How does a Gluten-Free family pack for a road trip?
Actually, there is a little more…our allergy list looks like this: gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt), egg, cane sugar, peanuts, soy, coconut, hazelnut, and watermelon.
People who are not familiar with allergies, or who are new to allergen-aware living look at that list and freak out! What do you eat? How do you manage? Do you eat out? Can you leave the house?
When I first learned about all the foods that send our two eldest children over the edge, I freaked out, too. I cried. I didn’t think we would ever eat out or go on vacation again.
Then I got over it and did what I do best: I got busy. I read everything I could find. I scoured the stores for gluten-free (GF) sections. I got good at reading labels and all the unfamiliar ways those foods are listed (more on that another day). We tried all the brands at least once and pared down the selection to a few favorites. (We are so blessed to live in a day and age where there is so much selection…when my brother presented with a gluten-allergy twenty years ago my mom had almost zero to choose from.)
I also came to the realization that our list was only 8 items long. That left us about 2000 foods that we can eat, and we have barely scratched the surface when I think about what our kiddos eat on a regular basis…we still have a lot of food exploring to do!!
How do we plan for a road trip?
First, we usually try to stay at hotels that have a kitchenette. With our family our size, the kind of accommodation we need for space usually includes this feature. This allows me to make pasta for the kiddos to take along if we are eating out. I can also bake cookies if we are going to visit family or friends who are not familiar with our sensitivities. When we visit, we usually bring along fruit, cheese and cookies, as well as a bag of pasta to cook there. This way I know our kiddos are going to at the very least, eat protein, starch, and fruit, and have a “safe” dessert. I can live with that as a meal on vacation.
In the case where we are staying at a venue without a kitchenette, I call ahead about two weeks before our visit. I find out what kind of accommodations they make, or are willing to make, for our family.
For the times we are going to eat out (after all, vacation from the kitchen counts, right?) I also scour the Internet to find out where the “safe” restaurants are. We know we can count on a few of them to be good for families with allergies. On out list are P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Pei Wei Asian Diner, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, and Chick-Fil-A. I also look for Mexican restaurants – generally safe; as well as Thai and Chinese restaurants…as long as we stay away from the soy sauce, or ask if they have gluten-free soy sauce, we are okay.
The other thing I search for are our top 3 grocery stores: Sprouts, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Since we travel to major metropolitan areas for the most part, we can generally find two out of three. We bring consumables for about 3 days, stop for soft fruits upon arrival, and we plan for a store stock-up on Day 3 or Day 4 of our trip. On longer trips, we find that we are hitting the grocery stores about every 4 days.
In the days before the trip, there are grocery store runs to all 3 stores in town. I bake cookies the day before we leave, and I store it in daily rations. This trip, we also decided to try a recipe from Weelicious…we made some fruit leather that tastes and smells A.Maz.Ing.
We pack in reusable shopping bags and a soft cooler that we can use when we go shopping at our destination.
A couple of bags of GF pasta
A couple of boxes of GF cookie mix
Hardy fruits: apples, oranges, green bananas (we buy them green to allow them to resist bruising and ripen on the road)
That’s It Fruit Bars (http://www.thatsitfruit.com/)
Pure Brownie Bars & Cherry Bars (http://thepurebar.com/)
GF Chocolate Chips
GF Chocolate Chip Cookies
The kiddos snack on the dry cereal in the car. We can also use it when we hit the breakfast bar at hotels – we have yet to go to a hotel where I feel at ease that they take cross-contamination precautions in the big breakfast bar areas.
Snacking on the road is usually a smorgasbord. Everybody picks three things to put in their snack bag, and this is what they snack on until we take a break and re-fill if necessary.
When we get where we are staying, we hit a grocery store and purchase the softer fruits that do not travel well: strawberries, grapes, mangoes and peaches for our family.
Now we have a full compliment of what our family would call “convenience” foods: single serving sizes, or easy to wash and cut when we are ready to prep snacks for the day.
Why go through all this “trouble”…because it is so worth it when we get there and see this…pure, unbridled joy with not a care in the world
P.S. Hello, Bernice! We got to meet a SPB/SPF fan out on our shopping trip on Sunday – so lovely to meet you! Thank you for being a devoted reader and an awesome mama yourself