Traveling beyond your own home or town can seem a bit daunting until you are more comfortable with your gluten-free diet. Fortunately, whether it is for work or fun, there are numerous ways to make life and eating easier on the road.
FOUR KEY THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND FOR BETTER, MORE RELAXED TRAVEL:
- Pack food that travels well.
- Accept that eating "on the go" is more costly and usually not as healthy.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare.
- Food is only one part of the puzzle. You are also going for the adventure and the people!
- Take along an ice cooler filled with gluten-free deli meat, carrot sticks, cheese sticks, etc to eat at the beginning of your trip.1 Keep cold food properly refrigerated.
- Click here to download "Gluten Free Snack Food Shopping List" for more great ideas!
- Carry shelf-staple essentials along with you, as well: plain gluten-free chips and rice/corn cakes, peanut butter, gluten-free energy bars, etc. See Level 1 for the Gluten-Free Food to Go chart
- Check out the resources below to find "celiac-friendly" dining stops and use AAA maps, mapquest.com, googlemaps.com, etc to plot them.
BY AIR, TRAIN OR BUS:
- Pre-order a gluten-free meal on airlines (if available).
Few domestic airlines offer special meals these days; you may find the fruit and cheese platter to be the safest (avoid crackers). Some longer flights may offer gluten-free meals but they are pre-made so call in advance. If you have ordered a meal let the flight attendant know as soon as you board so your meal is not delivered to someone else.
- THINK Airport security - no knives, water, liquid, or peanut butter are allowed as a carry-on.
- Buy drinks, yogurt, etc after going through security.
- Pack extra food as "back-up" in case you are stuck in long lay-overs in terminals or train stations or cannot find food conveniently when you first arrive. Bus pit-stops may have very few options.
- Pack non-smelly, easy to carry food.
- Carry your gluten-free medications and supplements with you in case you are separated from your luggage.
IN THE HOTEL/MOTEL/B & B:
- Before leaving home, check on nearby dining out options.
- Ask "local support groups" and the concierge/front desk for ideas and resources.
- Book a room with a kitchenette or at least a mini-fridge.
- If none, ask the hotel to hold food for you - they may do this in some cases.
Click here to download a helpful travel article
Reference: Cureton P. Dining Out Gluten Free-Locally and While Traveling. Eds. Dennis M, Leffler D. In Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten-Free . AGA Press, Bethesda, MD, 2010.
SPECIFIC TIPS FOR TRAVEL ABROAD:
- Request a gluten-free meal on your international flight(s) weeks ahead and reconfirm shortly before your trip.
- Check out each country's celiac website for restaurants, grocery stores and pharmacies.
- Carry gluten-free restaurant cards in the languages of the countries you are visiting 2
- Carry a medical letter of necessity stating you have a dietary restriction (for items you carry in your suitcase such as sealed gluten-free pasta and crackers) in case you are questioned by the Customs Department.
"Travel Abroad: A few sites to get you started
Reference: Adapted from Cureton P. Dining Out Gluten Free-Locally and While Traveling. Eds. Dennis M, Leffler D. In Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten-Free . AGA Press, Bethesda, MD, 2010.
Much of the world does not rely as heavily on wheat and wheat-based food as the United States. You can find delicious, healthy and naturally gluten-free foods made of rice, corn, teff, quinoa, sorghum, millet, potatoes, and other grains and starches in recipes from all over the world.
By asking a few questions about ingredients and cross contamination in ethnic restaurants (Japanese, Thai, Indian, Malaysian, Italian, Vietnamese and many more), a wide selection of new food can be yours.
These handouts may be helpful to you when you choose ethnic cuisine:
Dining Out - Mexican Restaurants
Dining Out - Italian Restaurants
Dining Out - Japanese Restaurants
Dining Out - Thai Restaurants
Dining Out - Chinese Restaurants
Dining Out - Indian Restaurants
TAKE HOME MESSAGES:
- Preparation is the key to safe traveling. Investigate the place you are traveling to on gluten-free travel websites as well as the city's visitors' center or Chamber of Commerce.
- Bring appropriate foods with you.
- Visit the National Resources section for information on gluten-free apps.
- Rinehart, J. Traveling the World Gluten-Free. Presentation at New England Celiac Conference, October 2011.
- Cureton P. Dining Out Gluten Free-Locally and While Traveling. Eds. Dennis M, Leffler D. In Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten-Free . AGA Press, Bethesda, MD, 2010.
Revision Date: 8-21-12
Author: Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN
Editors: Pam Cureton, RD, LDN and Daniel Leffler, MD, MS