was about to begin! Sadly, my wife was pregnant and couldn’t partake, but it’s always good to have someone who can keep you upright after downing a few steins 🙂
Getting to Oktoberfest was very easy. We took the U-Bahn (subway) there. There were crowds, but they weren’t overbearing (unlike Tokyo at rush hour…or really any hour).  The most remarkable part of reaching the grounds? Discovering that it was more than just beer tents and drunk revelers. We arrived to find a whole carnival for kids and adults with the beer tents mixed in. I had no idea this would be the case so it was definitely welcome. And since we went on opening day, we got to see the ceremonial kickoff of Oktoberfest, with horse-drawn carriages and the mayor tapping the inaugural keg.

Opening Parade for Oktoberfest

We spent a couple of hours at the carnival first and then headed to the Paulaner tent where we luckily found some outside seating at a table for the tired and famished wife and kid.
There we had the experience we seek when we travel: we joined a table of multi-generational Germans, none of whom spoke English. My son was next to the grandfather of the group. Despite the lack of a common language, he entertained my son while I drank the hours away. I’m sure his kids wanted him to watch the grandkids while they drank. But hey, Germans are known for their hospitality to outsiders! 🙂
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Munich. My next post will share are visit to Salzburg.

Comments

comments