How to Take a Gluten-Free & Stress-Free Vacation

stress free gluten free vacation
is there a test for gluten sensitivityDude note: The holidays are all about giving. So I thought I’d take the 14 days after Thanksgiving and answer 14 emails I’ve received from my fellow celiacs asking for guidance. And I’d like this to be a communal effort. My advice, shocking as this may be to hear (sarcasm), may not always be the best advice. So please chime in and lend your voice. Maybe I can clear my inbox at some point in 2016.

Day 7 of 14

As a celiac, vacation can mean stress. New hotel. Unknown restaurants. Possible language barriers. You know the drill. But it doesn’t have to be. Say what??? No…seriously.

I’m actually going on vacation in 8 days. My flight departs in exactly 11,723 minutes. Just a tad over 700,000 seconds. But who’s counting.

I tend to take one true vacation per year. As a small business owner, it’s tough to take more. So when I go away…I GO AWAY. And I don’t want stress on vacation! So for the past 4 years, I’ve done pretty much the same thing with the same crew with the same results. Pure awesomeness. I’ll explain below, but first, here’s an email from a fellow celiac asking how I take such stress-free vacations.

Hello Gluten Dude,

Can you tell me how you find your vacation spots and gluten free chefs when you go away? Last year we went to a beautiful resort in Punta Cana, but because of the language barrier, I was never fully sure if they understood my gluten free needs. I ate a LOT of fruit and salad and think I actually lost a pound on that vacation! Even when I thought they understood, they’d bring out some mashed potatoes with some “decorative” fried spaghetti sticking out of it.

I love reading your blogs about your stress-free gluten-free vacations and would really love to have one of those myself. Any advice or information you can share is greatly appreciated.

We are looking to go somewhere in the Caribbean next year to celebrate mine and my husband’s 50th birthdays as well as our 25th anniversary:)

Thanks so much!

Three words: Group. House. Chef.

A group because it helps with the cost.
A house because it becomes your home for a week compared to a hotel.
A chef because…well, do I have to explain?

Yes…it may be a bit more expensive but if you break the costs down, and you can find a few other people to travel with, you’d be surprised at how comparable it is to staying at a hotel and eating every meal out. And we’re talking about our health here. And vacations are supposed to be relaxing dang it.

For the houses we’ve stayed at the past 4 years, I was put in touch with the chef ahead of time and explained all of my needs. Every year has gone off without a hitch. Unless of course you count my back going out 2 out of the 4 years and I’m in dire pain as I’m writing this and I have 8 days to get my sh*t together. But let’s not talk about that.

So find yourself a travel agent in the Caribbean and utter those three magic words: Group. House. Chef.

Happy travels.

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15 thoughts on “How to Take a Gluten-Free & Stress-Free Vacation”

  1. I totally agree: group. House. Chef if you can. I also recommend any Disney property. They were amazing when I went this summer. Royal Caribbean cruises also have given me fantastic service and know what they are doing. Make friends with a travel agent(yes they still exist!) who can get you in touch with the right people when you travel.

      1. I went to Disney World in Orlando for 10 days a few months ago. I had absolutely no problems with them. With the exception that I prefer to eat a vegan diet, I understand that it is difficult to find too many gluten free-vegan options. However, there were plenty gluten free-dairy free options which is what we absolutely needed.

        It was great and I am very appreciative that the folks at Disney are very aware of the Celiac disease. It was an amazing family vacation with our young kids. My children did not feel “different” for once! There were gluten free options at every restaurant (even quick service), plus they took cross-contamination seriously, especially after I mentioned that we had Celiac disease. I was quite impressed. I can’t wait to go back.

  2. I definitely agree with the house/apartment rental. A few years ago I went on a choir trip to Spain. And then went to Paris and back to the States on the Queen Mary 2. The choir trip was abysmal in terms of eating. I had packed snacks, thank god, and took yogurts from the breakfast buffets, and managed that way. But there was one morning where there was nothing but bread. NOTHING. When I got to Paris, I rented a small apartment, best choice I ever made. Paris is actually a pretty good city to visit because they make the food in-house, mostly. So they know if there is flour in stuff. And most of the produce and such is very fresh. I actually found some decent g-f bread that I keep trying to replicate! And the Queen Mary 2 was a dream. It was amazing. They would bring me the next night’s menu, I would choose what I wanted to eat, and they would figure out how to make it gluten-free.

  3. one word……Concierge! Any resort has a Concierge and it is their job to make your vaccation :). go to them immediately upon arrive and get a letter in the local language explaining your dietary needs to carry everywhere. They can even introduce you to the chef and I have heard of one celiac who had wait staff available at every buffet expecting her and gave a guided GF safe tour of buffets and menus.

    another idea is yes rent a house or apartment from a local or Airbnb or just a bed & breadfast with warning they can do an amazing job! (and get these requests often—so they told me.)

  4. There are a few travel agents who specialize in GF vacations/keeping you safely fed on your vacations. The one I worked with to travel to Costa Rica (whom I found from a google search) was great!

  5. I am a yacht chef in the Caribbean married to a Celiac making me super sensative to people with allergies and see it from both sides.
    So many guests tell us what a joy it is to not have to worry on vacation when they come on the yacht.
    I know when we personally travel our suitcase looks like a grochery store with bubble wrap and food we can use if we have to. The potential of him getting sick is so stressful that it consumes us and we often don’t relax as much as we should. Same thing, you can’t trust any place to eat, you have a French printout explaining “Sans Gluten” in your pocket at all times (our last trip to Paris, which is the gluten capital of the world in my eyes)
    When we travel now, we also do the chef thing as much as possible to take the pressure off. Worth every penny 🙂

  6. Great article and great ides also. We are panning on going on a trip for my birthday and our 35 wedding anniversary in the New Year, we are booked in at a condo so I don’t have to worry about eating out and getting sick! I will be packing some food/snacks on the plain since we will be in the air at meal times. There are 4 of us going and I’m the only one who is celiac, so I’ll be cooking most of the time, but that’s ok I’d rather cook than be sick.

  7. I had a very good experience at an all-inclusive resort (Hard Rock in Cancun). We notified them ahead of time, and they had someone talk to me at check-in to confirm their allergen arrangements, and they provided me with a note in Spanish to show the staff at the restaurants. All the staff were aware of celiac and food allergies, and I didn’t get glutened the whole week. A couple of times I actually got better food than everyone else because the chef had to make my meals fresh.

    Mostly, we rent places through Airbnb or Verbo and do our own cooking, just like at home.

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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