How to Prepare for a Gluten Free Holiday
Going on holiday is always exciting, but when you are coeliac or gluten intolerant it can also be pretty nerve wracking. Where will I eat? How will I explain what gluten is? Where will I stay?
In this blog post I will attempt to quell some of those fears by sharing my tips for preparing for a gluten free holiday. As requested by some of my lovely followers, it will cover things like:
· How to find restaurants
· How to find accommodation
· What to take with you
· How to communicate that you are gluten free
· Allergy cards
· Translation apps
How to research restaurants abroad
It is important to flag that none of these tips are substitutes for being cautious. You should always make your own inquiries at the restaurants. There really is no need to feel awkward doing so, your health is important!
1. Gluten free guides
My first port of call is always a quick google search for e.g. ‘ThailandGluten Free Guide’. I have various gluten free guides here on this website, as do lots of other gluten free bloggers, and it’s great to find that someone has done the research and testing for you!
Laura from My Gluten Free Guide has a really extensive list of guides, and as she is coeliac you can be sure to trust her recommendations.
Another thing I always do is a quick search on Instagram. Head to the search page, type in gluten free followed by the place you’re going (e.g. glutenfreebarcelona), and click on tags.
Here you will be able to see all of the posts where someone has used the hashtag #glutenfreebarcelona! If you tap the little flag in the bottom right corner of an Instagram picture, you will be able to save it. If you hold down on the flag you can even save to a specific collection, so that you have your own collection of restaurant ideas saved.
It is worth having a quick look at the poster’s profile, just to make sure that their recommendation is likely to be reliable.
3. Trip Advisor (with a handy tip!)
If you run a Google search for e.g. gluten free Dubrovnik, one of the top search results is likely to be from Trip Advisor, giving you the “Top 10 Gluten Free Restaurants in Dubrovnik”.
This might seem great, but it should be approached with caution. Anyone can write a review and tick the ‘gluten free options’ box, so there is no guarantee that the restaurant actually has gluten free/coeliac safe options.
My top tip is to click on the restaurant, and then type ‘gluten’ into the search box beneath ‘show reviews that mention’. This will filter the reviews so that you will only see reviews from travellers who have specifically mentioned gluten.
4. Schar On the Go
On the Schar website you can search for gluten free restaurants in specific locations, and you can also filter by cuisine type. This does not always give the most extensive list, but is always a good place to check.
5. Collating your results
I’m a sucker for a bit of organisation, and I love a table. I always create a table with the place name, name of the restaurant, where I got the recommendation, and some info. I then colour code this with different colours for breakfast/lunch/dinner/treats, so that a hungry Georgia can easily pick a restaurant.
If you’re going to a big city, I would recommend plotting the things you find on a map (you can do this in Google maps). That way you can easily find a nearby restaurant if you need to eat on the go.
How to find accommodation
A lot of the tips above, particularly the Trip Advisor tip of typing ‘gluten’ into the search box beneath ‘show reviews that mention’, apply equally to looking for accommodation.
My personal preference is usually to get an apartment or Airbnb as opposed to a hotel. The main reason for this is that I can prepare breakfast for myself. I am a big breakfast person, and have spent one too many holidays walking round for hours to end up with fruit and yoghurt.
That being said, coeliac awareness is on the up, and hotels are getting much better. As well as checking Trip Advisor, it is definitely worth emailing the hotel and asking if they are able to cater for gluten free. Don’t let being gluten free put you off if you would prefer to go all inclusive, but if you do so don’t be afraid to explain your circumstances to the staff and ensure they can advise what is gluten free.
What I take with me
As I said above, I am a big breakfast person and tend to make my own breakfast. Even if I am staying in a hotel, I will still often taken cereal or granola and add fruit, milk or yoghurt from the buffet. I also usually take some bread, either for breakfast or for picnics on the beach. Having bread on hand means you can just buy some cheese or another sandwich filling and you’re good to go!
I take an emergency supply of snacks, because there is nothing worse than being hangry on holiday! However, as someone with quite a sweet tooth (and who can fortunately tolerate dairy) I do tend to pick up an ice cream as a snack on holiday.
For my two week trip to Croatia I am taking:
· Nestle Go Free Cornflakes
· 1 pack Genius gluten free crumpets
· 1 pack Genius gluten free pancakes
· 2 packs Schar ciabatta rolls
· Co-op free from rocky road
· Eat natural bars
If you are coeliac, some airlines will give you additional baggage allowance if you request it, so that you can fit all your gluten free goodies in your suitcase!
2. Allergy card
As there can sometimes be a bit of a language barrier, I usually take an allergy card which explains that I cannot eat gluten. I tend to give this to the waiter at the start of the meal, and then ask if that is ok before ordering. If you are coeliac, there are lots of cards that explain cross contamination.
These are widely available online for free, I sometimes take a few just in case one does not get the message across correctly.
3. Google translate app
The Google translate app has a camera function, where it will translate writing in a picture. This is amazing for translating ingredients in a supermarket, or on the rare occasion where restaurants don’t have an English menu.
4. ‘Just in case’ supplies
Even with all the will in the world, sometimes we get ‘glutened’. The last thing we want on holiday is to find ourselves unprepared away from home, so it is definitely worth taking anything that makes you feel better when you are unwell. For me, the must-brings are peppermint tea, paracetamol and my colitis medication, but this could really be anything that works for you.
I hope that this post has helped you to feel a bit better about planning for a gluten free holiday. The most important thing is to try to relax and enjoy yourself. Happy holidays!