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Between gluten-free expos and events, I’ve been traveling every weekend for the past 5 weeks. I’ve been stuck on planes and in cars for so long now, it’s actually starting to feel normal. Luckily, my schedule is starting to slow down – that is, until the holidays start back up again. With two families living across the country, there’s probably going to be more flying in our schedule – that is, if we haven’t lost our minds by then!
Before you succumb to the stressors of awful holiday travel and awkward holiday family conversations, now is the time to start planning for your gluten-free and allergen-friendly Thanksgiving and other holiday travels. Here are my tips and tricks for keeping your sanity, so you can be thankful for friends and family instead Kleenex and wine.
Communication is key
Plan ahead with the organizer of your holiday and chart out all of the food served and all of the ingredients used. If you have a holiday potluck – it’s up to you to connect with each of them to assure safe substitutes are used for your food allergies or intolerances. If you’re bringing your own food to stay safe, make sure that you actively communicate why you’re choosing not to eat their food and bringing their own. You want to stay safe and avoid any hurt feelings. Assure your loved ones that you’re excited to share the holidays with them, but you want to stay healthy and happy instead of very sick.
Stock up on substitutes
Make sure that you’re being diligent about the food being served during the holiday. Double-check all meats to assure that they are free of sauces, fillers and seasonings/broth injections that may contain gluten or other allergens. If you’re having a turkey, ship them a box of gluten-free stuffing ahead of time to use, or bring your own to the event! Bring a bag of shelf-stable dinner rolls with you – but make sure that you have a new tub of butter or butter substitute to avoid cross-contamination with butter knives during the event! Bring some gluten-free flour to make the gravy safely, or bring your own box or sauce packet for safe gravy.
Label everything during the event
When you pack, make sure that you bring food-friendly labels for everything you’re bringing or planning on making. Label all utensils (spoons, spatulas, etc.) and anything someone might want to pick up and use on any unsafe food. There are plenty of gluten-free label companies out there – like Allermates, Kemnitz Family Kitchen, or Gluten Free Labels. I highly recommend bringing a roll of “safe food” stickers with you whenever you travel to put on just about anything you want to keep safe, or label properly. If all else fails, bring a brightly colored duct or craft tape and some sharpies so you’re prepared to label everything.
Flying? Here’s some ideas!
Check your baggage
Check as much baggage as you can (which is why I travel Southwest airlines – two free checked bags)! You can carry liquid and larger packages to your location without having to stuff them in an overhead bin. Make sure that if you’re bringing safe bottles of items like peanut butter – these count as liquids, so always check them in your baggage.
Search for gluten-free items at the destination
Always search for grocery stores that stock gluten-free food at the destination to avoid having to bring everything from home. This is a lot easier for larger cities that have a lot of gluten-free options. However, if you’re traveling to suburbia – stock up before you go to avoid going on a mini-road trip to have to find safe food.
Don’t forget about plane snacks
While some airlines do offer gluten-free snacks, it’s better safe than sorry. Pack your own snacks via carry-on luggage for your time stuck at the airport, any delays, and during the flight. You don’t want to end up at your destination “hangry” before the holiday even starts!
Driving? Pack that car up!
Bring more than you think you need
With a car, it’s easier to pack more than you need and be safe assuming you have the room. There’s nothing wrong with taking your own safe toaster, pots, pans, and utensils (labeled, of course) with you so you can have part of your home with you.
Map out your destination
Because you have a car, it’s a lot easier for you to find gluten-free food on your own once you reach the destination. If you’re planning on visiting grocery stores for gluten-free food upon arrival, make sure you have enough time to find what you need before starting the crazy holiday gathering. Keep in mind that during holidays, many restaurants and grocery stores close early – especially if they are mom & pop stores!
Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and holiday season – and being thankful for gluten-free food and understanding family and friends!
- Erica Dermer
Celiac and the Beast
As part of our holiday how-to series, NFCA is hosting a gluten-free giveaway! Enter here for your chance to win a gluten-free prize pack from Crunchmaster.