Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gluten Free Travel

Let me start by saying that road tripping on a gluten-free diet is challenging. Difficult. Hard. Not easy. Not fun. But it can be done.

Step 1: Plan ahead. Pack lots of your favorite gluten-free snacks in your backpack. Download the 'Gluten Free Me' app. Be prepared to cook a lot. When we travel, my family likes to explore new foods and new restaurants. We have a standing rule to not eat anywhere that we can eat at home. No chains. No fast food (except those rare times when Bill doesn't want to stop for a meal and wants to keep driving and get miles covered). We look for local hangouts, diners, local cuisine, and Mom&Pop places that are filled at lunchtime with a non-tourist crowd. We like to immerse ourselves in the local culture, both overseas and within the US.

Step 2: Know your standby go-to places where you know you can eat. Defying our no-chain rule, there are certain chains that are gluten-free friendly. Chipotle, Noodles and Company, and Mellow Mushroom are consistently edible. I wish I could say we never ate at these chains while traveling, but I would be lying. At least we ate them instead of giving up and eating my beloved wheat.

Step 3: Explore local grocery stores. My mom and I never tire of wandering, photographing, and picking out samples of local brands. We randomly found the most amazing little grocery store outside Glacier National Park. It was small. It was locally-owned. It was the most disorganized grocery store I've ever seen (Ummmmm, Hello? Do you really need 3 different freezer sections, 4 meat sections, and 2 dairy areas, none of them within sight of each other?) BUT it had the biggest selection of gluten-free foods I have seen anywhere, including halibut fish and chips, cinnamon rolls, and fresh breads and rolls. It was fabulous. I completely filled the refrigerator and freezer in the camper. I even met the owner while I was perusing the aisles, and was able to discuss the pros and cons of the various brands he carried. Amazing experience.

Step 4: Take the time to cook. Part of why we planned an RV trip and not a hotel-based vacation was so that we would have our kitchen with us. On days when we didn't need to cover a lot of territory and drive long distances, we had the time to cook. We grilled out. We made pancakes. We baked muffins and brownies. We ate cereal out of cups. We enjoyed just being together, sharing meals together as a family, 3 meals a day, with no TV or cell phone or schedules to distract us. It was glorious.

And lastly,
Step 5: Be flexible. Know that no matter how hard you search, you may still be stuck eating your protein bar and almonds for lunch while your family eats a sandwich. It's going to happen. Accept it now, and focus on the fact that you are exploring a new place that may become your new favorite place. Enjoy the ride, and thank God for creating such an amazing world for you to explore with the people you love most.

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