Tips on Traveling Gluten-Free
Do you struggle with finding safe places to eat when traveling to new areas? Are you constantly hunting for safe snacks at the gas station or airport? I get it, I do. Thinking about traveling to a new place brings on an entirely new level of stress. However, having been gluten-free for 7+ years now, I have learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to traveling safely. I am going to share with you my top tips on traveling gluten-free and hopefully, some of these tips can help bring you some peace of mind when planning your next trip!
1. Whatever you do, pack GOOD snacks
Snacks are important when traveling gluten-free. Whether you suddenly find yourself starving on the airplane or lucking out at the gas station you stopped at, having a good back up plan is vital. Making sure you have safe snacks with you that you actually want to eat can be the difference between you getting glutened (or alternatively going hungry) and you being safe from the terrors of gluten exposure. When I stayed in New Orleans for a few days, I made sure to bring a few Larabar Bars. I wanted to make sure I had back up snacks for when finding food got tough (or for when I just needed to munch on something).
*Make sure you keep a few of these safe snacks in your carry-on if your flying, just to reduce the risk of them getting lost!
2. Scout ahead of time
Before you even arrive, make sure you have at least 3 gluten-free-friendly accessible restaurants to go to in case you need to make a decision in rush. I made the mistake of not doing this during my last trip and I found myself in a world of hurt when I arrived 3 hours after I had anticipated and was desperate to find real food to put in my tummy.
3. Get a hotel room or rent a room from Airbnb with a FULL kitchen
Yeah, yeah, I get it. You’re on vacation and you want to relax and enjoy the convenience of having food be made for you. However, sometimes the list of safe places to eat is slim and the best option is to prepare your meals from home. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy the commodities of vacation! I use traveling as an excuse to buy all of the pre-prepared gluten-free items I’ve never tried. Which leads me to my next tip:
4. Find a good nearby grocery store
If you’re getting a full kitchen where you stay, you might as well have food to cook in it! If you’re traveling far enough that your local grocery chain might not be present, make sure you scout ahead of time to find the best grocery store that will provide you with the widest variety of gluten-free items. Most stores do a decent job nowadays so it shouldn’t be too hard.
5. Pack spices
If you’re going the cooking from your room route, make sure you pack seasonings too. It’s a waste to invest in a new set of spices but packing a long a good set of versatile spices in a few plastic baggies (or small jars if you’re trying to be more conscious of your waste) can be helpful in making sure you enjoy your food on your trip!
6. When in doubt, eat at ethnic restaurants
You have a higher change of foods being naturally gluten-free at ethnic restaurants than you do at typical American eateries. My go-to restaurants are Mexican and Indian restaurants. I am fairly familiar with the traditionally gluten-free dishes and always ask for verify before ordering. For example, a lot of Mexican restaurants use corn chip and corn tortilla which opens up a huge variety of foods to eat! Being familiar with the dishes from other cultural cuisines that are gluten-free can be a lifesaver.
7. Last but not least: bring those nerdy gluten-free allergy cards with you
Yeah I know, who wants to hand someone a card explaining the severity of your allergies to someone. I get it. I hate being that customer too but in all reality, I have the best outcomes when I do this. Seriously, guys, my chances of getting glutened after doing this seem to be lower than if I don’t. Maybe because it really communicates the severity of my condition or it’s a physical reminder of my condition, but my food tends to be safer when I do this. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Allergy cards are as simple as a piece of paper that you ask your waitress to hand to the chef/cook. It states you have an allergy to gluten and that your food needs extra care.