It’s almost Summer and there is a good chance that your plans include some type of travel—whether it’s just a short day trip, visiting friends and family or taking a dream vacation. If you are living a gluten free lifestyle, travel can be one of the most challenging aspects of the gluten-free diet. But it has become quite a bit easier over the past few years, as awareness of celiac disease has improved.
Here are some helpful tips to help make sure that you have a great gluten free trip.
Pack Gluten-Free Snacks for a Road Trip
If you’ll be embarking upon a road trip, make sure you pack a cooler with your favorite gluten-free treats, like cheeses, yogurt, cold cuts (Boar’s Head and Dietz & Watson deli meats are gluten-free) and fruit. There are easy ready-to-eat meals and snacks from Go Picnic that are shelf-stable and gluten-free. They’re available at many Target stores, as well as online at GoPicnic.com, Amazon.com, and Drugstore.com.
If you want to stop at a fast food restaurant, Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread and Boston Market - all restaurants offer healthier selections and more gluten-free choices. Just be certain to talk to a manager and request that the person preparing your food puts on clean gloves, uses a clean bowl for mixing salads, and is careful to avoid cross contamination in their prep areas.
Scout out gluten free dining and shopping options before you begin your trip and replenish your supply of gluten-free staples every few days – try places like Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s, but you may find some options at many “mainstream” grocery stores, like Von’s or Smith’s are adding gluten-free options and labeling gluten-free items with tags on the shelves to make them easier to spot.
If you’ll be staying in hotels or motels at night, make sure you bring the cooler in from the car and replace the ice to keep your food from spoiling. Some hotels offer their guests a small refrigerator and a microwave upon request. This will give you a few more options for breakfast in the room.
Gluten Free Snacks on an Airplane
If your travels are taking you by plane to a “gluten-free friendly” destination, you’ll want to request a gluten-free meal, if possible. Keep in mind that unless you’re traveling internationally, most domestic flights only offer snacks for sale and there are limited gluten-free options, so bring your own snacks. Try fruit, nuts or trail mix (but avoid peanuts in case other passengers have severe allergies), healthy snack bars, dried fruit, and hummus with gluten-free crackers or chips. Be sure to pack your snacks in disposable containers and bags so you can throw everything away when you’re done.
Maintaining Your Gluten-Free Diet When Staying with Family
If you’ll be staying with family, be sure to talk with the person who plans the meals at least a week before your arrival. Offer to help plan, shop for, and cook the meals. Be sure to check out the local grocery stores and markets online before you arrive so you’ll know if your favorite gluten-free options will be readily available or if you’ll need to pack some in your suitcase (like bread, pasta, and crackers).
Try to plan meals that are naturally gluten-free. This will keep things simple, make everyone feel included, and eliminate chances of cross contamination—especially if your hosts aren’t well-versed in the intricacies of gluten-free meal preparation.
If you would like to eat out, take your hosts out to a gluten-free friendly restaurant as a “thanks for hosting us” gesture that allows you to choose the restaurant.
Dining Out Gluten-Free
If prefer not to cook on your vacation, do as much research as possible on sites like FindMeGlutenFree to read local dining reviews submitted by other gluten-free diners. When you make a reservation, have them note your dietary needs on the reservation as a reminder.
You can also bring gluten-free dining cards to explain your needs. They are available for different types of global cuisine and many are also bilingual, so a language barrier is never an issue.
If you are having a spontaneous outing, there are many smartphone apps like to read reviews of restaurants and weigh your options when on the go.
Whatever your travel style and preferences gluten-free does not need to be a major inconvenience. If you plan ahead a little and keep it simple, you will be able to enjoy any getaway! Play it safe and opt for basic options such as grilled chicken or fish, a potato, and steamed veggies and you can avoid the chance you will be sick on your trip.