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How to Travel on a Gluten-Free Diet

Planes, trains, and automobiles can all offer successful travel fare — even for the gluten-free! In fact, most cruise lines have great gluten-free choices now. So do some research before a trip and find out what (if anything) you need to do to keep your travel drama-free and nourishing.

If you’re wondering which foods to pack for a trip, how to find gluten-free meals along the way, and how to manage your diet in an airport, read on.

Pack gluten-free options for road trips

Road trips are the easiest kind of travel to manage in terms of avoiding gluten. Just stock your car with your favorite snacks and bring a cooler for perishables. You’re in control of what you have available and where you stop, and that makes gluten-free car travel a breeze!

Here are some good road-trip snacks that are easy to pack in a bag or cooler:

  • Sandwiches on gluten-free bread

  • Fresh fruit and veggies

  • Dried fruit

  • String cheese and yogurt

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Homemade or store-bought gluten-free trail mix

  • Gluten-free cereals and granola bars

  • Chips and gluten-free crackers and pretzels

  • Gluten-free cookies or brownies

Research your route and destination

Before you pull out of town, check online for gluten-free restaurants along your route. Most fast food restaurants have gluten-free/allergen menus.

You can also load smartphone apps to help you find restaurants in the cities and towns you’ll pass through. One favorite app is Find Me Gluten Free. It lists links to gluten-free menus of popular chains and also shows you where to eat gluten-free near where you are at any given moment. Easy! If you’re super prepared, you can even print menus and bring a stack with you.

If you’re visiting a theme park or resort, a list of the gluten-free offerings is likely available online. Most places have a guest services phone number to call for gluten-free information as well.

Enjoy gluten-free airport fare

Are you flying any time soon? If so, chances are that you plan to depart from a major airport and may even stop at one or two along the way. If you find yourself searching for something to eat, rest assured that you can find good gluten-free food — from grab-and-go fare to gourmet cuisine — at most airports. You just need to know what to look for.

When you’re in the mood for a snack, keep your eyes peeled for fresh fruit, frozen yogurt (watch the toppings, though), nuts, some candy, dried fruit, many bagged chips, cheese, salads (no croutons), and coffee, including some coffee specialty drinks. Always check labels before you buy.

Corn chips and potato chips are generally gluten-free unless they have wheat in the spices, like a taco flavor or sometimes barbecue flavor. It’s pretty safe to stick with salted chips, but check the labels. Some cool chip versions may be available at the airport as well; sweet potato chips, rice chips, bean chips, or veggie chips.

On candy, watch out especially for malt and wheat in the ingredient list. Steer clear of anything with a cookie crunch or licorice. Did you know one of the main ingredients in Twizzlers is wheat flour?

When you need a bit more substance, look for national chain restaurants that have gluten-free menus. Most airports have their restaurants and stores listed on their websites, so you can make a plan before you take off. But in every setting involving food, stay vigilant about asking questions and using good judgment based on how you see employees handling things.

A couple of airlines offer a gluten-free meal for a fee if you call at least 72 hours in advance, but it’s safer to bring food on board. Mistakes happen, and you could end up with nothing to eat on a long flight if you’re not prepared with your own gluten-free stash. Often, there’s nothing gluten-free on airplanes, but hopefully that will change as more travelers stop consuming gluten.

All U.S. airports allow you to bring food through security unless it’s in liquid form. You must purchase drinks inside the airport after you pass security. Anything from leftovers to trail mix should make it through security, although international flight security may restrict you from carrying fruits and vegetables. Check the latest rules and regulations online before planning what to pack if overseas travel is in your plans.

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