When you first start eating gluten-free, it feels like everything from grocery shopping to happy hour with friends is way more complicated than it used to be. But once you get used to the gluten-free lifestyle and find your rhythm, everything falls into place.
Traveling when you’re gluten-free is the same way. It can feel incredibly daunting at first, but if you take the time to plan where and what you can eat while you’re on the road, you’ll be able to kick back and have a blast. Here are five incredibly useful tips we’ve learned to help you from going hungry (or hangry) when you’re gluten-free and away from home.
1. Do some Googling before you leave.
Don’t waste precious vacation time worrying about where you’re going to eat once you arrive at your destination. You’ll have a much more relaxing, carefree trip if you plan out where to get your meals in advance. There are plenty of gluten-free travel bloggers who can give you the inside scoop on where to eat out in most major cities. If you’re going somewhere less touristy or off the beaten path, the Find Me Gluten-Free app can be incredibly useful—it’s basically Yelp for gluten-free restaurants. Searching sites like TripAdvisor with the name of the location you’re visiting and “celiac” can yield useful information as well.
2. Stay somewhere with a kitchen.
If you’re taking an extended trip (or even if you’re not), you can cut back on stress (and spending) by preparing at least some of your meals yourself. Save time by eating breakfast before you set out for the day, and pack a gluten-free picnic lunch in a cooler so you can eat on the go.
If you have celiac disease and can’t risk even a trace of gluten ending up in your food, you may want to be cautious about using the dishes provided by your lodging. It can’t hurt to run anything you’ll be using through the dishwasher when you first arrive, and you might even decide it makes sense to bring a few key kitchen items, like a cutting board and collapsible colander, from home.
3. Meal prep ahead of time if you’re traveling by car.
If your accommodations include a kitchen and you have the ability to take a big cooler along with you, why not make a batch or two of your family’s favorite gluten-free soup or casserole to take along? Freeze your meals in portioned containers ahead of time for easier transport. This way you won’t have to do much shopping or spend your vacation cooking if you don’t want to. (Mikey’s Gluten-Free Pockets also travel nicely in a cooler for easy all-in-one meals.)
4. Stock up on snacks when you get the chance.
It’s smart to start your trip with a stockpile of gluten-free snacks in your bag or carry-on so you’ll have something to much on while you’re in transit. When you arrive at your destination, locate a supermarket where you can replenish your stock so you’re never left in a bind without something you can eat. Pro tip: a lot of pharmacies have a good gluten-free snack selection and can be a great place to turn if the local supermarket has limited choices.
5. Use gluten-free travel cards.
If you’re traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language, The Celiac Foundation recommends printing out gluten-free travel cards that can help you explain your dietary restriction to restaurant staff in foreign countries. Celiac Travel offers free downloads in 63 languages, though they do suggest a small donation in return. You should also learn words like “wheat,” “barley,” and “rye” in the local language so you can identify them on menus and food packages.