February 14, 2010


Traveling Gluten Free

As I have mentioned, I traveled to Nashville last week to attend the blogging conference, Blissdom ‘10.  I had a great time, and I’m glad I went, but the whole eating thing wasn’t easy.  As far as travel is concerned, it was a new situation for me.  In the nine years that I have been gluten free I have traveled in various ways including:

As Blissdom approached I realized I had not flown somewhere and stayed in a hotel.  My options were going to be very limited.   I couldn’t count of finding gluten free food, and I wasn’t willing to take risks that might result in my having to miss half the conference.    I put on my thinking cap and came up with some possibilities. 
  1. I packed two suitcases.  At first I thought one would be for clothes and one for food, but that’s not what  I ended up doing.  I packed a small carryon suitcase with a day’s worth of essential clothes and toiletries, my laptop, and anything else I had room for in order to free up space in my other suitcase for food.   I put a few snacks in my purse for the trip.

  2. In my large suitcase I packed an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack, sliced cheese, baby carrots, celery sticks,  zucchini slices, a small container of almond butter, and a small container of jelly.  I also included plastic bags for ice once I got to the hotel. 

  3. I packed other food items in plastic bags if there was a chance they could leak or in plastic boxes if they could get crushed.  Those items included crackers, bread, homemade granola bars, Lara bars, nuts, dried mango, and fruit cups.
I pretty much lived off those items for four days, but I did have a nice dinner Friday night which was part of an event at another hotel.  Erin of $5 Dinners, who is very familiar with food allergies spoke to them ahead of time and made sure I would have a gluten-free plate of food.  The others ate from a buffet.  The plate contained a piece of chicken breast, a piece of beef, potatoes, and green beans.  They were all seasoned well, so it was not a bland meal like gluten-free eaters sometimes receive.  It was wonderful to have a real meal, and I felt fine afterwards.

I was supposed to return home on Sunday, but was unable to because of the snow storm that hit Maryland on Saturday.  I stayed in Nashville an extra day with Toni of The Happy Housewife.  Sunday evening we decided to take a taxi to Outback Steakhouse, and I was able to enjoy another real meal that was gluten free. 

The food I traveled with lasted just the right amount of time, even with the extra day.  I did get tired of the food, especially the granola bars, but it was gluten-free food I could count on, and that was better than taking risks.

What are your travel tips?

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I am so glad you had enough food to last through our extended stay! And I am secretly glad we got to go to Outback :). Glad the Savvy food didn't make you sick, that would have made for a long Saturday!
We have always taken food with us. My husband, a Marine, travels a good bit. We're always on the look out for easy to travel & prepare meals. The freeze dried ones work nicely as do Tasty Bites. He also takes tuna and crackers. (He's not always able to get to the grocery store.) It takes more preparation, but it's doable. He does the snack thing as well.

He's excited that Starbucks in now offering an assortment of gluten free snacks. It will be nice to be able to grab something at the airport without having to be concerned with cross contamination.
Being allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, onions, tomatoes and garlic, I only travel where I will be able to have access to grocery stores and, at minimum, a refrigerator and microwave. I can live for a week in a hotel with a microwave and fridge! As for eating out I will order meat seasoned with only salt and pepper, steamed veggies and plain baked potatoes and that's it. I pack a lot of food! Mostly, I avoid traveling at all costs.
I haven't had much travel experience since going gluten-free. I have traveled with other family members, however, and a lot of sliced lunchmeat, corn tortillas, and carrots/fruit was purchased at grocery stores and consumed. Also, fast food places that are pretty decent at not cross-contaminating things were chosen. (wendys seems to do a decent job) Not tasty, but it gets the job done. My husband and I are taking our first vacation since going gluten-free - but I've opted for us to rent a cottage where there is a full kitchen. I'm excited - that'll mean we'll save money on meals and I won't have to worry. We might go out to eat once or twice, but it'll depend on how I feel about the restaurants. Glad to hear you survived your trip!
My dauhgter has a gluten/wheat/dairy/soy/egg allergy and at our church we do lots of potlucks, this has been so hard for me since we are vegetarian and lived on soy for so long, we are thinking about visiting our families in California (driving) so making sure we have plenty of food for here is a MUST!, and your tips will definitely help, thank you!
I bring my own food whenever I can. I figure that I GF granola bar is better than the after effects. If we travel by car, I pack a ton of food and that usually gets me through pretty well. If we are flying, I google our destination and gluten free before we leave and while we are gone on my laptop or iphone. That way I can get menus and restaurants that I know will be able to at least help me out. I don't think that I would have survived GF before the internet!
I pack GF for my son to eat whenever we are out... he's such a picky eater that I pack almost all his meals and just supplement when we get there...
We just finished a 10 day trip through the US (North Carolina was our destination - we had a lodge to stay in with a kitchen, fridge, stove, etc.) and found so many restaurants my Celiac son was able to eat at! So we did two meals at the lodge and one out on average. We did have a large cooler with cheese, crackers, berries and fruit, GF cookies, etc. which we could do because we were driving. Ahead of time I marked out GF restaurants and bakeries along our trip, and we planned stops accordingly!
I traveled by plane with my son at 11 months & again at 17.5 months. The first time, we had a fridge but no access to a kitchen. Thankfully, he was mainly eating fruits, veggies, simple crackers and cereals at the time, as well as breastmilk. We also packed single-serve rice milk. We rented a car so that we could hit the health food store.

The 2nd trip, we stayed at a relatives, with full kitchen access. There was a GF bakery a few blocks away, as well as access to amazing stores. But we still packed a lot of food.
I have learned that many hotels will bring a mini-bar fridge into your room at no cost. I also will take packages of meats that do not need to be refrigerated befor they are opened. (They are little gluten-free sausages) and other similar foods that are sealed and do not need refrigeration until opened. You can even buy milk in cartons off the shelf for this purpose. Canned fruits with a pull top, and other cans with pull tops work well too.
I don't take any food with me when traveling except for some snacks that could help me survive during extended time in airports. That would be nuts, fruit, and such. Otherwise, I quiz when eating out and go with what's available--focusing on real food and simple dishes. At BlogHer Food last year, those of us who were gluten free did get refrigerators in our room and take a walk to the Whole Foods and buy a few things. That was nice. I will admit I have on occasion gotten glutened when traveling, but I also occasionally get glutened near home, too. But, for me, I just can't imagine taking a lot of food with me. On our motorcycle trips, that would be impossible, of course. Of course, then we have our own "wheels" and can go get what we need. I feel fortunate to only have a gluten intolerance versus many other food issues. Those make it much more challenging.

I'm glad you did okay, Linda.

I can feel your pain...and it looks like several others have as well. I travel about 70% of the year for my job-- mostly in the US--and I'm allergic to soy and gluten.

I also will only eat organic animal products. Consuming any product from an animal treated with RBGH will send me to the emergency room--no joke; it's happened more than once. It's not easy, to say the least.

In the states, I do an online search for Whole Foods and local health food stores before I leave. Like you, I also bring a few things along to fill in. I get along quite well.

Guam was the worst from an eating perspective (Otherwise, it was awesome!). I had a hard time finding what I needed and I wound up using my inhaler after reacting to some soy that had spilled on my rice. I should have avoided it, but I thought I could eat around it. Note to self: DON'T DO THAT AGAIN!

I survived, but I will avoid going out of the country unless I send food out ahead via FedEx(I had a connection in Tokyo, so no dairy, meat, fruit or veggies were allowed through customs). Something to keep in mind if you ever have to travel outside the US.

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