Summer is vacation time for many of us. Kids are out of school on break, and opportunities arise for new adventures and visiting friends and family. But if you’re following a gluten-free diet or have other food sensitivities, being away from your own kitchen and routine can be stressful and time-consuming. But not to worry. A little advance planning will help ensure you have a smooth and safe vacation.
Vacations involve figuring out where you want to go and what you want to do when you are there. If you have dietary restrictions, start by researching where and what you will eat to ensure that you can get enough “safe” food to maximize enjoyment on your trip.
Here are three travel tips to have the best chance of a hassle-free, away-from-home gluten-free experience.
1. Research: know before you go
Gluten-free apps and websites can save you time and frustration. Check with your local network or Google local gluten-free-bloggers to get recommendations. You can also visit gluten-free travel sites such as glutenfreetravelsite.com or glutenfreeglobetrotter.com.
Local gluten-free restaurants
Find Me Gluten Free or Tasteful can direct you to safe restaurant options, with menus and reviews available to help you choose an ideal place to eat. Since restaurants come and go, and menus change frequently, check for the most recent reviews.
Always look at menus in advance and alert wait staff of your allergy when you arrive. Be your own advocate and don’t rely on staff knowledge. When in doubt, choose something else. Ask if there is a gluten-free-specific menu, or make sure that you are clear about gluten-free icons on the menu. When dealing with a specific food sensitivity, ordering a menu item without substitutions is safest.
Not all markets are alike. Regional differences often result in different brands and packaging. If your tried-and-true products aren’t available, try an app that reads bar codes. The Gluten Free Scanner or Is That Gluten Free? app can confirm whether products are OK for you to eat without detrimental effects.
Don’t let language get in the way when traveling to other lands. Celiactravel.com and Glutenfreepassport.com offer gluten-free restaurant cards that tell your server in their local language that you are unable to consume gluten.
2. Hotel: stay somewhere with a mini-kitchen
Getting a room with a mini-refrigerator and microwave can give you quick access to real meals. Stocking up on fruit, hummus, yogurt, deli meats and salads will help ensure that you’re getting good nutrition and avoiding allergens. It may even help you save money when compared to dining out in restaurants.
A morning bowl of gluten-free oatmeal, breakfast bar, cereal or yogurt with granola and fruit offer simple and nutritious ways to ensure a full belly before your day of fun. If a refrigerator is unavailable, pack a cooler full of ice and keep it stocked, refreshing ice along the way.
Remember to bring utensils, plates and bowls to keep life easy and operate on your own time.
3. Snacks: never leave home without them
Having safe snacks at-the-ready is the best way to avoid a group of hangry, bickering travelers between meals or when that seemingly gluten-free restaurant is a strikeout.
First thing, get to a grocery store when you arrive at your destination. Pick up fresh fruit and salads, pressed juices and gluten-free prepared foods. Tortillas or crackers with hummus, tuna fish or nut butter will always hit the spot. Or check to see if there is a local concierge service to do your shopping for you and deliver items to your hotel in time for your arrival.
Before you go, prepare trail mix with pretzels, crackers, nuts, seeds, carob chips and dried fruits such as crumbled dates and goji berries. If you can’t guarantee a temperature-regulated environment, consider omitting the carob chips during the hot summer months. Or bring chickpea snacks or roast your own and sprinkle with a touch of salt and your favorite spice. Place in small baggies or collapsable travel-friendly pouches.