Ah, vacation. A time to kick back, chill out, relax all cool…unless, of course, you have celiac disease.
Or some other form of medically-induced gluten free-ness.
What do you do? There’s no guarantee that there will be something you can eat anywhere you go. No road-tripping with random stops for fast food whenever you get hungry. No being positive you can eat on the plane. No being able to say, “hey, I’ve never been that restaurant. Let’s check it out!” once you arrive.
It’s an enormous pain in the ass.
I would argue that gluten-free is the worst diet to have while traveling – along with food allergies – because you have to be so careful about cross contamination (i.e. a cook used the same spoon to stir my mushroom-sherry soup as he did the chicken dumpling soup. Now I’ll get sick if I eat my soup…but I won’t know that until it’s too late).
So what do you pack when you’re going on vacation and have to eat gluten free?
It’s all about planning ahead. Here is your ultimate Gluten Free Vacation Packing List.
- Make sure to bring snacks you can eat. Yes, everyone else will be eating Twinkies, pretzels, Hostess cupcakes, crackers, Twizzlers…every great road-trip food imaginable. And yes, you will be trapped in a confined space with people eating this food. You will smell it. You will hear the crunching and the chewing. You will possibly be sprayed with crumbs if someone laughs or talks with a full mouth. Unless you have food to eat that makes you happy, you will be miserable.
- Choose your route in advance, and plan meal stops. Don’t wait until you’re in the car, starving, and trying to
Google the places you see popping up on the rest-stop signs in time to get off at that exit if you can eat there, but you’re out of range on wifi and using up all your data, which your phone company keeps helpfully texting you alerts about, and as you FINALLY get onto the Rocke’s website, the exit goes whooshing by and you have to start all over.*
- Call your hotel before you leave. This one is important. If they have the info on their website, that’s all good. A place I went to in Vermont had hamburger buns, bread, and a giant GF menu.** But if it doesn’t explicitly say that they can feed you on their site, you need to call and speak with a manager or a chef. Make sure to check local time and plan your call accordingly – for example, 6:00pm local time on a Friday night is not a great idea.
- Speaking of which, pick a good hotel. If you stay at a nice enough place, they will be able to feed you. They will have GF options in their restaurant and for room service. And the chefs will know what they’re doing – you won’t have to worry about them using the wrong spoon to stir your soup. If they do screw up, they’ll take care of that too. At that same hotel in Vermont, they sent up my room service hamburger on a bun that looked waaay too good to be GF. I called down to double check before I ate…sure enough, it was a “real” bun. They sent someone up with a whole new meal, and refunded the cost of my – and my friend’s – meal. You get the service you pay for!**
- Pack food. No, I’m not kidding – bring enough for the whole trip. What if your besties decide to stop at Wendy’s? If you have a package of hamburger buns in the cooler, you’re good to go. What if the restaurant in you hotel runs out of GF
bread? You’ll be glad you packed some slices. And what about snacking in the room later?
- Don’t be embarrassed. It might make you feel like a loser or a pain in the ass to have to do all this. But it is not worth it to get sick, not in the short run and not considering the long-term damage it will do to your body. Part of handling a disease is the social aspect – don’t be embarrassed because your body is on the fritz. You didn’t do anything wrong. Your celiac disease or food intolerance is not your fault. Don’t carry it around like baggage – your hands will be too full of extra bread and snacks, anyway.
*Yes, I learned this one the hard way. Why do you ask?
**The Essex Resort and Spa in Burlington, Vermont. Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about this hotel and their service. This was probably the best vacation of my life. If you’re in the area, go there! Even if it’s just for dinner.
Try the apple-lobster bisque. You’ll thank me.