GLUTEN FREE ADVENTURES AROUND THE WORLD
Enjoying the local cuisine is one of the greatest pleasures of traveling to a foreign country. It is a great way to interact with the local people and get to know the culture and customs.
Ordering a gluten free meal in a country where you do not speak the language can certainly be challenging. Whether it is a restaurant server or a street vendor to be successful you need to be confident about asking questions and not shy to let them know your needs. Using a translated Gluten Free ID card is a great way to bridge the language gap. It helps avoid frustration from both sides & means you are able to relax & enjoy your holiday. The locals are generally happy to help and want you to enjoy your time in their country.
Have fun on your adventures & remember everything is achievable. Don't let your need to be Gluten Free stop you from exploring all the amazing places this world has on offer.
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Here are some more tips to help you in your Gluten Free travels:
With the increasing amount of people being diagnosed with a Gluten-Intolerance many of the international airlines are now offering Gluten Free Meals on long haul flights. You should let you travel agent know at the time of booking that you will be requiring a gluten free meal & you should see this noted on your travel itinerary. Unfortunately in many cases just letting your travel agent know is not enough & the request does not often 'make it through the system'. Therefore a few days before your flight you should call the airline directly and confirm they have your Gluten Free Meal ordered. It is advisable to confirm again at check in that your gluten free meal will make it onto the plane. Japan airlines once had my order but forgot about putting it on the plane! Luckily I had checked in very early & they got it there on time.
Once you have boarded it is a good idea to identify yourself to the flight attendant. Generally a sticker with GFML (Gluten Free Meal) written on it will be placed on the headrest of your seat. Don't be embarrassed, this means there is a good chance you will get your meal. In almost all cases the 'special' meals are given out prior to the rest of the passengers being served. Keep an eye on this as my gluten free meal was once given to another passenger by mistake. I noticed everyone else being served I asked my attendant about my meal, when she suddenly realized what had happened she went to retrieve it, but the other passenger was already eating. Luckily they were able to make me a special GFML (Gluten Free Meal) meal from business class.
After your Gluten Free Meal is served another thing to be careful of is the bread roll on the side. It is advisable to NOT eat this unless it comes in a package that states it is Gluten Free. Most times it has been added by the flight attendant who does not understand what your allergy & adds the bread roll to your dinner just as they do for everyone else. Don't be alarmed, just set it aside & continue with your meal as normal.
8 - 10 - 22 hours is a long time to be without food. So always be prepared incase something goes wrong. Take a backpack full of Gluten Free snacks, rice crackers, rice cakes, mixed nuts. In many cases customs are fine with you taking food into the country, but just incase you should carry a letter from your doctor stating your need to be carrying Gluten Free foods. Another good idea is to check what the restrictions are before traveling so that you can pack suitable foods. For example when I went to Japan I was able to take my Gluten Free cereal, Gluten Free Rice Milk & Gluten Free Snack bars. However when traveling somewhere such as Australia & New Zealand you will find the customs restrictions extremely strict not letting you take in anything expect maybe some chocolate. This does not mean that you cannot take Gluten Free food with you on the plane, only that you cannot take it with you into the country. There are special garbage bins just before customs where you can dispose of anything you have not yet eaten. Note: There is a large variety of Gluten Free Food available in Australia & New Zealand so you do not need to be concerned about food once you arrive.
- Order your Gluten Free Meal with your travel agent & confirm again a few days before the flight, at check in & once on the plane
- Repeat this process for your return flight
- Always carry Gluten Free food supplies
- Take a letter from your doctor explaining your needs to carry Gluten Free food
- Check the customs restrictions for taking food into the country where you are traveling
- Beware the bread or bun provided with your gluten free meal - 9/10 the hostess has added it without understanding your allergy
Rule of thumb is to "Always be prepared" - It will make for much smoother & happy travels.
# FOREIGN LANGUAGES
When you are traveling to a country where you do not speak the language, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself the names of foods & popular local dishes that contain gluten & those that are gluten free. This will really help when you are trying to read ingredients on food labels or trying to explain to your restaurant server about your diet.
# TRANSLATED GLUTEN FREE ID CARDS
Gluten Free Allergy Translation Cards are by far the best way to communicate your needs for a Gluten Free Diet. It is important to remain healthy while you are traveling and therefore you must be able to communicate your needs to restaurants, grocery stores, tour directors & hotels. There are a variety of companies now offering these cards and they are also available with your local celiac society. Another good idea is to contact the celiac society of the country where you are visiting to find out about Gluten Free friendly restaurants, grocery & health food stores. They will also be able to advise you on brand names of companies that supply Gluten Free products.
# FOOD LABELING
Food Labeling Laws will vary significantly from country to country. 'When in doubt leave it out' is probably the best motto for travelers to go by.
A few things to consider:
- Some countries are required to list all ingredients, some only list major ingredients and some are not required to tell you.
- Ingredients containing gluten in the country in which you are traveling can have a different name to those in your home country.
- Pharmaceuticals that are normally Gluten Free at home, may not be abroad.
The best way to prepare is to contact the local celiac society of the country you are visiting to find out their food labeling laws.
# EATING OUT
Eating out is one of the best ways to experience the local delights & treats of the country you are visting. From the vendors on the streets of Bangkok to the outback restaurant in Australia, there are hundreds of wonderful experiences waiting for you to enjoy. So how do you do all this & stay healthy?
- Research the local cuisine & preparation methods. Know what foods are Gluten Free & familiarize yourself with their names.
- Show your Gluten Free ID card and insist on finding out the full details about cooking methods & ingredients of each item.
- Don't assume items on the menu are prepared the same as those at home. French Fries are a great example - mostly they are gluten free but in many countries they are dusted with flour.
- Take a Gluten Free substitute with you such as Gluten Free Pasta, Bread, Pizza Base, and Soy Sauce.
- If you speak the language or have someone who does, call ahead to the restaurant, explain your situation & discuss if there is a suitable meal available.
# TOURS & ACTIVITIES
When heading out on a tour or activity for the day where lunch & snacks are included, don't just assume that you will miss out. With sufficient notice operators are nearly always able to organize a Gluten Free meal. If they cannot simply pack yourself a lunch & ask that they take it with all the other meals to your lunch location. Here are some examples of my experiences:
Heli Skiing with Backcountry Heli, New Zealand:
Lunch was included so they made me a suitable chicken salad rather than a sandwich. I also took some Gluten Free snacks in my backpack
Skiing at Whistler Blackcomb, Canada:
Whistler Blackcomb provides Gluten Free buns at their on mountain restaurants Rendezvous & Roundhouse. They make a great chicken club burger.
Horse Riding at Three Bars Ranch, Canada:
I gave them a gluten free bun the morning of our ride. They lightly toasted it, made a great sandwich for me and also provided some Gluten Free snacks.
White Water Rafting with Wedge Rafting, Canada:
An all day rafting tour they arranged for the caterers to make me a wild rice salad with fruit salad for dessert. It was incredible.
Columbia Glacier Boat Cruise, Valdez, Alaska:
Stanley Cruises were happy to make me a suitable Gluten Free lunch & I also carried a backpack with Gluten Free goodies.
The thing to remember with tours & activity operators is to just ask! 9/10 times they will always be able to organize something or are happy to carry your backpack for you & bring it to the lunch.