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Do RS tours accommodate those with food allergies?

My daughter and I, who both have food allergies, recently planned a trip on our own to Rome. It was great, but the RS tours sound much easier! Are food allergies considered when planning the restaurants and menus? I have the impression that a few different entrees are selected for the group dinners. Chances are we would not be able to eat standard dinners. Are there options to order separately? Would this add significantly to the cost of the trip? Thanks for your input!

Posted by
8293 posts

Why not contact the RS office for the answers to this very important question.

Posted by
987 posts

I would definitely call the RS office, but I can share my own experience.

I have food issues. There are certain things I cannot eat. I stated this when I signed up for a RS tour. I repeated this information to the RS tour guide on the first night we met. I never had an issue. If there were things at group meals which I could not eat, something else was provided for me.

If you know that you have an anaphylactic reaction you would want to carry an EpiPen with you wherever you travel. You would also need to inform any tour company - not just RS - of a reaction that severe before you travel with them.

Posted by
1084 posts

I agree you need to contact the office and speak to them. The answer may depend on what and how many foods you are allergic to. I have traveled with folks on RS tours who needed gluten free and something was always arranged. I am a vegetarian and there has never been a problem, but I am very flexible in what I eat. Guides arrange the menus with the restaurants before the tour. I am not sure what you mean by standard dinners. I have never seen anyone 'order' separately, but I have seen restaurants work with the guide to find alternatives. I have never known a cost to be associated with this. I am not sure they would have a way to charge for it anyway as any changes are worked out with the guide while you are on the tour, not before.

Posted by
6012 posts

I've never taken a RS tour but I have taken tours with several other companies. They have all been very accommodating to food allergies and food aversions. As long as informed before and restated during the tour, the guides have always made sure there were options for those with issues at included meals.

Posted by
1868 posts

As others have suggested, good idea to speak to a RS rep. at headquarters. My experience is that it's important to let the guide know specific allergies, diet restrictions or dislikes. Your situation may be unique. Some people have to carry food allergy card information in the language of the country they are visiting. There may be someone who can chime in on that information? Hope this helps.

Posted by
6034 posts

On the tours I have been on there have been people with allergies or food preferences. They simply advised the guide at the initial meeting of their needs and at the group dinners they were served food that fit their needs/desires.

Posted by
7606 posts

I am vegan, so not the same as a food allergy but I do the same as aquamarineSteph. I've done 10 RS tours without issue. I note it on my personal information page when I sign up and speak with the guide privately right after the meet-up. I also make sure they know that if a particular group meal restaurant is not able to accommodate me I always have back up food and can forage on my own. I've never had to do that. For myself, I bring Clif bars or something similar, plus get dried fruit and nuts locally so I have something to fall back on.

What I have also observed is if people have too many food issues sometimes there is a problem. On a Road Scholar tour one of the participants was on a very restrictive diet (I'll remember it once I post, lol!). She couldn't have gluten or dairy but also was off nightshades, didn't like fish, didn't like beef, etc. so it was difficult for the restaurants to come up with a combo of things she could eat.

I've also observed people who start out being dairy free but then decide the creme brulee looks delicious and really they decide they are fine with a "little" dairy. That's confusing to the guide who has to order something special for them - are they dairy-free today or not?

With food allergies you all will stick with what doesn't cause you issues, just mentioning the above for others who might be reading.

Posted by
987 posts

To repeat what Pam said above - always assume that something that may not work out for your needs. Pack something in your carryon bag that you can eat which will carry you through. I always travel with specific snacks such as granola bars or the like that work for me. That keeps me from having to be at the mercy of where I am.

Posted by
4855 posts

Its part of the routine orientation meeting, for the tour leader to ask people about allergies.

Posted by
3111 posts

Been on 10 RS tours. I have severe allergies to two specific food items. Never been an issue for the group meals, or even on my own, to get a meal I could eat. Others on the tours also have had their dietary limitations taken care of. Just clearly define your issues to the tour guide during the first night's get together and things will be handled. Seems the chefs at the places chosen for the group meals were happy to provide the special dinners and enjoyed the challenge. I know of no additional charge for the accommodation.

But my allergies are not to items that are the basis of a country's food or that you would find in most menu items. Such as being allergic to olive oil and going on a tour of Italy.

Also, there are food items that I don't like, but when touring I will eat them if presented a part of the group meals. Maybe I don't like them because I have never had them prepared properly. I found that out about mussels when I was in Brussels. I still don't go out of my way to find them, but I no longer claim I don't like them. Of course none compare to those I had in Brussels.

Posted by
1031 posts

Oh, pam, I understood yr example about just a "bit of creme brulee." I had a coworker like that who would put wait staff thru all sorts of contortions about cross contamination. And then eat half of my dessert . There are folks with real, true food allergies or issues (another friend has celiac disease) but then there's those who are just off gluten this week because its trendy and they freely throw around the "allergy" word w waitstaff.
Sigh. This is obviously an issue for me , perhaps its because of the boyfriend I would make vegan meals for that I ultimately caught cheating with another woman and a pepperoni pizza.

Posted by
7606 posts

doric8! Oh my word! Seems like you were well-rid of him!

I actually had a fellow tour member (not on a Rick Steves tour) say to me at the end of the tour "I am surprised you stayed vegan the whole trip." I was shocked that a.) someone was so interested in what I was eating that they monitored my intake and b.) would then comment on it. All I could think to say was I eat plant based at home, vacation and all the time. I was almost rendered speechless.

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks, everyone! That gives me more confidence in planning. Luckily, we are not allergic to olive oil (re the trip to Rome) and we found amazing gluten-free bread and pasta, and even baked goods, in Rome. But I understand the comments about considering the local cuisine when traveling...Sicily may not be on my agenda (shellfish allergy), but who knows!

Posted by
13902 posts

Sicily shouldn't be a problem. They have lots of cheeses, vegetables and fish - though you have to clarify the shellfish issue since Europeans do not always differentiate.

Posted by
987 posts

.Sicily may not be on my agenda (shellfish allergy), but who knows!

I do not eat shellfish. I did the Sicily tour with NO problems. The RS tour guide made sure to check everything for me - even broths - before I took a bite.

Posted by
6012 posts

I also cannot eat shell fish but did just fine eating in Sicily. Regardless of what a country's or region's main food source is, there will be people in that country or region with either allergies or aversions to that food and they get along just fine. I avoid many foods (some because of allergy and some become of aversion) and I have traveled all over the world and haven't starved yet. :)

Posted by
26 posts

I have an allergy to seafood, including fish, and I emailed Rs office prior to the tour & made my guide aware of my situation from the get go.
There was never an issue when having group meals & our guide always made sure I was offered an alternative, & then ensured that I was happy with the alternatives. Must say, at times, I think I was eating "better" than the rest of the group, and hubby looked at my meals with a slightly jealous pang!