GF 101: Traveling Gluten Free

Traveling can be stressful. There are planes to catch, delays, unexpected gate changes, rental cars to pick  up, and hotels to find. Add diet restrictions to the mix, and travel can be overwhelming. But with a little bit of planning, it doesn't have to be.

Don't get me wrong. I love to travel. There's just something irresistible about venturing out to see new places, meet new people, have new experiences, and taste new food. Planning a trip offers all sorts of excitement, and as someone who eats gluten free, a little bit of anxiety too. What to eat? Finding gluten free restaurants has gotten easier, no doubt about it. But when you're on the go, you cant always have a full sit down meal every time you get hungry. And sometimes you just want a snack. What's a gal to do?

Plan ahead, of course!

Now, even before I went gluten free, I wasn't one to eat every meal in a restaurant, and I rarely ate fast food while traveling. I would much rather have my normal breakfast, snacks, and maybe even lunch on hand, and then eat dinner at a local joint. So the only thing that's really changed is that I have to plan a little differently because I'm on a gluten free diet. Nothing says grumpy traveler like me stumbling through airports and gas stations looking for something better than gluten free potato chips.

When I go on road trips, I always pack a cooler complete with knives, forks, plates, cups, and napkins. But flying is a little different. Usually, I'm going on short trips, but even for trips that last ten or twelve days, I make sure to pack so I don't have to check any luggage, including food supplies. That means no knives, and any liquids I bring better fit in that darned quart-sized baggie.

Your go-to list of food to bring with you when you travel  might be a little bit different than mine, depending on your habits and preferences. But, just to give you an idea, here's my list of must-have items when I travel:


  • Coffee 
    • I measure out enough for each day, then enough for one more cup, just in case. Store in an airtight container that won't pop open during air travel
  • Sugar packets
    • Enough for the coffee...for me, this is two per cup of coffee
  • English muffins
    • I eat half an English muffin per day for breakfast, so I figure out how many I'll need for breakfast, then pack one or two extra
  • Milk
    • I'm picky because certain milk gives me tummy issues, so I bring my own in a cooler on road trips, or buy some when I get there if I'm flying

Lunches and Snacks

  • Sliced gluten free bread
    • You know, enough for one sandwich a day
  • Lunchmeat
    • In the cooler for road trips, or buy some when I get there if flying 
  • Condiments
    • Put as much as you need into a small container in the cooler for road trips, but I usually skip this if flying
  • Cheese
  • Apples
    • One per day, plus one


  • Water bottle
    • Empty if flying
  • Two mugs
  • Pour-through coffee filter
  • Paper coffee filters
  • Gluten free soy sauce packets
    • In your quart-sized bag if flying
  • Pyrex containers and plastic baggies
  • Spreadsheet of gluten-free restaurants in the area 
  • Individual wet wipes
I know it sounds like a lot. It is. But I'd rather have too much food than not enough. And when you're traveling gluten free, you might not know what's coming your way in the food department. But if you plan and pack it right, all this stuff doesn't have to take up too much room in your luggage. 

Here's what I do: Any liquid items must go in that dreaded quart-sized bag. You know the drill. I put my ceramic mugs and coffee filter among my clothes for a little bit of protection from breaking.  Each baked good gets individually wrapped in plastic wrapped, then placed in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Apples get their own plastic bag. And I pack cheese in a hard-sided container, usually pyrex. I pack my carry on bag so there's the smallest chance things will get smashed or bruised, and hope for the best.

This system has worked really well for me, both on weekend getaways and ten-day vacation extravaganzas. I hope it helps you too!

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