Traveling Gluten Free

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Cooking and eating gluten free at home is hard at first, but as we found it, it gets easier. Being away from home is a whole new story, since we are in unfamiliar territory where we are not in control of the environment.

Traveling gluten free is easier than most people think, but there is one major thing holding them back – lack of preparation! We obsess over every little detail of vacation planning, but for some reason, people don’t think about gluten free preparation until the last minute. Thankfully, you are a member of this course and I am here to be your (travel) guide.

Meal Preparation

A fighter does not go into a fight without properly training beforehand, does he? A gluten-free traveler should not go into a trip without their own preparation – planning out their meals out in advance. Did that analogy work? You get my point!

When I go on vacation, I have every single one of my meals planned out in advance. Some of you might be thinking, “That takes all the fun out of it!” or “This dude is seriously nuts”. Relax, the meal plans aren’t set in stone; if you find a gluten free friendly restaurant that you didn’t know about before the vacation, just swap it in for one of the other meals and forget about it! I am merely recommending planning out all your meals in advance to minimize stress and maximize the time you have available on your vacation. You don’t have to stick to every single meal that is planned out, but it REALLY helps to have a plan. Trust me on this!

Finding Gluten-Free Dining Spots

Many people new to the gluten free diet have no idea how to find celiac-friendly restaurants when on the road. I have found the Internet to be my best friend when it comes to finding delicious gluten free food when I am away from my home turf.

For example let’s say you and your family are planning a trip to the Northeast, with stops of New York City, Boston, and Pittsburgh. What should you do?

I would immediately go on Google and Yelp and start typing in “city + gluten free” or “city + gluten free restaurants”. So, let’s go to Google and type in “Boston Gluten Free” and see what we can get.

"Boston Gluten Free" Google results (there's also a map to the right)

“Boston Gluten Free” Google results (there’s also a map to the right)

Urbanspoon is the top result for my search. Clicking on it takes us to the “Top 20” Gluten Free Boston restaurants, according to them. This would be a great starting point to go through the list and see which restaurants you might want to try out. You could call the restaurants to inquire about their gluten-free menu or use of dedicated cooking areas and equipment.

Additionally, clicking on the “Maps” tab at the top of the page will take us to Google’s recommendations for gluten-free restaurants in the Boston area. They will also be shown by location, so that you can see where the restaurant are in relation to your hotel.

The Google Maps showing of "Boston Gluten Free"

The Google Maps showing of “Boston Gluten Free”

You can use these methods to find gluten free restaurants in your own city as well!

Ah, the beauty of the Internet! As sappy as this sounds, we are really blessed to have all these tools at our disposal.

Hotel Rooms

We’ve already covered how to find gluten-free restaurants to dine in while you are on the road. But, if you have a kitchen in your hotel room (or condo, more than likely), there are some other things we have to do to prepare for these situations. First of all, absolutely try to stay in a place with a kitchen when you are traveling. It will make your life so much easier since you can cook some of your meals there. I know we are on vacation and everyone wants to sample the local cuisine, but you don’t really want to eat out every meal, do you?! Not only would it be expensive and unhealthy, but probably high stress as well, since you have to perform your due diligence to make sure what you are eating is gluten free.

Meal Planning Chart

Let’s say your family is taking a 7 day vacation., Mon – Sun. You have found 10 gluten free restaurants that your family wants to try, so the plan is to eat at those places throughout the week. The following is a sample week-long meal plan of a vacation.

Monday Breakfast = Udi’s bagel with cream cheese and a banana, Lunch = Eat out at “Gluten Free Friendly Restaurant 1”, Dinner = Prepare gluten free pasta at condo in the kitchen
TuesdayBreakfast = Cereal with almond milk, Lunch = Turkey sandwich on gf bread and veggies with Ranch dressing, Dinner = Eat out at “Restaurant 2”
WednesdayBreakfast = Eat out at “Restaurant 3”, Lunch = Peanut butter and jelly on gf bread with potato chips, Dinner = Eat out at “Restaurant 4”
ThursdayBreakfast = Udi’s bagel with cream cheese and an apple, Lunch = Eat out at “Restaurant 5”, Dinner = Prepare salmon with steamed vegetables in kitchen
FridayBreakfast = Eat out at “Restaurant 6” , Lunch = Turkey sandwich on gf bread and veggies, Dinner = Eat out at “Restaurant 7”
SaturdayBreakfast = Omelets with vegetables and cheese , Lunch = Eat out at “Restaurant 8” Dinner = Eat out at “Restaurant 9”
SundayBreakfast = Cereal with almond milk , Lunch = Eat out at “Restaurant 10”, Dinner = Prepare tacos on corn tortillas with rice and beans

Planning out your meals like this makes it so much less likely that you will cheat and eat gluten during your trip out of frustration from not having gluten-free options nearby.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I hate, hate, HATE being stuck in an airport or train station while hungry, with no gluten-free options in sight. Like I’ve said before, when you aren’t prepared with our own gluten free food, that’s when the temptation to cheat starts creepin’ into your head.

I always bring at least 4 different gluten free snacks in my traveling bag. Overkill? Maybe, but I assure you I will always have snacks to eat when the hunger bug comes a-callin’.

Awesome gluten-free snacks to bring on vacation with you:

  • Larabars
  • Natural Potato Chips
  • Gluten Free Pretzels
  • Dried Fruit
  • Granola Bars (gluten free, of course)
  • Mixed Nuts
  • Gluten Free Cookies
  • Gluten Free Crackers

I also love making something like gluten free muffins, banana bread, or anything else that will keep for a week or so. You have a great snack that can also double as a breakfast this way! It might be hard to bring baked goods on a plane, but if traveling by car or train, definitely give it a try.

If traveling by car, an electric cooler is a great road trip investment. Buy one that plugs into the cigarette lighter or auxiliary power outlet and you can purchase turkey, cheese, vegetables, and other items that need to be kept cold. A cooler is also great to keep bottled water and soda in. You can even purchase an adapter and bring the cooler into your hotel room to plug in and continue keeping your food cool.

If you are traveling by plane, most carriers will be able to get you a gluten free meal if you request it when booking your tickets. Then, double check with them two to three days before your flight to make sure they do in fact have you down for a gluten free meal. It might not be the greatest meal of your life, but a gluten free meal on your flight is better than the alternative of not eating anything. Even though you have a gluten free meal coming your way, pack your gluten free snacks as you normally would in case the airline makes an error. The last thing you want is to be stuck on a 10 hour flight with no food for you to eat — not fun!

Move to Section 10: Gluten Free Holidays and Birthdays