Tips for Traveling While Following a Special Diet

Traveling while following a specialized diet can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be with some planning before you leave home. Just like you plan where you are going to sleep, and how you are going to get there, you can create a plan to minimize stress around food and find food that works for you.

Plan Before You Go

Plan for travel days, when you are away, and for your first day back. If you are arriving home at night, make sure you have some breakfast options for the morning in your freezer or pantry. And if you are arriving home mid-afternoon, being able to pull something out of the freezer for dinner will be a huge help. Also, think about having groceries or a meal service delivered right before you get home from Instacart,, or another service. You will be tired and this will make it easy to have something nourishing waiting for you at home.

Know what kind of plan you need and do your research. If you are going on a business trip and all your meals are going to be prepared at a conference center, ask if you can get special meals. If you are visiting family or friends, you might want to have a conversation ahead of time letting them know what your needs are, and offering to cook for them. I love a guest who does the cooking!

When I am traveling I like to start with picking out most of my dinner restaurants ahead of time. It removes a lot of stress plus you can always cancel a reservation if you have made one if change your mind or something comes up. Check Google, Yelp, and Open Table for recommendations before you go. If you are traveling with friends or work colleagues, volunteer to be the person who makes the dinner reservations, your friends will appreciate that you have done all the hard work and you can pick something that works for you.

Check out Google Maps and get the lay of the land around where you are staying. Will you be near a local coop or grocery store? Will your hotel room have a refrigerator? If not, ask if you can get one in the room. Does your hotel offer breakfast – continental or a full breakfast? Knowing how you are going to handle breakfast is the next most important step. Sometimes that is having something in your room.

I find that lunch is the easiest meal to find. Most of the time I am out and about and can find a restaurant where I can special order. If I am traveling for fun, I often Google what is around the area where I will be ahead of time. Conferences and business meetings can be more challenging. I usually bring a stock of snacks and on-the-go food in my suitcase, especially if l think getting a lunch that works for me maybe a problem.

Even if it is not the most balanced meal, I know I have something to get me through until dinner with a collection of gluten-free bars, seaweed snacks, collagen protein powder, nuts and seeds or butters, olives, oats/oatmeal, tea, dark chocolate, fruit, which are all things I can pack and even carry around with me.

If I am a hotel for a conference, I often run to the grocery store and make a couple of small salads at the salad bar to keep in the mini-fridge. If lunch is something that doesn’t work for me, I will pick around it, and enjoy one of the salads I made in my room during a break. It might mean eating lunch a little early or late, but it is worth it because I get a little downtime, and something that works for my body.


Travel Days

When traveling by air, have your plan and be stocked with snacks for delays and emergencies. It can be difficult to find satisfying meals and choices on the road and pre-ordered specialty meals may not arrive or not be appealing. If you do want to take liquids or “gels” such as hummus, salad dressing, or dips, you must comply with TSA size regulations. Dry snacks or sandwiches can be packed as long as they are wrapped or sealed in a plastic or glass container. Do not wrap with aluminum foil. It will interfere with the x-ray machines (I made that mistake once). Depending on where you are traveling, you may need to toss out any uneaten perishable food items, including fruits and vegetables before you arrive.

If you are traveling by car, stock a cooler with supplies to have along the way as well as when you arrive. Easy items to pack include: hard-boiled eggs, gluten-free deli meats, pre-cut hardy veggies (broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, celery, cauliflower), hummus, sprouts, salad dressing, fresh salsa, guacamole, roasted chicken, cooked quinoa or rice, and mixed salad greens.

You can also pack a bag full of dry goods such as boxed beans, canned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines), whole fresh fruit, avocados, nuts/seeds, dried fruit, gluten-free granola, rice cakes, nut butter, crackers, and olive oil.

Indulging on Your Trip

If you decide to indulge in a dish or meal that is not on your diet, take time to savor and enjoy it. Be in love with it and if after the first few bites you discover that does not taste as good as you expected, leave it. You can order something else or wait until you leave to have a snack from your stash. Make sure to pay attention to how it makes your body feel as well as your taste buds. This is an opportunity for learning. Using your digestive enzymes, bitters, and/or activated charcoal can help you digest or calm a reaction to something that does not agree with you.

I would love to hear your recommendations for traveling while following a special diet.