International Gluten Free Travel Tips and Why I’m New Zealand Obsessed

I prepared this post on my last leg of my return flight from New Zealand – total flying time of 20 hours and travel time of 32 hours.  The Carpenter and I have been blessed to have spent 2 weeks in the South Island of New Zealand near Queenstown; what some call the adventure capital of the world and what I call PARADISE.  Over the next few weeks I will be sharing many of my food observations and inspirations from the land of the kiwis but I need to settle back in at home before I recognize the full impact.  We can’t truly recognize the true impact of a place until we return home to our normal rhythms of life and reflect a bit.

I can’t wait to share my personal food stories; I have been carrying my journal with me every step of the way to write down the intricacies with which this foreign land prepares, serves and values food. For now, in preparation for the busiest travel time of year, I want to provide  additional gluten free/dairy free travel tips – this time to include advice for travel to foreign destinations.

  • Pre-order airline meals if you are scheduled for a long journey.
    Long gone are the days that US domestic flights provide full meals (unless you are lucky enough to fly first class) but long haul international flights do.  Look up your airline meal options and call at least two weeks in advance to book your ‘dietary restriction’ meal.  Note that if you have combined food allergies, i.e. gluten and dairy allergy, you can only choose one option.  Do not 100% depend on this meal getting delivered as ordered so go with back-up snacks.
  • If you are traveling to a foreign destination read about their food labeling laws.
    NZ Crossed Grain Logo
    NZ Crossed Grain Logo

    In New Zealand they have a Crossed Grain Logo that denotes foods that are certified gluten free and it’s a helpful list if you will be going to a grocery store.  Make sure to read the gluten free labeling laws  for your country of destination, some countries are more stringent than others.

  • When you ask a waiter for gluten/dairy free options ask what the ingredients are before making your final decision.
    We ate at a Thai restaurant in Queenstown and I almost ordered a dish full of soy sauce.  At the last minute I asked the waiter to detail out all the ingredients in the dish to triple-check and the first ingredient was soy sauce.  For those of you not familiar with soy sauce, wheat is the #1 ingredient!  Tamari is a gluten-free option but most eateries do not carry this.
  • If food is labeled gluten free/dairy free at cafes, restaurants, stores – read the ingredient list.
    There is room for error everywhere, spend the extra 10 seconds to make sure your travel does not turn into an allergy nightmare.  We visited a confectionary in Arrowtown, NZ and I was thrilled to find that everything was labeled v (vegan), gf (gluten free), or df (dairy free).  You mean I have more than 1 candy option- I was in candy heaven!  That is until I bought the token NZ chocolates called YoYos because they had a gf/df label.  I left the shop, popped one in my mouth and then read the ingredient list.  Ingredient #3 skim milk powder.  The Carpenter got himself a bag full of YoYos.
  • Do your research on eateries ahead of time.
    Since I am a foodie at heart I love to research places to eat long before our travel begins.  I put together a complete day-by-day itinerary before each of our trips that lists café and restaurant options by location.  I want to know what all of my choices are before I go and depending on what mood we are in we choose one off the list.  New Zealand is a gluten free traveler’s dream destination!  I am used to visiting cafes and looking in the glass pastry cabinets with a far off look, knowing they are off limits forever.  Not so in New Zealand!  At least 25% of the breads, cakes, quiches, baked goodies are gluten free.  Since New Zealand’s #1 export is dairy that is the question I had to more commonly ask.
    NZ glass pastry case

Sources I use for research:

  • TripAdvisor
  • Yelp
  • Urbanspoon
  • Local travel blogs; do a Google search such as “gluten-free travel New Zealand” or “gluten free New Zealand blog”
  • Ask your local host; since we stayed in bed & breakfasts the entire time this made it very easy.

I hope these tips help some of my fellow foodies out there.  It has been almost 2 years since I was diagnosed with my food allergies and I’m gaining confidence with each travel.  When I was first diagnosed I was so fearful to leave the safety of my home and not have complete control of preparing my food.  By packing back-up food, researching my destinations and talking to others I feel equipped to travel just about anywhere.

Happy and healthy travels.
The Cook

2 thoughts on “International Gluten Free Travel Tips and Why I’m New Zealand Obsessed

  1. Great tips, and I cannot WAIT to read more about the food and see more photos. Even though it’s likely expensive and probably one of the most difficult to get to from here, you are quickly bumping New Zealand towards the top of my travel dream destination list!

    1. Oh Katie, New Zealand is right up your alley! Of course the tickets aren’t cheap but we did airbnb stays the entire time and even cooked quite a few meals in. Going to the local markets was actually a highlight and we vowed to buy only New Zealand food. Next post coming on some of the local specialties and some pics of the meals we cooked in paradise. I’d love to see that travel list of yours, definitely move New Zealand to the top!

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