For people with celiac disease and other gluten-free eaters, traveling often means eating outside of a safe, familiar kitchen. With equal parts research, preparation and flexibility, though, everyone can take a healthy and fun gluten-free trip. Read on for some basic tips for gluten-free travel.
Before Your Trip
Research your destination online
Google “gluten-free [your destination]” or use a gluten-free search engine or smartphone app to assess the options. Searching online can provide the most current information and a variety of both professional and user-generated reviews.
Start with your destination’s most promising restaurants, bakeries, and hotels and contact the manager of each to learn more about gluten-free options, food preparation, and cross contamination.
Choose hotels carefully
Extended stay hotels often include kitchenettes in each room, allowing guests the option to cook away from home. Many other hotels will provide a mini refrigerator or a microwave upon request, for more basic food preparation and storage.
Talk with your hosts
If you’ll be staying with friends or family, discuss your gluten-free needs in advance. Suggest some gluten-free foods for your hosts to have on hand, plan meals together, and provide uncontaminated kitchenware if necessary.
Always have a stash of snacks and meals to keep yourself fueled for the trip. Stock up on your go-to gluten-free products at your local supermarket or pack your favorite homemade treats.
In the air
Some airlines offer gluten-free snacks and meals for purchase or as part of the regular meal service. Call your airline at least a week in advance to inquire about gluten-free options and place a request if necessary.
In the car
Stop at gluten-free restaurants and shops along the route or pack a cooler filled with your homemade food. If you have extra space, take your gluten-free kitchenware along.
On a boat
Many cruise companies can accommodate celiacs. Be sure to contact the company directly to be sure that all of your needs can be met for each meal you plan to eat on board.
At Your Destination
Even though you’ve already called ahead and spoken with the restaurant, bakery, or hotel manager, be sure to inform the staff of your needs in person. Don’t hesitate to ask specific questions about each menu item. What’s in the sauce? Do the French fries have a separate gluten-free fryer? Is the gluten-free pizza made with dedicated utensils and equipment?
Use dining cards
Reusable dining cards are downloadable or available for purchase through many outlets. With their to-the-point description of the dining needs of people with celiac disease, they are helpful for communicating with chefs and restaurant staff. Available in dozens of languages, dining cards can be lifesavers when traveling abroad and working around language barriers.
Plans can change on a whim. The restaurant you selected might sell out of its gluten-free options before you arrive, or your travel companions might vote against trekking to that bakery you had your heart set on. Don’t hesitate to move on to the next place on your gluten-free list, rely on the snacks you’ve packed, or stock up at a nearby health food store as necessary.
Once you’ve planned and prepared, enjoy your trip! Greater awareness of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet means that safe options are available in many places around the globe. Enjoy gluten-free hotdogs in several major league ballparks, fresh pasta in many trattorias in Italy, piping hot soup throughout much of Vietnam, and galettes with a view of the Seine in France.
About Anna Sonnenberg
Anna Sonnenberg is an avid traveler, always on the lookout for delicious, healthy and safe gluten-free food. After being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2012, she launched the website Gluten-Free Jet Set to share restaurant reviews and healthy travel tips with the gluten-free community. Anna is currently based in Washington, DC and is planning her second gluten-free trip around the world.