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  • Writer's pictureKatie Miller

Best Practices for Gluten Free Traveling

When I first discovered I had to follow a strict gluten free diet, I immediately thought I would never be spontaneous again. One thing to know about me is that I’m a huge foodie, and I always have been. When my parents and I went on family vacations, I was typically the one who had Yelp downloaded on my phone, pointing my Dad to various “off the beaten path” restaurants and cafes. A majority of my family’s favorite memories are coded in good food. So, I naturally assumed that without gluten, I would never feel that level of joy surrounding food again.


I won’t lie to you. Traveling while being gluten free can really suck. It’s definitely not the same, and it never will be. There are additional stressors, anxieties, decisions and research that go into traveling while being gluten free that most people don’t need to worry about. Sometimes, all I’m able to eat is a salad, but I’ve started to learn to accept that. Sort of. Sometimes.


That being said, there are a ton of resources to use in order to prepare for your upcoming trip, wherever it may be! The best course of action is to be prepared and set your expectations at a reasonable level.


The best of the best destinations to travel for gluten free food

I have been fortunate to eat at a few top-tier gluten free-friendly restaurants in various locations over the years, but some places around the world are just better than others. Based on my personal experience, here are my top picks:


New York City

Fried chicken sandwich with French fries with a gluten free toothpick in the sandwich.
Friedman's NYC

Of course, a big city is going to be far superior in restaurant options as a whole, and there’s no exception for gluten free-friendly options. Some of the best dedicated gluten free restaurants are located in New York City, as well as options for bakeries, bagels, Asian restaurants and Italian restaurants, all of which are typically very difficult to find gluten free options for.


Boston

Again, another big city with lots of gluten free-friendly options! In Boston, you can find a variety of some of the best gluten free options in the U.S. Between donut shops, bakeries, Italian restaurants and food trucks, Boston is generally very appealing to those with a gluten free lifestyle as a place to visit or live.


Italy

Gluten free pasta with a basil leaf on top.
Mama Eat, Rome

Now I know what you’re thinking. Italy is full of pasta and bread, right? How could this be one of the top locations for gluten free finds? Italy has actually been one of my favorite places to travel since I have been gluten free! I have traveled to Italy twice: once when I was “gluten full” and once when I was gluten free, and I had incredible experiences both times. Between pizza, pasta, gelato and pastry shops, I couldn’t recommend traveling to Italy as a gluten free individual any more.


Disney World & Cruises

Mickey waffles with sausage and syrup, with berries and powdered sugar.
Topolino's Terrace, Disney's Riviera Resort

If you’re not an active Disney World traveler, you may not know this, but Disney is one of the best places to vacation with allergies! Each chef in every Disney-owned restaurant (on land and at sea!) is trained specifically on how to handle allergies with care and precision. I have never worried about being glutened on any Disney vacation, and my family loves to travel with Disney specifically because I’m never anxious or worried about where or what I’ll eat next. And did I mention they don’t upcharge for gluten free options? Music to my (Mickey) ears.


Destinations that could improve their gluten free options

With all the best gluten free options in the world, there are bound to be a few not-so-good options as well. Again, these are all based on my personal experience, and these locations may have stepped up their game since I have last been there!


Jersey Shore

This choice is very specific for where I grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, but going to the Jersey Shore is always a bit stressful when we decide to eat out or order takeout. There are a few solid options, but overall, the area could use a few more spots for gluten free and allergy-friendly options.


Nashville

I hesitated putting Nashville on this list because I had some really great meals here. But, overall, the city could definitely benefit from some more options, especially in the heart of Downtown Nashville. Thankfully when we visited, we had a rental car and were able to head outside of the city to try various places I had found, but many are not as lucky.


France

Salad with burrata and prosciutto, vinaigrette in a dressing boat on the side.
L’Alsace, Paris

I absolutely love France, it’s one of my favorite places to travel. That being said, their gluten free options are not the best (at least when I last traveled there in 2019). There are gluten free bakeries where you’re able to find different types of pastries, and luckily my favorite French snack, macarons, are naturally gluten free, so you’re definitely covered on sweets! Besides that, I ate very plainly throughout my time in France in order to stay safe. An additional note, Disneyland Paris is not as accommodating as Disney World in the allergy department, so be cautious of that. Don’t let this discourage you from traveling to France, but be aware of your options when you do.


How to research for a gluten free trip

Now that you know some of my favorite (and not so favorite) locations for gluten free eats, it’s time to dive into the nitty gritty of preparing for a trip while being gluten free. The main way I’m able to stay safe while I travel is by doing research and speaking up for myself (which I’m still constantly learning how to do). The following tools have helped me immensely through the years:


Find Me Gluten Free

Find Me Gluten Free logo.
Credit: Find Me Gluten Free

The holy grail of gluten free apps. If you are gluten free or have a family member or friend who is, download this app immediately. I always describe it to friends as “the gluten free Yelp”, but instead of just stating how good the restaurant was, you’re able to indicate how safe the restaurant was too. When I’m traveling to a new place in the U.S., this is the first place I turn to for insight into the gluten free scene there. You can also find this resource on their website.


Tripadvisor

For trips outside of the U.S., specifically in Europe, Tripadvisor is typically a better choice to find gluten free restaurants compared to apps like Find Me Gluten Free. Not to say those apps don’t work in these locations, but there’s just usually more reviews on Tripadvisor!



Join a community and utilize resources!

Being gluten free means you’re immediately part of a huge community! There’s plenty of people who have been gluten free for much longer than you have, and have infinite wisdom that they are excited to share. Here are just a few ways you can utilize some resources for your next trip:


Facebook Groups

There are a variety of Facebook groups specifically for the gluten free community! These are often based on location (for example, I am part of a Central New York Gluten Free group, as well as a Gluten Free Pittsburgh group!) But, there are also groups that are more general for traveling while being gluten free. One of the most helpful gluten free travel groups, in my opinion, is Celiac Travel. Everyone loves giving their tips and tricks, as well as talking about their experiences with different destinations!


Allergy Cards

Although I have never personally used this resource, I think it’s an important one to mention! If you’re traveling to another country that doesn’t speak English (and you don’t speak the

An allergy card explaining what a gluten-free diet means.
Credit: SelectWisely

native language), buy an allergy card! Various people have them online, or you could make one yourself. An allergy card states that you have celiac or a gluten allergy/intolerance, what that means, foods you need to avoid and how the restaurant can best serve you. All you have to do is hand it to your waiter or waitress when you arrive for a meal, and they will be able to understand your needs in their native language. I also recommend learning how to say “gluten free”, “allergy”, “celiac” and “wheat” in the languages of the countries you’re traveling to. Many international countries are more familiar with celiac, so even if you have to tell a little white lie to make sure you don’t get glutened, go for it!



Although there are so many more tips and tricks I could share on traveling while being gluten free, these are my top picks! I hope this helps lower your stress for your next trip, wherever it may be. Happy traveling!


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