Curious how to travel with celiac disease or on the gluten-free diet?
You've come to the right place, my gluten-free friend!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more information. Thanks! Guide last updated March 2022. Please double-check current travel restrictions and COVID protocols for traveling right now.
While the prospect of traveling with celiac disease or on a gluten-free diet may seem daunting, I’m here to tell you it is POSSIBLE for EVERYONE with preparation, diligence, and flexibility.
A dietary restriction does not mean your adventures are over. It's just the beginning of a new chapter!
Less than a year after my celiac disease diagnosis, I spent a semester abroad in Madrid, Spain. In 2019, I spent six months backpacking around the globe to more than fifteen countries on five continents.
I learned that gluten didn't mean an end to my wanderlust, and it doesn't have to end yours either. With a little practice, the right strategy focused on balance, not burnout, you'll be on your way to planning your next trip with more confidence and less fear.
Here are my top strategies for how you can travel anywhere with celiac disease!
NOTE & DISCLAIMER
Please note I am not a doctor and the information here should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional regarding your nutrition and following a gluten-free diet. Remember, restaurants and establishments may change, so always double-check! Only eat where you feel safe doing so. This is a guide to help point you in the right direction. Please make sure to have due diligence and follow your gut.
How To Travel With Celiac Disease: My Top Tips For Gluten-Free Travel
- How To Travel With Celiac Disease: My Top Tips For Gluten-Free Travel
- How To Travel With Celiac Disease: Research Beforehand!
- How To Travel With Celiac: Stay Somewhere With A Kitchen
- How To Travel Gluten-Free: Use Your Phone!
- How to Travel Gluten-Free: Pack Gluten-Free Food & Visit a Grocery Store When You Arrive.
- How to Travel With Celiac: Practice Self-Love If You Get Glutened.
- How to Travel with Celiac: Speak Up, Rely On Support, and GO SLOW.
- Do you want my complete step-by-step roadmap for how to travel with celiac disease anywhere on the gluten-free diet?
How To Travel With Celiac Disease: Research Beforehand!
The best way to travel safely with celiac disease is to research your destination as much as possible before you go.
That way, you are aware of what to expect and what you are able to eat. This includes researching before your trip, before you go out for the day, or before you go out to dinner somewhere. The more you do beforehand, the less stress you'll have while traveling.
Look into the area where you will be staying.
Some things you should keep in mind are:
What is the culture like around food?
How are meals prepared, eaten, and served?
Are they cognizant of food allergies?
Is cross-contact an issue at restaurants?
Are there dedicated kitchen spaces or fryers?
I know this is a lot to think about, but these are all important factors when researching your destination. And by taking the time to learn this information BEFORE you go, you'll have less stress during the actual trip and can focus on enjoying yourself.
How To Travel With Celiac: Stay Somewhere With A Kitchen
Whether you are staying in a hotel, guesthouse, homestay, Airbnb, bed & breakfast, or hostel, stay somewhere with a kitchen!
Having a kitchen is BIG in making you feel more comfortable because you can prepare your own meals, grocery shop, and have control over your food. This is honestly one of the best ways to travel gluten-free because you'll always have something to eat and you won't have to rely as much on restaurants. This will in turn REDUCE your stress because you won't be speaking up for yourself constantly, and you will reduce the possibility of getting sick.
If you're thinking, "Jen, I don't want to spend my vacation cooking." - I get it! I'm not saying this is the time to prepare five-course dinners (unless that's your thing, then go for it!)
You can dine out in restaurants for every meal, but it's going to be mentally exhausting. Having the option to prepare a quick and easy meal for yourself, like a rice bowl, tacos, or even just a quick cup of noodles, can make a big difference, so you won't come home feeling burnt out!
Staying somewhere with a kitchen is how I was able to travel extensively throughout Southeast Asia for 2 months in 2019 without getting sick every singleday.
How To Travel Gluten-Free: Use Your Phone!
How To Find Gluten-Free Food While Traveling
Locating gluten-free food can be tough when you're traveling. 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. 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 trip to Ubud less stressful.
FindMeGlutenFree, a website, and iOS application has been an absolute lifesaver for me when traveling with celiac disease around the globe. This app allows you to search for gluten-free restaurants, bakeries, diners, and stores in your area or any location in the world and is a great place to start your research. You can also check Spokin, Yelp, Google, social media (try searching hashtags with your location and the words gluten-free, like #glutenfreeaustin or #glutenfreeperu, or TripAdvisor.
How to Travel Gluten-Free: Pack Gluten-Free Food & Visit a Grocery Store When You Arrive.
If you bring your own snacks and quick meals when traveling with celiac disease, it will grant you more peace of mind when it comes to eating your next meal, and give you the option to save money by meal prepping/cooking on your own. I love bringing fresh fruit or veggies, sandwiches, cold pizza, oatmeal cups, granola bars, pretzels, yogurts, sliced cold cuts, avocados, and more!
Remember you don't have to pack an entire suitcase of snacks with you when traveling gluten-free. If you are traveling to a place that will have a grocery store nearby, just make a point to stop there when you arrive to stock up. Think of grocery stores as your new fast food restaurant!
It's also a great idea to stop at a grocery store again before you leave, especially to avoid going hungry in airports.
For all of my favorite gluten-free travel snacks, check out the shop page!
How to Travel With Celiac: Practice Self-Love If You Get Glutened.
One of the realities of traveling with celiac disease or on a gluten-free diet is the possibility of getting glutened.
Nobody wants to get glutened on vacation. It's the worst. But these things can happen.
It's important to not beat yourself up about it. Self-love is key here to make sure you are on the road to healing. Be gentle and take care of yourself to get better. Check with your doctor for what's best to bring to recover, and even better - bring a doctor's note with you, too, that you can present to TSA, hotels, tour guides, or anyone else that should be informed of your diet.
Everyone's health is different - consult your doctor or medical professional about what emergency meds to have on hand for your travels. Tayler of Celiac Dietitian has a great gluten exposure kit recommendation.
How to Travel with Celiac: Speak Up, Rely On Support, and GO SLOW.
You have every right to ask as many questions as you need when traveling gluten-free. This is important to ensure you have a pleasant eating experience and don’t end up with a stomach ache. But speaking up can be tricky and uncomfortable. It requires you to advocate for your needs, which can be awkward and uncomfortable.
But one of the best ways to feel more confident when having to speak up for yourself is to have support with you. Rely on your partner, family, friends, or colleagues for support on your trip as much as you need to. If you can't advocate for your needs, ask them to step in and order for you, call restaurants, or even just be a sounding board to vent your frustrations. With them helping you, it will make your gluten-free diet feel less burdensome.
Finally, make sure you are GOING SLOW when traveling with celiac or traveling gluten-free. This will prevent you from making bad decisions (like eating somewhere that isn't safe when you're hangry), and can help prevent mistakes from happening. This also gives you a buffer in case of a gluten exposure so you can rest and feel better.
My bottom line for traveling with celiac disease: Don’t let celiac or gluten STOP YOU from traveling the world!
It's all about being prepared and having a strategy focused on balance, and not burnout.
Do you want my complete step-by-step roadmap for how to travel with celiac disease anywhere on the gluten-free diet?
The strategies you read here are just a preview of everything you can learn in the Gluten-Free Travel Course!
At the end of this course, you'll be confident to take on your next trip and know exactly how to avoid getting glutened while traveling!
In this course you'll learn:
-how to order food at restaurants to be understood by servers
-what to pack for gluten-free traveling
-how to survive airports without going hungry
-how to protect against cross-contact in unknown kitchens
-how to overcome language barriers in foreign countries
& so much more!
Here's what a student had to say about taking the course:
"The thought of travel after my celiac diagnosis seemed overwhelming. This course helped me see it is possible, it can be an opportunity to add new places to search out on my travels." - Jennifer
The sooner you learn these skills, the sooner you can start applying them.
And the sooner travel seems less overwhelming, and more routine!
How do you travel on the gluten-free diet?
What tips would you add to this list?
Let me know in the comments below!