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Gluten-Free Travel Tips

Photo: CC/joisyshowaa

This is the time of year when families take vacations and travel the world. Traveling can often be stressful even under normal circumstances; packing problems, flight delays, getting lost, are all possible when trying to get from point A to point B. So imagine how stressful it can be for a celiac or gluten-sensitive person to get ready for a big trip, especially to a location that doesn't cater to the gluten-free lifestyle.The following tips are geared toward helping even the most sensitive celiac to have a fun filled and gluten-free vacation while minimizing the stress factor as much as possible. This article covers the following: preparing for your gluten-free travel adventure, gluten-free travel by plane, automobile, train or ship, gluten-free accommodations, gluten-free meals and snacks, what to do if you accidentally ingest gluten.

Before beginning your vacation, there are many important things you will want to consider, like method of travel, your destination, and gluten-free options in the city or town in which you will be staying. To help find gluten-free accommodations and eatery's in your location, perform a “Google” search for 'gluten-free restaurants and accommodations' in the area you will be traveling to.

Gluten-Free Transportation

Traveling by car is the best way to travel, if you have a choice. That way you can stop at stores as needed and load up on your gluten-free snacks. Trains are also good, because they allow and encourage you to bring your own food on the train. Planes and ships are where it starts to get a little trick, especially if you have a long trip ahead of you.

Airlines are fairly easy to manage, because you can bring your own food aboard the flight. However, there is a limit to what and how much you are allowed to bring aboard, which can be a problem on a long flight. While many airlines offer vegetarian or Kosher options for those with special dietary needs, most airlines do not have gluten-free menu options for those of us with gluten-intolerance. However, Continental Airlines currently offers gluten-free food options. Although, if you are extremely sensitive to cross-contamination, it is still safer to bring your own food.

However, if you are planning to travel a cruise-line, most cruise-lines do not allow you to bring your own food aboard. So in this situation it is important to find a cruise-line that will accommodate your special needs. Royal Caribbean Cruise-lines, and Orbridge ships are two cruise-lines that offer gluten-free menu options, as well as catering to other dietary needs.

Gluten-free accommodations

Most motels or hotels offer a continental breakfast and that's about it. Short of eating coffee and orange juice for breakfast,there usually isn't much in the way of meal options for a celiac. However, many small bed and breakfast's will accommodate you special dietary needs if you talk to them and set it up in advanced, and some even offer gluten-free options. To find a gluten-free Inn, perform a “Google” search for 'gluten-free accommodations' in the area you will be traveling to.

Staying with family or friends can be stressful if they aren't sensitive to your dietary needs. It can also be difficult to explain to your friends and loved ones, what it means for you to be gluten-free, and who really wants to spend their entire vacation educating the everyone you meet on what it means to be celiac or gluten-sensitive? That could literally take the entire vacation. If cross-contamination is an issue for you and you are concerned about eating in a gluten based house, the following link will help you determine what you need to be free from gluten while you are staying with others. It might be a good idea to print the information and share it with your host, maybe even emailing them a link with the information, prior to your visit.

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Gluten-Free Meals and Snacks

Finger foods, gluten-free chips/crackers, veggie sticks, gluten-free sandwiches, these are all wonderful foods to keep with you on a trip. Bring as much gluten-free, shelf-stable food with you as possible. Find out where the local farm market is, for fresh and local, organic produce and buy fresh produce when you arrive at your location.

Many people getting ready for a trip, will place an order online in advance and have it delivered to the location they will be visiting. The Gluten-Free Mall is very accommodating and can ship shelf stable food Nationally and Internationally and frozen goods can be shipped within the Continental US. Having a package of gluten-free food delivered to your location, gives you one less thing to worry about. No extra packing, or extra luggage, no worries about your food getting crushed or apprehended at customs or tossed out at an airport. It's as simple as placing an order online or by phone.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) works very hard to train chefs and kitchen staff all across the globe, on the dos and don't s of cooking gluten-free for their guests with extreme gluten sensitivities. Check out the list they have compiled of of GREAT kitchens that have the stamp of approval from NFCA for a possible location near you.

Unfortunately, not all restaurants have the GREAT seal of approval from NFCA and the likelihood of one being at your chosen destination is pretty slim, and finding a dedicated gluten-free restaurants are also rare depending on where you travel. That's why it is important to know what to do when you go out to eat with a group of gluten-eaters. There is a great deal of information on this subject, but here are some links to get you started.

What to do if you Accidentally Ingest Gluten

There are varying opinions of what the best thing to do is when you accidentally ingest gluten, drink ginger tea, take laxatives, hot water bottle on the abdomen; there really is no right answer, as everybody is different and has different reactions to gluten. However, here are some tips that might help if you accidentally ingest gluten.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to have fun. Stress can affect how you digest your food, and then it won't matter if you avoid gluten, you still won't feel good.

Happy and safe travels everyone! welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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2 Responses:

Karen Brauer
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said this on
13 Jul 2010 6:59:14 PM PDT
I went on a Disney cruise in November, and they were extremely accommodating to my dietary needs. They will let you look at the dinner menu 24 hours in advance, order whatever you like from it, and they will adjust it to make it gluten-free, and it will be ready at the same time as the rest of your dining party's food. They are also very helpful if you call their customer service prior to your trip.

Another suggestion I have is staying someplace with a mini-kitchen or at least a refrigerator and/or microwave in your room. You could still eat at a restaurant once in a while, but you would be assured access to safe food the rest of the time. Keep grab and go stuff in the fridge like fruit, cheese or cut veggies to take on day trips.

Robert Carter
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said this on
25 Sep 2013 6:04:32 PM PDT
I just traveled transatlantic with Cunard on the QM2 and they were great. gluten-free items at the buffet, recipes available upon request, but in the Brittania dining room almost every item on the menu could be made gluten-free. In most restaurants you have to pick out the items that were known to be gluten-free, with Cunard you could choose almost any item and they would prepare it gluten-free. I could not recommend a better way to travel with no gluten-free worries.

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All Activity Celiac Disease & Gluten-Free Diet Forum - All Activity

^^^^^^ good info, tips and tricks^^^^^^^^^ yes, crumbs will make you sick. also, breathing flour/pancake mix, etc that is in the air because eventually, you're going to swallow some.

Hello I was diagnosed Dec 15 of last year and went totally gluten-free the next day. I actually got worse before I got better - it's a steep learning curve - but now, 4 1/2 months later I'm finally seeing improvement. Hang in there.

Called my GI doctor today to make sure he is going to look at my small intestine and do biopsy for Celiac for my EGD and he is. Thanks for the tip everyone about have to start eating gluten again. The office told me to break my gluten free diet and start eating gluten everyday until my EGD. Here's to being miserable again for a few weeks ???

I can completely relate! The horrible mental effects that I have been living with for years is the absolute worst side effect of eating gluten, HANDS DOWN. Worse than the endless tummy aches, worse than the constant diarrhea, worse than the week long migraines, worse than the daily fatigue and body pain.... I honestly though there was something seriously wrong with me and hated my life because of how I felt mentally. I always felt like I was drowning, not in control of my thoughts, trapped in some unexplained misery. My head was always so cloudy, and I was mad because I always felt so slow and stupid. I would feel so lethargic and sad and empty while at the same time be raging inside, wanting to rip out of my own skin. I was mean, terrible, would snap at the people closest to me for no good reason and just felt like I hated everyone and everything. Think of how crappy you feel when you have a terrible cold and flu - I felt that crappy, but mentally. Some days were really bad, some were mild. I always thought it was because I was getting a migraine, or because I had a migraine, or because I had just overcome a migraine, because I didn't sleep well, because....always a random reason to justify why we have all these weird unrelated symptoms before we get diagnosed. I'm happy to say that I have been gluten-free for about 2 months now and though I am not symptom free, the first thing that improved was my mood. I no longer feel foggy and miserable. For the first time in years, my head is clear, I can actually think, and I feel positive and like I am in control of what's going on in my head. I don't hate the world. I don't spend every day bawled up on the corner of the couch depressed and angry. The release of these horrible symptoms is enough to never make me want to cheat, no matter what I have to miss out on. So insane how a little minuscule amount of a stupid protein can wreck such havoc.

I wanted to collect some of the info on NCGI in one place so that visitors who test negative but may still have an issue with gluten can be directed there. I'll add to this post as I find new links, but feel free to add or contribute anything you think may be of use! Matt --- Useful links: An overview from Alessio Fasano, one of the world's leading researchers on celiac and gluten sensitivity: Umberto Volta, another leading researcher in the field gives some of the latest findings about NCGI: Presentation slides from Dr Volta's visit to Coeliac UK - NCGS about halfway through A scholarly overview from celiac disease magazine: A good overview from a sceptical but fair perspective: Another overview: University of Chicago's excellent celiac site's take: A compelling account in the British Medical Journal from an NCGI patient: Here's some positive news about a potential new test: NCGI in children: NCGI and auto immune study: Also consider: Fodmaps: This Monash study: suggested some who think they're reacting to gluten should actually be reducing fodmaps Sibo: