Are you traveling somewhere for Christmas?
When we first went gluten free I mourned the fact that we would no longer be able to travel. We actually went camping about one week post diagnosis, and not knowing enough at the time, we starved by only eating grilled hamburger without the bun and yogurt and fruit.
At that point in time, I could not comprehend how we would ever fly anywhere again with our restricted diet.
Over time and with confidence, we realized we could travel again. Initially we limited our travel to places with condominiums or apartments so we still had the option of cooking, but we will travel now and stay at hotels and dine out for our meals.
Our greatest gluten free trip was to Ireland. According to the Ireland Coeliac (how they spell celiac) society, Ireland has one of the highest prevalence of celiac disease in the world, which makes it a very friendly place to travel gluten free.
The hardest place we have traveled to was Germany. Germany is a beautiful country to visit and I hope to go back sometime but I am not that crazy about German food in general - it is a lot of sausage and beer, and our standard fallback of a salad when there is nothing else available ending up being cabbage. Plus the German's were overly concerned about our restrictions to the extent that they would just say "no" to everything. We wondered around Garmisch for hours one night asking every restaurant we passed if they could serve us. Finally, the last restaurant in town thought they could find something gluten free. It ended up being a great night but it was a stressful few hours looking for some place to eat.
Whether you are traveling far or just to Grandma's for Christmas, you will have the best gluten free experience if you spend some time planning before you go.
Before you Go:
First we plan our itinerary - what we want to see and where we want to stay. Call the hotel to see if they can accommodate your diet. Consult Gluten Free Hotels Guide for a list of hotels that cater to your diet. Gluten Free Travel Site also has user submitted reviews and tips.
Then plan where you will be driving or flying and approximately where you will be around mealtime. You do not want to have to zig zag across New York to grab lunch.
Finally, search the Internet for restaurants with gluten free options. Find Me Gluten Free is a great free app for your phone that helps you locate restaurants that can accommodate your diet.
Triumph Dining has been researching were to eat gluten free since 2005.
If you are traveling somewhere we have been, we have already done the work for you. Check out our tips on travel to
Call or email the restaurants to see what they offer, when they are open, and make reservations if necessary. If the area is unfamiliar, you can chart your driving route and map the restaurants on websites such as Google maps.
Print a Gluten Free Dining card to hand out at restaurants or to give to friends if you are staying at someones house.
Taking these steps ahead of time will greatly cut down on the stress level once you arrive.
What to Pack:
- Udi’s muffin tops and bread travel very well. The bread is good enough that you do not need to toast it. If we are in a crunch, we will top it with some Justin's Almond Butter.
- Purefit bars are perfect when you are stuck without any gluten free options and starving.
- Dried fruit from Trader Joes is a favorite.
- Glutino Vanilla Creme Cookies when there are no gluten free desserts available.
- Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta is also good to have on hand. We were at a restaurant, in Germany again, which did not have any gluten free offerings but did make pasta with a basic red sauce. It took a little extra time, but they were happy to cook our GF pasta (in clean water) and we had a great meal.
- Check out Minimus - a website that sells travel-sized food items. Their gluten free list includes items labeled GF by the food manufacturers. I would always double check on the gluten free status before I ordered the items but they have GF hummus, Justin's Almond Butter, individual salad dressings.
Flying with Gluten Free:
Several airlines now provide gluten free options. Request your special meal when you make your airline reservation. You usually need to request a special meal at least 24 hours in advance. Even though the airline may offer a meal, I would never count on an airline to feed my family. Twice we have found wheat ingredients clearly listed on an item in a GF airline meal and once they just did not have the meal on the airplane. We always travel with a carry-on full of GF food. I love these soft lunch bags by BUILT Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote
The Transportation Security Administration will let you bring food on the airplane as long as it complies with rule 3-1-1 for liquids in carry-on bags. Snack items such as "pretzels, potato chips, dried fruit or other dry goods" are fine as long as they will fit in your carry-on.
However, snack items that are "liquids or gels, like pudding, jello or yogurt, etc.," fall under the 3-1-1 rules for liquids for carry-on bags. Which means you can bring yogurt or jello in your carry-on
"only if they are in containers 3.4 ounces or less; packed in a 1 quart/liter zip-top bag; and 1 zip-top bag per person. Larger amounts of non-medicinal liquids, gels, and aerosols must be placed in checked baggage."
Of course, you can always purchase beverages, liquids
or gel-based snacks (aka yogurt) after the security checkpoint and take them on the
plane, as they have been previously screened.
Finally, "even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane."
Lastly, there is an exception to this rule, as "medically required liquids, such as baby formula and food, breast milk and medications are allowed in excess of 3.4 ounces in reasonable quantities for the flight." However, "you must tell the Transportation Security Officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the beginning of the screening checkpoint process" and you will subjected to additional security screenings.
So if you really want to bring that yogurt that is more than 3.4 ounces and you have a letter from your doctor saying it is medically necessary and you are willing to go through extra security, you and your yogurt may make it through. Personally, I do not think it would be worth the extra hassle.
Share what you learn when you get home!
Lastly, share what you learn when you get home. If you found a great gluten free restaurant in Shenandoah, Iowa then do not keep the place a secret. Share it with the rest of us so we can all learn and enjoy from your experience. I actually started this blog after our first trip to New York City. I spent so much time researching where to eat before our trip that it seemed a waste to keep it all a secret. Send me an email and I will be happy to share your experience or post a review on one of the interactive websites.