I needed to escape this winter and took a last minute trip to Cuba with my mom. All-inclusives in Cuba are not known for their great food so you can imagine the gluten-free situation. They definitely did their best to accommodate my diet but as expected I ate a lot of fish, rice and snacks from home.
This trip inspired me to share my gluten-free travel tips.
Gluten-Free Travel Tips:
- Always bring some real food onto the plane with you (particularly important if it will be a long flight). Never trust that a plane or train will provide you with a gluten-free meal. I am averaging about a 20% success rate in the gluten-free meal department, with the “meal” being even remotely edible about 40% of the time when it does arrive. Those two percentages combined gives us some pretty bad odds. Here is some news: people with celiac disease do not eat stale rice cakes with jam for breakfast. SHOCKER! Basically always bring some great food with you and you can be pleasantly surprised if an edible meal comes your way, which is much better than the alternative of being a crazy crangry person “But your airline confirmed 3 times that they would have a gluten-free meal!!”… Now I order my gf meal and when they say they don’t have it bla, bla, bla and I will get a $25 credit on my next booking I can block it all out and reach for my fresh meal in my carry on!
- Snacks, snacks, snacks!!! Always make sure to pack your favorite snacks. Crackers, granola, nuts and Larabars are my faves. While traveling for a few weeks in Turkey my crackers traveled well and were a great starchy option to pull out when we were served cheeses. Granola and nuts are perfect to snack on or throw in yogurt. And Larabars are a must for the bottom of your bag when you realize you can’t eat a thing on the menu. Always bring more snacks than you think you need, your non-gf travel partners will want some snacks too. In Cuba there weren’t any desserts I could eat so that pack of gluten-free chocolates from home was essential.
Quick list: granola/protein bars, granola, pretzels, crackers, dried fruit, nuts, miso soup packets, protein or meal replacement powder (ex: Vega), chocolate…
- Print out a gluten-free travel cards in almost any language. This website has cards that explain gluten-free food preparation in 54 languages! I have used these cards in Turkey, Cuba, Costa Rica and Croatia.
- Do your research. Before going to Turkey I researched gluten-free options and found out that it wasn’t super well known and that most of the rice dishes had barley. Knowing what foods to avoid and printing out some maps to gluten-free restaurants made the trip a lot easier.
- Relax! While traveling with an allergy can definitely be f***ing annoying it’s definitely not the worst. You’re on vacation! Focus on the amazing parts of discovering somewhere new, it will help you forget that you can’t eat that croissant/baklava etc. It definitely helps to be prepared, both physically and mentally, with snacks and the knowledge that you will have days where you eat only apples, wine, and Larabars. C’est la vie. Note: This last tip is important but doesn’t really apply as well if you are traveling for work. I will admit that traveling for work is not my favorite from a gluten-free perspective. Not having a access to a kitchen for a week while working long hours and not knowing where to eat safely can definitely be downer.
Have any tips you want to share?