With the holidays just around the corner, many are counting down the days to their long-awaited vacations. Traveling as a coeliac can be difficult and traveling with a child or children suffering from a gluten intolerance or allergy can be more so. But gluten-free travel is possible! Especially with these 10 tips for traveling with kids with coeliac disease.
Luckily many travel destinations are becoming more and more familiar with coeliac disease, an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Most countries in Europe along with the USA, Australia and New Zealand have many gluten-free dining options. As do some countries in Southeast Asia whose cuisines largely use rice as the main grain, such as Vietnam and Thailand.
We’ve listed our 10 top tips to make your life easier while traveling abroad with coeliac children.
1. Plan before you go
The internet is a wonderful thing, so use it to its best advantage and research your destination before you go! There are many dedicated gluten free travel sites that list the best places for a coeliac traveler to eat, so take a look! There are lots of places that are gluten-free friendly, you just need to know where to find them – and if someone has done that hard work and found them for you, take advantage!
2. Pack gluten-free essentials
Whether you’re staying in a hotel or going self-catering, packing a few essential gluten-free items in your suitcase is never a bad idea. Things that travel well and come in handy are gluten-free crackers, gluten-free cereal bars, gluten-free biscuits and gluten-free crisps. By taking these tasty gluten-free snacks with you, you’ve always got something to fall back on if you’re stuck. You know that your child likes what you’ve brought, so will be happy with eating the alternative.
3. Carry a medical note
If your child is medically diagnosed with coeliac disease or needs a gluten-free diet, it’s a good idea to carry a letter from a medical practitioner stating any prescription medication being taken, as well as advising of your medical condition which requires special dietary food. Most countries have a customs website with regulation information. Make sure to check the site for any restrictions on bringing food and medication into the country.
4. Ice cream!
Finding gluten free desserts in restaurants can be tricky, with the usual variety of cakes and other baked goods being popular choices for restaurants to serve. Ice cream is always a great option and many countries in Europe (and beyond) have dedicated ice-cream parlors that serve up delicious, you guessed it, ice cream! So instead of waiting to have a dessert at the restaurant, make it an event to go to the local ice cream parlor afterward. Many children will be thrilled with this in itself, but those with a gluten intolerance or allergy will be even more so as they are included in something that everyone else can eat!
5. Communicate the allergy
If you are staying at a hotel it’s worth asking at the front desk when you arrive who’s the best person to speak to regarding your child’s gluten allergy. When you do speak to said person, explain the situation and find out dining options for your child. I have always done this while staying at hotels and never had any problems. The staff always seem willing to help, especially so if it’s for a child!
6. Avoid cross-contamination at buffets
Buffets are a minefield when it comes to cross-contamination. Not only for coeliacs but for people with any type of food allergy. Try to opt for accommodation that doesn’t have buffet meals. Equally, don’t feel limited by restaurant menus, it’s often possible to discuss other options.
7. Carry translation cards
When visiting a country where you don’t know the native language, carry translation cards describing the medical condition to avoid any confusion and unnecessary stress when arranging gluten-free meals. Learning helpful words and phrases before arriving is also useful so that you recognize them on food labels and menus and to help you explain which foods your child cannot eat in more detail if necessary.
8. Book a gluten-free airplane meal
If you’re traveling long-haul (or any flight where you’re provided with a snack or meal), make sure you reserve a gluten-free airplane meal for your child. To be sure they will have a special meal for your child on board, you need to do this before your flight! Booking a special meal can usually be done by logging into the online booking section on the airline’s website, where you will see a variety of dietary meals that airlines offer and are available for you to pick. Please remember for most airlines you must do this before you travel.
9. Travel insurance
When applying for travel insurance, those with coeliac disease should disclose their condition. Having coeliac disease shouldn’t affect your insurance cover. A number of companies provide insurance without adding a surcharge for coeliac disease, protecting you in the event you need medical care while overseas.
If your child requires any medication, be sure to take enough for the trip, there may not be a gluten-free equivalent of the medicine in the country you’re visiting. Alternatively, if you’re on holiday for a longer period or traveling long-term, make sure you know which ingredients to avoid. Or have your local pharmacy back home on speed dial so you can have them check for you.
No matter your holiday destination, follow these travel tips to make your gluten-free family holidays worry-free!