Go online and look at gluten-free websites such as GlutenFreeTravelSite.com. See which destinations have gluten-free options, like New York City, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. Things to look for to determine if a destination is gluten-free-friendly are the number of restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels and resorts that offer gluten-free options in a chosen locale. Chain restaurants, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods markets, and hotels with kitchens provide many options for those who need to be gluten-free on the go.
Before traveling,contact a local celiac support group.
"This is a great way to get first-hand, personal advice from the locals who know the most gluten-free friendly places to visit, whether they are restaurants, markets, or hotels and resorts," said Broussard. To find celiac associations, browse the chapter listings under Celiac Associations on the GlutenFreeTravelSite.com Gluten-Free Resources page.
Book a hotel, resort, or apartment that has a kitchen. Residence Inn, Extended Stay, and Homewood Suites offer accommodations with kitchen facilities, notes Broussard.
If you don’t want to cook on your vacation, book a stay at a pricier hotel that has gluten-free menus. Omni Hotels, Fairmont Hotels, Hyatt Hotels, and The Ritz-Carlton all offer gluten-free menu options.
Carry a specially made dining card that describes the gluten-free diet, explains what to look for, and what foods are gluten-free and which ones arent.
"It is a way to communicate your needs succinctly and directly," said Broussard, who advises diners to talk directly to the chef or manager and not just the server about their needs.
The cards come in a variety of languages and can be downloaded for free off websites like www.celiactravel.com.
If you are dining at a place for the first time, call ahead and discuss your concerns and get your questions answered in advance. Before you book a table or a room, find out from the chef how he or she handles special dietary restrictions. As your trip gets closer, call again to see if the same chef you spoke to is still there.
Bring non-perishable gluten-free foods like gluten-free pasta, waffles, crackers, and bread. The pasta can be taken to restaurants for the kitchen to prepare and the other staples can be on hand in case the dining options at your travel destination turn out to be limited.
In general, larger cities, like New York, Washington, DC metro area, and San Francisco Bay Area as well as Boston; Boulder, Colo.; Chicago; Denver; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle tend to have more gluten-free options. Cities with chain restaurants are also an option. Chinese chain P.F. Chang’s has a gluten-free menu and all items served from it are presented on different plates, lessening the chance for mix-ups or mishandling of food.
"Disney has become the gold standard on gluten-free," said Broussard. "I didn’t have to cook or worry if my son’s meal was safe."
At each restaurant, the chef comes to the table and discusses options with you and personally makes sure you get a gluten-free meal.
The majority of major cruise lines now offer plenty of gluten-free options though user reviews vary widely on GlutenFreeTravelSite.com. Broussard suggests doing research, communicating your needs ahead of time, and packing gluten-free food as a backup.
"You can never do enough prep," said Broussard.
While most airlines no longer offer free meals on domestic flights, passengers seated in business and first class or on international flights can request gluten-free meals. Broussard warns that ordering a gluten-free meal ahead of time isn’t always reliable. She suggests bringing food as a backup in case a gluten-free option isn’t available.
Since there is no physical way to determine if something is gluten free, Broussard suggests looking around and seeing what other passengers are eating; the gluten-free meal is clearly different from what is typically served. Also, be wary of meals that arrive with packaged bread or cookies, which are often innocently placed on top, but could also indicate the meal may not be gluten-free.
Once you arrive at your vacation destination, use mobile versions of gluten-free advice. Broussard’s site GlutenFreeTravelSite.com has an on-the-go version that doesn’t require any downloading. Simply log onto the Internet on your smartphone and pull up the website to access the mobile version, which includes a worldwide directory of restaurants with gluten-free options searchable by Zip code or town.