Summer is coming up and that means summer vacations are approaching! I remember a time when traveling was 100% excitement and all that I needed to plan was the actual traveling. Now things are different. My multiple food intolerances have introduced another layer of research, planning, and worry to my trips. Then even with all the planning, sometimes things don’t go exactly the way I had hoped and improvisation is needed. In fact, improvisation and a positive attitude are always helpful, whether traveling or not.
There are some destinations that are known for being more accommodating to food allergies and intolerances, for example, LA, New York, Boulder Colorado, New Zealand and Italy. Lots of research can be done in advance for your dining options – reviewing restaurants’ menus online and calling ahead of time to discuss menu and substitution options, as well as cross-contamination issues. Planning out what you can eat during transportation is also a must, since airports, train stations, vending machines and concession stands rarely have the kitchens or staff to accommodate food allergies.
In honor of Celiac Awareness Month, below are some helpful tips from The Healthy Celiac on traveling gluten-free:
• Depending on what time you are departing, eat a meal before you go — I often pack something to go and eat at the gate. This solution isn’t fool proof if you have a 6am flight though — when that is the case, I rely on the snacks I pack.
• Pack a few snacks — In theory this sounds easy, but I am almost always scrambling to get out of town and rarely have time to pack the snacks that I would ideally want. So, instead I make sure I have a KIND bar or a Larabar (I always keep a few in my kitchen at home for running-out-the-door emergencies). These bars have enough protein to tide me over in a pinch. (The Tasteful Pantry can also help with our boxes of gluten-free & customized snacks!)
• If you’re flying cross country or transcontinental, let your airline know ahead of time you have a gluten allergy — Most airlines who serve a meal will accommodate a dietary restriction with enough warning. Delta did a great job of handling this for me when I flew to Europe last year (I had a totally gluten free meal ready for me on-board), and I have had the same experience with Cathay Pacific who provides meals for their Vancouver – New York – Hong Kong route.
• Have a destination meal plan — I do my best to plan my schedule for when I land, and figure out when my next opportunity to eat will be. If I am going somewhere and heading straight into meetings, or know I have a long car or train ride ahead of me, I make sure I overestimate my need for packed snacks. When I’m preparing the food for my journey I am usually at home, and not starving. Many times I have underestimated how much food I will need. One KIND bar in my purse is NOT going to cut it when I have an 8 hour travel day ahead of me (I also always forget how long it takes to get a rental car), so I now double up on snacks.
• Eat clean before you travel — Because traveling as a Celiac and looking for something to eat can sometimes feel like an episode of Survivor, I try to travel feeling the best I can. Pre celiac disease days I used to indulge at the airport and eat the honey roasted peanuts and snack on that bag of chips, but no more. Now when I travel I make sure I haven’t eaten a bunch of sugar (don’t need a hypoglycemic fit), I am well hydrated, and I have loaded up on veggies and lean protein before hand.
• No alcohol — Say it with me friends, ‘I will not drink on-board‘. I like a glass of red at 30,000 feet as much as the next person, but every time I have had a drink in the sky I have regretted it …. every, single, time. Not only is it majorly dehydrating, but my meal of Larabars just doesn’t seem to sustain my appetite once I have some cabernet in me.