Grocery stores are usually available on the way and at our destination. Not being able to find “gluten-free” packaged products or restaurants isn’t a problem if you are prepared to cook meats and vegetables. If we are going somewhere where we won’t be able to get organic produce and pasture-fed, organic meat, we pack as much food as practical from home, and then make our compromises if we have to. But we never compromise on gluten-free!
These are things we bring or buy at our destination when we travel:
- New Sponges – Don’t count on having access to a dishwasher! You’ll need to be able to wash your dishes with a gluten-free sponge or dishrag. Bring more than one, so that if one of them gets contaminated you have a back up.
- Paper Towels – These are great for taking a first pass at gluten-covered surfaces. You definitely don’t want to use your safe sponges for that! Paper towels are also great for putting down as placemats on shared tables.
- Hot Plate or Camp Stove – When on the road, most hotels and motels don’t have a kitchen. But with a hot plate you’ll be able to cook anywhere there is electricity. With a camp stove you’ll be able to cook anywhere! (Outdoors only, of course!)
- Stainless Steel Pot – Relatively lightweight and portable, this is easy to use with a hot plate or camp stove.
- Parchment or Foil – This can be used to line otherwise unsafe baking sheets and toaster oven surfaces. A Silpat works great for lining baking sheets as well.
- Cutting Board – Cutting boards get little scratches in them that gluten will never come out of. Always bring your own! We like our bamboo cutting board for regular use, but for a more portable solution try flexible ones.
- Chef Knife – This knife is a basic necessity for most cooking.
- Spray Bottle with Vinegar – This is good for basic cleaning up.
- Salt and Pepper – Bringing your own salt, pepper, and other seasonings means you won’t be stuck with bland food! Condiments and seasonings in a kitchen with gluten often have been cross-contaminated or are not gluten-free to start with.
The type of trip you are taking will make a difference in how much food to pack and which things you are more likely to need. Usually when we travel we drive and then stay with family or in a motel with a kitchenette, so we rely on our thermoses and a cooler.
Air travel is a bit trickier but still doable. You can check a bag with your knives and basic cooking utensils, as well as any liquid food like broth that you may be bringing with you. You can’t pack as much, but you may be able to pick up the basic necessities at your destination. I don’t normally shop at places like the Dollar Tree, but stores like this generally have cookware that will be fine for a while.
The worst part of air travel is that once you get past the security gate, there is nothing safe to eat aside from the occasional piece of fruit or Larabar. We learned this the hard way.
But going through security with food can be problematic. Make sure that before you travel you check the TSA guidelines to see if they have changed. Since bringing much food will likely get you searched, and you will need to declare anything remotely liquid, make it easy for the TSA. Use clear containers wherever possible, make sure your food is easy to get to. Type out a clear list of all the food that you have with you so that you won’t forget to mention something and get in trouble. While celiac disease and gluten-intolerance are not recognized on the TSA site, having a doctor’s note explaining your need for gluten-free food couldn’t hurt, either. Pack a backpack full of food for each family member. That way if your flight gets delayed there will be enough safe food to eat!
Here are a few more things you might want to bring along:
- Crock pot – When you are a houseguest, a crock pot is a great way to cook. You can prepare your meal when no one else is trying to cook, and then plug it in someplace that’s out of the way.
- Cast iron or other pan – We normally do our stove-top cooking in cast iron. It can also be used in the oven (or over a fire if you don’t mind scorching it). If weight and space aren’t issues and you plan to stay somewhere a while, it’s nice to have the comforts of home.
- Serrated knife – Never borrow a serrated knife that’s been used with gluten! Gluten trapped in the tiny grooves and comes out in your food. If you think you’ll want one, bring one along or buy a cheap one at your destination.
- Flatware – Silverware cleans up just fine if washed and rinsed well. But it can be nice to have your own, especially if you are eating on the road. It can be a good idea to bring your own serving utensils as well.
- Dishes – Glass and ceramic dishes are safe if washed and rinsed well. But scratched plastic dishes are not. For peace of mind, we usually bring dishes for our sensitive son.
- Colander – If you plan on eating gluten-free pasta, you will need your own colander or will have to drain your pasta with your pot’s lid. Sharing a colander that has been used for regular pasta is a recipe for disaster.
- Toaster Oven If you will be staying someplace that doesn’t have an oven, you may want to bring a toaster oven. They really work well reheating food or baking small dishes – just make sure not to leave it on!
Happy travels, everyone! What are your tips for staying safe and cooking real food when traveling?