Can’t eat wheat? Can’t eat corn? Good luck on vacation where all the restaurants and fast food places serve breaded and fried food. Vegetarian? Paleo? Sorry. Hardly any vegetables and lots of beef patties served in most locales. Sometimes a vacation feels more stressful than just staying home. The planning, baking, driving around shopping—I wish I could just get in the car and leave. But, wait. I’m one of the people traveling with food allergies. Darn.
Who wants to bake three dozen muffins, scones, and donuts a week ahead of time just so the family can eat something other than eggs every day for breakfast? Try packing an extra two boxes of food in the car when it’s already stuffed with six people, their traveling activities, and their luggage. Thank goodness, I don’t have to pack diapers and a playpen, too.
I may complain, but this has been my reality for several years. All of my children have food allergies and I am on a (mostly) AIP Paleo diet for my chronic health condition. How do we do vacations when we can’t eat what most restaurants serve and grocery stores are unreliable? Here are some lessons I have learned.
A lot of hotels have a free breakfast. Don’t do it.
I make all those baked goods and, guess what? They load up on sugary packaged oatmeal, Rice Chex, Trix yogurt, and maybe some sausage or bacon if they happen to offer hot items. You might say, “Well, don’t let them have it.” Yeah, but they know the technicalities of their own allergies and they can read the signs that it’s a free breakfast. Have you ever tried to “make” a thirteen or sixteen-year-old not eat something? I’m not dying on that hill. I’m on vacation, remember? It would be better to not even go to those hotels.
On our last vacation, half the days were spent at a rented house. Ahhh. Ultimate control, right? There is nothing else to eat. By that time, they were sick of their binge and ready to eat healthy again. No ugliness on my vacation. But, it would have been better if we could have rented a house for the entire vacation. Check out the next lesson.
Plan the vacation around one location where you can rent a house and prepare all your own food.
We typically bring must-haves and look for grocery stores in major towns near where we’re staying. Must-haves include: gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta, avocado oil mayo and dressing, grain free granola, and maybe a few other items that are just for me. (Paleo-friendly can be harder to find than gluten-free.) Anything else, we expect to buy it.
The problem is, hotels typically only have a microwave for cooking food, or nothing. If you have priced gluten-free microwave dinners, well, need I say more? One is usually not enough, either. Once I add it all up, we might as well just go to a restaurant. But, it’s not that simple, right?
I discovered that French fries cooked in the same fryer as battered food contain more gluten per fry than a regular wheat bun! Nearly everything is contaminated with wheat, corn, barley malt, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and more. Going to a family style dine-in restaurant isn’t much better and the prices are higher. Who can afford to pay $50-$100 for every lunch and dinner, every day, for six people to eat food that is toxic to them?
Never eat at museums and other sights.
This seems obvious, but I know I have made excuses like, “Well, we had a late breakfast. They won’t get hungry,” or “We won’t be there that long,” or “We’ll come back and have lunch before we go to the next place.”
How often have these prophecies not come true? Almost every time!
The best thing is to always pack a lunch and bring it in with you, not leave it in the car. I know, I hate lugging lunch for six people, too. A lot places have lockers where you can store lunch until you’re ready to eat it, though, and that is cheaper than the cafeteria.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures in vacationing with a special diet.