Woman with pink suitcase and passport with boarding pass standing on passengers ladder of airplane opposite sea with palm trees.Traveling gluten-free can be a great way to explore foreign cuisines and sample foods from around the globe that you otherwise might never try. Although it may take some time to establish your comfort zone with restaurants in unfamiliar places, it’s certainly possible to have a wonderful gluten-free experience while traveling both domestically and abroad—all it takes is some research and preparation. Drawing on advice from travelers with years of experience with celiac disease, the Celiac Disease Foundation offers the following tips to travel gluten-free safely and enjoyably:

  1. Plan ahead and bring backup food. Finding something to eat while in transit is typically more difficult than eating at your final destination. While cruise ships and hotels have come a long way in accommodating the gluten-free diet, airlines, airports, and trains still have a ways to go. Here are some tips for maintaining your gluten-free diet in the sky, on the ocean, on the rails, and in hotels:
  • Obtain a doctor’s note allowing you to carry “medical foods” through security at the airport so nothing is confiscated by TSA. This way, you will be able to pack snacks and meals, including items that may be considered liquids, such as peanut butter, hummus, yogurt, protein shakes, smoothies, soups, etc.
  • Request a gluten-free meal when you book your flight (flights abroad, as well as long domestic flights, will serve meals, and many airlines have a gluten-free meal option). Confirm with the airline when checking in to ensure it will be waiting for you.
  • Always travel with non-perishable “backup” food—bars, trail mix, chips, cereal, etc.—in case you are caught in a place without gluten-free options. Eat! Gluten-Free features some great snack options.
  • Stick to simple foods when necessary. Cheese, fruit, vegetables, and nuts are naturally gluten-free and widely available.
  • Contact cruise lines ahead of time to see if they will be able to accommodate your needs. Cruise lines typically have a division that handles allergies and meals; get in touch with this specific division to explain your dietary needs.
  • Call your hotel to ask if a refrigerator and microwave are available in the room.
  1. Research good restaurants for people with celiac disease. Celiac Disease Associations and local bloggers can be a big help in navigating the gluten-free diet where you will be traveling. Gluten-free bloggers have already done the footwork of finding safe places to eat. You can also check online to find nearby restaurants with gluten-free menus and stores that carry gluten-­free foods.
  1. Use celiac disease language cards. Use gluten-free restaurant apps and language cards once you arrive. The language cards feature translations explaining specific food allergies in a variety of different languages and can be helpful when discussing your dietary restrictions with restaurant staff in foreign countries.
  1. Rely on gluten-free travel companies. Book with a specialty gluten-free travel company to let seasoned professionals do the work for you! Search online for tours that organize gluten-free getaways.
  1. Eat fresh, local cuisine. Many cultural foods are naturally gluten-free, and eating fresh, rather than processed foods, can help you avoid gluten. It’s smart to always double-check for gluten-containing ingredients with the travel cards mentioned above just in case the food is prepared with gluten. Here are some examples of naturally gluten-free foods in major cuisines around the globe:
  • Southeast Asian: Rice, rice noodles, and coconut-based foods are naturally gluten-free.
  • Indian: Rice, chickpeas (also called “gram flour”), and curries are naturally gluten-free.
  • Japanese and Korean: Rice, seafood, and meat are naturally gluten-free, but be aware that most sauces will contain soy sauce (wheat). Ask for tamari if available. Soba noodles are traditionally made with buckwheat flour (which, contrary to the name, is actually gluten-free), but double check in case wheat flour is also added. Avoid udon or ramen noodles, which are made with wheat.
  • South American: Rice, beans, corn, and tapioca-based products are plentiful. This is a very easy cuisine to navigate gluten-free.
  • African and Middle Eastern: Teff, millet, lentils, and cassava (tapioca) are commonly used starches and are naturally gluten-free.
  • European: Some European cuisines can be challenging to navigate gluten-free, but many countries include allergen labeling on packaged foods and in restaurants, making it easier to identify products that contain gluten. In Italy, some restaurants are even accredited by the Italian Celiac Association.
  1. Prepare your medication. Take enough prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements to last your trip so that you don’t need to search for a reliable pharmacist to check ingredients or try to discern hidden gluten on a medication label.

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