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Ashley875

Top tips for celiac travel

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Hi there,

I have been gluten free since my celiac diagnosis exactly a month ago. I have a trip to Costa Rica coming up and I am trying to plan in advance so I don't get caught hungry or worse - glutened! 

I am wondering if you would share your top three travel tips (or more) to help with my planning. 

Thanks in advance!

Ash

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Take a collapsible cooler filled with perishable food to take on the airplane and to use while at your destination.  Fill a freezer zip-lock bag with ice.  Empty prior to going through security and once through security ask a restaurant to refill.  I pack lunch meat, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, little yogurts, veggies and fruit, etc.  I pack apples, nuts, jerkey, Lara bars -- whatever you like and carry some on and pack the rest in my luggage.  We all carry day backpacks in our family.  

We shop at grocery stores when we travel and picnic or eat in our room if we can not find a restaurant.  Take a celiac restaurant card (Google) written in Spanish.  You can download for free.  

When in doubt, fall back on your safe food.  It might not be super tasty, but you will have a happier vacation! 


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I spent 10 days in Costa Rica a couple years ago and had no problems - you can use the Spanish restaurant card with ease and stick to rice and grilled meat or fish with steamed veggies, tacos with corn tortillas, or ceviche, which I had almost every day for lunch (just make sure they don't give you gluten crackers with it). It's all similar to mexican food.  the nice thing about a country with minimal chain restaurants is their cooking is a bit more "pure" and you don't have to worry as much about funny sauces or strange marinades. I always travel with gluten-free granola and just use milk or yogurt from the hotel with it for breakfast.  in addition to clyclinglady's list of snacks, I also recommend single serving peanut or almond butter packs with little bags of gluten-free crackers or pretzels (in a humid place like Costa Rica a large bag that you keep open will quickly go stale).

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Remember that international brands of packaged foods can vary from country to country. For example in USA M&MS are ok (at least they used to be, I'm not sure if they still are) however in Australia they contain wheat starch and so are not gluten-free. 

Also you might find that one type of food that is normally gluten-free in your home country is not in the country you are visiting. For example I have not found any cola drinks , regardless of brand in Australia that had gluten, however I have found some in England that have Barley in them. 

 

Try to find out what is available in supermarkets before you go. If you can't find anything prepacked in the supermarket or a restaurant to eat, you could get something like carrot and celery or fruit and eat that. Definitely not the most exciting thing but much better than starving or taking a chance and getting sick. You could make a a salsa of tomato onion and coriander for a bit of flavour. 

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We travel a lot and we eat out while traveling.   If we are in the US I will take some snacks depending on how we are traveling, car or plane.   Then I shop local for snack type foods, if we have a kitchen or kitchenette we will make breakfast in the room, but after that we are on the run so I do TONS of research.  Tripadvisor is my friend.  I look up places to eat, then look at the menu's online then email the restaurant and ask all my questions.   Or if they don't have a gluten free menu I will take something on the menu I think would be gluten free and ask specifically about that item and all my questions.  I print those emails and menus and take them with me, they stay in my car so they are handy.  We also travel outside the US often and that is trickier....I take a lot of snacks and usually my bread since the ingredients in other countries are often in another language.  But as far as restaurants I again do a lot of research on tripadvisor, and a lot of emailing, it often limits me to the finer dining places only and I would love to try out a dive here and there, but they don't always have menu's online or even a webpage so that makes them impossible to contact and ask the right questions.         I have still walked out of a place when I didn't feel like I was getting the right answers even after I emailed them, but it has only happened once, and I also have only been glutened twice.   Once when I first started and didn't walk out when I should have (even though I had an email)   A lot of people will recommend the App "Find Me Gluten Free" and I do use it, but more often than not it tells me the big chains that I am already aware.    

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I also travel a lot for work and more generally as part of our life... After having had some horrible gluten experiences, I now don't take any chances.. I now have a one-person rice cooker which I take in my hand luggage,, a small box with small bottles with olive oil, balsamic (small enough to pass the security controls),gluten-free  soya sauce, salt and a bit of uncooked rice..boiled eggs and prosciutto-things that last for longer without refrigeration and my own bread- as soon as I arrive at my destination I buy salad, tomatoes, tin of tuna or a bit of smoked salmon and some fruit-I also take a plastic picnic plate to eat from.. this means I can always have something warm that is also safe... not too interesting, but it means I don't need to live doubled up in pain and vomiting... 

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