Road trips can be the most fun ever, but without careful planning they can quickly turn into disasters. Remember the Griswold family (National Lampoon’s Vacation-1983)? Even though Clark W. Griswold planned every detail of the entire trip down to the minute, things got complicated. No matter how well-planned the trip, things can still go terribly wrong. Sound familiar? I recall a road trip to Branson, MO where a chicken truck flipped over and we were stuck in middle-of-nowhere-Arkansas for hours waiting for the highway to reopen! Luckily, I had lots of safe snacks and a travel-sized Connect Four game, so were fine, but I’ve also been on road trips and vacations where I was not prepared and my dream trips became nightmares.
Packing for my first gluten-free road trip was a chore and I learned a lesson. I wasn’t prepared for a lengthy traffic snarl and didn’t think to pre-plan meals on the road. I tried eating what I thought was safe at a fast food restaurant and paid the price with many unexpected potty breaks. That’s something I never want to do again. Gluten cross contamination is even worse than Aunt Edna’s dog urinating on the Griswold's sandwiches!
So what does a gluten free family do to ensure a successful road trip? Plan carefully. Check out these GFree Genius road trip hacks to help you plan your next epic adventure!
Plan pit stops
If you’re traveling with children, I recommend planning a pit stop every couple of hours. I look for rest areas or parks with clean restrooms to allow everyone a chance to stretch their legs and burn some energy. We’ve even been known to stop at grocery stores if we need snacks or supplies and park in the back of the parking lot where we have space to run and play. We always take a ball or Frisbee for my husband and kids to throw while I get snacks out of the cooler. I recommend skipping convenience stores (except for stopping for fuel) because drinks and snacks are expensive—and it is highly likely that gluten-free snacks will not be available.
The easiest option is to check out the Find Me Gluten Free app and do some research to see if there are any dedicated gluten-free restaurants along your route. I always try to visit those places, but they are few and far between in the South. When I know there are no safe options or that my schedule won’t allow us to dine at a dedicated gf eatery, I take meals to eat on the go. For example, I pre-cooked taco meat and put it in the cooler and reheated it in my HotLogic Mini Oven while we were driving and assembled tacos with pre-cut lettuce, tomatoes and cheese from our cooler when we stopped. I also took pre-cooked hamburgers and ordered takeaway from the dedicated gluten free restaurant when we stopped for lunch to keep in the cooler for meals down the road.
I received a HotLogic Mini Oven as a Christmas gift and it has quickly proven to be our most valuable travel asset! This lunch box-sized personal portable oven can be plugged into the power inverter that the kids use to charge their electronics. It takes approximately an hour to reheat food, so plan accordingly to make sure your meal is hot when you’re ready for it.
Pack everything including the (collapsible) kitchen sink!
My last trip using the HotLogic Mini with precooked meals in the cooler replaced a lot of the items I usually pack, but to feed multiple people or if you don’t have a HotLogic Mini, there are several things I recommend packing. My travel kitchen includes a utility tote with kitchen essentials (camp stove with fuel, pan, spatula, flatware, paper plates/bowls, salt and pepper, dish soap, pot holder, paper towels and knife). I also take a fully-stocked cooler and water to use for cooking and cleanup.
Gluten-free travel isn’t always easy, but preparation will help ensure safe meals and snacks are always available. I savor the moments when we have a safe restaurant, but when none are available, this is the best and safest way I’ve found for our family to travel—especially since my 11-year-old gluten-free son has discovered his appetite.
What tips do you have to make gluten-free travel easier? Comment below to share!
This IS NOT a sponsored post. I have not received compensation from any of the above-mentioned companies and opinions are my own.
Could your mystery health problems be caused by celiac disease?
May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month and I want to raise awareness to help people who are going through what I have already experienced. Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease affecting 1 in 133 people in the U.S., is the root cause of nearly 300 different symptoms ranging from digestive problems, headaches, skin rashes, anxiety and depression just to name a few. It actually took 15 years of treating symptoms before I found the underlying cause of my misery. Migraines, chronic diarrhea, premature osteoporosis, miscarriage and very difficult pregnancies with preterm labor were the main symptoms that doctors kept treating with pills. I think I developed every side effect of every drug ever prescribed and my symptoms only got worse until I learned about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. It was truly life changing.
It was also lifestyle changing. No longer could I run through a fast food drive-thru to pick up dinner on the way home from work or grab a snack cake out of the pantry for a quick snack. I actually had to learn what was safe to eat and what wasn’t. I had to have a plan. This change also affected my family in a big way.
Gluten, a tiny protein found in wheat, barley and rye, was making me deathly ill and I was willing to do anything to learn where it was hiding and completely eliminate it from my diet. After a lot of research and help from the celiac community (and a few mistakes along the way), I got the hang of it pretty quickly and I was able to convert many of my family’s favorite recipes to make them safe for me to eat. I declared my kitchen to be dedicated gluten free and made every effort to get rid of gluten. New cutting boards, strainers and stone bakeware were a few of the first steps I took to rid my kitchen of this protein that is my kryptonite. In just a couple of weeks, my symptoms started disappearing. No more migraines, aches and pains, or diarrhea made the effort totally worth it.
My husband was (and still is) very supportive and chose to eat what I ate, but the kids were not so willing. My pro-gluten daughter actually refused to eat anything that didn’t contain gluten. I’m glad that phase didn’t last long. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately for her), I’m the one who pays and shops for groceries, so she didn’t have the much choice in what she ate at home. She still had the option of eating whatever she wanted at school and when she visited grandparents, but at home, she had to eat what I bought and prepared—and she actually prefers it now and can tell that she feels bad when she consumes gluten.
My son, on the other hand, was suffering from his own growing list of symptoms and we figured out that gluten was his enemy, too. He was born at 35 weeks and was ALWAYS sick. At three weeks of age, he was hospitalized with a respiratory illness that doctors never diagnosed. My newborn was on IV antibiotics and had severe constipation. He started having migraines, behavioral issues, chronic ear infections and speech delays. Doctors only wanted to treat him with prescription medication and I knew that wasn’t the answer. It turns out that I was right. Just two weeks after changing his diet, his symptoms subsided. His teacher even texted to tell me whatever I had changed with my son was working and to not stop. His behavior chart quickly changed from red to green, his ear infection went away and he started meeting his speech therapy goals. By the end of that semester, he was released from speech therapy and never had another ear infection. The headaches also subsided.
Know the Symptoms
There are approximately 3oo symptoms associated with celiac disease. Click here to see if you have symptoms. Also, if you have a family member that has been diagnosed, it is recommended that you also be tested. Some people actually have celiac disease and have no symptoms. It is a hereditary condition, so if someone in your family has celiac disease, there’s a good chance that you could also have it.
If you have symptoms or a diagnosed family member, ask your doctor to screen you for celiac disease. The doctor will order a simple blood test. If the results are positive, the doctor will order an endoscope to get a small intestine biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. It is essential that you be consuming gluten for the test to be accurate. If you have already stopped eating gluten, your doctor will ask you to start eating it again for several weeks or months before testing can be done. If you are not willing to eat gluten again, there is a genetic test that can be done to see if you carry the gene for celiac disease, but this test is expensive and is usually not covered by insurance.
Positive test results. What next?
If your doctor diagnoses you with celiac disease, the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet. Gluten is in a lot of food, but there’s still plenty you can eat! Trust me—gluten free is not the end of the world! There are lots of foods that are naturally gluten free (fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish and poultry to name a few) that we should be eating for optimal health. I’m a self-proclaimed chocoholic and love a good brownie or cake. There are lots of really bad gluten free products on the market and I have spent an obscene amount of money buying gluten free bread, crackers and snacks that ultimately ended up in the trash. I learned so much from doing my own research, seeking out gluten-free bloggers, and attending amazing events like the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo. These events offer product samples from more than 100 companies, money saving coupons, discounted products, educational sessions taught by healthcare professionals, chefs and cookbook authors, and the opportunity to meet people who “get it.” GFAF Expo holds several events across the country, so check out their website for details and schedule.
Click here to read more about my family’s experience at GFAF Expo.
I have been selected to serve as an official blogger at the GFAF Expo-Atlanta and would encourage everyone who lives within driving distance (I’m driving six hours) to attend. Tickets are available by clicking HERE and you can save 20 percent off each ticket by using the promo code: ADVANCE. Beat the crowd and skip the line by purchasing your tickets in advance. The best part about this event is watching my son eat anything he wants. He feels like a regular kid at GFAF Expo.
Celiac disease is not a death sentence. While I do have frustrations with the fear of cross contact at restaurants and watching other people eat things that I used to love, gluten free feels so good. I don’t even consider cheating. I don’t want to damage my body with gluten.
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