12 Tips that Make Gluten-Free Travel Easy
With the holidays right around the corner, I thought it was perfect timing to share with you a few gluten-free travel tips. Many of you will be jumping on planes and flying long distances to see loved ones. Or driving and sitting in probably way too much traffic. Well, this year, I’ve got it easy. I’m just driving an hour and half south to Orange County as we’re doing Thanksgiving at my brother’s. But remember that two years ago I traveled to Sydney for the holidays. A slightly longer trip.
So today, I’m sharing 12 tips that make gluten-free travel easy. In other words, a few things I’ve learned after trotting around the world quite a bit. And whether your travel plans include the upcoming holidays or an exciting, wanderlusting adventure in the future, these gluten-free travel tips will help to ensure your travel goes off without a hitch and that you remain healthy, happy and at ease.
12 Tips That Make Gluten-Free Travel Easy
1. Plan your transit food
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that my eating style is real, healthy and wholesome. So plan ahead and think of what foods will keep your tummy satisfied (usually a combination of healthy carbs, protein and fat) and pack them in a tupperware-like container. Some of my favorite foods include homemade salads (kale salads hold up the best), wraps on gluten-free tortillas and raw zucchini noodle dishes. You can pack these in a small, packable cooler. If you’re flying, just remember to pack any liquids (including salad dressings) in a TSA-approved 3.4oz or less container.
2. Pack a variety of snacks
Whole fruits such as apples, bananas and oranges travel amazingly well. And homemade muesli or trail mix can definitely satisfy tummy rumbles. While I’m not typically a fan of packaged gluten-free food, I do have a few convenient, gluten-free travel snacks that I recommend and reach for time and again. They’re my faves.
3. Book a gluten-free meal with the airline
I’ll be the first to admit that airplane food leaves much to be desired, but when you’re 30,000 feet in the air, it’s always wise to have a back-up plan. So always order the gluten-free airline meal. If you’re flying internationally, dietary-specific meals usually need to be ordered 48 hours in advance, which you can do on the airline website. You don’t have to eat it this meal, but planning ahead is key.
4. Order gluten-free dining translation cards
If you’re traveling overseas, translation cards communicate to your restaurant server, in their native language, your specific dietary requirements. Translation cards can also address multiple food allergies and intolerances, in addition to gluten. These are far more affective than hand gestures which lead to miscommunication and confusion.
5. Speak in restaurant language
It’s easy to get comfortably saying things like “I’m celiac” or “I’m gluten-free” – but those phrases may not work as well overseas or in a foreign language. So it’s best to be clear and concise on the ingredients you can’t eat. Say things like, “I’m allergic to gluten, which includes wheat, barley and rye. Are any of those ingredients used in my meal?” You’ll have far better success with this approach.
6. Stick to naturally gluten-free foods
Whenever I hear unpleasant stories from people who’ve had problems traveling gluten-free, it’s usually because they’ve ordered things like gluten-free pizza or gluten-free pasta. Foods that have a high likelihood of cross-contamination or let’s be honest, are prone to kitchen error. So I always stick to naturally gluten-free foods, like vegetable salads, poached salmon or rotisserie chicken. Not only is it safer, it’s healthier.
7. Pack herbal teas
Herbal teas are mother nature’s medicine chest and can help with a variety of ailments while traveling. To help with digestion, upset stomach or motion sickness, reach for ginger tea. To help boost your immune system, aid digestion and reduce inflammation, reach for peppermint tea. And to help you sleep (always key when traveling), reduce anxiety and boost your immune system, reach for chamomile tea. What do I do? Pack a few of each, of course.
8. Double check customs restrictions
If you’re crossing through country borders (whether by car or plane), remember to double check customs restrictions regarding the entry of food. Some countries, like my motherland New Zealand, have more stringent requirements. And it’s never fun tossing out heaps of delicious, homemade gluten-free food that you’ve packed.
9. Request a microwave and/or mini-fridge
If you’re staying in a hotel, you may be able to have a microwave and/or mini fridge placed in your room, due to medical necessity. Call the hotel before your arrive, notify them of your food sensitivities and politely ask if any special arrangements can be made.
10. Book accommodations with a kitchen
I’m a huge fan of gastrotourism and eating local when traveling, but it’s always nice to stay in a place that has a kitchen, like my apartment in Lisbon. Besides, if you book an apartment, you can purchase food at the local farmer’s market and whip up a delicious meal inspired by unique flavors at your destination.
11. Travel more slowly
The more I travel, the more I appreciate slow travel. Instead of visiting five cities (and cramming it all in), I’ll now visit two and really get to know each place. It’s prioritizing depth over breadth and trust me, your chances of getting glutened are reduced happen when you’re calm, relaxed and you’ve become familiar with a location and cuisine.
12. Remember to breathe
Your worst nightmares rarely come true, so if you’ve got “what if’s” floating through your brain, take a deep breath and push those aside. The joy, adventure, laughs and once-in-a-lifetime memories from travel are worth navigating potentially uncertain terrain. Just keep a positive “can do” attitude and you’ll have a blast.
For more gluten-free travel tips, advice, travel-friendly recipes and wanderlust inspiration, make sure to check out my ebook Roaming Free. I’ve also written gluten-free city guides for Lisbon and Bali….with more to gluten-free travel guides coming soon. Make sure to subscribe so you’ll be notified when new guides are released.
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Where would you like to travel gluten-free? What’s your dream destination? Let me know in the comments below!