14 Jun Tips for a Gluten-Free (and Stress-Free) Road Trip
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Summer is here and it’s time to hit the road, gluten-free style! Here are my favorite travel tips for staying gluten-free while away from home:
Preparing for your trip:
First of all, I definitely recommend that you bring along some of your own snacks. Eating on the road can be unpredictable and it’s not always easy to find restaurants at which you can safely eat. Delays can happen and you don’t want to be hangry on your vacation.
This cooler bag is ideal for packing gluten-free snacks and it collapses to store flat when not in use.
I like these ice packs because they are less bulky than others, so there is more room for your food and drinks in the cooler. They stay cold for 24-48 hours.
I love this fun stackable container for storing several types of food on the go. You can break it down and just use one or two containers or have an entire snack stack.
Snacks and Drinks:
My elementary school-aged son thinks that the best part of a car trip is loading up on fun snacks that we don’t usually eat (he is not wrong). Here are some safe options you can either buy in advance or at a convenience store on the road.
Starburst Fruit Chews – I find that I need to munch on something while driving long distances. These are my go-to snacks. Please note: the original Starburst candies are gluten-free, but be sure to read the labels of any variations you are considering, like gummies or jelly beans.
KIND bars – these are fairly easy to find on the road. All varieties of KIND bars are gluten-free.
Chocolate – Hershey’s has many types of candy that are gluten-free. For a complete list, click here.
In addition, many convenience stores and travel centers have individually-wrapped cheese sticks, fresh fruit, nuts and beef jerky that are often gluten-free. Be sure to check the labels.
For more ideas, see my blog post about some of my other favorite salty snacks.
Protein Water – Did you know there is such a thing as protein water? These are a great alternative to protein shakes and are easy to throw in a cooler. I like Protein2o, which has 15 grams of protein and comes in a variety of flavors.
Hint water – my new favorite drink is Hint water! It does not contain any sugar, artificial sweeteners, or calories. This beverage quenches my thirst better than any other. I’m a little obsessed with the watermelon flavor. It is SO GOOD.
There are a few national chains that offer good gluten-free options. Instead of trying to explain celiac disease to restaurant workers, I usually use the term “gluten allergy” to make it easier to convey the seriousness of my dietary requirements. Some of my favorites are listed below.
Chipotle – Before you order, tell the server that you have a gluten allergy, and their protocols dictate that they change gloves, wipe down the prep area and bring out new containers of food so there is less risk of cross-contamination.
Chick-Fil-A – Grilled chicken nuggets and waffle fries are my usual here. Most, if not all, Chick-Fil-A restaurants have a separate fryer for the waffle fries, but it is a good idea to ask them.
Culver’s – Culver’s has gluten-free buns available for an additional charge. You will want to stay away from the fries here because most Culver’s restaurants do not have a separate fryer. On the plus side, Culver’s custard is gluten-free (watch the mix-ins and toppings, however).
McAlister’s Deli – You can get one of their deli sandwiches on gluten-free bread, and their spuds and salads (without croutons) are gluten-free, too.
Jersey Mike’s Subs – Jersey Mike’s has gluten-free bread made by Udi’s. This chain has some of the best protocols in place for avoiding cross-contamination, including changing gloves, using new, clean knives and utensils on your gluten-free sub and preparing it on parchment paper so it does not come in contact with crumbs from other sandwiches.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries – While Five Guys does not have gluten-free buns, you can get your burger wrapped in lettuce or in bowl. Their fries are cooked in a separate fryer, so they are safe to eat.
While it may be easier to stick with chain restaurants while en route to your destination, I love exploring local eateries while in a new city. The Find Me Gluten Free app is a great resource to locate restaurants that have gluten-free options and see the ratings and comments from other users. Read my blog post about the app including my thoughts about the free version compared to the paid version.
Many hotel rooms have a mini refrigerator, which makes it convenient to store the food items you bring from home. As far as navigating the breakfast buffets many hotels offer, I generally feel it’s safe to eat the eggs, bacon and sausage. If you are concerned about cross-contamination, you can ask the attendant to bring out fresh food for you. The containers of yogurt and fresh fruit are also good, safe options.
I do everything in my power to avoid accidentally ingesting gluten, but I pack some activated charcoal just in case. Many people find taking activated charcoal lessens the unpleasant symptoms of being “glutened.” NaturaLife Labs says “our 100% pure organic activated charcoal is highly absorbent and used to trap toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out.”
Please note: I am not qualified to offer medical advice and I strongly recommend that you check with your doctor before taking this supplement.
On long car trips, I bring along a lumbar support pillow. Less back pain = more fun on vacation.
With advance preparation and planning, you can minimize the stress of traveling while following a gluten-free diet. What have you found that works? Please comment below. Thank you!