Going Gluten-Free at the Airport
Anyone with a long history (or a short one, for that matter) with celiac and gluten-intolerance is prone to outward cringing whenever the topic of airport food is brought up. When air travel can mean being stuck for 6, 12, even 24 hours in airports and cramped, airborne fuselages with nothing but peanuts for sustenance, what’s a hungry, health-conscious person to do? Hit up the McDonald’s in the food court? We don’t think so.
Believe it or not, there is a way. One that doesn’t require storing whole grapes in your cheeks like a hamster.
The first thing to remember is that the TSA isn’t going to stop you from taking food through security, assuming of course that food isn’t swimming in some sort of liquid (no fruit cocktail or airport soup, sorry guys). This means that if you’re not a last minute packer, you can make your carry-on into a portable picnic.
Grab some apples, oranges, almonds, and a few packets of granola, toss ’em in your bag and go. Onward and upward!
That said, are you really going to be able to happily sustain yourself on a fourteen-hour travel day with nothing but nuts? As we hinted at earlier, no, likely not. However, Gluten-Free Girl wrote a great post sharing her own airport travel saga (get ready to commiserate) and the ways that she not only attempted to make it work, but the discoveries she made after-the-fact. For instance, did you know Wendy’s has a gluten-free menu?
Also – *drumroll* – Ultimate Gluten-Free’s website has an amazingly utilitarian directory that enables you to search by state to find airports with gluten-free and gluten-free-friendly food options. Hurrah!
When You Land
If you can’t find anything in the airport and you arrive at your destination so hungry you could eat anything regardless of contamination levels… wait! You can prepare for this event too.
If you decide to stop and check into a hotel, ask about rooms with kitchenettes or mini-fridges. That way you don’t have to deal with finding a place that’s safe to eat, particularly if you’re in a small or somewhat remote locale. Just swing by a grocery store on the way.
If stopping at a restaurant seems like an inevitability, Gluten-Free Travel Site offers searchable gluten-free dining and travel reviews as well as menus. There’s also a comprehensive list of assorted gluten-free directories right here. In fact, if you have a particularly long layover, it may not be a bad idea to think about hopping in a cab and taking a short ride to the nearest place with good food. It may even be refreshing.
If those searches don’t turn up desirable results, don’t just dive in and hope for the best. Let’s not forget that complicated substitutions and specialty dining establishments are not a necessity. Instead of sticking with what you know (salads sans croutons and burgers with gluten-free buns), branch out! Turn your trip into a food adventure as well. Stop at an Ethiopian restaurant or try some sashimi. How about some authentic Indian food? Go nuts!
Regardless, Always Be Prepared
Whether you’re stuck at the airport or combing your destination city for edible options, come prepared with some printed restaurant cards. These contain descriptions of the gluten-free diet in a variety of languages. Sometimes it’s just easier to understand something when you see it in print, you know? Plus, these are also handy if you plan on stopping at one of the aforementioned ethnic restaurants where the staff may or may not speak English fluently.
To read more in-depth articles about specific locales or to see gluten-free maps of various cities, check out Travel in Delight Gluten-Free Magazine.
We’ll see you on the other side!