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Do and Do Not of Traveling Gluten Free Internationally

Updated on June 22, 2014

Do's and Don'ts of Traveling Gluten-Free Internationally!

Since being diagnosed with Celiac sprue I have taken tours in Greece, Spain, Israel and Egypt and spent time in Germany and Switzerland. All of my travels taught me an immense amount about what works and what doesn't. My family has always loved to travel and as a child I spent almost a month of every summer either in Europe or travellng around the United States. Five years ago (I am 23 now) I was put on a gluten-free diet which later grew into egg-free with limited lactose. Since that diagnosis I have taken tours in Greece, Spain, Israel, and Egypt. I revisited Germany several times as well as visiting France and Switzerland. Here are some tips I wish I had known before beginning vacations gluten-free!

A Specially Prepared Dinner at a Hotel in Jerusalem
A Specially Prepared Dinner at a Hotel in Jerusalem

Don't Let Food Allergies Stop You from Vacationing!

A Little Advice From Me

Food allergies should never be an excuse for not taking your dream vacation. As of right now I am gluten-free, yeast-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free (unless using Lactaid). Yes, my diet is limited but I will not let it stop me from living my life. With the right preparation, a little know-how, and a positive outlook we can live a limit-free life. So read on and get ready to plan your gluten-free vacation!


Do & Don't for GF Airline Travel

The experience depends on you!

Do: Call the airline after booking your ticket to find out about Gluten-Free options. Major airlines, like Lufthansa, are accommodating as long as you order ahead of time. Remember to call a few days before the flight to ensure you are not overlooked.

Don't: Rely on the airline to provide food. On one flight, the food service had gone on strike the day before so everyone received a cold sandwich basket (no Gluten Free options!).

Dramamine Motion Sickness Relief (Less Drowsy) - Keep Gluten-Free Food out of the air sickness bag

My family has seen me vomit so many times they are no longer affected but not every passenger is the same. Keep your food in your stomach where it belongs and have a happy flight.

Dramamine Motion Sickness Relief Less Drowsey Formula, 8 Count
Dramamine Motion Sickness Relief Less Drowsey Formula, 8 Count

When my siblings and I were little we would often get sick on long flights. One flight my father left a few weeks before so it was my mom, four little kids, and three of us vomiting. Thus why we started using dramamine to stop motion sickness. This way you don't lose your gluten-free meal to turbulence.


Do & Don'ts for GF Foreign Grocery Stores

Try it but be careful!

Do: Check out local grocery stores if you see them. In Israel, I found some amazing GF bread in a ramshackle store close to the restaurant our tour group was eating lunch at. Also, you can check out department stores. We found some awesome gluten-free food at a department store in Grenada, Spain.

Don't: Count on this. The only reason we were able to walk away with gluten-free bread is because our clerk knew the meaning of 'gluten-free.' If you do not know how to read the language (like me) you are better off leaving grocery store products alone.

Do & Don't for Carrying GF Food

Don't pack it away!

Do: Pack a carry-on filled with food. No matter what country the airport was in, I was always a walking buffet. Not only was this great in the airport but also on our tour bus. I could always keep my carry-on within reach which meant being able to eat whenever I wanted.

Don't: Pack all of your food in your suitcase. Suitcases can get lost and may take a few days to be recovered. If you are traveling without a translator or do not speak the language this puts you in a precarious place as you do not have any back-up food. Plus, it's not fair to other people traveling with you if you are going to be complaining about not having food. You are an adult. Take charge of your food situation and be prepared before leaving the country.

Do & Don't for GF Language Help - Depends on the Country You're In

Do: Expect many European countries (like Germany, Switzerland, France etc) to find most people know or have a good grasp of English. This can be a complete life saver when it comes to deciphering your menu for a 'safe' meal.

Don't: Forget language differences! Just because it looks like the word you know does not mean you will get what you know. For example: If you order pepperoni on a pizza in Germany, you will end up with hot peppers and not meaty pepperoni.

Franklin 14 Language Speaking Global Translator with Visual Dictionary and Color Screen (EST-7014)
Franklin 14 Language Speaking Global Translator with Visual Dictionary and Color Screen (EST-7014)

I highly recommend a global translator to help you out in situations varying from finding the bathroom to discovering the best sites to visit. You also have a chance to easily learn from this translator with it's natural-speaking translations and visual dictionary.


Do & Don't for GF Answers from your Chef

It depends entirely on their definition

Do: Ask the chef for help when faced with the terrors of a breakfast (or any) buffet. In Israel, the chefs were kind enough to explain each item. Most of the time, they asked what I could eat and then prepared a gourmet mini meal for me.

Don't: Rely on the chef to understand gluten free. In Egypt, the chef pointed to all the pastries, rolls, doughnuts, etc at breakfast and declared everything gluten free. Luckily, our tour guide swooped in and saved the day but I stuck to GF breakfast bars and rice soup to be safe.

Do & Don't in Purchasing a Country's GF Goodies - Careful What You Buy!

Do: Stock up on GF goodies. In Greece, I discovered sesame seed candies (they consist of honey, sesame seed, corn syrup and sugar). I bought up as much as I could and happily ate through them all throughout our tour.

Don't: Fall into a "chocolate" trap. I bought a variety of chocolate in Germany, only to find a melted mess after a hot day in the car driving to Switzerland. Make sure what you purchase is easy to transport and you do not have to depend on certain factors like temperature to keep enjoying it over and over.

Joyva Sesame Bars, 1.125-Ounce Bars (Pack of 36)
Joyva Sesame Bars, 1.125-Ounce Bars (Pack of 36)

The Joyva Sesame Bars are like the ones I ate in Greece. They contain only four ingredients and are (I believe) amazing in taste. The sesame seeds give them a crunch and balance out the supersweet of honey so you won't get a sugar headache. I would buy lots and lots because you can never eat just one!


Do & Don't of GF Fruit

Learn to Like It

Do: Expect to eat a lot of fruit (so learn to like it!). While others enjoy a gluten dessert restaurants will often serve you fruit in its place. While in Spain, my desserts varied from fruits plates of fresh cut melon, grapes, and watermelon to a lone apple on a plate.

Don't: Eat fruit in places where you can not drink the water. In Egypt, I had to longingly eye the fresh-cut fruit at breakfast each morning. Looked delicious but not worth a day-long trip to the bathroom.

Do & Don't of Keeping GF Good

Microwave & Fridge...Don't Rely on it!

Do: Bring food which is packaged and easily able to be eaten. I usually bring breakfast bars, pretzels, and boxed cookies. Sealed bread is another great idea (like the Schar brand) but must be eaten soon after being opened. On flights I have taken along Asian noodle bowls which can easily made by simply requesting a little hot water and can be a delicious experience.

Don't: Bring food requiring a microwave or fridge. Depending upon the country you may not see a fridge or a microwave the entire vacation. If anything a mini bar fridge is the most likely as microwaves are usually not found in newer hotels. I say avoid the worry all together and stick with food which does not require extra work.

Schar: Sealed Gluten-Free Bread Goodness

When I travel I typically carry sealed bread in my suitcase. I do not take it in the carry-on because it's bulky and it takes me a few days to actually miss eating bread. One of the great things about Schar is the sealed bread does not need to be frozen or refrigerated like my other breads. However, once opened you do need to eat it within several days to avoid it spoiling.

Schar Ciabatta Parbaked Rolls, 7-Ounce
Schar Ciabatta Parbaked Rolls, 7-Ounce

I really love these rolls. You really should put them in the oven for the best experience but they taste great out of the package too.

Schar Naturally Gluten-Free Artisan Baker White Bread, 14.1-Ounce Packages (Pack of 6)
Schar Naturally Gluten-Free Artisan Baker White Bread, 14.1-Ounce Packages (Pack of 6)

I was pleasantly surprised to find their white bread to be soft with a great sandwich texture. Plus it was amazing to have white bread for the first time in years.

Schar Baquettes Gluten Free, 12.3-Ounces (Pack of 6)
Schar Baquettes Gluten Free, 12.3-Ounces (Pack of 6)

I had no idea Schar made gluten-free baguettes. These definitely have yet to be seen in health and natural food stores near me. I might have to purchase some on Amazon...

Schar Gluten Free Multigrain Ciabatta Rolls, 4 rolls,7 Ounce [Case of 6]
Schar Gluten Free Multigrain Ciabatta Rolls, 4 rolls,7 Ounce [Case of 6]

I love these multi-grain ciabatta rolls so much I ate all four in the package at one time a few days ago. When I have them I just have to eat them. They are the perfect sandwich size for me and delicious!


Do & Don't of GF on the Daily

Don't be 'that' person on your tour!

Do: Carry at least several GF items with you whenever leaving your hotel. Being prepared makes life easier for everyone and travel a happy experience. Trust me. Nothing is worse than having a person on the tour constantly complaining how hungry they are when they expected to have specific dietary food and didn't receive it. Things go wrong, language barriers inhibit meals, the restaurant suddenly does not have what they claim....there are a thousand reasons why things go wrong. So rely on yourself and take food with!

Don't: Bring easily crushable items with you in a bag or purse. While shopping in Seville, Spain I made this big mistake. I had decided to take gluten-free pretzels with me as a snack and completely forgot about them being in my purse. So once I started buying things I piled them into my purse to avoid carrying a variety of bags. I opened my bag back at the hotel and discovered a bag of crushed pretzels which left behind a mess of crumbs for me to clean up.

Do & Don't of Living GF on the Go

Stay Safe but Be Open to New Experiences (like taking a camel ride to your dinner)

Do: Go with your instincts. There are times when food just seems to suspicious for it to be gluten-free. For instance if there are obvious places in the restaurant where contamination is likely or the person offering it to you does not seem to be knowledgeable on what gluten-free means. If you suspect it could be contaminated or not completely gluten free then listen to your gut and back away.

Don't: Stop yourself from trying food that is safely gluten-free. In Greece, I was often given salads with fresh tuna on them. My experiences with tuna were generally accompanied by mayo with crackers. I finally braved the tuna and found nothing tastes better than a beautiful salad with fresh tuna.

Gluten-Free on the Go! - Tastes Delicious..and....energizes you!

BumbleBar Gluten Free Organic Energy Chai with Almonds, 1.4-Ounce Bars (Pack of 12)
BumbleBar Gluten Free Organic Energy Chai with Almonds, 1.4-Ounce Bars (Pack of 12)

I love these energy bars. They are perfect to nibble on between site-seeing stops or if you get hungry before mealtimes. Made of sesame seeds, they are sweet but not to sweet. My favorite flavor is the Chai (the one displayed).


Pretzels for the Gluten-Free - Now we can eat like all the rest of you passengers!

Ener-G Foods  Wheat-Free Pretzels, 2.65-Ounce Bags (Pack of 20)
Ener-G Foods Wheat-Free Pretzels, 2.65-Ounce Bags (Pack of 20)

Before I had Celiac's, I always loved pretzels. Salty and crunchy they were perfect for snacking. Thank goodness I found out about these gluten-free pretzels. Normally I am a Glutino girl but I love these because they have sesame seeds on them. I take them along and can munch on them through the whole trip. Non-gluten free people are always amazed by the taste and I have yet to find one who didn't like them. So get some for your next vacation, ok?


Put Some International Spice in Your Ipod! - I love music in all languages so take a listen. Sometimes you just don't need to know the language to understand wh

Save Room for Dessert - (it's completely worth it)

Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Dessert Cookbook
Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Dessert Cookbook

I used to think the idea of a gluten-free dessert was horrifying. Then my sister bought me this cookbook. I found myself amidst gluten-free tortes, cakes, and cookies. I once made the cake, Mississippi Mud, which is still talked about today by my roommates. The combination of chocolate, coconut, marshmallow creme, and more chocolate was unbelievable. I never knew GF dessert was allowed to be so delicious. If you need a dessert fix, then order this book and found out how wonderful GF can be.


Let me know what you have to say!

Gluten Free, Know a Glutard, Just Curious?

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    • jayceehaynes profile image

      jayceehaynes 5 years ago

      just curious...nice lens :)

    • SciTechEditorDave profile image

      David Gardner 5 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      I had a coworker who had celiac disease ... and who was also a vegan... it made a lot of food choices complicated for him. When our company department went on an off-site "fieldtrip" to celebrate a major software documentation release, we had to consider our restaurant choice very carefully -- turns out that we ate at a Japanese restaurant -- he had veggie-sushi (cucumber, pickled radish [daigo], horseradish [wasabi], rice, sesame seeds, and seaweed wrapper)... and the rest of us had our usual sushi fare. Nice lens! Congratulations on a Squidoo masterpiece!