Bon Voyage: 10 Smart Tips for Travelling Gluten Free
Traveling when you are “Gluten Free” can seem very stressful at first but it is quite simple. I think the most important thing to carry is your keys to being gluten free. Just like you carry your home keys.
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey”
Always remember “Knowledge of What Goes into Your Stomach” is the biggest key and the more you understand your food the better you can explain to the person serving you. Also don’t use fancy words and terminologies like “Celiac Disease” make it simple “Gluten Allergy or simpler allergic to wheat and Maida in India and when traveling to developed countries the understanding of Celiac disease is more common than traveling in Asia.
I’ll divide the article into two parts traveling in India and traveling abroad.
Most airlines offer “Gluten Free Meals” so book yours along with the ticket. Don’t wait or hope you’ll get it once you are on board a flight. Always check the meal thoroughly before eating it.
I remember the first trip we took after Mannat got diagnosed with Celiac was to Singapore. We as a family never stay with friends or relatives. It’s are way. But for the first time we stayed with friends who were kind enough to understand that the kids needed to eat meals in the house and they had to be gluten free (free of cross contamination is always hard) my friend’s maid was super kind and prepared all kids meals first and we stuck to eating meat, rice and vegetables.
Tip 1: Don’t Experiment with food: you want to enjoy your holiday and not end up being sick.
Tip 2: Look for stores in the city that have a whole range of gluten free food. Most South East Asian countries have them. Buy a lot of packed healthy food like cereal bars, crackers and snacks so that you aren’t hungry.
Tip 3: Stay with friends or relatives where ever possible. Pick only people who are sensitive and have some understanding.
Tip 4: In a Hotel having a kitchen or a pantry is a good expense. Basic meals like breakfast and mid-meals and snacks can be catered too.
Tip 5: Eat simple food eggs and gluten free bread (box and carry it). Milk and fruits and main meals should be rice, vegetables and meat.
I just baked a whole box of goodies like gluten free bread, chocolate chip cookies, muffins and brownies for baby girl who is 3years old and was going on her first trip after being diagnosed. And gave lots of tips to her mum.
Tip 6: Hotels like you to have the ingredients they have and aren’t happy using yours. So don’t carry packed noodles/pasta and try to give it to them. Just have rice or ask if they have gluten free pasta or can do you a risotto without corn flour added to the sauce. Carry important stuff like bread, cookies and cakes.
In Asia, like when we went to Phuket where language was a bit tough. Most hotels have a little card called “Allergy Cards” it’s just a card in the native language with a list of all items you can’t eat. It is fantastic! You can keep flashing that card to all your servers in various restaurant’s and they will give you allergy free food. Mannat had blast and I was relaxed.
Traveling to the US or England is simple you get gluten free meals everywhere and everyone understands what is gluten free. In countries where language is a problem ask for a “Allergy Card” or just make your own. Write all the details and get it translated. Just google the words.
Remember being a “Food Detective” is a fulltime job.
In India, traveling can be harder in some ways (as understanding of Celiac Disease is limited) and easier (you can take your cook along) in some ways.
Most in bound airlines have gluten free meals or just stick to having fruit if you didn’t book it in advance. If you travel by train, just carry your food. Simple stuff vegetables with rice or sandwiches.
Tip 1: Book rooms with kitchens or pantries always. Carry your help who can cook.
Tip 2: Understanding of everyone in hotels is limited and sensitivity is also low. “Where Thicker Glasses” when looking for gluten or cross contamination.
Tip 3: Avoid all the food that has a lot of masala’s (cross contamination/hing) can be a problem and the chef will overlook it.
Tip 4: Wipe your plate clean. Remember the server might be using a cloth to wipe the plates that might have touched some amount of gluten.
The focus of a holiday isn’t eating it to enjoy the place, learn something new and spend quality time with your family. Again this is how it was when I was a kid and I know nowadays where one wants to go to “X” fancy restaurant and then FB/Instagram it.
Enjoy your holiday and keep wearing your “Gluten Free Hat” Bon Voyage “Gluten Free”!