Traveling, Celiac Style

You may have noticed that the blog has been quiet lately...most likely because, though my writing can fly across the world within a few seconds, it takes longer for a California celiac to fly to Texas! And, when half of your suitcases are packed with gluten free food, preparation isn't exactly pow-wow-packed-up-now.

With summer in full swing and vacations more common than ever, though, I thought I'd share a few of my top traveling tips that make celiac disease, transportation, and new living spaces a little easier.

And hopefully avoid these faces!
1. First of all, it's always better to over pack than under. In particular, I stuffed my backpack (which I carried onto the plane) with a bag of homemade granola, fruit, carrots, rice cakes with sunflower butter and two meals (a salmon avocado quesadilla plus roasted veggies and pizza with mixed greens). The lunch I would eat during our afternoon flight, and the dinner once I got settled in my grandparent's home.

I could've easily saved room by placing my dinner in my checked baggage. However, traveling is unpredictable, and there is nothing worse than being stranded in an airport without celiac-safe food. When in doubt, as long as you have room, do a squirrel and hoard extra snacks.

That guy is almost as big as my suitcase was!
2. Next, pack specialized gluten free food in your suitcases and then shop for naturally gluten free items once you've arrived. In particular, because I left my beloved Vitamix behind, I stuffed my suitcase with lots of breakfast items - rice and buckwheat flakes for my oatless oatmeal, superfood powders like spirulina, chia seeds, and buckwheat groats. I also made a big batch of my favorite green smoothie granola the night before, so I'd have plenty to snack on during (at least the first week of) my stay. I even used a frozen pre-made smoothie bowl (secured in a jar and wrapped in several bags) to refrigerate several packs of coconut yogurt and potapas tortillas.

I felt a little guilty for packing so much food, but the fact is, as a celiac, it's just a part of life. In order to stay healthy, I need a plethora of safe gluten free goodies - and knowing that I wouldn't have to search grocery stores for these uncommon gluten free items as soon as I landed relieved a lot of stress. The next day, I hit my local grocery store and loaded up on fresh veggies, fruits, and fish. A celiac kitchen on wheels? It can, apparently, be done!

Me + food = much happier!
3. One tip particular to those flying? Spread out your food between your several carry on and checked bags. It may seem more organized to separate the clothes and food, and it certainly would make unpacking easier. However, in case a piece of luggage gets lost or misplaced by the airport, it's better to have some of your food than none of it!

4. Once you are established in your vacation spot, or in the weeks prior, take advantage of the Internet and Iphone's Find Me Gluten Free app to research gluten free sources nearby. Unfortunately, Sugarland Texas isn't known for a plethora of gluten free foods. However, I did discovery an entirely gluten free bakery - which I visited for the first time last summer - that offers a variety of breads, cookies and cakes.

A few goodies from my favorite places!
Each place is different, but looking for chains that you trust with their gluten free offerings - such as Outback or Chipotle - can be good starting points. Calling a restaurant ahead of time and asking about their cooking procedures for celiac customers also helps differentiate between menus for gluten free fad dieters and those with a medical need.

5. Finally, be cautious and safe, but don't forget to have fun! Food always plays a big role in vacations - whether people are trying to stay on a diet during it or splurging on the local culinary culture. It's true that I miss visiting Houston and savoring brisket on Grandma's French rolls, enjoying a family trip to Sweet Tomatoes, and devouring all the treats - brownies, ice cream, chicken salad sandwiches, and multiple rounds at the Golden Corral buffet - that I never got at home.

The whole group!
While I can't eat how I used to, though, I can still enjoy the family time. Still hide inside the house to avoid the humidity and blood-thirsty mosquitoes. Still watch the Women's World Cup play on the living room TV while I yell (motivation?) at the players.

Celiac disease is never easy, especially when flights, packing and new locations join the equation. By turning your luggage into a virtual pantry/cooler, exploring the local gluten free community and focusing on the activities and loved ones instead of the food, however, anyone can enjoy a stress-free, full-bellied vacation. Even a traveling celiac.

What are your top traveling tips? Comment below!


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