Summer is in the air! We can feel it. And with the warmer months comes that hallowed season for one of America’s favorite pastimes: the road trip.
Whether you have a destination in mind or are just out for a journey, there’s nothing like taking your time getting from A to B. Of course, this kind of adventuring is not without challenges. You never know what will be available along the way and this is doubly true for dietary necessities.
But guess what? This post is all about the preparations you can make to guarantee your road trip is relaxed, happy and totally gluten-free. What luck!
Snacking On The Road
It’s worth mentioning that, if you are in the early stages of planning, road tripping is perhaps the easiest option for celiac-friendly travel. Why? You can pack an ice chest! Seriously, this may seem like a hassle or overkill, but the headaches (and stomachaches) it will save along the way are totally worth it. No matter where you’re going, there’s probably a grocery store to be found. Pack some stuff in advance and restock as you go.
Start with a little basic planning: pack some non-perishable, easy-to-grab items. Our granola, for instance, comes in individual packets that can also be grabbed and tossed in a backpack or purse for a day of sightseeing. Our individual oatmeal cups also make the perfect breakfast-away-from-home: all you need to do is add hot water from your hotel coffee pot and ta-da! The Healthy Apple also wrote a great post packed with healthy, super-portable snack recipes like apple chips and no-bake almond bars that you can make in advance from scratch. Furthermore, as The Huffington Post’s resident nutrition expert Amie Valpone points out, some snacks and meals are naturally gluten-free and easy to find on the go (no need to worry about tracking down specialty items in whatever tiny town you stop in).
That said, you know what can be found EVERYWHERE and is always gloriously gluten-free? Produce. Seems obvious, but sometimes it takes a little Occam’s razor to remind ourselves that culinary contortionism isn’t always necessary. Pick up an apple!
At Your Destination
If you decide to stop and check into a hotel, ask about rooms with kitchenettes or mini-fridges. That way you don’t have to deal with finding a place that’s safe to eat, particularly if you’re in a small or somewhat remote locale. Throw a few of our gluten-free burritos or pocket sandwiches in the ice chest so you can have a hot meal that’s quick and tasty!
If you’ve planned out where you’ll be stopping each night and know cooking is out of the question, do a few savvy internet searches to see what your gluten-free dining options are in each destination. Gluten-Free Travel Site offers searchable gluten-free dining and travel reviews as well as menus. There’s also a comprehensive list of assorted gluten-free directories right here.
If those searches don’t turn up desirable results, don’t just dive in and hope for the best. Arriving at a place tired and hungry only to be frustrated by what you can or cannot eat may lead to rash decision-making about the safety of the food you’re about to consume. Hopefully you’ll have some of those yummy snacks we talked about earlier on hand, but if not…
It’s that Occam’s razor thing again. Let’s not forget that complicated substitutes and specialty dining establishments are not a necessity. One of the advantages of this big ol’ country we live in is that’s it’s a melting pot. So, instead of sticking with what you know (salads sans croutons and burgers with gluten-free buns), branch out! Turn your road trip into a food adventure as well. There are a number of cultures where gluten isn’t even a consideration. Stop at an Ethiopian restaurant or try some sashimi. How about some authentic Indian food? Go nuts!
Communication Is Key
Whether it’s a pit stop along the way or a nice sit-down dinner, be prepared to communicate your dietary needs clearly and succinctly.
If you’re at a nicer restaurant where the majority of foods are prepared from scratch, ask to talk to the chef directly rather than playing a game of telephone with your waiter. This guarantees fewer miscommunications about ingredients or the safety of the kitchen environment.
If this isn’t an option, come prepared with some printed restaurant cards. These contain descriptions of the gluten-free diet in a variety of languages. Sometimes it’s just easier to understand something when you see it in print, you know? Plus, these are also handy if you plan on stopping at one of the aforementioned ethnic restaurants where the staff may or may not speak English fluently.
To read more in-depth articles about specific locales or to see gluten-free maps of various cities, check out Travel in Delight Gluten-Free Magazine.
That about covers it! Do you have any well-traveled tricks to hitting the road, gluten-free or otherwise? Leave them in the comments below! Happy travels.