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.