If you prefer to be gluten-free, dealing with dietary guidelines in a foreign country can be a hassle. But if you have celiac disease, it can be a matter of life and death. If you are avoiding gluten on your next holiday, follow our tips for travelling with a gluten allergy.

Do your homework

Before travelling, learn how dishes at your travel destination are often prepared, what ingredients are used and where hidden allergens might be found. You probably know the foods you need to avoid at home, but foods abroad can be a little trickier. You can still eat adventurously with food allergies, you just need to prepare. If you are looking forward to enjoying a particular food abroad, look online first. You may be able to find a specialty gluten-free shop before you go.

Don’t expect everyone to get it

Yes, we know you have a real, life-threatening condition, but cultural understandings of ‘gluten-free’ are different everywhere. Cultural sensitivities change as you travel the world, and not everyone understands the meaning of your condition. The fact is, if you were just going on a vegetarian world tour, things would be easier (most cultures understand and accept vegetarianism), but you’re not. Do clearly communicate with everyone that seems ambivalent about giving you special treatment that this is a life-threatening illness, and if you feel unsafe with an establishment, walk away.

Do ask ahead of time

Communicate to airlines and hotels and tour groups your needs ahead of time. Many companies will be happy to cater to your needs, as long as you bring them up in advance. If you do not see a gluten-free option listed on websites (some organizations are not as up-to-date as we would like), don’t be afraid to give the company a call. Don’t be outwardly upset by their lack of foresight, but do be firm and clearly communicate what you need.

Remember to pack your own healthy travel snacks before leaving home, as well. Sometimes airlines can get things wrong. Don’t let this ruin your whole trip. Take a look at a few of our healthy travel snack suggestions.

Don’t be afraid to cook

Cooking is a great way to get a taste for local flavours, while staying safe. Cooking on holiday is also a great way to keep prices down, so you can focus on seeing the sights.

Do bring your EpiPen, and then some

Of course you should bring your supply of life-saving medication, but you should also bring instructions written in the local language. Should you need to visit the hospital, have cards on hand containing your name, emergency contact information, travel insurance information (print out your policy documents before you leave) and list of medications. Do not leave your health up to chance, bring everything you will need to stay safe.

Don’t be afraid to bring gluten-free kids

Many parents of celiac and allergic kids think foreign travel is too risky. We understand and empathise. But if you do decide to travel with your gluten-free child, just arm yourself with knowledge. Keep kids away from fried foods when you travel, because cooking oil is a common source of cross-contamination.

Do download the apps

There are a million travel apps on the market and gluten-free apps can help with your specific travel needs. Shop around and look for one you trust. Try the app out at home before you travel to ensure success abroad. A few of our favourite gluten-free apps include AllergyEats, Cook IT Allergy Free, and Gluten Free and Allergy Free Travel Checklists.

Do stay protected

If you have an existing medical condition, remembering travel insurance is critical. Not only does travel health insurance protect you in the event of an emergency, it makes sure you see an approved, English-speaking doctor. Shop around for travel insurance that is right for you before you take off.

Image courtesy of Flickr user jules; cropped from original