Tomorrow I’m off to New York to visit my Nanny (grandmother) on Long Island and spend a few days in New York City. The importance of maintaining a strict gluten free & allergy compliant diet are amplified when traveling. The last thing anyone wants is to spend their vacation in the bathroom or fighting an infection from a rattled immune system. Spending a bit of time researching and planning helps to make traveling as stress free as possible. I put together this post of gluten free travel tips to save you time and effort. Everything you need is in one place!
I would much rather a life without celiac and food issues, but I’m at a place where it doesn’t bother me that much. There are things about food sensitivities that are 200% irritating, but I try to focus on all the incredible foods I can eat and ignore the ones I can’t. This outlook has opened up tons of foods that I would have never considered before. I get so much joy out of exploring the aisles of an asian market, smelling the fruits of labor and love at a farm stand, and drooling at the butcher counter. I try to have the same enthusiasm towards eating while traveling, which is a time that my food issues can feel like total doom and gloom.
Below are some tips & considerations for traveling while following a paleo template or eating with food allergies.
Paleo on a Plane?!?
BE PREPARED. Pack a paleo/allergy friendly lunchbox and carryon. You never know where you may be stranded so it’s always best to bring enough shelf stable items in case you get stuck somewhere.
What about security? You are allowed to bring food through security as long as you are flying domestically. If you are flying internationally you will need to check the customs laws. Liquids & gels are restricted to the three ounce rule. You can even travel with ice packs as long as they are frozen when you go through security.
If you are concerned, the TSA website has a handy little medical alert card that you can print and tape to your food items. I haven’t had any problems bringing through ice packs, food, and even small gels like nut butters and dressings that usually have to be put in the quart bag with your other liquids. While you don’t have to disclose your medical condition, I write celiac and food allergies on the card and tape it to my lunchbox. I also throw my probiotics in there so they stay cool.
What food do I pack?
Carry-on Dry Items:
- Epic Bars (Bacon Cranberry Bison is AIP friendly)
- Jerky (Epic, Tanka, The New Primal, Trader Joe’s Organic are some of our favorites)
- Nuts, trail mixes, dried fruit – You can buy these prepackaged or make your own. I make these for hubby year round.
- Nut and fruit bars, fruit leathers (Larbars, Trader Joe’s fruit bars)
- Plantain and root vegetable chips
- Nutbutters & coconut butter (you can buy small travel size packets at Whole Foods, Target, and health food stores)
- Dark chocolate (I miss you so much)
- Tuna, sardines, canned oysters (the other passengers will love you)
- Protein powder: Vital Proteins Pastured Beef Collagen Peptides (mix into beverage of choice)
- Seaweed snacks
Carry-on Lunchbox Items (with ice pack):
- Prosciutto, bacon, hot dogs or any animal protein that you can eat cold
- Vegetable sticks
- Fruit (berries, grapes, mango, pineapple chunks)
- Hard boiled eggs
- Salad, with travel size olive oil
- Pretty much any solid food that you can eat cold that isn’t liquid
Cooking Foods/Checked Luggage:
- Go to seasoning mix: Because you may be eating bland, I recommend bringing your favorite seasoning mix in a small container. Easy way to ‘spice’ it up.
- Coconut aminos (I think I’m going to cry every time I post something with coconut)
- Fat: Coconut oil, ghee
Research your destination & know what your food access will be. I check some snacks and foods (ok, ghee) that will be essential for my stay and may be a pain to find.
Where to stay?
I try to book hotel rooms that have kitchens or rent homes so I can do my own food prep. It takes away a lot of the stress of finding safe food. It also saves tons of money on both food and housing. I can usually get a better nightly rate on a condo or house rental than a hotel room.
Because I’m really sensitive to cross contamination I do take some extra precautions in the kitchen spaces. Depending on what will be available and how long I’m traveling, I usually bring at least one small pan and some essential kitchen gadgets. I’ve found that a lot of rental kitchens have cheap teflon pans with tons of scratches in them….gluten hideouts.
These are in my luggage waiting to fly to NY:
- Hand julienne peeler. This nifty little tool makes any meal as simple as raw veggie noodles and sauce.
- Immersion Blender or travel size blender. Whip up quick protein shakes, sauces, etc.
- Cutting board. Any shared kitchen cutting board is likely to be cross contaminated, especially plastic or wood. I have a thin light cutting board that I slip in the bottom of my suitcase.
I also bring my chef’s knife. Not because I’m worried about cross contamination, but I’m just that much of a food snob and I hate a crappy knife. Yeah, I’ll admit it.
Traveling by Car?
- Instant Pot. If I’m traveling by car I bring my Instant Pot. It’s not difficult to pack and allows for super easy one pot travel cooking. It tends to make meals that can be eaten multiple times which saves on time and money.
- Cooler full of all the foods. Pack whatever you need for the car trip + some so you aren’t tempted by rest stop gas station hot dogs and candy cigarettes. Yummy.
- Food storage. I bring my lunch set of pyrex glass containers so I can prepare food to go when site seeing. You could just buy something disposable, but I try to reduce my trash where I can.
Our favorite FL weekend vacation spot, Fernandina Beach, has the best little weekend farmer’s market with tons of local & organic produce and pastured meats. And the bacon. All the bacon! Sorry, I really love the bacon. Ok, back to it….We bring a giant cooler in the car just so I can bring back all the food with us! If you didn’t know, I’m food obsessed. I really enjoy exploring the food available when traveling and trying everything I can. It gets expensive. I’m also known to check a cooler in my suitcase when flying. We travel Southwest and have extra bag space (2 bags fly free!), so it’s not difficult to stuff a small cooler with ice packs in our luggage. Pre Celiac, my suitcase was known to smell like everything bagels on our flight home from NY. I’ll never forget the first time I flew home with them and smelled my bag coming down the turn style. Happy place.
Got to my destination. What’s next?
Once you get to vacation town run to the grocery store and grab what you need. You can also check out the local farmer’s market. Farmer’s markets are a great way to get to know and appreciate your food. Its’ also the best place to get quality whole food ingredients for a discount. We like to keep our travel meals simple. An easy to cook animal protein, a green vegetable, and another vegetable. Usually a starchy one, like a sweet potato, carrots, or plantains. Also check out the local farmers market – there are always gems to be found. But let’s be real, you are on vacation. You surely are not going to do ALL your own cooking….
FEED ME! Dining Out:
When we travel my inner foodie explodes and I want to eat all the foods, even more than I usually do. I get a thrill out of the experience of trying new restaurants. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, its really important to keep safety as a priority. I rarely ever eat out as the tiniest gluten cross contamination can turn me ill for days (and I love to cook). At home it’s not worth the risk, but when I travel the experience wins the battle.
Communication. Make sure you discuss your needs with your waiter, the chef, the manager, anyone who may touch or in some way control your food. Let them know your needs. If you find it easier, or are traveling internationally you can use allergy & celiac travel restaurant cards. Be sure to really thank the staff (tips help) for delivering you a safe meal to encourage the same considerations for future patrons.
Spend a few days researching and reading review sites for places to eat.
Research your options. There are plenty of apps and websites that can help you make wise choices. I think it’s fun to research all the different local cuisines when traveling and pick the best possible place to dine for each. Going to NYC, aka food city, makes dining out pretty easy because there are just so many safe options. I do miss some of my old favorites, like everything in Little Italy, but I have found so many incredible plates that I barely even notice anymore. Well, when Gary eats pizza, grease dripping down his arm. Then I notice.
Check out the below websites for all things restaurant food. They have mobile apps also.
I review the restaurant’s website and menu to get an idea if it’s somewhere worth eating. I compile a list of places to try, program them into Maps on our phones, and a safe place to eat is always a click away.
I even make a word document of places to eat, cuisine, price, hours, and location that I save on my phone’s home screen. That way if we are craving something particular or want to choose the best place possible we just review the info and click the link to the website or menu. Yeah I’m that food crazy. Ok, this might all seem a little bit obsessive. You don’t really have to make the word document. But if you don’t mind the extra planning, it will save you tons of time and hassle in the moment so you spend your vacation relaxing and exploring and not fretting over food. I’m a planner, but the last thing I want to do on vacation is plan food. Doing it in advance makes vacation so much more enjoyable for me.
The best tip for traveling: always know where the closest grocery store is. It’s easy to grab some prosciutto, fruit, and veggies for a quick grab and go meal.
So now that all my food is packed, I should probably pack my clothes and everything else I
need travel with because I love to see my husband carry extra luggage. I’ll be sharing my epic NY food journey on instagram so make sure you are following. I will continue my travel tips with a post about where to eat paleo and gluten free in NYC.