How to travel with a special diet - map

We’re well into the season for holiday travel, so we asked our Nima community members to share their positive (and negative) travel stories* and any advice they might have for anyone traveling with a special diet.

We opened up these questions to the whole Nima community, so here’s a quick breakdown of the kinds of special diets these community members were traveling with:

How to travel with a special diet - diet pie chart

How to travel with a special diet - "What is one of your beset traveling experiences?"

Ashland, Oregon:

“My daughter and I went for our annual Shakespeare Festival after I had found out that I had celiac disease. All of the restaurants we visited were very knowledgeable about celiac disease and were very accommodating to my needs, most had special menus. I had ordered the risotto at one restaurant, the server came back to my table and wanted to know if I had celiac disease, and when I said yes, she told me that the risotto was cooked in the same pan as a gluten dish and she recommended something else. It was a great experience.” — Norma

Cancun, Mexico:

“I contacted the only GF travel agent I know, Lesley Hayden-Hock, and she helped us plan a trip to Mexico. We stayed at El Dorado and the staff went above and beyond every night at dinner to make me something special, often not even on the menu. They head chef of the different restaurants would come and talk to me personally before preparing my meal. I never went hungry, and did not get sick once!” — Krista

Kenya:

“A pilot saw I didn’t have much to eat and he shared his home packed lunch with me.  I always have nuts in my purse to eat when I can’t have the food.” — Cindy

traveling with a special diet

How to travel with a special diet - "What is one of your worst traveling experiences?"

Atlanta, Georgia:

“We were staying at a hotel that reportedly understood gluten-free and what it meant. When I went to breakfast I ordered the gluten-free pancakes (I had asked all my standard questions and was assured they knew what they were doing). I even asked when the food came out that it was in fact gluten-free, which the server confirmed. This would not be the case, and I was sick shortly afterwards and had to fly home sick, which was not a pleasant experience.” — Heather

Portugal:

“I called the airline months ahead of time to order a gluten-free meal and it showed on my itinerary that I was to have a gluten-free meal.  When they came around with meals I requested my gluten-free meal, and the stewardess said it wasn’t on her list.  I showed her my itinerary she said I must have called too late and didn’t offer me anything to eat.” — Cindy

California:

“I had been backpacking on skis across the Sierra Nevada for six days. The evening meal before our trip, an authentic Mexican establishment in Bishop selected as a means to fatten ourselves up, had absolutely nothing edible for a person with celiac.  I dined outside on cold chicken. After six days of intense physical exertion, sleeping in snow structures, and eating an insufficient amount of calories in the form of kind bars and homemade dehydrated foods, I was 10 pounds lighter and really, really hungry!! The exit point was a resort campground with a cafe, no other food options within a two-hour drive. I dined on oranges while the rest of the group ate greasy hamburgers and french fries. That was a rough day.” — Anonymous

traveling with a special diet

How to travel with a special diet - "Any travel tips for other folks with special diets?"

How to travel with a special diet

Pack lots of food. We usually take a collapsible cooler.  When we get to our destination, we fill it with snacks and sandwich fixings.  Instead of stressing out about finding gluten-free meals, we enjoy nice picnics from our cooler.  We just go out for a couple of special meals at places that have a good reputation for safe gluten-free food.” — Elizabeth

“Carry lots of snacks with you. I now have a stash of GF goodies in my suitcase; and I carry my Nima tester with me.” — Norma

Always carry emergency food and let people know what happens if you have the thing that makes you sick. Since mine cause me to have a two-day migraine that helps people take me more seriously.” — Cindy

“If the staff and/or the chef does not seem knowledgeable about your allergy or if you have celiac disease, leave. You are most likely going to have a reaction and/or get sick.” — Heather

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A special thank you to our Nima community for sharing their stories and advice with us! You can check out more community stories here.

 

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.