Everyday Eating with Celiac Disease

Living with Celiac Disease

Traveling on a Gluten Free Diet June 28, 2011

Sometimes, I’m required to travel for my job.  I also travel to see friends and family.  Whether you’re traveling by car or plane, going outside the gluten free comfort zone of your home can be challenging.  However, the one thing I’ve come to rely on is my Gluten Free Find Me app on my Droid.  You can find GF restaurants in any area that you’re in.   Be cautious– 1) not all places have GF-friendly restaurants (When I traveled to Arkansas, this was a big issue) and 2) Some chain restaurants may be listed, but when you actually go, the staff is unfamiliar with the term gluten (this presents a lot of red flags!).  My advice- Be familiar with the place you are going in what is available- grocery stores, restaurants, etc. and always bring a stash of GF snacks.

In the car:

Going long distances or short distances, I do depend on my app.  Now if you’re traveling in a rural area, forget the app!  I’ve made a few long distance trips along the East Coast and into the Midwest.  I’ve traveled in Arkansas and in my experience, this state is the least GF-friendly!  The app was absolutely useless when I traveled in Arkansas (but, I was in a rural area)!

I often do not like to stop to eat anywhere.  So, I like to pack a good amount of food and put them in the cooler.  Sandwiches, fruit, snacks, etc. I load them up and I’m good to go.  This seems like simple advice, but when you travel more than 10 hours, you definitely want to be sure you have enough.   If you prefer to take advantage of a sit down dining place to allow time to rest, the app can be helpful.  I suggest being familiar with your route and use the app to plan your meal breaks based on gf availability.  On my way back from Kansas, I was pleasantly surprised to find a a great GF-friendly deli restaurant (McAlister’s Deli) right off a main highway in Marion, Illinois.  When I was traveling north from Georgia, I took the time to have a picnic lunch at one of the rest stops in southern Virginia.

Before you travel, be sure to be familiar to what is available at your destination.  Take into consideration whether you are staying at a hotel or with friends/family.  Continental breakfasts are generally not GF-friendly.  I’ve learned to ALWAYS pack some GF cereal when I travel.  Not only is cereal great for breakfast, but it is a great late night snack!  Talking to your friends/family ahead of time may help.  But, if they are not familiar with the diet, then their good intentions may cause some painful consequences later. Do not forget about possible cross-contamination.  Do not use other individual’ s toaster to toast your GF muffins, bagels, or breads.  Allow yourself time to go to a local grocery store or natural foods store to get your necessary food items.  And, pull out the app to find local restaurants that all can enjoy.

Traveling by plane presents its own challenges.  The biggest challenge is packing what you can for the trip to consider security.  As mentioned before, I always pack some kind of GF snacks.  However, this may not be enough during your flight and/or layover.  Some airports are more GF-friendly then others.  For example, I found GF snack options in the newstands at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport.  At Reagan National in DC, there are a couple of sit-down dining options, in addition to the gf snacks at various kiosks.  However, many airports do not offer the convenience of GF options.  So, the general rule of thumb is Plan, plan, and plan.  I depend on my app again!!  Knowing what’s available at the airport may help you plan what to pack during your wait and flight.

So, here are my simple rules when traveling:

  • Download a Gluten Free Find Me app for your phone, if you can.
  • Be familiar with what’s available at your destination and along your route before traveling.
  • Always pack GF items for the trip and, if needed, for your stay.
  • Plan meal/travel breaks around available GF dining options along your route.
  • Remember, another person’s kitchen is not likely to be GF-friendly.
  • When a server or staff person says, “what’s gluten free?”, say thank you and move on to another restaurant.  It’s just not worth the chance and there’s only so much salad (without dressing) you can eat.
  • While at your destination, find a local a grocery store and pick up a few prepared GF items during your stay.

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