Top 5 Travel Tips

Kim Koeller, founder of GlutenFree Passport, shares her top 5 tips for gluten-free travel!

Traveling and eating gluten-free and allergy friendly foods while away from home can be challenging, to say the least. The more you know, the easier it is to travel on road trips, flights, cruises or anywhere your dreams may take you! Based on years of research and personal experiences traveling over 2.5 million miles with celiac disease and food allergies, the following are my top travel tips.

1. Pack your food– Bring a variety of no mess snacks and light meals that are easily carried with you on the road. A few go-to protein snacks include: energy bars with at least 10g protein, hard boiled eggs, cooked slices of chicken or steak, single-serve protein mixes that can be added to water, vacuum-packed lunch meat and single-serve packets of peanut, hazelnut, almond or nut-free butter (great on celery sticks, apples, rice cakes and pretzels.)

To complement these foods, bring fresh/dried fruit, fresh cut vegetables, trail mix and single-serve applesauce. Dried soup or single serve oatmeal can be a quick meal in a cup with hot water. Pack allergen-free crackers or toasted bread for sandwiches and small condiment packets if desired. Remember to pack goodies to curb your sweet tooth, and don’t forget a small soft-sided cooler for refrigerated items with plenty of zip-lock bags! Check out the GFAF Expos for more food product ideas.

2. Prepare for your flight– Keep in mind airport security regulations when planning your carry-on food. If you bring snacks with any liquid (applesauce, peanut butter, mustard) pack it in your 1 quart TSA-approved clear plastic bag. To keep food cool, use double zip-lock bags with ice. Discard ice prior to TSA security then refill baggies from a food stand or ask a flight attendant on your plane.

Carry enough food to get you to your location and for excursions throughout your trip. If you’re flying eight hours to Hawaii, take two to three meals worth of food in case of delays. Make sure your snacks are with you at all times for easy access.

If you are taking a longer flight to reach your destination, order special airplane meals based upon standard airline codes (GFML for gluten free, NLML for non-lactose, PFML for peanut free and even DBML for diabetic meals). Reconfirm your meals 24-72 hours before your flight. Even if special meals are ordered, always pack snacks in case your meal isn’t available or isn’t correct.

3. Conduct research– Educate yourself on what foods you can and cannot eat. If taking a cruise or staying at an all-inclusive resort, contact the director and notify them of your food requirements. Follow up 1-2 weeks before your trip to ensure the proper preparations and products have been requested for you.  

Download mobile apps including Find Me Gluten Free for restaurant locations, iCanEat Fast Food Gluten & Allergy Free for US fast food menu items and TripAdvisor for sightseeing ideas.

No smart devices or looking for more ideas? Arm yourself with website information including Find Me Gluten Free recommendations, US fast food links to GF menus and allergy charts, bakeries in US, Canada, Europe and the rest of the world as well as suggestions from support groups and travel blogs. Bring your research results with you for easy reference.

4. Communicate your gluten free and food allergy requirements– Based on global market research, almost 90% of food service professionals indicate that communication of special dietary needs when ordering is the top priority for gluten and allergen-free guests. Inform restaurant wait staff, manager, chef or owner of your food concerns (e.g. I’m allergic to gluten and wheat so I can’t eat any bread or flour. I’m allergic to dairy so I can’t have any milk and butter.) If you feel more comfortable, or in the case of anaphylaxis, call ahead and inform the restaurant of your food requirements.

Instead of simply asking, “Is this dish gluten free, dairy free or X allergen free?” ask questions based on ingredients and preparation in “restaurant language terms.” Sample questions for gluten-free meals may be:

  • Are your hamburgers made with bread crumbs and packaged seasonings?
  • Is your chicken, veal or fish flour dusted? Does the marinade contain soy sauce?
  • Are your French fries fried in the same oil as your breaded items such as chicken fingers?

Sample questions for a milk or dairy allergy may be:

  • Does your marinara sauce have parmesan cheese and butter?
  • Is your steak finished off with butter?
  • Do you add milk to your omelet?

Even though more restaurants are offering gluten-free menus and allergy charts, it is still critical to ask questions and confirm how food is prepared. Navigate ethnic foods and ingredients with the iEatOut Gluten & Allergy Free Apple app, book or ebooks. Use free English language dining cards for gluten free, dairy free, shellfish free or food allergy food needs too!

5. Enjoy travel abroad- Upon arrival at your international destination, discard any uneaten food you brought on board that is not pre-packaged prior to entering customs due to local agricultural regulations.

When traveling in foreign speaking countries, carry restaurant dining cards with ingredient and food preparation phrases in the native language. Present these to wait staff at your restaurants and hotels to help communicate your food concerns. Print extra copies! A lot of times restaurants, hotels and stores ask to keep the cards for future customers.

In addition, prepare yourself with ethnic food ideas, country-specific travel paks and foreign language phrase guides. Discover restaurant and food product recommendations from worldwide celiac and food allergy associations for safe global travel to fully experience your destination.

Wishing you safe gluten free and allergy friendly travels anywhere across the globe!

As Founder of GlutenFree Passport, Kim Koeller empowers people to safely eat and travel the globe by sharing her worldwide travel experiences while personally living 100% gluten & allergy free for 14-plus years. She is a sought after speaker, global consultant and award-winning author of the Let’s Eat Out Around the World Gluten Free and Allergy Free travel series of books, apps and travel cards. Trusted by customers in over 60 countries, these resources have won 20 quality innovation awards including Best Health Book of the Year, Best Travel Guide and Best Food Allergy App.

As an authoritative expert on gluten free and food allergy lifestyles, her media interviews include NBC and ABC TV, National Geographic Traveler, Food & Drink, Radio New Zealand, USA Today and others globally. Kim also consults with cross-industry clients about customer innovation, food management and transformational solutions. Learn more at and at GFAFPassport on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Margo says:

    You’re very brave to travel internationally. I rarely get a safe gf meal in my own city so the thought of traveling to other countries is terrifying. You should organize gluten free and allergy free trips so the rest of us can benefit from your wisdom and experience! : )


  2. Karen says:

    Twice now people with celiac disease told me they were able to eat normal wheat-based goods (bread, pasta, pizza) in Italy with no problems. How can this be true? I would be so excited to visit if I could confirm this to be true.


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