You can Travel with Celiac and Food Allergies- Part 1
You can travel with food allergies and celiac diease safely and have the time of your life! It is possible and we are here to help you do it. We know you can because we have done it for nearly two decades.
If you have followed us for any amount of time, you know that we love to travel. We travel to other states, other cities, we go camping, and we also travel internationally, all with food allergies and celiac disease. One of the best pieces of advice we ever got about having food allergies was that we should take the opportunity we were given to live in Rwanda, Africa. Our daughter's Gastroenterologist (GI) was really excited and passionate about our trip to Rwanda and greatly encouraged us to go. Between him and our pediatrician, they both supported us to go and did all they could to prepare us to live in Rwanda with food allergies. Having these two medical professionals encourage us to travel with food allergies really helped us to keep our passion for travel alive. My husband and I have each been to 22+ countries and desire for our girls to have similar experiences if they choose to.
5 years ago our youngest (and my husband officially) was diagnosed with celiac disease. Our daughter's celiac diagnosis came as a big shock to us and her GI (the same one that encouraged us to go to Rwanda). Traveling with celiac disease and how sensitive our daughter is made traveling even more challenging. We still travel though; it’s that important to us. It is also important for us to teach our girls that no matter what challenges may arise in our lives, we will figure out how to persevere and live life to the fullest.
Our most recent traveling was to stay with my in-laws. Staying with my in-laws meant sharing kitchen space with them, and my father-in-law loves his gluten. 😉We were determined to stay with his parents and also keep our celiacs safe. I have a good relationship with my in-laws and they have always been very supportive of us with the girls' food allergies and celiac. They have witnessed our girls have many reactions on our visits to stay with them so they know how serious they are. I deeply appreciate their love and care for us and our girls.
Since we have traveled a lot, we want to share what we have done to travel safely to help you do the same. Traveling with food allergies and celiac can absolutely be done, it just takes extra time and planning. Here are a few basic things that we do prior to traveling. The preparation is the most important part of the trip to ensure you can have a great a safe time while gone.
If you are staying with people, have an honest discussion with them before you visit
The first thing my husband and I did to prepare for our trip was send a few handouts on celiac disease, gluten-free foods, and how to keep a kitchen clean from cross contact to all of our kids’ grandparents. All of these handouts were given to us by our GI department at Seattle Children’s Hospital when we lived there. We scanned and emailed these documents to my in-laws so they could read through them. My parents live in the Seattle area and used to take care of our girls often so we also sent these documents to them not long after our daughter got diagnosed. After we sent the documents to my in-laws, my husband and I also called both of his parents so all four of us could talk in more detail about what it would take to keep our celiacs healthy on our trip there. Once we felt that we had covered everything we needed to and my in-laws seemed to understand, we moved forward in our plans to stay with them. Open communication is so important for both sides. We needed to feel comfortable staying with my in-laws knowing they understood what it takes (which is a lot) to keep them healthy. My in-laws also needed to know what they were getting into and decide whether it was worth it to them to have us stay with them. Thankfully we all agreed to make it work, including my father-in- law still being able to eat his gluten. LOL!
Here’s a snapshot of what we talked about:
– what foods gluten is found in
– what does it look like when our daughter has a reaction (they’ve witnessed many) and what we do when she gets glutened
– how we could share a kitchen with them (no sharing the toaster, no use of wooden utensils or cutting boards, no using items that couldn’t be put in the dishwasher, no using the same sponge, no touching gluten then making GF food, crumbs are not ok to touch GF food, we would clean the counters and kitchen table often, no sharing a cup or straw with our daughter, keeping my father-in- laws bread products on a different counter than our food, etc).
- My in-laws actually ended up buying us a toaster, cutting board, measuring cups, electric hand mixer, and food processor that are all labeled “GF” and kept in a bin for us to pull out when we go visit. This bin gets a whole lot of use when we visit. We also decided that we would have one section of counter space just for us while we visit. This makes life easy and safe for everyone.
Figure out food, meals, and groceries ahead of time to make vacation less stressful
My mother-in-law loves to shop! I mean any kind of shopping, including grocery shopping. Her and I have a running grocery list on Google Docs that we share. We list the foods and brands of food that we can safely eat so she can shop to her little shopping heart's content. When we arrive, my mother-in- law likes to have food for us in the fridge (and freezer and counter) so we don’t have to go to the store when we get there. I can’t tell you what a blessing this is for us! Anywhere else we go, I have to pack every. single. food item we need or I have to go to the store right away. This allows us to show up on vacation and actually feel like we are on vacation. Such a gift!! I’m thankful my mother-in- law doesn’t stray from our list either; she sticks to it. That way I don’t have to read new labels and my family knows they can go find whatever grandma bought for them and dig in. 🙂 From the items purchased, I plan what meals I will make for all of us while we are visiting. It’s easiest if I do the cooking for when we eat at home. I have plenty of sous chefs to call on to help.
If you are staying on your own, plan your meals ahead of time. This way grocery shopping can be quick and easy. No one wants complicated meals while on vacation.
Take Baking mixes, it makes life so much easier!
When we typically travel, I bake for about a week before we leave. It takes time to do, but makes vacation actually feel like a vacation. Since my mother-in-law buys food for us to eat when we arrive, I don’t have to do too much baking ahead of time, which is also amazing. What we have learned though is that there are a few items we want that we can’t buy in a store. My husband loves dessert, but finding a safe dessert is next to impossible for him. I have learned to pack our Rustic Scoop™ baking mixes. For this trip to Phoenix, we were there for my husband's birthday and Easter. I packed our Rustic Scoop™ Chocolate Cake and Cupcake Mix, powdered coconut sugar for frosting for my husband, Rustic Scoop™ Pancake and Waffle Mix to make coffee cake, Rustic Scoop™ Cookie Mix, and a few others that might come out to you all in the future. ;) All they take is a few added ingredients, a bowl, and spoon. Super easy to do no matter where you go on vacation. I am SO thankful I packed all of these. They made the trip extra special for the two of us.
Security in the airport did look at me funny when they went through my carry-on full of baking mixes, but they tested them for residue and let me go on my way. I just expect that I will get stopped in the security line at the airport so we give ourselves a bit of extra time to accommodate for this. No one has ever given us a hassle about carrying so much food; they have always been understanding once I explain why we do it. It’s good practice for us to educate others and also learn to be patient in these situations.
We do realize that not everyone has an amazing family that accommodates as well as ours does. Trust me, we have family that doesn’t accommodate us at all too. Maybe that should be a post for another day. Nonetheless, the helpful traveling tips above can all be done staying in a hotel or Air BnB too. It just requires you to do the shopping.
I hope today’s post was helpful for you, as we get a lot of questions about traveling. Be sure to come by next week to read part 2 and share if you find this helpful! If you ever have questions, please let us know. We are more than happy to help you live your best free from life!