Although gluten-free travel has come a long way over the last few years, traveling can still be quite stressful for those who cannot eat gluten products. Travel is nerve-racking enough sometimes; and when you travel with dietary restrictions, well, it can be extremely frustrating. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources out there to help travelers stay healthy and enjoy their adventures without worrying continuously about meal times. Today’s guest writer, Brette Sember, author of The Gluten-Free Guide to Travel is here with some great tips on how to travel gluten free.
My two favorite things have always been food and travel. When the two are combined, I am at my happiest. My husband and I learned we were both gluten intolerant several years ago and began eating gluten-free. We felt so much better, but when we set off on our next travel adventure, things didn’t seem so rosy. Suddenly what used to be a joy became an ordeal. It was no longer possible to eat anywhere and try anything. We learned we had to plan and think carefully about what, where, and when we ate. Years later, I can tell you that we’ve traveled around the US and abroad and have learned how to plan, pack, and research before leaving on a trip and, once again, are able to enjoy eating while traveling.
The biggest hurdle to traveling well while gluten-free is finding restaurants. You can’t walk in anywhere and expect to dine well. Here are some of the tricks I’ve developed over the years.
- Google. Do extensive internet searches before you go, googling the city or area and “gluten-free.” Read the menus of restaurants you find to determine if they really have options or simply take things away from their regular dishes (a piece of fish with no sauce is NOT a gluten-free substitute in my book – I want places who understand it is possible to cook just about anything without gluten without sacrificing flavor). Look for local celiac or gluten-free association web sites that list restaurants in that area.
- Use apps. Apps like Urban Spoon and Nommunity allow you to locate restaurants listed as gluten-free. These are useful for locating places that don’t list a gluten-free menu online.
- Call or email. You’ll likely come across mentions of places people list as gluten-free, but you can’t really know what they have if they have no gluten-free menu online. If there is no menu to see with your own eyes, contact them to find out what they really offer. You don’t want to show up and find out there are two things you can order and one is a salad with no dressing.
- Talk to people. Some of the best restaurants with gluten-free options we have found are places other people have told me about. Facebook is a great advance networking tool for this, but it is also important to talk to people at your destination. This is particularly important when traveling with a language barrier because you are less likely to find locations in advance online. If you find a health food store in the area, the people who work there often know where to eat. Your hotel concierge or desk clerk is also an excellent person to talk to. We have had great success with this and were able to have a beautiful gluten-free meal in a tiny town in Normandy because our desk clerk knew who to call. Cab drivers are also an unexpected resource since they talk to so many travelers.
Traveling and eating gluten-free is becoming easier every day, but it’s important to know how to find food that is not only safe, but delicious to ensure that your trip is everything it can possibly be. Don’t miss out because you can’t eat gluten!