Most of us look forward to our holidays all year, but for those with gluten allergies, it can be nightmarish to find a break that won’t leave them more stressed than staying at home. There are some aspects of gluten-free travel that are common to all holidays and learning the ropes on these key features can make the journey more relaxing:
Planes, Trains And Boats
When you book your travel, ask for a gluten free meal. Restate this requirement every time you contact the travel agent or company and get them to confirm in writing that they have organised a gluten free meal for you. Print that confirmation and take it with you when you travel.
If you cannot get a gluten free meal, don’t panic. There are three choices open to anybody how has food allergies or dietary concerns:
1. Order a different meal that will be largely gluten free (the vegan option is often low in glutens) and then check labels and ask questions of the serving staff before you eat anything – this can be unpredictable. The food will often have been stored with gluten containing dishes and served by those who have handled gluten, so it may not be a risk you wish to take.
2. Eat before you leave (often the best option for short trips).
3. Pack a meal to take and eat in the departure lounge. Given the tight airport security these days, and the increasing tension around ferry ports and cruise terminals, it’s unrealistic to expect to take your own food on the journey with you.
From luxury penthouses to simple tents, there are advantages and disadvantages to different holiday styles – the best for you may be the worst option for somebody else, so here are the pros and cons of the most commonly taken holidays.
Self-Catering In The UK
Often seen as the simplest choice, as well as the cheapest (the UK National Office of Statistics reports a 15% decline in British holiday-makers travelling overseas in 2009 and predicts a higher rate of decline will have occurred in 2010), a self-catering holiday ‘at home’ gives you the ability to have total control over the food and the environment in which it is prepared – but it does mean that somebody has to do all the cooking, which stops it being much of a holiday for them!
It sounds simple - just chuck the essentials into a suitcase and go. But it can be more complicated than that: you need to think about what will happen if your luggage goes astray. Can you manage without the food you’ve packed? It’s a good idea to spread gluten-free products through various bags and suitcases, but remember that you may have foodstuffs confiscated in some countries – check before you travel because having a sniffer dog point out your bags is not just embarrassing, it turns arrival into a prolonged exercise in explaining your luggage to a sometimes hostile official. Also, you need to factor into the holiday the time you’ll spend browsing the aisles of large foreign supermarkets, trying to decipher the labels of unfamiliar foods.
You might think that the larger the hotel, the better your chance of getting a gluten-free diet, but again, you need to do a little more research than you might imagine. First, find out how food is served: there have been cases of cross contamination on trolleys and carts used to transport food or from room service staff handling gluten free food after gluten-containing meals. Use review websites to find out which of the big hotels actually manage to cater to gluten intolerant guests and which just pay lip service to the idea.
Many gluten intolerant people simply wouldn’t consider the idea of staying in a hotel abroad but with the advent of mobile phone apps and flash cards for gluten intolerant travellers, it’s become almost as easy as staying in a hotel in the UK.
British B&B Or Farm Holidays
Surprisingly, this is one of the best options for a stress free, fun-filled holiday if you’re gluten intolerant. You do need to talk to the person who will be cooking at the location you choose, and ensure that they understand your dietary needs and that they will be on duty the entire period of your stay (days off can lead to gluten being served up by the relief cook, and that means a major gluten attack for the hapless consumer) but because food and personal attention are a key feature of this kind of holiday, and because the venue is catering to a small number of holidaymakers, you are very likely to get a personalised menu that is delicious, risk-free and makes your companions wish they had taken the gluten-free option too!
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Gluten free holidays:
We have just returned from a motoring trip in Spain, staying at the Parador hotel chain. All the hotels we stayed at had a gluten free menu, gluten free bread and gluten free beer. All of the waiting staff had obviously been well briefed on the subject and you just had to mention the words "sin gluten" (without gluten).
Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the staff on Brittany Ferries (despite what I was told when booking), so take your own bread and don't bother wasting your time trying to get any advice on what to eat