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Seven Tips For Gluten-Free Road Trips

Compared To Airplanes, Cars Are Much Easier For Gluten-Free Travelers


Updated June 27, 2014

In many ways, cars are the easiest mode of long-distance transportation for people on gluten-free diets. In contrast to airplane travel, traveling by car allows you to bring along more supplies and equipment. Here are tips to make gluten-free road trips pleasant and easy. (Or at least easy as far as the food is concerned –- I can’t solve your gas price issues.)

1. Plan gluten-free meals and snacks before you leave home.

As much as possible, prepare food ahead of time, so you'll have ready-to-eat snacks and meals on the road. (Take a look at our suggestions for gluten-free snacks.) If you'll have access to an oven or a microwave while you're away, bring ready-to-heat precooked foods or gluten-free ingredients that you may not be able to purchase at your destination. Don't forget disposable cutlery.

Depending on the nature of your trip and your accommodations, consider bringing along some of your own gluten-free cooking equipment (foldable silicone baking sheets or muffin cups). If you do plan to bake while you’re away, consider premeasuring the recipe’s gluten-free dry ingredients and combining them in a single zippered plastic bag, so all you need to do at your destination is add the liquid ingredients.

2. Shop for your favorite gluten-free items before you leave.

Bring along your favorite gluten-free cookies, snack bars, crackers, cereals, breads, baking supplies, etc. Since you're traveling by car, you'll be able to get to grocery stores at your destination, so don't bring along too much perishable food. You can't count on being able to find gluten-free packaged foods. So bring more than you think you'll need —- you can always bring home the extras. If you’re going to be taking foods on excursions, try to splurge on individual-sized packages when possible, because they make foods easier to carry or divide up into single portions.

3. Prepare to chill foods on the road.

Use a cooler or large soft-sided thermal bags with ice packs to keep perishable items cold, if you're traveling in warm weather. Use thermoses to keep prepared foods warm or chilled. Divide your food and supplies into items that can go in the trunk. You'll want snacks in the passenger compartment.

4. Try to stay in places where you'll have a kitchenette, or access to kitchen facilities.

If you're not staying in a hotel room with a microwave or refrigerator, ask the management in advance if you can have one brought to your room. Most hotels have a few small refrigerators on hand for guests who request them, and many now have microwaves in a public area near the lobby. Sometimes there's an extra charge for a refrigerator; ask if they might waive the fee if you bring along a doctor's note. If you absolutely can't have a refrigerator, bring extra ice packs, and ask if the hotel can freeze them for you. (If your ice packs are going to be stored in the hotel's freezer, put them in a plastic bag to protect them.)

If you're staying in someone's house, ask ahead if it's OK for you to have some refrigerator or freezer space. Be considerate -- bring small amounts that can be squeezed in among your hosts' supplies. (If you're going to be staying with hosts who are not familiar with celiac disease, it may be a good idea to show them our safety guidelines.)

5. Ship ahead.

Consider ordering your gluten-free supplies online or by mail and having the items delivered directly to your hotel or other accommodations.

6. Investigate the gluten-free dining opportunities at your destination.

To find restaurants at your destination (and along the route) that make special efforts to care for gluten-free guests, take along a copy of The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide, use one or more of the growing gluten-free restaurant directories or contact a local chapter of one of the major celiac organizations. Consider bringing along a restaurant card to explain the gluten-free diet to chefs and servers who aren't familiar with it.

7. Be flexible, and bring your sense of humor.

Travel is an adventure, and things don't always go as planned. Unexpected challenges will almost surely occur; be pleasant when they happen, and you'll find help more easily. Stay on the alert for gluten, and don't sacrifice your health for convenience or temptation's sake.


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