Summer travel season starts today. While there are books about how to eat out gluten-free (hint, it involves a lot of salad, fish and steak), how to cook gluten-free, and how to handle your day to day gluten-free life, but I haven’t seen any on how to travel gluten-free with small children. Now that summer travel season is upon us let me share what I have learned.
1) If you are not nut-allergic, fly Southwest Airlines. They let you check bags for free. You are going to be checking bags from now on.
2) Pack your child’s backpack with a sandwich, fruit, and a full day’s supply of safe snacks. That way when your connection in Pittsburgh is delayed overnight you don’t starve.
3) Carry on a box of breakfast cereal in your wheelie. If your luggage gets lost you can replace most of the other food, but you are going to need to get through breakfast first. Also you can get stuck in Pittsburgh overnight and its really helpful to be able to get through breakfast. And yes, we were indeed once stuck in Pittsburgh.
4) Check a suitcase full of bread, flour, pancake mix, shelf stable almond/soy/rice/coconut milk and hard to find items (like Sunbutter). You do not want to spend your vacation attempting to locate these foods. Put the milks in plastic gallon ziploc bags just in case. The TSA absolutely will be opening your luggage (a 2 lb bag of gluten free flour looks just like a kilo of cocaine to an x-ray) so don’t worry about how its packed since its going to get tossed by TSA. This is an excellent use for a crummy old suitcase.
5) Pack an ethical bribe. The last time I flew (less than 6 months ago) Southwest peanuts had wheat on them. I solve this problem by handing my child a huge bag of cashews instead. Be prepared with your own solution.
6) Pack a small collapsible cooler to fill with your snacks for trips to the beach, the zoo or anywhere else that you might previously have bought food at a concession stand. You can stick this in with the suitcase full of flour.
7) We have not travelled internationally since we got diagnosed, but I have been told that if you are going to Europe or Australia, none of these rules apply. Celiac disease is something that any nation with a national health plan takes seriously. It effects one in 100 people. People who stick to the diet live healthy productive lives. People who cheat are sickly burdens on the healthcare system. As a result I have read that you can say “gluten-free” anywhere in Italy, Ireland, England, France etc. and people will know what to feed you.
I would love a comment from anyone who has traveled gluten free in Europe or Australia to see what you think of the experience and if you have any tips for me. I am still figuring it all out myself!