Traveling with a gluten-free diet is a challenge. But sites like glutenfreetravelsite.com are working to take some of the stress out of your trip. This is part two in an occasional series of posts about managing your next vacation with savvy-celiac style.
In the most-recent travel-related post, we discussed the most-common mistakes we celiacs make on vacation plus, the best vacation spot right now. Karen Broussard, Founder and President of glutenfreetravelsite.com, said based on the number of reviews the site has received; New York City is the place to be. Now we are looking at some of the more challenging locations, plus perfect gluten-free getaways for international travel, honeymoons and family trips.
The Gluten-Free Destination Challenge!
Here’s a quick quiz for you, which of the following locations might likely be the easiest for you to eat gluten-free?
If you guessed 3, 4, or 5, you might likely be wrong. While there’s no hard evidence that Asia, Europe and the United States might more challenging for celiacs, based on food staples in these areas, you could have more trouble. Broussard told me, “Africa and Latin America –in theory- shouldn’t be terribly challenging due to their dependence on grains other than wheat. Flours made from teff and amaranth are big in Africa, and Latin American dishes rely heavily on corn flour.”
As for Asia, Broussard said, “…parts of Asia can present a bit of a challenge due to the use of soy sauce. Rice is the grain of choice there and is, of course safe.” Europe and the United States “have such a dependence on wheat,” that our countries tend to pose a challenge. However, Broussard noted, Italy is the exception. It has “…one of the highest rates of Celiac Disease in the world and therefore has been at the forefront of awareness.” She added, “I think any area of the world can be safely navigated when it comes to following a gluten-free diet, providing you do your research ahead of time…” as well as talking to chefs, carrying bilingual dining cards and bringing snacks.
Ready for your big getaway? Here are some of the recommendations based on experience or reviews from glutenfreetravelsite.com:
Gluten-Free Honeymoon/Romantic Getaway:
Beaches Turks and Caicos worked for Broussard and her family last year. “Even though this is a family destination, Beaches is owned by Sandals which offers adults-only, all-inclusive vacations, honeymoons and weddings.” On her trip she says the executive chef, “…assured me there was a big corporate push to really expand and improve in this area with all the Beaches and Sandals Resorts.” I checked on the Beaches/Sandals website and here is the company’s response to food allergy accommodations: “You can rest assured that we will work very closely with you and our chef can ensure that the appropriate meals are available. Please provide us with you arrival date and booking number as well as your name and the resort at which you will be vacationing so that arrangements can be made for you to speak with the chef on arrival.”
Gluten-Free Family Vacation:
Disney or Disney Cruise: “Disney is the gold standard for gluten-free dining, whether at their hotels, resorts, theme parks or cruise line,” said Broussard, “…I didn’t have to prepare a single meal.”
My experience was the same there. The chef always came to our table to discuss our gluten-free options. In the case of a fancy Cinderella Dinner at Grand Floridian, we had a buffet. The chef walked us through the entire buffet to discuss what Emma’s options were. The buffet was very clean and well-maintained. Emma loved it. If you have never done Disney, you really should. You will enjoy the days where you can let someone else really worry about the food for a change.
Best Gluten-Free Vacation in the United States:
Broussard told me here again she would recommend Disney vacations or New York City. “Any big city or suburban area is also more likely than somewhere more remote to have some of the chain restaurants that offer [gluten-free] menus.” She mentioned some chains like Legal Seafoods, P.F. Changs, Outback, Carrabbas, Bonefish, Uno’s, and more.
Best Gluten-Free International Destination:
“Probably Italy,” Broussard answered. We mentioned Italy earlier in this post. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, one in 250 people in Italy have celiac disease. If you do your research online, including glutenfreetravelsite.com, you will find all kinds of places that serve or sell gluten-free food. I also found on the NFCA website that Ireland has a similar rate of celiac disease. After doing some more research online, I found many blogs plus websites talking about the ease of finding gluten-free food in Ireland. I have not been to Ireland, but based on some of what I read, if you have ever considered it – you should go.
I hope these suggestions inspire your travels near and far. If you have a great vacation or just a restaurant experience, let the world know at glutenfreetravelsite.com, glutenfreeregistry.com, or glutenfreeonthego.com. Reviews like yours will help other celiacs and maybe even you someday.