As some of you know we just got back from a vacation that was Gluten-Free-frustrating to say the least! Some people had never heard of Gluten Free while others claimed to know-and then wanted to give us soy sauce with wheat in it... YIKES!
So let me share with you what I've learned (and what I wish I would have known) to make our trip a lot smoother.
Vacation Locations TIPS:
Bigger cities are also more likely to have CHAIN restaurants-and chain restaurants are more likely to offer great Gluten Free menus. You can view a list of great Gluten Free chain & local restaurants HERE.
Sometimes you can get lucky in remote areas. In some cases we have found Gluten-Free restaurants owned by Celiacs! (In Utah: Heber City & Park City have great options.)
Check before you go:
- Google "restaurants" around the area that you will be staying. You can view their menus online or even call ahead to verify they have Gluten Free.
- Google "health food store," "organic grocer," or "natural food" in the area you will be visiting. If a lot of options pop up, your chances of finding Gluten Free options increases. Some main stores are "Whole Foods Market" or "Trader Joe's."
Driving vs. Flying:
- Oils or non-perishable salad dressings can be carried on in 3 oz containers as one of your liquids.
- Depending on your circumstance, it may come in handy to pack a small can opener or some empty zip lock bags for leftovers or ice.
- Plastic or reusable utensils can also be packed or you can collect them from restaurants along your way.
- Small baggies or jars of herbs/spices can be packed for seasoning meals. We found small packages of salt and pepper were extremely handy.
- A small but sharp knife can be packed in your check-in item ONLY.
- Dry foods are usually light weight and perfectly acceptable in your carry-on bag. We typically take nuts, jerky (with no-nitrates), trail-mixes, Larabars or some form of granola bar, etc. For more Gluten-Free Dry food options visit HERE.
- If you have an infant or small toddler, some airlines also allow additional food items for the child so be sure to check before you fly.
- Wet wipes work great to clean up after meals.
- If your flight is delayed, or you have a connecting flight, airports typically have food vendors with fresh fruit or salads with meat that will help get you by.
- You usually have more space for basic necessities such as salt, pepper, plate, fork, knife, spoon, bowl, can opener, pan with a lid, spatula, etc.
- A large cooler can be very handy to keep perishables cold.
- Camping stoves can be used outside for hot meals if your hotel does not have a stove.
- Wet wipes work great to clean up after meals, as well as a small sponge and bottle of dish soap, especially if you brought reusable dishes.
- For a HUGE list of wet/dry snacks that are Gluten-Free visit HERE.
Pack what might be hard to find:
On our last trip I knew that it would be difficult (and expensive) to find gluten free quick oats. I packed a couple of cups worth in a ziplock back and had it in my carry on. I simply added it to hot water in my hotel room in the cups the hotel supplied. It worked great for breakfast with some added raisins for sweetness.
- Book a room with kitchenettes or at least a microwave and fridge: This comes in handy especially if you're worried about eating out or prefer not to. This opens a HUGE door to being able to prepare some of your own meals. See the section EASY PREP MEALS & SNACKS below. There are many simple options you cook yourself with simple ingredients. Some of our meals consisted of Gluten Free Spaghetti (Gluten Free noodles with a jar of sauce), chicken with rice and vegetables, simple stir-frys with simply garlic and salt as the seasoning, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, tacos, etc.
- Check BEFORE you book! If the hotel does not offer fridges, sometimes you can request one. Inform them that you have severe food allergies and occasionally they can accommodate your needs. If all else fails, bring a cooler to keep foods fresh in your room. Some hotels may not have a microwave in every room but will have one in a common lounge.
- Check with the Concierge: As soon as we check into a hotel we call the concierge for a list of Gluten Free Restaurants or Stores. Chances are, they have dealt with this allergy before and will have a list of great options for you.
Easy Prep Meals & Snacks:
- As stated above, you can Google "restaurants" around the area of where you will be staying. You can view their menus online or even call ahead to verify they have Gluten Free.
- Keep this large LIST of Gluten-Free Restaurants with you as a great reference.
- Salads can easily be made gluten free when you remove the croutons and, in some cases, the dressing. Meat can be added for protein.
- Hamburgers can be ordered without the bun, wrapped in lettuce for an easy gluten free option. Always be sure to clarify on how the french fries are made.
- Thai food such as curries are typically safe but always check with the chef or waiter.
- Chinese restaurants can be scary- especially meals made with soy. Clarify the ingredients of their soy sauce or ask if it can be left off completely.
- If you're able to make a reservation, alert them of your special dietary needs before hand.
- Alert your server as soon as you meet them of your severe food allergy. Clarify their knowledge of Gluten-Free. Ask to speak to a chef if needed. At some places, the chef will come out and meet you personally (especially at Disneyland).
- If the restaurant offers you bread as a starter, inform them of your allergy. Some restaurants will offer different options in place such as veggies.
- In questioning your waiter be FIRM but polite. Ask specific questions such as "Is anything I'm ordering breaded or dusted with flour of any kind?" (I have discovered sweet potato fries were breaded using this method!) "What is this sauce or dressing made of? Does it contain flour?" "Do you fry your french fries in the same oil as other fried foods?"
- Overall, we have found restaurants want to help you. They don't want to (knowingly) give you something that you're allergic to. They will work with you and change up combinations if needed. All you need to do is ask. ;)