I used to be the road trip queen! But after getting sick and dealing with food allergies and sensitivities, it was daunting to venture outside of the safety of my home and travel into the unknown. Now that I’m back into taking road trips again, I’m here to share with you all of the best practices (and some hard lessons learned) along the way to help you travel and eat safely with your food allergies.
This article is going to focus on the car road trip, but many of the principles will stand with air travel. Just be cognizant of the TSA rules and what you are allowed to pack. Also, please note that we are going to focus on more gluten free and clean eating, but you can apply the same principles to nut allergies and other food allergies or sensitivities.
Plan Your Trip
I know this sounds simplistic, but plan your trip. Know when and where you are traveling, and keep that in mind when you plan your food options. Use Google Maps to find nearby restaurants, grocery stores and even organic markets. Remember, if you are stopping at a grocery store, it doesn’t always have to be in the same town as your location, but it can also be on the way. I’ve been surprised at the cute little organic markets I’ve been able to find when traveling. Yes, I do pack a lot of my own food, but these places are great to purchase fresh produce and any extra snacks or toiletries you may have forgotten.
In the Car
Always be safe and never drive distracted or eating-distracted!
If you are driving solo, you want to ensure your food is not messy, within reach, and safe to eat while driving. Or pull over and enjoy a quick bite. If you have travel companions, the following are great options for everyone to enjoy! I always like a combination of whole foods and some fun munchies. Because even with the strictest of nutrition protocols, road trips are a chance to get away and it’s nice to add some fun munchies along with your clean eating snacks.
Clean Eating and Healthy Snacks:
- Carrots and hummus
- Celery sticks with almond or Sunbutter (made ahead of course or dippies)
- Apples, peaches, pears, plums
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- Enjoy Life Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies. They make several kinds of cookies and chewy bars. The chocolate chip are my favorite! They are gluten free, Big 8 allergen free, dairy free, soy free, nut free, and Non-GMO.
- Clif Kid ZFruit Mixed Berry Fruit Twist. They are Certified Organic, gluten free, vegan, Non-GMO and preservative free.
- Nature’s Bakery Gluten Free Fig Bars. They have several flavors to choose from. These are gluten free, vegan, dairy free, Non-GMO.
- Siete Lime Grain Free Tortilla Chips. They have several flavors. This one is gluten free, paleo, vegan, soy free, Non-GMO.
- Rice Krispy Treats. These are gluten free and vegan.
- Oven Baked Beet Chips Whole food.
- Grown up Puppy Chow – the regular version or the S’mores version. These are gluten free, peanut free, and vegan.
- Pumpkin Spice Granola. This version is gluten free and vegan.
- Chewy Chai Snickerdoodles. This version is gluten free, vegan, and paleo.
- No-Bake Energy Bites. These are raw, gluten free, and vegan.
At the Hotel
First of all, check out your hotel accommodations online. But never take the website’s word. ALWAYS call ahead and ask:
- Do you have a refrigerator in MY room? Does it include a freezer?
- Do you have a microwave in MY room?
- Do you have a restaurant?
- Do you have a common breakfast area?
- If they don’t have a fridge and/or microwave, explain that you have food allergies and ask if there is one at the hotel you can use. Take along several ice packs so you can keep the majority of your cold items in your cooler and then swap out the packs.
- During the off-dining time, ask the restaurant staff nicely if you can wash your dishes. They will usually wash them for you, and kindness goes far.
Never assume that the microwave or fridge have been cleaned so bring wipes or paper towels to minimize any potential leftover cross-contamination.
Lesson learned. One hotel I stayed at assured me that they have a fridge/freezer in the common area that I could use. It was the ice machine. #WTF? I placed a well-wrapped bag of frozen mixed berries (for my smoothies) in the ice machine. The next morning, the entire ice machine was covered in red fruit juice. It was cold enough for ice, but not cold enough to keep my berries frozen. I was too embarrassed to have the hotel staff clean it up, so I spent 20 minutes throwing the ice away outside.
Keep in Mind:
- Pack a cooler. It’s going to be your best friend.
- Pack wipes. Don’t assume that the fridge, microwave, and counters have been cleaned.
- The common breakfast area is a gluten minefield. The tables are either not cleaned in between guests or are given a quick wipe. Bring your own wipes or eat in your room or another location.
Food Choices for Your Hotel Stay:
- Sweet potatoes. Whole and uncooked. They travel in any condition and don’t go bad. When you are ready to eat, give them a few piercings, microwave for 8 minutes, and you have a meal!
- Pasta salad. This version is gluten free, vegan, and made with whole foods, and easy to place in a glass container for travel.
- Bag of frozen mixed fruit for smoothies. Refer to epic fail above.
- Cheddar bacon biscuits. This version is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, paleo and keto. Keep frozen and microwave when ready to eat.
- Pumpkin bars. They are gluten free and vegan. They might get a little messy with the icing. You can always take them along without the icing, and then bring along a container of Dollop Vanilla Icing.
- Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes. This version is gluten free and vegan. Keep frozen and microwave when ready to eat.
Additional Supplies to Pack:
- Eco-friendly plates
- Glass containers (for leftovers)
- Allergy alert labels
- Your own toaster (if you are Celiac and can’t go without gluten free bread).
- Paper towels
- Parchment wrap
- Plastic zip bags or Abeego bags.
- Misc food extras like honey, cinnamon, maple syrup
- Powders for your smoothies
- Sharpie (for labeling)
- Activated charcoal and digestive enzymes (both as preventative and in case of accidental ingestion)
At a Restaurant
I prefer to eat breakfast and lunch on my own, and then eat dinner at a restaurant. Or, depending on the situation, combine lunch and dinner into one meal mid-afternoon. Regardless, eating at a restaurant still scares the living bageezies out of me. I used to think a delicious meal was the meaning of a great dinner. Now it’s being able to eat dinner without getting sick.
I check the menu and reviews online first, and then once I have deemed it’s promising, I will call ahead. Always during non-rush, so around 4:00 or so before it opens for dinner. Do they sound eager to help me eat safely? Or am I a nuisance?
Be specific! And don’t assume anything. “Does this contain gluten or flour?” “Does this contain dairy?” Once there were potatoes as a side. I read over the description and asked how they were prepared. The waitress told me and I was satisfied. When they arrived, they were covered in parmesan cheese. I didn’t ask the right questions.
Be kind. And explain your situation. At one restaurant, the waitress was so concerned that I didn’t want any sides with my salmon. She wanted me to enjoy my experience but there weren’t any sides on the menu that I could eat. I assured her that with my health challenges, the lone piece of salmon may look sad to her, but to me it was a feast. I was more than happy to enjoy it.
My Teal Ticket was created by a Katie Parkins, a young girl with food allergies to help others in the same situation enjoy dinners out. Give your teal ticket to your server to help it stand out in the kitchen as a food allergy meal.
Restaurants are much more accommodating these days. Even in small towns. I still take an activated charcoal and digestive enzyme before and after I eat out at a restaurant. Just in case.
Are You Ready to Travel?
Whew! I know that was a lot. But I wanted to cover everything as super simple as possible. Hubby is a retired Green Beret and we live by PACE planning in our home.
Remember this when traveling. Planning is everything! You can do it! Safe travels!
Are you Inspired?
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Love, hugs, and the road less traveled.HERE.