Gluten Free and Traveling Internationally

“How to travel internationally while eating a gluten free diet?”

Many parts of the world are well acquainted with the gluten free diet, which makes travel a breeze! Don’t be surprised if a highlight of your trip is the amazing food you eat! However, you might travel to a country where the people have no knowledge of your dietary restrictions. If you take mission trips or humanitarian aid tours, you understand that you are not always in control of your food—where you eat, when you eat, or what you are given to eat. This creates challenges. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Bring food. Always pack a supply of gluten free bars in your checked luggage. Each day, pack
enough food for that day. Remember that some countries limit the food you can bring into the
country, so educate yourself. Generally, it is only fruits and vegetables that are restricted.

Practical tip: Carry a small supply of gluten free snacks in your carry-on (no liquids, of course).
Save them for the plane and for your first day at your destination. If your checked luggage is
stuck in Botswana for 2 days, you’ll be glad to have something to eat. If you use topical gluten
free products, carry small samples of those with you as well.

Start each day strong. If you are staying at a hotel that offers breakfast service, attempt to talk
to the chef and share your needs. If you can start each day with a good breakfast, you’ll be set.
You might not be able to eat a meal for lunch or dinner, so eat up! If your hotel or host does not
offer breakfast, consider taking gluten free protein powder with you.

Melissa, her hubby, and a precious girl they met while traveling abroad with Compassion International.

Practical Tip: If you do not speak the language, plan ahead. Bring a short, but descriptive note in
the appropriate language, so communication is easier and more effective. Keep the note with
you. (Translations are available from

Eat when you can and be flexible at other meal times. Be prepared to skip a meal or two during
your stay. If you can start your day with a goof breakfast, you’ll be set.

Educate yourself. Before traveling, always research what foods are common to the area. Be
familiar with local ingredients and understand your options. Diets in many third world countries
are based on naturally gluten free products!

Refrain. If the food looks questionable, refrain. If you are traveling with a translator, make
sure they are aware of your dietary needs and the seriousness of your situation. There has
been numerous times when my translator has graciously run interference with a well-meaning
hostess. I understand that there are times when it is culturally inappropriate to reject food, especially in a home setting or a third-world country. If you are traveling with a friend or spouse, work out a plan. My husband is fabulous at this. He has strategically swapped plates with me hundreds of times! I eat what I can (or at least move it around), and he eats the rest.

Be vigilant.For example, if tourists have been advised not to drink the water, then don’t. You

The children that Melissa and the Compassion team worked with on her recent trip to Columbia.

don’t want to follow your diet successfully, but then get sick from the water. Remember, that
means no raw fruit or vegetables that have been washed in that water (unless they have a peel),
no ice cubes, no tap water, etc. That includes keeping your mouth shut while you shower and
using bottled water to brush your teeth.

Practical Tip– If you are in a country where you can’t drink the water, place a hand towel over any faucets in your hotel room or residence. Every time you reach for the handle, it will remind you not to drink it. It is strictly for hand washing.

No matter where you travel and where you eat, you’re taking a risk. Keep a positive mindset and remember that you are storing memories. Do your very best to stay healthy and happy on your journey. Bon voyage!
Melissa (Diva Team)