Recently I went on a trip to Washington DC and NYC with a school group. It was six days long, and every day was packed with sightseeing, monuments, and activities. Overall, it was a blast!
Being gluten-free and vegan, I had to make do with all the pre-booked restaurants and cafes we went to– and here I’ll show how you, too, can survive on a guided tour. Us GF vegans shouldn’t have to be left out of the traveling fun!
Tip #1: Bring Food
I know you’ve heard it before! Your snacks don’t have to be fancy, but they are good as a supplement to a meal, or even a meal replacement if necessary. I’ll admit, I was ready to jump on the plane to DC with no extra food (as everyone else, with no allergies, did– they never had snacks when they got hungry between meals. Ha!) and survive on anything I could find. Mommy, on the other hand, thought I should bring cans of beans, tortillas, and a host of others to make a full meal. I finally settled on bringing some survival snacks.
Keep in mind I did not check a suitcase (my teacher lent me her carry on suitcase!), so liquids could not be over 3 oz. If you are checking a bag, you could bring salad dressing and canned beans for all the salads you will be eating [yes, I am psychic :)]. Pure veggies and fruit won’t fill you up much when you’re moving as much as you will be on a pre-planned trip, so you may be hungry after your meals. The important thing is to get enough calories. Goodness knows you will be burning quite a few while on-the-go. You will need extra food– so bring it!!
Here are some provisions you may consider bringing:
- A couple batches of homemade granola bars [or store bought GF bars, but that can get expensive]
- Brown rice tortillas [or corn tortillas if you aren’t corn intolerant]
- Dr. McDougall’s instant soups [the gluten-free ones]– they are all lightweight, healthy, and taste fantastic to boot!
*Speaking of instant soups, I want to actually make one myself– I’ll let you know if it is a success!*
Other things I brought: a couple Nana’s Cookie Bars [I don’t like them much so I didn’t list them] and a little jar of almond butter [that I didn’t end up eating much].
Tip #2: eat simple
I can almost guarantee you right now, your meals will not be as flavorful and interesting as the ones at home. You will be eating a lot of what your friends may consider “boring”– namely fruit, vegetables, and salad. Unless you group is stopping a GF restaurant, there is not much you can do to get around this. It may be helpful, if you check a bag for the plane ride, to bring some beans and/or salad dressing to make your salads more interesting. Bringing gluten-free tortillas enable you to make a wrap with your veggies. You can enjoy soup with your salad, too– just ask an employee to fill up the instant soup cup with hot water. Fruit is, of course, delicious on its own, but you could crumble a granola bar on top or spread on some nut butter. Take this time to enjoy the simple tastes of life, and just be glad that your eating at all.
At different eateries, there will be different options. Here are a few possibilities that are gluten-free vegan:
- Italian and French restaurants have plenty of fresh vegetables and can generally steam or stir-fry some goodies for you. Ask for balsamic vinegar on the side to add some zip.
- Chinese and Japanese restaurants have rice noodles (just made with rice) and white rice, in addition to vegetables. Ask them to give you some rice and steamed veggies with no extra flavors or sauces, except maybe some tamari soy sauce or rice vinegar.
- At food courts, you can generally find something partway decent. The above suggestions may apply to little booths in a food court, but keep in mind its fast food and they don’t have a lot of time to hear you talk about your allergies. Just tell them exactly what you want and watch them as they make it– just to be sure!
- Coffee chops and cafes (Starbucks are everywhere in big cities these days) may have dried fruit, nuts, juices, and fruit cups that you can purchase.
- [EDIT- added on an afterthought] Some restaurants now offer gluten-free menus. I, however, had a bad experience with this [more on THAT another time].
Tip #3: Be on the Look Out!
Some well stocked Cafe’s will have some convenience foods suitable for GF vegans, such as Larabars. If you find something, stock up on it for the remainder of your trip. I managed to find a couple of flavors of larabars at a NYC cafe called the Variety Cafe. I also found some rice chips that had all the preservatives, fat, fake flavors, and crap that conventional chips have– but they were gluten-free and vegan [said so on the package!]. It was a cool treat.
Your hotel may have a little store with snack food in it. Everything is WAY overpriced, but it’s an option. Many places are now stocking Naked or Odwalla juices and smoothies that are just made with fruit. There are many flavors and they are a delicious, easily digested way to replace all those busily burning calories.
Also, you never know what opportunities to buy extra food may crop up. On my trip, we made a stop at a Wal-mart so that a kid could buy a camera. I asked to go along and managed to find some unsweetened apple sauce that I could eat. You never know what opportunity may come along, but use them to grab extra food.
Tip– no RULE #4: BE CLEAR
I cannot stress how important it is to be confident and clear about you dietary restrictions. Explain that you are severely allergic to gluten and wheat, and that you eat no animal products (“yes, no cheese” LOL). The employee you are speaking to will invariably say: “so would you like a salad?” Actually, I would like anything but a salad. Tell whomever is making your food that you want no extra flavors, sauces, seasonings, nothing that you don’t okay. Just salt and pepper. You may be able to get balsamic vinegar or tamari soy sauce at Italian or Japanese eateries, respectively. Of course, you don’t want to be hostile or rude, but, ya know, just kind and clear. They should understand that you don’t want to get sick while on a fun trip.
Well, that’s the core of the matter. I’ll have other posts in the future on other aspects of eating out of your home, as I gain more restaurant and travel experience. If you follow these tricks and maybe learn a few of your own, you should be fine. Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section. Enjoy your travels!