Gluten Free Friday: Travel Tips

Traveling is one of the few things that cost money but make our lives richer. It may seem silly, but having celiac has tried to put a damper on my travel adventures. Key word: tried. No doubt, celiac has made things a tad more difficult. I realistically can’t just hop on a plane to a foreign country and expect to find safe food. I can’t go away for a weekend to visit friends without bringing some of my own food.

A lot of planning has gone into our family vacations to make sure I will have food to eat. For example, my family and I took a European cruise on a ship that offered gluten-free meals, rather than risk it traveling on our own. Heck, just a few days ago I packed my own lunch for my flight from Miami to NY (and back) because I knew the airport wouldn’t have options. Yes it can be a pain, and I will probably never get over my worries about getting glutened, but let’s be real, I want to travel. I want to visit all 50 states (I’m at 30!), I want to see the famous battlegrounds from WWII, I want to learn about other cultures. Having celiac is not going to stop me from doing that. So how do I cope? Prepare in advance. 

1. Search for restaurants. When my family decides on a destination I begin reading restaurant reviews and finding options in the area. I prefer restaurants that have gluten-free menus, but if I find one that sounds like it would be accommodating (vegetarian/organic options), I’ll call the restaurant to confirm or deny my assumption. I usually make a list of “safe” restaurants and pass it on to the rest of my family to decide where we end up.

My list of "Emily-approved" restaurants in NYC

My list of “Emily-approved” restaurants in NYC

2. Stuff your suitcase. For any given trip you can open up my suitcase and find oatmeal packets, peanut butter, almonds and KIND bars. I swear half my suitcase is food and the other half is running gear. But if you’re like me and HATE checking suitcases on airplanes (I just can’t stand waiting at baggage claim- ha!), you should know that peanut butter is not allowed on the airplane. Buy that when you land!

3. Pack meals for the road. If I am traveling during meal times I will always pack my lunch or dinner to take on the road. If I can supplement my meals with a salad or whatever I find a long the way, great! If not, I’d rather be prepared. Even if I’m not traveling during meal times, it’s helpful to pack one meal that I can have that night so I don’t get hangry.

Eating lunch at the airport...fancy.

Eating lunch at the airport…fancy.

4. Hotels with kitchens = awesome. If you’re lucky enough to stay in a place with a full kitchen, then you can easily make your own meals (you know, if you want to cook on vacation). But having just a microwave can be super helpful for things like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and reheating meals you made at home.

5. When staying with a family member, nicely offer to help them cook. When people offer to make me gluten-free meals, I’m sometimes reluctant to say yes. I never ever want to offend someone, but I immediately think the worst. It’s a tricky situation and one that, I’ll admit, my parents still handle for me as we normally stay with their siblings. You don’t want to stand over someone’s shoulder as they cook, so offering to make the salad or prepare the marinade for the chicken is an easy way to get the best of both worlds.

6. Be flexible. This is NOT something I’m good at, but I’m working on it. When things don’t go as planned food-wise I tend to freak out and worry about getting sick. Relax and take a deep breath. I’ve learned that just worrying about gluten can cause as much pain and damage to my stomach as actually eating it.

7. When in doubt, Whole Foods-it-out. It’s the easiest place for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

It may cost and arm and a leg, but it's pretty darn good.

It may cost and arm and a leg, but Whole Foods hot & cold bar is pretty darn good.

I’m excited to head up to Boston in a few weeks and try new GF restaurants. Any suggestions?

What’s your favorite travel destination?


  1. Sarah says

    I can’t imagine how hard it could be dealing with Celiac. Even just being a super picky eater, I have to bring food with me. My family knows to pick places that will have something I can eat at (and honestly, I can find something almost anywhere) but it gets trickier when we’re at a family friend’s house or I’m going out with people who don’t know me as well. I hate being a pain in the neck. At least you have a good excuse ;)

    And YESSSSSS to Boston. I’m working there Wednesday and Monday and I’ll be in Rhode Island Saturday+Sunday so let’s figure something out!

    • Emily says

      It’s funny (not really) how when I eat out with people I don’t know they assume I’m gluten-free to lose weight. That’s all people think these days! Ah yes I will email you asap!

  2. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says

    I ALWAYS find a mass list of places to eat before I go any where! But even so, I will pack most of al the food I’ll eat and then pick up cold things once I get to my destination. The one hotel we always stay at in DC (not anymore for me!), didn’t have microwaves in the rooms (but you could request a fridge). So in the mornings for breakfast, I would go down to the kitchen for the staff and they would let me use theirs to heat up my buckwheat and quinoa flakes! Haha!
    (Totally agree on Whole Foods-ing it out! Best meals ever!)

    • Emily says

      Yes! I pack non-perishables and stock up at the grocery stores when I get where I’m going. I do the same thing for my breakfasts…I may look like an idiot in my pajamas in the back kitchen but I just want my oatmeal haha

  3. Jessie says

    I have always admired individuals who deal with celiac. It wasn’t until 2 years ago after learning more about this disease when I realized how hard and stressful it may be at times – especially when it comes to traveling.

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