How to Enjoy Gluten-Free Travel
As with all aspects of gluten-free living, preparation is essential for minimizing both expense and stress when you travel. Preparation combined with attitude plays a big role in how much enjoyment you get out of travel.
Not getting glutened also helps.
Unless you are traveling to a very GF-Friendly locale, it is almost impossible to just wing it without spending a small fortune or wanting to tear your hair out (multiply x 1000 if traveling with small children).
The following tips will help you adequately prepare for gluten-free travel so that you can focus on enjoying it:
Helpful topics to research in advance:
- Applicable travel tips for your mode(s) of transit
- Your destination
- grocery stores and/or health food specialty stores
- farm markets
- GF-friendly restaurants
- lodging options
- If traveling internationally, it may be helpful to print out or write down this information as access to internet may be much more limited than when traveling domestically
In all likelihood, you may need to budget additional monies for safe foods during the entire travel experience. “Safe” for you may mean dining out more in restaurants or it may mean purchasing and preparing your own food—understanding your lodging situation will help you determine how best to budget your money (and time).
In restaurants, gluten-free food is almost always more expensive than its gluten-full counterparts—you may be paying for more expensive ingredients, more skilled chefs, or a fancier environment. No matter the reason for the expense, it does exist so please plan for it.
If traveling on a strict budget (which is possible!!), plan to eat packed snacks supplemented with naturally gluten-free foods you purchase and prepare yourself (see below).
Don’t forget about factoring in the value of time and effort. It may be worth spending a little bit more money upfront for an all-inclusive vacation that offers gluten-free options—cruises and resorts can actually be a budget-friendly option for this reason.
Think carefully about your mode of transit and ultimate destination—you will need to pack differently for a college backpacking trip through Europe than a beach vacation with your small children.
If possible, pack a travel food bag (or entire suitcase) with nonperishable but filling snacks and meal alternatives. Great options include gluten-free bars, nuts, nut or seed butters, and coconut macaroons.
If you will have a safe place to prepare food, consider sending a package of your favorite baking mixes or spice blends ahead of time and plan to purchase fresh, whole, naturally gluten-free foods upon your arrival.
Don’t forget to pack adequate snacks for the car, train, plane, or other mode of transit. Always pack more than you expect to need (especially if traveling with children) because delays can quickly become food emergencies.
Prep your Companions
Parents are quite practiced in the art form of preparing themselves and their travel companions for what lies ahead. Anyone who has taken a toddler on a plane has had a frank conversation with themselves at some point about realistic expectations.
Talk to your companions about the aspects of travel that may be more challenging for you, especially if you are traveling with a group of people who are not familiar with GF travel concerns. There is no need to be dramatic or have a big “gluten conversation.” Share some basic facts about gluten-free ingredients and cross-contamination concerns, answer questions, and discuss issues if they come up.
If you are traveling internationally with someone who speaks the language, it may be helpful to have a conversation with that person about how to phrase your gluten-related questions. Companions who have previously traveled to your destination may also be able to provide helpful insights about GF options.
If traveling with gluten-free children, it may be helpful to remind them about potential GF travel issues. If traveling somewhere new, talk to them about aspects of the local cuisine they can enjoy and unique opportunities to try a new type of fruit or vegetable—remember to focus on what they can enjoy instead of what they can’t eat.
Get in the “HOW” Mindset
There are lots of reasons to travel. Think carefully about why you are traveling.
Are you seeking adventure?
Make part of the challenge finding new and interesting ways to eat and live gluten-free.
Are you building memories?
Focus more on the travel experience and less on what specifically you eat.
(Foodies should be a little picker about travel locations to maximize food-based enjoyment)
Are you just trying to get to and from your business meeting without getting sick?
Pack or purchase safe food to minimize gluten contamination risks.
When in doubt, always choose hunger over being sick.
Whatever the reason for travel, you can find a way to make it less stressful, if not downright enjoyable. Keep the bigger picture in mind and set your expectations to make that happen.