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Gluten Free Travel Tips

Updated on May 30, 2013

Gluten Free Dining on the Road

My current job requires frequent nationwide travel. Most of these trips are by air and involve long flights and layovers in various airports around the country. After two years of travel trial and error, I have learned to strategize my on-the-road gluten free dining.

Why Strategize for Gluten Free Travel?
It is easy to forget that most of the nation is a fast food, gluten-filled obstacle course when you have become accustomed to your own local surroundings. You have likely created a strategy for gluten free dining at home and you have established your go-to list of local restaurants that offer half decent gluten free fare.

What happens when familiar surroundings are replaced by cramped airplanes or freeways lined with fast food joints and gas stations for hours on end? Believe me, I have perused many food aisles in airports and gas stations and, for the most part, have walked out empty handed with not a single gluten-free morsel to be found. As many of you know, I also avoid dairy and grains, in general, which makes the search for real, natural, gluten free foods a bit more challenging. The result? I usually end up eating nothing and, by the time I get to my destination, I am light headed and famished. At this point, I am ready to eat cardboard as long as it is gluten free. The search then begins for healthy fare in a new and different locale. Depending on my destination, it could be after hours with very few choices available. It all goes down hill from there and, by this time, I have a stomach ache. Time for a gluten free travel strategy.

Prepare in Advance
I am not one to eat a lot before hitting the road. Something about a full stomach before boarding a flight does not appeal to me and I prefer to travel light. Sure, the airline may have a snack available but it is usually something gluten-filled and prepackaged. The well-meaning flight attendants cheerily offer cookies, crackers, or peanuts; all of which are not doable on a gluten-free diet. Okay, the peanuts are edible but they are a legume and I also stay away from legumes. More about that in a different post. Anyway, back to the gluten-free travel strategy. I could wait until arrival at the next airport, but what would I find there? I have scanned the many food offerings at every airport I have experienced and have never seen a plain boiled egg or grilled chicken breast amongst the sandwiches, crackers, pizza, or french fries. How do I manage this travel debacle? I prepare in advance.

My carry on luggage is a soft sided, insulated Igloo cooler. This way I can pack guaranteed gluten free items that I can freely eat whenever I feel like it. Even if I am on road travel with long distances in the car, I pack a bag of food to last most of my trip. My usual menu includes the following items:

  • Boiled Eggs still in the shell. (Peel these right before eating.)
  • Grilled, sliced steak. (Freeze small portions so they last the duration of the trip.)
  • Chopped chicken breast in homemade barbecue sauce. (Freeze some of this as well and it will be ready to eat by the time you reach your destination.)
  • Trail mix, almonds, or walnuts.
  • A whole orange or two. (Apples tend to bruise easily.)
  • A good quality protein powder that I can mix with plain water.
  • A bag of cut vegetables. (Carrots, Celery, Red Peppers, Whole Mini Cucumbers.)
  • Plain, whole fat Greek Yoghurt.

Believe me, prepping a food bag for long distance travel is a lifesaver. There is still plenty of room in my soft sided Igloo for other necessities like magazines, wallet, toiletries, even with all of the above items packed in my Igloo so this method actually serves multiple purposes all wrapped up in one convenient carry on.

If your goal is to remain gluten free and arrive at your destination feeling healthy and energized, prep your own food, pack your bag, and go!


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