Traveling With Dietary Restrictions

You may or may not know that I have several dietary restrictions.  A couple years ago I was diagnosed with several food allergies, the most common being dairy, gluten and eggs.  This makes traveling complicated.  If I am being honest, it makes eating in general complicated but being away from my kitchen for any extended period of time is tough.  I have made huge strides and am determined to figure out how to travel without having a food melt down.

My first attempt at traveling post dietary changes was to Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.  We had a wonderful time in the parks but eating was a disaster.  We stayed in hotels and cabins in the parks and ate out for most meals.  The most expensive restaurants are usually the ones that best understand and will cater to dietary restrictions.  We had a nice meal on several occasions but could not afford to eat that way for every meal.  The Husband and kids enjoyed the pizza deck in Curry Village on several occasions while I ate a hamburger patty and some lettuce from the nearby grill.  This got old.  Real fast.

After this experience we realized that I need access to a kitchen because eating out is not a safe default.  I recently attended an event and was given a meal that supposedly fit my dietary restrictions.  As the server put down the plate he said it was vegan and gluten free.  The only problem was that there was a piece of chicken on the plate.  When I questioned the chicken he said the chef said it was vegan.  Clearly the chef did not know what he was talking about.  I politely declined the meal and pulled some crackers and peanut butter out of my purse.  By having access to a kitchen I have greater control over meals.

We purchased a Coleman RoadTrip Grill and it has been worth every penny.  It is heavy and takes up a lot of space but we enjoy cooking on it so much more than our little camping stove.  The plates on the top are interchangeable.  The grill comes with the grill plate but we purchased the burner attachment and griddle so that we have lots of options.

This past summer we took several trips that I consider successes from a food standpoint.  First was our two-week road trip.  We opted to stay in locations where we could use our camp stove.  KOAs are a goto for us when we travel because we are able to popup our stove outside and cook our own meals.  Hotels frown upon that sort of thing.  I actually think we stayed at KOAs the entire two weeks.  We stayed in camping cabins for short stays and a deluxe cabin with a half kitchen for our long stay.  We have to be able to store our food since we cook each night and were worried about living out of an ice chest for two weeks.  We choose the deluxe cabin solely on the fact that it had a fridge.

The second summer success was a week long adventure to Boy Scout camp.  I was not confident that they were going to be able to meet my restrictions so I took a ton of food with me.  The first day or two were a little rough, and I was thankful I had other options, but the week improved.  I was so thankful that the kitchen staff took the time to make sure there were items I could eat at every meal.  Once the entire meal was gluten, dairy, and egg free and I got to eat what everyone else was eating!  This was seriously like Christmas for me.

For both of these trips I supplemented cooking with my goto fast food restaurants (Chipotle, In N Out, and Chick-Fil-A) when possible.  Usually on travel days when we were in big cities that have these restaurants.

Before we head out on a trip I check the areas we will be in to see if they have any restaurants I know I can safely eat at.  I also check menus and allergy policies of the restaurants in the areas we will be staying so I know ahead of time what options, if any, I will have.

One of the bonuses of being forced to eat in is that it saves us money.  I am going to work on putting together a list of recipes that we have found are easy to cook away from home.  For now here are some of my goto items:

Breakfast – instant oatmeal (if we are going to a restaurant I will take a package of instant oatmeal and ask for a cup of hot water), cereal, granola, yogurt, fruit

Lunch – lunch meat, crackers/chips, apple sauce, nuts, veggies, hummus

Dinner – meat, veggies, potatoes, mexican (Frito tacos are super easy and one of our favs.  Grill up some ground beef or buy a rotisserie chicken, heat up some beans, grab some salsa and Fritos or tortilla chips and you’ve got a super easy meal.)

Snacks – beef jerky, meat sticks, trail mix, nut bars, crackers/chips, granola bars

Eating out in general can be a stressful experience if you have dietary restrictions but traveling adds a whole other layer.  There is no reason why anyone should be forced to stay home because of their diet.  I am determined to figure out a way to keep up my lifestyle and want to encourage you to do the same.  If you have dietary restrictions I would love to hear your tips for successful travel.

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