When traveling with a special diet you have two options when it comes to food: plan ahead or be spontaneous. Unfortunately, spontaneity only works if you’re mildly gluten intolerant (not Celiac) and not traveling with any gluten-sensitive kids. While it may sound tempting to throw caution to the wind when you’re on vacation, don’t ruin your travels with an accidental glutening – plan ahead.
First, consider if you’ll have a kitchen. Trusting meals to be gluten-free for those with Celiac is easiest when you prepare them yourself. If you’re not staying with friends and family or a condo or vacation home, look for hotels that offer in-suite kitchens. Extended-stay hotels, like Residence Inn by Marriott, are a great deal even if your stay isn’t extended – you save by preparing meals yourself instead of dining out. Keep in mind you’ll be on your own to find gluten-free food. As I’ve written before, Gluten Free Registry has a database with over 26,000 gluten-free friendly grocery stores and restaurants. You can access it on their website or on your phone – they’ve got apps for Androids or iPhones.
Second, consider the destination’s reputation for handling gluten-free diets. As you may have heard, Disney sets the standard for gluten-free experiences at Disneyland in California and Disneyworld in Florida. At all Disney table service restaurants you’ll speak directly with the chef, who’ll take your order; at counter service locations you’ll deal with the manger.
Many hotel chains are rolling out gluten-free breakfasts and restaurant options, including Omni, Fairmont, Ritz Carlton and Hyatt. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive beach vacation in Rivera Maya, check out Karisma Hotels and Resorts – they are known for their attention to allergens, food safety and service. They’ve got two lines of hotels: El Dorado for adults/couples and Azul for families. Many Club Med, Sandals and Beaches resorts can accommodate gluten-free travelers, too. Call ahead to confirm.
Just because you have a special diet doesn’t mean you have to hide indoors! Check out this three-day gluten-free rafting trip from ROW Adventures. All the food will be gluten-free – a chef and a registered nurse will accompany you down the Rogue River. If you’ve got your heart set on taking your family to a dude ranch check out Two Bar Seven Ranch on the Wyoming-Colorado border. Run by a mother-daughter team both with Celiac, they offer gluten-free sessions. Other dude ranches, such as The Home Ranch, will gladly accommodate any dietary requirements.
As always, check-in with a local branch of a Celiac foundation. The members will be a great resource as you search for gluten-free options. Here’s a listing for Celiac Sprue Association’s local chapters.
Closing thought – always have a plan B. This one globetrotter I know always keeps trail mix in her purse, lest she finds she can’t eat anything else at her exotic destination.