Whooo-boy am I glad to be back in my own kitchen, you guys! Back where the only gluten exists in bagels snuck into my home by my husband who should probably stop doing that. Back in the U.S.A. where gluten-free menus are plentiful and gluten-free knowledge is (sometimes) right on. Yes, I know I’m being awfully sunny about the state of dining out in America, but after negotiating gluten in a foreign country I realize it’s pretty good here. Again, sometimes. Not this time. But this time! And this time, too.
Before I get into all my travel reviews, of which there are many, I have a few things to say/confess/holler. The main one being, with a few exceptions, I have no idea if the gluten-free food I ate was 100% safe. I mean, I asked, I researched, I made myself clear, I had people reassure me . . . but physically I had no way of knowing (again, except for a few specific times in 100% gf restaurants) if I was getting some cross-contact up in me. Because, lucky me, I was already a tad bit sick in the ol’ tum-tum starting with my first trip to Colorado and never really recovered. So checking to see if I had a safe meal via my physical symptoms was not an option for me on any of these trips. Which is a bummer since I went full Paleo in the 5 days between travel when I was home, but it was not quite long enough to get everything back in working order. But this brings me to my list of things to always do when you leave your home for a family trip, vacation, or other journey. Hooray!
1. Try a very limited diet the weeks leading up to your journey.
If you take out any irritants in your diet before you travel, your stomach will have a fighting chance against small issues. I like to switch over to the Whole 30, or at the least, go Paleo before a good time. I planned on doing this before my NYC-Iceland trip but, I’ll be honest, my Boulder trip snuck right up on me and I was not prepared. I dined out in LA, got sick and did not bounce back before dining out all over Colorado. Travel does not help one’s digestion, so I was on a downward spiral no matter how safe I was. And I was.
2. BYOS (bring your own snacks)
Never go anywhere without emergency snacks that are safe for gluten-free you. I actually enjoy picking out my travel snacks because it’s my excuse to enjoy chocolate wafer cookies for breakfast. Just guard your super treats carefully so your family doesn’t snarf them all down. Ahem, ESME.
3. Identify at least 3 safe restaurants in the area
Do your research before you leave home and know where your first meal will be before you hit the new town. It’s so easy to drop your bags at the hotel and just wander until you find someplace that “looks safe.” But looking safe and actually hearing someone else say it’s safe are two very different things. Don’t sabotage yourself right out of the gate! You also want to avoid the group discussion about where to eat if you’re not armed with a few options that you know you can handle. (Honestly, you want to avoid the big group discussion about where to eat altogether, for many other reasons.) One of you fine people told me about Yellowbelly in Boulder, which offers gluten-free fried chicken. My crew of starving family members left the airport and GPS’d it straight there. It was delicious, safe and recommended a fellow gluten-free’er. In other words, IT WAS PERFECT. Later on, use one of those amazing apps like Find Me Gluten-Free to guide you when you just can’t look at one more historic site and need some gluten-free nachos.
4. Don’t cheat. Ever. Never.
While I dine out regularly and work the waiter like he’s going into the ring in Vegas, I do still dine out at non-designated gluten-free safe restaurants. I’ve been happily surprised at the safety and burned by false reassurances. Still, I never cheat on the gluten-free diet. I can understand that some of you do and just deal with the consequences, but vacation is NOT the time to make that questionable choice. Maybe it’s just because I hate being sick on vacation more than I hate explaining what gluten is in Icelandic, but I’d rather go back to the hotel and eat my gluten-free crackers with cheese and and a meat stick than risk my health while I’m supposed to be having the time of my life. Save your donut binge for your own toilet and keep it together on vacation. There’s nothing worse than throwing up/sharting in a foreign toilet, unless of course, it’s throwing up/sharting on an 8-hour flight. Repeatedly.
5. Don’t make it all about the food
No, I can’t believe I’m saying this since I honestly love dining out as part of my travel experience. I hit local grocery stores everywhere I go, and I obsess about what I’m going to eat months before I take a trip. Still, when you’re faced with a potential bad food situation while on vacation, let it go. Walk away and plan on enjoying gluten-free cookies and appetizers in your room (which you totally have, because of pre-vaca obsessing!). In the meantime, grab a drink of your choice and enjoy the view.
All righty, with all of that packed in, let me show you around the three locales I was lucky enough to visit this summer: Boulder, Colorado, New York City and Iceland (mostly Reykjavik). And tell me your favorite gluten-free vacation stories in the comments!
Bon freaking Voyage.
GIMB’s Gluten-Free Iceland
GIMB’s Gluten-Free NYC
GIMB’s Gluten-Free Boulder, CO