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  1. 1

    Carly (Gluten Free B)

    Hiya

    I travel regularly with work, both in the UK and abroad; before and after diagnosis (in fact I blame the trigger for my CD on a work trip but that’s another story!)

    In short, I find it tricky. If you can, the best answer is masses of preparation. This is tricky if you are a busy executive or have to travel last minute. My tips are:

    Like you have done, speak or email the hotel in advance. When I went to Singapore the hotel had already put all the restaurant/room service menus in my room with GF option highlighted. Every morning at breakfast a note on my profile alerted them to my diet and they made me something special – muffins, pancakes, allsorts!

    Make sure your client/team abroad is aware or understand your needs for booking any team dinners/lunches. Offer to explain to the restaurant if needed.

    Ask about the facilities at the office you are going to – my current client site has no canteen, and previous had one but with nothing I could eat.

    If language is a barrier, I use the ‘GF cards’ app on my iPhone which has translations in all major languages explaining my diet. My colleagues are also used as translators!

    If possible – take supplies and clear our your minibar to accommodate them. Aforementioned trip to Singapore involved an industrial supply of crackers and gf breads (leaving room for some sneaky airport shopping on the way back). My client in Brussels laughed at me when I showed up every Monday morning with 3 days worth of packed lunch supplies in a cool bag. I now have to check in a bag whereas before I was all about the carry-on and tutting in the queue!

    Also, get ‘gluten free’ put on your frequent traveller/loyalty card profiles – this means it is automatically flagged when you make the booking. The big chains are generally better at dealing with this.

    And… always remember snacks next to your laptop for the plane in case you have last minute flight change or your airline doesn’t cater. There’s nothing worse than rushing for the last flight home when you are hungry and having nothing to do but neck lots of red wine!

    Sadly there are no easy answers, and I have had slip ups. To be super careful I do find myself eating lots of plain grilled meat and salads. It just makes going home that extra bit nicer.

    Reply
  2. 2

    Skye M.

    I use the apps “Find Me Gluten Free” and “The Gluten Free Registry” to find safe restaurants wherever I am, and only dine at restaurants that have GF menus (not just a few GF items; that tells me they aren’t putting in the effort to accommodate). But I also know that I just can’t eat dressings, butter, sauces, etc., regardless of whether or not I’m told they’re safe. I carry a small, leak-proof bottle (from the Container Store) of oil-based salad dressing with me. I always call ahead, and if I get the slightest feeling the restaurant isn’t getting it, I just don’t go. Once there, I use my chef card (available in multiple languages on the web), and if I get the feeling it’s not taken seriously, I leave. That’s a pain, but less of a pain than getting glutenized. Carry safe snacks with you. Book a room with a kitchenette if possible so you can cook a safe meal during a long stay. And just be resigned to plain-cooked meats and salads until you get home; it’ll make coming home all the more sweeter!

    Reply
    1. 2.1

      Bethanne

      I also use find me gluten free and other apps to help me find a restaurant. I’m also not afraid to use my handy dandy bright red “I’m a celiac and have dreaded ‘ALLERGIES'” card. More often than not, when I ask the waiter to give it to the chef, the chef comes and speaks with me. I am also not above asking to see the ingredients on a particular dressing or prepackaged food that they might use. One of my favorite restaurants is Oyamel in DC. Out of all of the places I have traveled, they were the one’s most concerned with my disease and even the wait staff knew/understood what it takes to get it right. I can’t always stop at a grocery store.. it never fails that my conferences/meetings are in a downtown location where a grocery store is a ways away, but often, concierge service is helpful in that regard… or I’ll walk to find a cvs or some other store where I can purchase SOMETHING. Nice to hear I’m not the only one who has to deal with the crap of traveling for work.

      Reply
  3. 3

    Christine

    The only way I know to combat this is preparation, preparation, and more preparation.

    Search the web for safe places to eat near where you’re staying.

    When you’re online, always check to see if the city you’re visiting has a celiac support group; these people know where to eat and often have a restaurant list posted on their website.

    Let the company you’re visiting know your lfood limitations so that when they get Subway takeout for lunch you’re not left going hungry.

    Unfortunately, packing food is the main way to combat going hungry. I’d suggest high density snacks, like nuts and protein bars that take up less space and will fill you up.

    Reply
  4. 4

    GF-and more

    I had similar issues when I travel for business, but I think switching my mindset to “I’ve got to do what it takes to protect myself” has helped me stay safe even in those situations. My strategies:

    (1) Don’t eat out. Just don’t. Do not do it. I don’t even go to restaurants that have a “GF menu” – too much risk of cross-contamination, contaminated ingredients, etc. The waiter can get something mixed up, the kitchen might think something is GF when it has, say, barley but not “wheat” in it. Sometimes they don’t even know what’s in each and every ingredient. Knives are flying, soups are being ladled out in a hurry, salads chopped next to croutons: it’s a disaster area in my mind. I eat NOTHING “out” except maybe a piece of whole unpeeled fruit (think banana, orange, etc.) Sliced fruit is out – who knows what the knife touched or what else was on the cutting board.

    (2) Given my Decision #1, what do I eat? I bring food. Depending on the circumstance, who I’m with, etc., I’ll bring homemade safe travel-bars, my own nuts/dried fruit to munch on, my own fruit, my own raw veggies (carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, cut bell peppers, etc), my own safe “muffin/roll”-thingies, etc. I have even brought my own entire meal in a nice stainless steel wide container (like a plate) and whipped it out to have when everyone else was eating their meals at a conference. I make a non-messy, one-bowl meal that is visually attractive and eat. Safely.

    (3) Given my Decision #3, what do I say to my business dining companions? Something along the lines of “I have so many severe food allergies that I need to have my own food to stay safe and healthy. I’m used to it, so please don’t worry.” That’s all – no detailed explanations, and absolutely no apologies. This is a medical necessity, not a whim or a fad diet. I wouldn’t apologize if I had cancer, severe seizures, etc. I didn’t do anything wrong, and there’s no reason to go down that road. Most of the time I’ve found people to be very respectful of it, as long as I’m strong, politely assertive, and project the impression that I am comfortable with myself, my needs, and still able to tackle the business at hand. If someone goes down the road of “oh, let me just get you some fresh fruit or a salad” I’ll just politely and firmly restate the line above in different words – but I won’t get pressured into caving. Making too much of it distracts from the work we are all there to do. And often the others there know someone (even a friend-of-a-friend) who has some sort of food allergy/intolerance – or even once in a while celiac! Keeping the focus on business makes it clear to them that my medical needs are a non-issue.

    (4) Now that I’m clear on the actual meeting meals, what about the rest of the trip? Again, returning to my Decision #2. Bring food. I’ll always always stay in a hotel where they provide me with a mini-refrigerator and microwave. When I make my reservation I’ll say specifically that I need these items for a medical need – my multiple and severe food allergies/celiac. Not going into it, but just a quick 1 line statement that this is why I’m asking. And I’ll bring food with me. Easily portable things that don’t have to be refrigerated if possible, and that can be a one-dish meal. Think large sweet potatoes. Brown rice. Homemade energy bars. Whole fruits. Nuts. Pumpkin seeds. Not much variety during my trip, but at least I’ll be fed and safe. I always clean and scrub down the microwave before heating ANYTHING and even then I”ll avoid cooking if I can. Too often there are crumbs or other gluten-containing ingredients left behind. Boiling water heated in the microwave until it spills all over, scrubbed on all surfaces, etc.
    And on a related measure, if I can find a hotel near to a grocery, so much the better. Even if it means I’m further away from the conference/business end of things, I’ll deal with that in exchange for a chance to have safe food.

    (6) Planning. With Decisions #1-6 above, a lot of planning is needed. I’ll outline all of my meals before I go, listing the meal, what I’ll eat, and where it will need to be eaten. No gaps, no “I’ll figure it out.” Breakfast on day 1 will be A, B, C. Lunch on day 1 will be in a meeting. Bring along D, E, F. and so on. If I’m traveling on a train, I can bring a lot of food. If I’m going by plane for an extended meeting somewhere, I’ll make arrangements to have my food shipped from my home to the hotel I’m staying at so it arrives the day that I do. Most hotels will allow packages to be sent to the front desk in the name of a hotel guest. And I’ll always look back to the possibility of staying near a grocery so I can pick things up if practical.

    The main thing I’ve found it to be confident, assertive (but polite) and make clear that these issues don’t interfere with the business that needs to be done. People are human, and they understand most of the time. Taking care of myself is a priority. I’ve not done anything wrong, and there’s no need to apologize or act as if I have, or as if I’m inconveniencing anyone. I take care of myself, and make it clear that “I’m okay, please don’t worry.”

    Note: The one time I’ve eaten out was when I was at a 2 week conference at a luxury resort. I called ahead, had a trained chef certified in GF stuff assigned to me who prepared each and every meal in a dedicated kitchen. He followed me to conference lunches and had a separate plate waiting. Anytime I ate, even at non-conference meals, I was there to prepare my food. When there was some confusion about a plate delivery, I called him on my cell directly and he came over clear from the other end of the facility and remedied the situation. We sat for over 1 hour when I first got there to work out my meal schedule, multiple food needs, and even my preferences. It was a dream, and he was a blessing. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime gift, and I’ll always stick with the Decisions I listed above. I mention this exception to say that there are safe people out there who care, and at those places it is possible to be well taken care of. Use your judgment as to how long you’ll be there, what kind of place it is, their reputation, etc. Ask and call beforehand, but always be wary – extra wary – and assume that you are the only one who can look out for you.

    Reply
  5. 5

    Kim (Coeliacme)

    I’m lucky in the sense that I don’t often travel for work unless training, and we have an on-site canteen that mark their daily menus with a ‘GF’ symbol. However, I do like to travel personally and also used to work in a hotel, so I know a few things.

    The biggie, which you’ve already covered, is preparation. If you know in advance where you’re staying, speak to them at least 1 week prior to your stay. Ask to take a look at their menu, and offer meals you’d like to eat, and how they can be made GF. Or, give them a list of meals specifically if there’s nothing you fancy. State if you’d like GF cereal or bread to be available. Preparation for the hotels is key to ensure that each chef and waiter is prepared and they have the correct ingredients. We used to keep a loaf of bread in the freezer, just incase. A list of the main ingredients chefs should look out for (wheat flour in sauces, seasoning, soy sauce etc) is always a plus, just in case their not as knowledgeable as we might hope. Lucky for my GF guests I could go and do the shopping for the chefs and pick yummy snacks out, but it’s always best not to assume!

    One thing I’ve realised, is that if I ever have to send a meal back, because say bread wasn’t listed on the menu but has appeared on the same plate as my salad, you HAVE to remind them to create a fresh salad on a fresh plate. Once or twice before it’s been sent back with nothing changed except the suspicious ingredient removed, and I just end up looking fussy sending it back a second time!

    I always take snacks with me wherever I go- cereal bars, crackers, biscuits, crisps (okay, not healthy but they’re the basics!). You’re better off taking them than guessing you’ll be able to pick something up. Also, research is key. For example, I know there is wide availability of GF products in France, Slovakia, Poland and Italy. so find out what products are out there!

    Airports are always tricky, and my experiences of Heathrow T3 are ridiculous! But again, check what outlets are there and call them. See if they can advise you, or if they can bring something in for your date of travel. There’s no harm in asking!

    Hotels will also always empty the minibar if requested, which will leave enough room for any products you bring/purchase while your there.

    I always confirm any in-flight meals prior to departure, and as I’m usually travelling with my boyfriend, we order two GF meals, just in case. As it happened, on our way back from Canada last year my GF meal was dropped, so I was offered ‘normal’ alternatives. Instead, my boyfriend gave me his and had the normal meal and it saved so much hassle! If you travel with colleagues it may be worth doing the same.

    As Carly mentioned, the GF translation cards are a GODSEND. Definitely good to have handy!

    On our training courses a sandwich lunch is always provided, so again I request a GF meal before hand, and take extra snacks.

    Unfortunately there will always be places that aren’t well catered for Coeliacs, but it’s something that is continually getting better. iI really is all about preparation, and the rest is down to how well your needs are understood.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  6. 6

    Green tea

    Listen to GF- and more.
    I go by the book of what he says. Stay safe and unapologetic, and confident. Done well, it won’t appear rude. For anxious people this can be hard.
    Add to that – when I am asked to travel to a remote area – I just ask that they send someone else. (Think some remote indian reservations, etc). I tell them if I can’t find food easily it will be a problem. Hopefully your boss will understand. Bring enough food to last that long – and don’t beat yourself up if it’s unlhealtly GF, because it needs to be compact etc.

    Reply
  7. 7

    Connie

    I am not a 100% business traveler, but I am often on the opposite end – I do planning at the hotels for conferences and other business travel options. I posted a long time ago on Ravelry about how to plan a banquet, but you’d never know that unless you were a knitter or crocheter LOL.

    So…a lot of the people here have posted about preparation. That’s key, so I’m not going to reiterate it.

    I suck at planning for the few trips a year I take (excepting my conference, in which the hotel caters to my every need and I’ve got everything planned out 90 days in advance) so here’s some strategies I use:
    1. Work with the hotel if they’re good at gluten free prep. Often they are able to make me a gf boxed lunch that’s as good as anything the restaurant my coworkers are eating at will serve
    2. Take a cab to a nearby grocery store. If you’re not in a rural area, its often easy to find options there like Whole Foods, where you can get gf sushi or other premade options.
    3. Ask the locals what they recommend for a restaurant. Often you’ll hear stories about the restaurants that are particularly lazy at service or staffed by high schoolers, and you’ll know what to avoid.
    4. Eat chain restaurant locations only. Not 100% risk free, but better than not.
    5. I keep certain words in my do-not-order-ever-no-matter-what-the-chef/waiter-says – cream, soy, spicy, Chinese or Asian inspired, crunchy, bready, crusted, etc. No matter what, there’s guaranteed to be a problem because you’re banking on that your message won’t get screwed up (think like you’re playing telephone when you order…your message goes to the waiter, who goes to the sous-chef, who goes to the head chef, which comes back to the sous-chef, which comes back to the waiter, which comes back to you).
    6. Be bold enough to go talk to the chef in person. I do this most of the time and the chefs are cool with it – they want to make something you can eat! They’ll also be able to warn you about cross-contamination issues and may be able to offer to do your meal separately.

    You’ve got a life threatening condition, so you’ve got to make some plans, and if you don’t make those plans, you’ve got to be bold enough to be direct about figuring things out yourself. I’ve been on eight trips since going gf, and I haven’t been glutenated once.

    Reply
    1. 7.1

      Connie

      Also, I meant to also mention that when you have to eat out, you should always inspect before eating. Servers and chefs are human too, and sometimes they forget. I never eat anything anymore without thoroughly pushing it around to see if there’s anything hidden I can’t see.

      And if I do find something, I send it back. I don’t eat around it, or try to pick it out.

      Reply
  8. 8

    Doug

    Thanks for all the good ideas.

    To review, my glutening on business trips occurs on a rate of 2-3%. That’s the rate for only going to restaurants with GF menus, and avoiding all others. My objective is to drive the rate into the tenths of a percent while still being able to travel

    The suggestion to purchase only “known good” food from groceries will undoubtably drive the rate down to an acceptable level. I’ve kept away from that idea because of some practical considerations unique to certain locations. I can see it working in other instances, and I’ll certainly use it for those.

    The “Preparation, preparation, preparation” idea is also a winner. I’ve used the apps for finding GF restaurants as a quick screening tool for whether I should even consider taking a given trip. Unfortunately, the GF restaurants are where I have the 2-3% failure rate. I’ve also looked at celiac support group web sites for restaurant lists (the Washington DC groups list is awesome!). But very few groups maintain lists.

    Calling a restaurant a week ahead of time sounds like a winner. The chef in the restaurant in this Atlanta hotel said the like hearing of these requests ahead of time because it gave them time to prepare. But calling ahead doesn’t always work. For my previous trip I called ahead, the chef made the right noises. And my breakfast was delivered with whole wheat toast on the eggs. Evidently the clueless server thought he could get a bigger tip by giving me free toast.

    At least I’m blessed with an employer who gets it. Whether or not to travel is my option. Maybe keeping safe will also keep me at home.

    Thanks again to all.

    Reply
  9. 9

    Miss Dee Meanor

    Before traveling anywhere I check the multitude of local Celiac blogs. They can provide a wealth of first-hand information (both good and bad) about how local restaurants have been able to accomodate gluten-free or have failed miserably. Many of these have chefs who know CD firsthand, but don’t make it to the apps that we so often rely on. I can’t think of any major areas that do not have local Celiacs who give recommendatons. The most stressfull is during flights and long layovers. I’ve also read that “glulen-free” meals offered by some airlines aren’t GF at all so I just avoid them.

    When I get to a destinarion the first thing I do is make a stop at a grocery store or produce stand/market and load up on gluten-free foods that at least have some nutritional value that I can pack in a car or keep in my room. Gluten-free wraps/bread to make sandwiches in my room and an assortment of nuts, fruits, and berries are always easy to keep in the hotel refrigerator or in a small cooler , One of my favorites to have on hand is sugar snap peas, celery sticks, and baby carrots used as dippers for huumus. If you can eat dairy, then you also have many more options.like cheese and yogurts.

    Traveling is the biggest stres that I have. I walked out of a 5-star restaurant in San Diego because I didn’t feel they “got it” even though they said they did. A chef needs to explain to me how they will prepare the food safely to prevent cross-contamination not just tell me which items contain no gluten. If a chef is worth his/her title, he/she will know this and be proud to share. My favorite restaurants in Columbia and Charleston, SC have not only done that for me, but also “get” why it’s important due to having family members that have CD.

    Happy traveling!!

    Reply
  10. 10

    IrishHeart

    I’m a bit late here and you have all covered the travel by plane and eating in restaurants ideas so well, but I would like to add this to the suggestion pile, if I may.

    If traveling by car, you may wish to use a Koolatron cooler. I bought one through Amazon. It plugs into the cigarette lighter and we transported enough cold food for a 3- day car ride to Florida.

    Staying in hotels with small kitchens or microwaves and fridges helped us get through the travel.

    A member of celiac. com posted a lengthy list of helpful tips, including using flexible cutting boards and toaster bags. Because of her advice, I put together a “portable kitchen” of sorts and I was able to travel for a month without getting glutened. (until I ate out, but that’s another story….)

    Some of you may find it interesting and helpful. Right here, post #8

    http://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/topic/95232-staying-in-hotels/

    Cheers all!

    Reply
  11. 11

    Amanda

    The planning piece, so well covered here, has definitely been the key for me for business or pleasure travel. I would also suggest that when you make contact with the chef at a hotel that you request suggestions for local restaurants that might have attentive chefs and be accommodating. I have had a lot of success with this. Also, I just ask to speak to the chef straight away when I arrive at any restaurant.

    For packing safe snacks, use every little bit of hidden space (I often put GF bars in a ziploc and then put them inside shoes in my suitcase).

    And a specific reco I can offer would be dining at Fairmont hotel restaurants (even if you are not a guest). They take great care in preparing a number of menus suited to various dietary restrictions and as a company take GF very seriously, in my experience.

    Reply
  12. 12

    Anna K

    I can completely relate….I’m on the road for work about once a month and often travel internationally, as well. My plan of attack is:
    (1) as many others have said, bring food with you! My go-to travel foods are dried fruit, think thin bars, kind bars, GF beef jerky, little apple sauce packs, gf pretzels, and breakfast bars.
    (2) I try to at least stop at a grocery store or at least gas stations for other types of perishable foods like yoplait yogurts, string cheese, bananas, apples, etc.
    (3) research area restaurants and try to find a few that are accommodating. Sometimes I even call before I leave for my trip or while waiting in airports. When I have to go out for business meals, I try to direct everyone to these restaurants.
    (4) for business meals that I can’t control the location, I try to have a quiet chat with our server or the hostess and explain that I need a plain salad and ask that the chefs change their gloves before they make it. I’m usually still hungry after eating plain salads….so after the meals, I try to sneak some of my think thin bars or kind bars to keep me going for the afternoon.
    Hope that helps!

    Reply
  13. 13

    Darin Alpert

    Thanks dude for this great article about gluten-free business travel!

    I actually manage http://www.findmeglutenfree.com and our free apps for iPhone/Android called Find Me Gluten Free.

    It is a great tool for finding gluten-free locations on the go with over 25,000 restaurants/stores and 13,000 reviews written from gluten-free consumers!

    Reply
  14. 14

    Kate

    I travel anywhere from 1-4 weeks of the year, usually to Europe, which is hit-or-miss on celiac depending on the country. Italy and Scandinavia are great; France, Germany, Belgium, etc. not so much. There are gluten free options at grocery stores if I have time to find them, but generally i don’t. I do a lot of research ahead of time so I know where things are in case I need them, though.

    My other strategies include:
    – Bringing a large stash of gluten free food with me. Things like crackers and nuts, cereal bars, gluten-free instant oatmeal, instant rice noodles & canned meat or fish I can pack in my checked bag, as well as extra food for my flight. (Usually, I’m able to request a gluten free meal, but I always have something on hand in case they mess it up or my flight changes) At my husband’s suggestion, I’m bring a couple of GF freeze-dried meals with me this time, too. I also bring a plastic bowl and utensils. Microwaves aren’t usually available in European hotel rooms, but they usually have a pot to heat water, so any kind of ‘just add hot water’ meal works.

    – Making sure I have the appropriate language cards. Also, if I’m eating with people from the place I’m visiting, I always explain my problem and enlist their help in speaking with the wait staff and restaurant selection.

    – I look into the kinds of food that is available in that country and what is most likely to be GF. For example, I’m going to Brussels, and I plan to pretty much exist on Steak Frites for dinner – broiled steak and fries – because I know it’s likely to be safe. I don’t try many new things on trips anymore. I also load up on things like fruit and hard boiled eggs at the hotel breakfast buffet, so I can save them for lunch later.

    It’s not perfect, and I’ve thought about changing jobs because of this – but overall, I’ve had relatively good luck with this. It takes a lot of planning, but it’s better than getting sick!

    Reply
  15. 15

    KateJ

    In the UK, you can buy Graze boxes, I believe they are coming to the US soon. They are neat, compact boxes, each containing 4 punnets of food. Depending on what’s in it (each one is a different combination – and you can choose to have only lighter options) they contain 400-600 calories total – so 4 snacks or 1 meal. I can get 2 in my briefcase and still leave room left for the stuff that’s supposed to be in there (if my briefcase were empty, I could fit about 8…). You can choose gluten-free and/or milk free, but I freely admit they are rubbish if you have a nut allergy. They cost about as much as a bought sandwich. They like you to “subscribe” to a box a week, but you can stop the subscriptions and just have them as and when (eg, get a load delivered just before you go on a business trip…). They keep for a week or two without refrigeration, and I find them ideal if I know I’ve got to eat out, but have no idea where I can get food. Because they are all pre-packaged, you don’t get the problems at airports of taking across home-prepared food (but you might need to take care if you go to Australasia, I think the rules are really strict there).

    Reply
  16. 16

    AmandaonMaui

    For business trips my partner and I stay in extended stay type hotels with efficiency kitchens. This means a full sized fridge, two burner stove, pots, pans, and utensils. I’ve heard of people shipping cookware ahead of themselves to these types of hotels, but I’ve not had any problem with the existing dishes as long as I wash them thoroughly before using them.

    I also take toaster bags (amazing magical things!) so I can have easy toast or poptarts. I like having the kitchen available as I can microwave a gluten free dinner, or whip up something healthy when I have more time.

    Reply
  17. 17

    Sarah

    I have the same problem times 3… I also react to soy and dairy just as strong (and much faster) than I react to gluten. Fortunately I only have to go to about 3 conferences a year and they’re all in NY state. I bring a 3 day cooler, a packaway cookware set from the camping supply store, and a little hotplate. I hate to miss the networking and sessions that are conducted with the meals, but I would miss even more if I were stuck in the toilets for the next 2 or 3 days.

    Reply
  18. 18

    kate

    This is all very useful information and so wanted to thank you all for these posts. I am new to having gluten intolerance / sensitivity where I get terrible reflux and stomach pain when eating gluten. I was finally feeling much better and then took a business trip and was repeatedly glutened and came home feeling miserable. I just returned from another trip aboard and also was exposed again. I did better on the second trip as I prepared but clearly didnt do enough as i thought that the food served at the business meetings would have GF options as I had requested ahead of time but then i found myself in a bind. I am also finding that wait staff do not seem to really get it and so when i eat out i feel most at risk. Have one more trip this year and so will be taking far more food with me as i dont want to get trapped again!!

    Reply

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