Illustration by Daniel Vasconcellos, vasky.com.
How to plan for gluten-free meals while you’re seeing the world
Where to Go
We use Google, the Internet search engine, to start planning. Googling “gluten free” along with the name of a city or country usually yields a treasure trove of information. Results turn up links to blog posts, restaurant pages, dining review sites like Urbanspoon (urbanspoon.com) and crowd-sourced databases such as Find Me Gluten Free (findmeglutenfree.com) and Gluten Free Registry (glutenfreeregistry.com).
The Disney parks and resorts are huge playgrounds for all ages. Contact the company via email at least 14 days prior to arrival to obtain current information on gluten-free options: DLRSpecialDiets@email.disney.com for the California resort, and Special.Diets@disneyworld.com for Florida.
For formal meals including character breakfasts where gluten-free Mickey Mouse waffles are served, advise the resort of dietary needs when making a reservation. No matter where you eat, it’s best to speak with a manager, who will often be supervising the preparation. Helpful websites include Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW (glutenfreedairyfreewdw.com) and Allergy Free Mouse (allergyfreemouse.com). (See page 24 for more on Disney.)
Great Wolf Lodge (greatwolf.com) is an excellent year-round family destination with 12 indoor water parks in the United States and Canada. Visitors to the all-suite resorts have unlimited access to rides, attractions and activities. Call the food-and-beverage team in advance (the phone numbers are posted on the Dining pages of each location’s web page) to arrange for gluten-free meals.
Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and other popular family-friendly cruise lines all serve gluten-free meals in their ships’ main dining rooms. By sitting at the same table each night for dinner, you’ll get the same servers, who will know your dietary requirements and walk you through the menus if gluten-free choices are not already noted.
Specify any dietary restrictions when you make reservations. Many galleys keep gluten-free pasta and bread on hand at all times. Guests can bring gluten-free snacks aboard, but there are so many options it’s probably not necessary.
If you’re starting with a blank slate and looking for suggested destinations, established blogs like Gluten-Free Globetrotter (glutenfreeglobetrotter.com) and Gluten Free Traveller (glutenfreetraveller.com) are fine resources. You’ll also find general travel tips on Gluten-Free Living’s website, glutenfreeliving.com.
Bob & Ruth’s Gluten-Free Dining and Travel Club (bobandruths.com) offers domestic and overseas group getaways. The owners take care of all arrangements, from planning itineraries to gluten-free restaurant meals, easing travelers’ anxieties. The club sponsors three to five excursions a year, including an upcoming Danube River boat cruise and tour of Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia.
How to Get There
However you travel, some advance preparation is always needed. Pack gluten-free protein bars, ready-to-eat meals like GoPicnic and dried fruits and nuts for use in a pinch.
My top pick for gluten-free-friendly fast food on the road is Chick-fil-A, which serves grilled chicken nuggets, salads, waffle fries (prepped in dedicated fryers) and fruit cups.
Airlines have largely cut out food service on short-haul domestic flights, and the snacks aren’t likely to be gluten free, so bring some food from home. Airport restaurants are getting better at serving gluten-free passengers, but you can’t always count on finding something safe right before departure. For longer flights and overseas travel, contact your airline in advance to arrange for gluten-free meals. Even then, it’s a good idea to have some food in tow.
What to Bring
We still use the set of gluten-free dining cards from Triumph Dining (triumphdining.com) that we purchased a decade ago. The laminated cards come in 10 languages and are customized to each cuisine. Particularly when eating in ethnic restaurants, the cards help convey safe food preparation and handling requirements to servers and kitchen staff.
Free mobile applications like Dine Gluten Free and Find Me Gluten Free are a starting point for locating restaurants in a given area, but it’s prudent to call the businesses in advance to confirm information.
Taking some small steps before your trip will make it easier to relax and enjoy your vacation. Bon voyage!
Michael Savett, a contributing writer for Gluten-Free Living, blogs at GlutenFreePhilly.com. He recently launched a mobile app that features gluten-free-friendly businesses in the tri-state Philadelphia region.