What type of gluten free traveler are you? Are you the type that likes to dine out when on vacation -- or do you prefer to get a place with a kitchen and do your own cooking? I know people have strong opinions on this…and certainly, there are those of you who prefer to stay safe by handling most of your own food preparation when on vacation.
I, on the other hand, enjoy the thrill of finding new gluten-free friendly spots each time we travel. While it does take a bit of time to do the research to find the best and safest restaurants (I always start by reading reviews on sites like our own GlutenFreeTravelSite), I cook all the time at home and like to leave the cooking to someone else while on vacation.
With that said, there are certainly times when we've traveled somewhere where there just wasn't anyplace safe for gluten free folks to eat…and also times we've traveled to a place where any restaurant was hard to find. That was the case this past weekend when our family took a ski trip to Timberline in Davis, West Virginia. Our sons' Boy Scout Troop had planned a weekend ski trip there, where they would stay in the "bunkhouse" (not luxury accommodations, to be sure!) and eat on the "meal plan" in the lodge cafeteria (again, not the highest quality food…and certainly not the type of place that would be able to accommodate for gluten free diners). In fact, it was one of those rare situations in which, if Ryan, our son with Celiac, were to go with his big brother on this scout outing, my husband and I would have to go and rent a condo slopeside in order to be able to have a kitchen to fix gluten free meals.
Fortunately, this was not a sacrifice in the least, as my husband and I love to ski, and we figured this might be the only opportunity we'd have to ski this winter. So we booked a condo with a kitchen and let Ryan know that he could stay in the bunkhouse with his fellow scouts but bring a "buddy" to our condo with him at mealtime. Then, he could either eat in the condo or take his food to the lodge and eat with the others (likely also making his fellow scouts very jealous, as the food he'd be eating would be far more appealing than the cafeteria food!).
As those of you who take food on vacations know, it is no small endeavor to plan, shop for, and pack travel-friendly foods that will be easy to make into meals in an unfamiliar kitchen. We've stayed in enough condos to know that sometimes you luck out with nice cookware and clean cutting boards…and other times you wish you were back in your own kitchen ("How is this a vacation?" you might ask yourself!). So when we stay in a condo where we know we'll be doing most of our own cooking, we pack a big cooler with all our food. I even pack a sauté pan and omelette pan…along with a couple cutting boards…right on top. If there's room, I like to pack a steamer insert (for veggies) and colander, too. In our case, we were also told by the condo rental company that we should bring dishwashing soap, sponges, paper towels…yep, everything but the kitchen sink!
I like to keep meals healthy (especially when you need a lot of energy for something like skiing!) and simple to prepare. I plan out the meals down to every last detail (including condiments) so we can have a nice meal and not have to run to the store for something we've forgotten. (In the case of last weekend, there was only a tiny general store nearby.) It's nice to come in from an exhausting day on the slopes and know you've got everything you need for dinner. I did pretty well…remembering everything we needed for meals except for butter and sugar!
Here's what we packed and prepared for our two-and-a-half day trip.
Day 1: Breakfast:
Eggs, Jones Dairy Farm sausages, Udi's gluten free muffins, grapes, ground coffee (they had a coffee maker), tea, Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa. (That forgotten butter would have been nice for scrambling the eggs…and sugar would have been nice for the coffee and tea!)
Applegate Farms gluten free chicken tenders (for Ryan…and we ate the same atop a green salad with Caesar dressing), chips, apple, and lunchbox sized Horizon chocolate milk for our son.
Day 1: Snacks
Nuts, homemade trail mix with Rice Chex, craisins, chocolate chips, and peanuts, WATER (don't forget to bring bottled water on your trips if you can…it will save you from paying $2-3 for a small bottle elsewhere!)
Day 1: Dinner
Gluten free pasta, olive oil (I like to pack light, so rather than bringing the whole bottle of olive oil -- and other condiments -- I put them in small glass containers with snap lids), parmesan cheese, jar of Muir Glen organic pasta sauce to add to ground turkey for the sauce, frozen broccoli florets, Rudi's gluten free Ciabatta rolls, WINE (must not forget this…helps reduce the grumbling about how you ended up slaving in the kitchen all day on vacation!), water, Trader Joe's gluten free chocolate cupcake for our son for dessert.
Day 2: Breakfast
Assorted oatmeals and gluten free cereal, oranges, coffee, tea, hot cocoa
Applegate Farms deli Turkey sandwiches on gluten free Udi's bread, mustard/mayo (again, I packed just as much as we'd need in small containers) canned soup (Health Valley Gluten Free Cafe chicken noodle soup and Wolfgang Puck Tomato Basil gluten free soup), apples, milk
Day 2: Snacks
Assorted gluten free snack bars from Larabar, LUNA, and KIND
Day 3: Dinner
Nuts to munch on while preparing several Udi's gluten free pizzas, bagged salad, WINE, water, assorted gluten free cookies
Remaining eggs and Jones Dairy Farm sausage, gluten free donuts, yogurt, leftover Udi's gluten free rolls (butter and jam would have been nice to have here!), coffee, tea, hot cocoa
Day 3: Lunch
We had to check out of the condo by 10 am, so I'd brought extra gluten free bread, along with small containers of peanut butter and jelly to make our son a sandwich "for the road" and packed it in a paper bag with Doritos, orange wedges, and a gluten free cookie.
All the time planning the meals down to every last detail was worth it…I had everything I needed, preparation was fast and easy, and we ended up eating almost everything we brought…and therefore didnt have to haul leftovers home. And best of all, we kept Ryan safe -- and probably ate better and healthier food than we would have even if we'd been able to eat our meals out.
On longer trips -- like when we go to the beach for a week during the summer -- I also pack things like Handy's gluten free crab cakes, which we all LOVE (hard to find, but we buy them at Wegmans), homemade lasagna (if my hubby and I have time before a trip, we make a full 9 x 12 tray, freeze it for a few days, and then pack it in the cooler…this is a meal that keeps on giving…plenty of leftovers), Costco's Kirkland pulled pork (just add gluten free Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce and simmer for some amazingly easy sandwiches on gluten free buns). Roasting or boiling a whole chicken is one of the easiest meals, too, providing you have an hour or more to prepare dinner.
I hope this helps you efficiently plan and pack the ingredients you need for some easy, travel friendly, tasty, and gluten free meals. I'd love to hear your own suggestions and what you pack in your own big cooler for the road…please share a comment below!