This is part one of my “Traveling While Gluten Free” series. Part one focuses on flying and part two focuses on time spent at your destination.
There’s nothing better than jetting off to parts unknown for adventure and relaxation… but what about if you’re on a gluten free diet? Don’t worry, with a little preparation, you’ll be just fine! Here are my top tips for traveling while gluten free.
Flying while gluten free
Make sure you request your gluten free meals in advance
Most of the airlines can accommodate this but require anywhere from 24 hours to a week’s advance notice. Sometimes you can do this online via the airline’s website, but sometimes you’ll have to call. Do not expect them to be able to accommodate you without advance notice – they don’t typically have allergen information for meals served on the flight! Also, still be careful with your gluten free meal – often, they have a base “kit” that includes the salad, utensils, etc and it will often include crackers or bread – watch that they don’t give you gluten accidentally in the kit! They are serving a couple hundred meals at once and they won’t remember that you’re special. If it’s not labeled, I don’t eat it.
And carry enough to survive the flight(s) if there is a problem with your meal. I learned this lesson the hard way when my first flight was delayed, causing me to get bumped to a later international flight. Sadly my previously requested gluten free meal was on the flight I missed, and the new flight couldn’t accommodate me. Luckily I had some snacks, plus a very kind celiac lady behind me gave me a spare bag of crackers, and another passenger donated her salad to my cause – I ended up eating two salads, the crackers and a bit of cheese for dinner, and a granola bar I had with me for breakfast. It was not a fun night. Don’t let this happen to you! Some flight-friendly gluten free snack ideas are crackers or pretzels, hearty fruit (like apples – nothing that will smash), nuts, fruit snacks or trail mix. I like to make my own trail mix with *M&M’S, *Glutino Pretzel Twists, and *Planters Mixed Nuts.
Layovers and airport meals
If you know you’ve got a layover at meal time, it’s best to be prepared. Take a look at the airport’s website. First, you’ll need to determine which terminal(s) your airline uses. Then, take a look at what restaurants are in those terminals. Generally you’ll find national fast food and sit down restaurant chains, along with a few local options. I’m always happy to find a Wendy’s (baked potato and a side salad), or anywhere with a good grilled chicken salad. Mexican food is another top pick, but you have to be careful (for example, Taco Bell only has a few gluten free items on their entire menu, and they are specialties – you might not even find those in the airport!)
For example, I often fly through Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and American Airlines goes to four of their five terminals (A-D). My flights home typically leave from Terminal C, so my top picks are the Wendy’s, the Chili’s Too, which has their allergen menu online, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit with allergen information online, and if you’re just after a snack, Au Bon Pain says they have gluten free soups. If you find yourself in Terminal D (international flights), I recommend Cousins Barbecue’s barbecue baked potato. It’s a loaded baked potato with meat added (I opted for the chopped brisket, no sauce.) There is Worcestershire sauce in their barbecue sauce, which typically contains barley malt vinegar – skip it to be safe.
With just a bit of preparation and knowing a few options, you can sail through the airport with no troubles, and get on to the good stuff – vacation! Part two will focus on dining and snacking at your destination.
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