Secrets to a Successful Gluten-Free Vacation
Updated: Nov 7
Travel is good for the soul, but when you are gluten-free it can be a little scary!
Whether you're planning a weekend getaway or a trip around the world, a gluten-free diet or special diet shouldn’t hold you back. Advanced planning and preparation can make traveling with restrictions as easy as 1-2-3 and tons of FUN!
In this post, I will share my secrets to a successful gluten-free vacation. I reveal my planning tips for road trips and air travel to ensure your next vacation is 100% gluten-free, stress-free, and a barrel of fun.
Planning is essential when traveling with food restrictions. Consider booking accommodations that include a kitchen - VRBO, house, condo, cabin. Being able to cook all or some of your meals allows you to be in control of your diet. At a minimum, make sure your room has a refrigerator.
Next stop, research the local grocery stores at your destination. Can you pre-order online through an app like InstaCart? What do you need to bring from home? Can you ship dry goods directly to your destination?
Lastly, research local restaurants at your destination. Use local groups like Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) or food allergy apps like Find Me Gluten-Free, Nima, or Allergy Eats. When in doubt, stick to simple foods that are naturally gluten-free like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
I don’t love a road trip, but I do love an In and Out lettuce-wrapped burger and fries. In and Out only fries potatoes, so all of their fryers are dedicated gluten-free. Woo-hoo!
Chipotle is another option with a variety of gluten-free bowls. Please note that Chipotle does not guarantee that the corn tortilla chips are gluten-free.
Before your trip, research to ensure these restaurants are on your route and that you are passing by when you normally eat. Traveling to the middle of nowhere? Pack a cooler with a simple meal(s) and snacks.
Flying can be more challenging. Not all airlines and airport restaurants offer gluten-free options. Plus, the TSA 3-1-1 liquid rule makes things even trickier.
First, what the heck is the 3-1-1 liquid rule? You are allowed a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes through the checkpoint. These items are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item.
1-quart sized bag
1 bag per passenger
Foods such as hummus, peanut butter, yogurt, salad dressing, dip, and salsa are considered gels. Therefore, the allowed portion is limited to 3.4-ounces.
Your best options are dry snacks and a gluten-free sandwich or wrap. Fruits and veggies may be confiscated if they are half-eaten (banana or apple) and if you are traveling to Hawaii or an international destination. Domestically, I have successfully traveled with baby carrots, baby bell pepper, sugar snap peas, and a variety of fruit.
Remember traveling is FUN and it’s not the time to deprive yourself!
If you are extremely sensitive to gluten, you might consider traveling with a Nima. A Nima is a portable gluten tester that allows you to test meals for gluten in about 2 minutes.
My carry-on bag or car cooler always has a variety of these tasty treats.
Here’s my favorite Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Recipe 🍪
Your favorite gluten-free sandwich or wrap with gluten-free chips or pretzels
Charcuterie: salami, cheese, grapes, mixed nuts, gluten-free crackers
Hardboiled egg and orange
Apple and peanut butter*
Your favorite veggies and hummus*
Protein bars: Some of my favs … GoMacros, Kind, Rx Bars
More protein: Chomps (meat sticks) or Epic Protein bars
Trail mix or dried fruit
Granola (GF of course)
Water: Make sure your water bottle is empty for air travel
Nuun Electrolyte Drink Tablets: A convenient and tasty way to ensure you stay hydrated
* Pro Tip: Use pre-portioned peanut butter, hummus, dips, sauces, etc. especially, when going through TSA.
Emergency Food and Additional Resources
In addition to a carry-on bag, I often pack non-perishable emergency food in my suitcase just in case my final destination has limited gluten-free options. I also include more from my carry-on list. Depending on the trip, I might include the following.
GF loaf of bread (Canyon Bakehouse is my fav)
Toaster Bags (great for that dirty toaster in any VRBO)
GF cup of noodles or soups (Dr. McDougall has several GF options)
GFB oatmeal bowls (this brand is FLAT and easy to pack)
Extra GF crackers (Mary’s, HU, Simple Mills are some of my top picks)
Protein powder (great emergency food – just add water!)
I do most of my shopping at my local grocery stores, and all except the toaster bags are available in my market.
For international travel when you are not fluent in the language, consider buying translation cards. The card needs to mention cross-contamination, which is 90% of the battle. Check out Legal Nomads for a reliable source.
With a little advanced planning and preparation, your gluten-free vacation can be stress-free and plenty of fun.
To learn more about optimizing your digestive health, book a free discovery call with a gut health nutritionist.