We asked the GlutenFreeBaking.com community for their best gluten-free travel tips and they didn’t disappoint. Here’s what you need to know when traveling while on a gluten-free diet.
Some answers have been edited for clarity or length.
Gluten-Free Tavel Tip #1: Research Before You Go
My daughter recently traveled out-of-state for a week. She researched the location in advance and called a few places to verify things like separate fryer for fries, protected veggie and salad prep, etc. It was a small town, yet she found a totally gluten-free bakery that had awesome goodies, and pizza crust. It’s five hours from home, but she and her many gluten-free friends are planning to take turns driving there every couple of weeks with a big shopping list.
I always read every review on “find me gluten free”. I take snacks, I have a Nima so that I can test my food. I travel to the same places (I know not as much fun) but once I learned what’s safe I stick with it. I try to make sure I know where grocery stores are in the area.
I always do lots of research where I’m going. I always make reservations, when possible, and note on the reservation “diner with celiac will require gluten-free options.” I usually limit dining choices to restaurants with confirmed gluten-free options.
Gluten-Free Travel Tip #2: Bring Snacks
Take lots of snacks with you and have a note/card in the languages necessary that states ‘allergic to gluten’, even though it’s not an allergy that is better understood than gluten-free/celiac disease.
Always take snacks. Just in case. Then if you get caught out you don’t have to go hungry.
Bring lots and lots of snacks
Dried fruits and nuts. Larabars. Instant gluten-free oatmeal. Peanut butter packets, Protein shakes. Apples and Bananas. I never travel without these.
Gluten-Free Travel Tip #3: Go to the local grocery store or Farmers’ Market
Before you travel, check what groceries are near you. I don’t eat in restaurants. I stay in Airbnbs, buy groceries and cook my own food. This is the best way I can keep myself safe.
I locate grocery stores nearby where I will be and research what options they have in case I run out snacks that I have packed. If we’re staying in a place that has a kitchen, I buy foil to cover baking sheets so I can warm up bread, bagels etc.
Hit up the local farmers’ market. Local fruits, cheeses, and sometimes gluten-free treats are easy-to-find. Plus it’s a fun way to get to know the place you’re visiting.
Gluten-Free Travel Tip #4: Bring food for the Journey
Check if your airline has a gluten-free meal option but don’t count on it. Have a good meal just before going to the airport. In your carry on, bring a few gluten-free sandwiches and some trail mix. Put gluten-free crackers, sandwich bread, and pasta in your checked luggage.
Never fly without food. Ever. We got stuck on a runway for three hours. They handed out snacks, which I couldn’t eat. Thankfully I’d brought my own gluten-free snacks. If I hadn’t, I would have been out of luck.
Always travel with a packed lunch. I bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some gluten-free chips, and fruit. It’s saved me on road trips many times.
Gluten-Free Travel Tip #5: Be Prepared
Have a second or third option. One time we went to a new city. I couldn’t wait to try a gluten-free restaurant I’d read about online. We got there only to find that it was closed that week. There weren’t other options nearby. I didn’t think I needed to bring food. I ended up getting potato chips and a mealy apple at a gas station while my family ate. Never again.
Always have a backup plan!! Weather, mechanical issues, traffic tie-ups, etc. can cause short or long delays. Never travel without food!
Bring your own rolls to restaurants. Some have a gluten-free menu but no bread.
Gluten-Free Travel Tip #6: Use Dining Cards
Download and print the gluten-free language cards to be used in restaurants. Really helped us in China… both Mandarin and Cantonese.
Dining cards seem old-fashioned but they really help.
Gluten-Free Travel Tip #7: Trust your gut, not just what it says on the menu
When you’re in a restaurant and ask about gluten-free options, trust your gut feeling when listening to staff. My “BS” sensors have become pretty good over the years and I know when to ask follow up questions or when I can trust the staff.
Many places now offer “gluten-free” options but they don’t really know how to prepare a safe meal. I ask lots of questions before ordering. I don’t just trust that gluten-free means it’s safe for me. I don’t want to get sick on vacation. I’d rather go without than get “glutened” and miss fun days.
Gluten-Free Travel Tip #8: Have Fun!
There are places out there that serve wonderful gluten-free food. Do some research and go out and have fun. Pack some snacks to cover yourself.
Learn how to travel gluten-free. It’s probably very different from how you traveled before your diagnosis but it’s worth it.
Don’t let your gluten-free diet stop you from seeing the world. Ask for help. Stay on your diet and go have adventures. Life is too short to always stay at home.