Are you wondering which places are the best vacation spots for celiac travelers to enjoy lots of tasty and safe gluten-free food? I'm sharing my top recommendations right in this post!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more information. Thanks! This post was updated in January of 2023.
About This Blog Post on Best Vacation Spots For Celiacs
Food is such an integral part of the travel experience. And when you have celiac disease, you may sometimes “miss out” on trying new foods, traditional dishes, or even cooking in the destinations you visit. And that can make traveling not feel as fun or unique as it used to.
Luckily, there are quite a few destinations both here in the US and around the globe that can be some of the best vacation spots for celiac travelers. This is where you can actually enjoy the iconic foods that are synonymous with a destination, in safe gluten-free form. Places where celiac disease is better understood, and where you can be included in the smells, ingredients, and tastes of a destination’s food scene - in a celiac safe way.
I've spent over a decade exploring the globe with celiac disease, learning from others in the celiac community, and gathering research on which places have the most celiac safe food, inclusive menus, and best understanding of what "gluten-free" really means.
In this post I'm diving into some of my favorite places, some that have been recommended by others, and a one celiac-friendly spot with close to 50 dedicated gluten-free places!
Please note, this is not a comprehensive of everywhere you can visit that has gluten-free food and celiac-safe options. There are TONS of places that offer that! But these are the ones that come up time and time again in my own research and hearing from other celiacs online. And there's a good reason for that!
NOTE & DISCLAIMER
Everyone’s experience with celiac disease is different. My experience is not your experience. This is a guide – a list of suggestions to point you in the right direction. Just because I had a positive experience somewhere doesn't mean yours will be the same.
Remember, a lot of traveling with celiac disease comes down to your mindset and attitude too. If you believe traveling with celiac disease is hard and going to suck, then it will continue to be hard and it will definitely suck. Have an open mind, bring snacks for backup, and use this list as starting point to build your own gluten-free bucket list.
The Best Vacation Spots For Travelers With Celiac Disease
- About This Blog Post on Best Vacation Spots For Celiacs
- The Best Vacation Spots For Travelers With Celiac Disease
- Where Can You Vacation Easily With Celiac Disease?
- How To Find Safe Restaurants On Vacation With Celiac
- My Favorite Vacation Spots With Celiac Disease
- New York City: A Celiac Foodie Heaven
- Italy: Gluten-Free Pizza, Pasta & So Much More
- Popular Spot For Celiac Travelers: Ireland
- Buenos Aires, Argentina & the Sin TACC Program
- A Relaxing, "Normal" Vacation with Celiac Cruise
- Boston, Massachusetts: My Celiac Travel Home Base!
- Madrid, Spain: A Big Improvement in Celiac Safety!
- Costa Rica: Gluten-Free in Tropical Paradise
- One of the best vacation spots for celiac travelers: Portland, Oregon
- Best Vacation Spots For Celiacs: Final Thoughts
Where Can You Vacation Easily With Celiac Disease?
Truly, no destination is off limits when it comes to celiac disease when you have the right strategy. That doesn't mean it will be easy, but it's still possible. However, some places will be easier than others to vacation with celiac disease, and will have stronger awareness of celiac disease.
Here in the United States, awareness and availability of gluten-free food varies by region. Big cities are known for having more options and are usually more inclusive of dietary needs, and rural areas might not have a gluten-free bakery anywhere. Compared to other areas of the world, the USA also has a low understanding of celiac disease in public and in restaurants, making it difficult to be taken seriously (Though I will say it has improved DRAMATICALLY in the last decade, we still have a long way to go.) Asia is also known for being especially challenging to visit, due to the lack of awareness surrounding food allergies, and large presence of soy sauce in many dishes.
Conversely, in other areas of the world, celiac disease is more well-known, and gluten-free food is readily available. This is especially common in regions with a higher presence of celiac disease, and again, big cities. London, Paris, and Madrid come to mind, as well as Sydney, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. Some countries will have diets based in naturally gluten-free foods, such as parts of Central America, South America, and Africa. Of course, access to gluten-free food, healthcare, and treatment for celiac disease will vary and depend on individual circumstances.
How To Find Safe Restaurants On Vacation With Celiac
Locating gluten-free food can be tough when you're traveling - no matter where you are going on vacation with celiac disease. And while it's critical to speak to the restaurant directly to make sure their protocols work for you, sometimes you just want to get an idea of what's available. One of the best ways to do that while traveling is by doing your research first, on an app/website like FindMeGlutenFree.
FindMeGlutenFree can help you get an idea of what gluten-free restaurants, bakeries, and safe menus are available in your destination. And yes - this app is used around the globe! And with a Premium Subscription, you can filter by most celiac friendly, see what's open now (so you don't drive all the way to a bakery for breakfast and discover it's closed), and what's gluten-free in the direction you're headed. It's like Google Maps, but a gluten-free version. And no Ads!
I've been a FMGF user for over a decade, but I think their Premium version is much more effective. Take $5 off a Premium Subscription with the code THENOMADICFITZ to make your travels with celiac disease less stressful.
Reducing stress while traveling with celiac disease is essential to make sure you don't end up with celiac travel burnout. It can be exhausting to have the attention on you for every meal, constantly speaking up, and always putting yourself at risk of gluten exposure. That's why balance is the key to traveling with celiac disease - and making sure you have a place to stay with a kitchen so you can prep easy meals for yourself. This is the basis of the Celiac Travel Course, where I teach you step-by-step how to plan a vacation with celiac from start to finish. Learn more about the course here to start planning yours!
My Favorite Vacation Spots With Celiac Disease
New York City: A Celiac Foodie Heaven
The holy grail of gluten-free food and truly one of the best cities for celiac travelers is the Big Apple.
And when you’re a native New Yorker like me, you grew up on slices of pizza, bacon egg and cheese bagels, and Chinese-American takeout food. And that doesn’t have to change when you have celiac disease if you’re in NYC.
Home to thousands of restaurants, New York City is one of the best places to visit on the east coast if you have celiac disease, due to the sheer volume of restaurants. These include actual sit-down restaurants, bakeries, and sweet shops. A multitude of 100% dedicated gluten-free facilities exist throughout Manhattan, including Modern Bread and Bagel, a Kosher deli with the most incredible bagels, Senza Gluten, a classic Italian eatery with trattoria vibes, and sweet shops like Posh Pop, and NoGlu, serving pastries, cookies, and cakes that will make you forget what gluten even is.
There are also restaurants with strong celiac protocols in place, including Keste Pizza, serving up classic Neopolitan pizzas, and Lilli & Loo, with dedicated fryers for dumplings, noodle dishes, and fried rice, and even Friedman's, a chain restaurant with almost ten locations serving gluten-free chicken and waffles. There’s no shortage of food to enjoy as you explore the Big Apple.
Italy: Gluten-Free Pizza, Pasta & So Much More
My top recommendation and one of the best vacation spots for celiac travelers is Italy!
Contrary to popular belief, the land of pizza and pasta is a very easy destination to navigate with celiac disease, especially in large cities like Rome, Milan, or Florence. Children are screened early for the disease in Italy. With food being such an integral part of family and community life, they’ve gone to great lengths to ensure celiacs feel included.
Having visited Italy mutiple times, both pre and post celiac diagnosis, I don’t feel I missed out on any of the typical “foods” you hope to enjoy when visiting, including pizza, pasta, and of course, gelato.
The AIC Mobile App, available for iOS download, is $2.99 for 2 weeks and has listings of celiac safe restaurants verified by the Italian Celiac Association (AIC). Between the large selection of “senza glutine” products in grocery stores, pharmacies, and even some airports, restaurants with menus that include more than just a side salad or a potato, and even gluten-free cooking classes available in cities around the country, it’s a treat for celiac travelers.
Be sure to keep your eyes open for Grom gelato, 100% gluten-free and located all over Europe. In Rome just a few blocks from the Vatican, visit La Soffitta Renovatio for celiac safe pizza and pasta dishes. In Milan, Peperino e Milano’s gluten-free menu is an entire book, and they bake fresh gluten-free bread to serve with your dinner as well.
Want all of my recommendations for visiting Italy with celiac disease? Read my gluten-free guide to Italy here.
Popular Spot For Celiac Travelers: Ireland
Another destination that's familiar with celiac disease as so many of their citizens have it - Ireland. Having visited Ireland twice post-celiac diagnosis, I was pleasantly surprised with the overwhelming amount of tasty products in grocery stores, and celiac safe option in many restaurants & pubs in larger cities like Dublin, Cork, and Galway. Ireland is a very popular destination for celiac travelers.
The Coeliac Disease Society of Ireland estimates that approximately 50,000 people living in Ireland have celiac disease. In addition to that, there are another 400,000 that are gluten intolerant. Because of this, supermarkets are stocked with "Free From" sections, and celiac disease is generally well-known. I had a bartender in Galway (back in 2014, mind you) ask if I wanted the beef stew with celiac gravy for dinner with my pint of cider. I was floored. (And yes, the stew was delicious, celiac safe, and I enjoyed it while watching World Cup football [soccer] on the television.)
Looking to plan your own adventure in Ireland? Check out my two-week itinerary for the best of cliffs, castles, and good craic.
Buenos Aires, Argentina & the Sin TACC Program
Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital famous for tango, parrilla (barbecue) and a strong European influence in their cuisine, also has a large presence of celiac disease. With so many immigrants from Europe over the last century, it's not hard to see why.
Argentina's "SIN TACC" label on menus, restaurants, and on food products & grocery stores has helped those with celiac disease find gluten-free food. In Spanish, "sin" means "without", and "T.A.C.C." stands for "Trigo, Avena, Cebada, Centeno" "Wheat, Oats, Barley, Rye".
Be sure to check out the many dedicated gluten-free restaurants in Buenos Aires, especially Gout Bakery & Cafe!
Want all of my recommendations for visiting Argentina with celiac disease? Read my gluten-free guide to Buenos Aires here, and check out some of a local's favorite spots from my friend Mike, who lives there.
A Relaxing, "Normal" Vacation with Celiac Cruise
If you want a completely worry-free vacation to destinations like the Caribbean, Europe, and Alaska - look no further than Celiac Cruise. This is without a doubt one of the best vacation choices for celiac families!
Celiac Cruise partners with cruise lines and travel companies to bring you a completely 100% gluten-free experience, without the fear. It's a chance to feel normal again, just like everyone else. The staff receive extensive training in cross-contact to ensure everything you are eating is safe - and it's all prepared in dedicated gluten-free kitchens too.
There's no shortage of tasty treats and special events, many of which include partners like Holidaily Brewing, Schar, The Celiac Disease Foundation, and the Celiac Project. And the meals on the ship were great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The late night buffet was a bonus! For more information about sailings with Celiac Cruise, please visit their website.
To read more about my experience aboard the Celiac Cruise 5-day trip to the Caribbean, check out this post.
Boston, Massachusetts: My Celiac Travel Home Base!
Another one of the best vacation spots for celiac travelers- Boston and New England, my home base the last decade!
If you're in Boston, definitely stop at Kane's Donuts for 100% gluten and dairy free donuts with 3 locations in the area. Burtons Grill, Red Heat Tavern, and 110 Grill all do a great job with celiac and allergen protocols, and Twist Bakery & Cafe north of the city in Burlington makes the best sandwiches & sweets - all 100% gluten-free!
Boston is home plenty of gluten-free and celiac safe food experiences, whether you are visiting the city or exploring the coast and the North Shore.
Want my celiac travel guide to Boston? Read it right here.
Heading to the North Shore? Check out my gluten-free guide to the North Shore of Boston here.
Madrid, Spain: A Big Improvement in Celiac Safety!
Madrid’s food scene is strong in small plates, known as “tapas”, traditional dishes of paella and special treats like chocolate con churros. When I studied abroad in Madrid in 2010, awareness of celiac was minimal and I had to eat at home with my host mother. But in the last decade, there’s been a large shift in the food culture of Madrid.
FACE stickers now appear in restaurant windows, indicating the restaurant has been endorsed by the Spain Celiac Association (FACE). Dedicated gluten-free bakeries like Celicioso have popped up around the city. A stronger understanding of “sin gluten” can be found throughout Spain’s capital city, including more products in grocery stores like Mercadona and El Corte Ingles.
In La Latina, visit La Lina for patatas bravas and a glass of wine. And for the true chocolate con churros experience, check out Chocolateria 1902 or Maestro Churrero. While not dedicated gluten-free, they have celiac protocols in place for these tasty Madrid treats.
Want all of my recommendations for visiting Spain with celiac disease? Read my gluten-free guide to Madrid here to see why I think it's one of the best spots for celiac travelers that's improved in recent years.
Costa Rica: Gluten-Free in Tropical Paradise
Costa Rica is a tropical paradise filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, beautiful biodiversity, and plenty of gluten-free food. The diet of Costa Ricans (called ticos and ticas) is a lot of rice, beans, and corn, which are perfect for those with celiac disease. The wildlife and natural beauty here is stunning to behold.
If you are planning to visit Costa Rica with celiac disease, be sure to check out Zaney Travel who can help you plan an amazing vacation with celiac disease to Costa Rica. The owner, Zane, has celiac, and has been visiting Costa Rica for over 20 years. He knows celiac, cross-contact, and pura vida life in Costa Rica!
Want to learn more about Zaney Travel's trips to Costa Rica? Check out this post right here.
One of the best vacation spots for celiac travelers: Portland, Oregon
Probably the most celiac-friendly city I've visited in the United States and my #1 recommendation as the best of vacation spots for celiacs is Portland, Oregon. With close to 50 100% gluten-free facilities, it's super easy to eat safely here and the variety of gluten-free bakeries, restaurants, breweries, and food carts is UNREAL. While the current political climate of Portland might not be for you, the city is unparalleled when it comes to the presence of celiac safe options all in one place. So if you don't plan on visiting Portland right now, definitely keep it on your list for the future!
Everything you see here is from a 100% gluten-free establishment. Portland is a funky, inclusive, and fun city with an unparalleled gluten-free food scene.
Want my guide for all of the places you see here & more gluten-free goodness in Portland? Read the full gluten-free dining guide to Portland here.
Best Vacation Spots For Celiacs: Final Thoughts
These are just a few of my favorites of the best vacation spots for celiac travelers. I hope to continue traveling to more of them and share the details with you here on the blog.
What are your favorite places to visit with celiac disease?
Is your #1 vacation spot on this list?
Let me know in the comments below!