Since we got back from our summer vacation, something has really rocked our travel world (and no, it’s not Covid). My son had been having stomach pains. They intensified on our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton in August. We got back and took him to the doctor, and he has now been diagnosed with Celiac disease.
For those not familiar (I wasn’t really, before this hit us), Celiac disease means that someone can’t have any gluten. EVER. NONE. Not even a tiny crumb.
Life at home has gotten a little more complicated but we are managing. I cook a lot of our own food at home anyways, so switching to making things gluten free isn’t really a big deal. It is heading out into the world and traveling with someone that has Celiac that gets a little complicated.
For someone with Celiac, just gluten free isn’t enough. Their food also needs to be prepared in specific ways to avoid cross contamination with other residues of gluten. While there are a lot of great restaurants out there that understand all of this and can safely make him food, it involves a lot of research and confirmation ahead of time, which makes eating out much more difficult now.
No more stopping for pizza for a quick, cheap family dinner while traveling. Sandwiches (which are a cheap travel staple pretty much anywhere) are also generally a no go unless we are creating them ourselves. Oh, and for the most part (with a few exceptions), fast food is generally out. The nature of fast food preparation is not conducive with the kinds of careful preparation methods that we now require.
And we haven’t even gotten to the complications of finding celiac safe, gluten free food when outside of our own country and the safety net of sharing a common language. Yikes.
DEEP BREATH. We have been dealing with a lot of pain, constipation and physical symptoms as my son’s digestive system heals and works towards getting to a new normal. There are also the emotional ramifications - the fear of being different, of not being able to eat the same things as other kids at school. My fear of letting him out into the world where he could accidentally eat something that will cause him days of abdominal pain.
We made our first venture away from home this past week. We ventured out into the world, onto the airplane and down to Florida for some sunshine and pool time at a Disney resort.
Packing for Gluten Free Travel
I have adapted our packing list to include a small, induction cooktop and pan with some basic gluten free food staples (oatmeal, mac and cheese, tomato soup, gluten free bread). I haven’t talked to that many other gluten free travelers yet, but this seems like a reasonable precaution in a gluten filled world. At least I have the ability to cook something for him in our room if we are without a kitchen or without an adequate gluten free dinner choice.
Choosing the Right Destinations for Celiac Friendly Travel
My prior research about our weekend trip had also taught me that Disney is one of the best places for a Celiac traveler to go to. They have an amazing, company wide awareness of the needs of travelers with a wide range of allergies (including Celiac).
I was able to talk to a chef before ordering each meal, which gave me a lot of confidence that the food would be safe for our son. This eased my worry quite a bit (and he loved being able to enjoy cheeseburgers and fries from a dedicated, gluten free fryer...something so simple that we all take for granted).
So, after our first foray away from home, I feel some of the crushing panic and worry lifting from my heart. I know that with a little advance planning (and A LOT of snacks and food for the journey) that we will slowly be able to venture a little further out into the world and the safety of our own kitchen each time.
Do you travel with someone who has a serious food allergy or sensitivity? What adaptations have you made to your own travel style to keep them safe?
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ps: we have an awesome Facebook community where I share our wealth of experience traveling the world (both with kids and without) and help you overcome the fears and obstacles that keep you from living your travel dreams. Click the image below to see if it is a good fit for you!