(Gluten-Free Family Life) 5 Tips for Traveling Gluten-Free
Elizabeth Carroll

I spy gluten-free pretzels! Do you?

August 15, 2012

Elizabeth Carroll joins us again to talk about gluten-free family life. This time, she tackles how to travel safely when gluten-free. Take it away, Elizabeth!  

When you travel with children, preparation is everything, so much so that I often feel like I am mobilizing an army. There are pack lists for each person in the family that include clothing, sleeping (and stuffed animals), entertainment, sports, and, when travelling gluten free, food.

We have not limited our travelling locations due to the gluten free diet. However, we research our destinations carefully, and make appropriate plans. These days, we drive to most of our vacation destinations. It is much easier to pack when you are not worrying about the weight of each bag. Also, we save money on airfare and a rental car for a family of five.

With loved ones on special diets, the spontaneity of eating on vacation is often lost, but in exchange, my children and husband are well-fed and happy! Here's how I plan our vacations to accommodate the gluten-free diet:

Tip 1:  Secure an accommodation with a kitchen
It is less expensive and less stressful for us if we have an accommodation with a kitchen, or, if not available, at least a mini-refrigerator and microwave.  By doing this, I do not have to worry about the challenges of us eating every meal out and I have storage for gluten free items that I bring from home.  

Tip 2:  Make a vacation meal plan
When planning what to pack, I make a grid which outlines each day we will be away, including travel days, and for each day, the three main meals plus a snack. Then, using this grid, I plan each meal and a daily snack for the entire vacation.

We eat our meals together and keep them simple! We follow our routine of different but equal breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, and a common gluten free dinner, prepared in the rental kitchen.  Examples of our vacation dinners may include gluten free pasta with store-bought sauce, pizza with a gluten free crust, hot dogs, and baked chicken.    

Also included on this grid are the few meals we will eat out at our destination, plus all meals eaten out on our travel days.  Whenever possible, I research local restaurants in advance, trying to settle on a couple that will suit tastes and diets and give us some local flavor. This does not always mean a gluten free menu is available.  However, the selected restaurants are those where I feel comfortable that I can speak with the server or chef about preparing an entree that is gluten free.  

On travel days, we often choose fast-food, accompanied by gluten free buns, because it is quick and the preparation is reliable.  

Tip 3:  Pack specialty gluten free foods
While still home, I buy gluten free items that I am not sure I will find at the closest grocery store at our vacation destination and bring these along. These include my husband and daughter's favorites, like bagels, bread, pizza crust, pretzels, macaroni and cheese, pasta, cookies, and any other items that we will need for our meal plan that may be difficult to find at our location.

When we stay at a hotel where (complimentary) breakfast is served during our travels, it's a nice idea to bring some gluten free donuts or muffins. When I do this, my daughter and husband feel that they have a breakfast treat, similar to what the hotel is serving, and can enjoy their gluten-free treats with the hotel's yogurt or fruit.

Tip 4:  Visit the local grocery store
When we arrive at our destination, I visit the local grocery store or arrange for a food delivery with the hotel, to purchase perishable items.  Sometimes, I even discover new gluten-free foods that we haven't tried!

Tip 5:  Relax and...keep gluten free cookies in your purse
After all of this preparation, you would think that we never run into gluten trouble. Not true! On our most recent trip, my daughter was so disappointed when she could not eat the complementary hush puppies served at the southern restaurant nor order the rice with her chicken. Apparently, the “yellow” rice had a gluten ingredient, though they could not specify what, and they had no white nor brown rice available. Gluten free cookies solved this issue! So sometimes, dessert comes before AND after dinner. And, in this case, gluten free cookies equaled hush puppies!  

How about you? What are your gluten-free travel tips? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

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