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Gluten Free Travel: Consider These Accommodations Concerns

Traveling gluten free can be difficult, but at the core of these plans is where you should stay. This will be your home base on the trip, and where you will prepare your food.

The best gluten free accommodation is one where you have a dedicated space to prepare food, store food, and easy access to a grocery store that carries your favorite gluten free options. Consider food preparation, food storage, and whether there will be loose flour in the air.

Every trip will have a different purpose with varying details of importance. I’m including some questions to ask and some specific positives and negatives about different types of accommodations to consider when booking.

Plan Your Accommodations For Gluten Free Travel

The first step in planning a trip whether or not you are gluten free is planning for your accommodation. There are a few common accommodation situations I’ll run through below with a few things you should think about for each.

Traveling when you are gluten free takes more preparation and planning before the trip and it starts with the accommodations. We need to consider different things than other people in where we will stay and what we need to ask about it.

Here are some important things to consider and questions to ask:

  • Is there a refrigerator?
  • Is there a freezer?
  • Is there a microwave?
  • Is there a kitchen, kitchenette, or food prep area?
  • Is food served? If so, are there gluten free options?
  • Will someone be cooking with loose flour on-site?
  • How close is it to the nearest grocery store with gluten free options?
  • Is there a safe place to eat out nearby?
  • Can you cook in the accommodation?

Keep these in mind when looking at each of the accommodations below. Always look into these questions before booking. None of these questions mean it won’t work for you, but they will help guide you in finding a spot that meets your needs.

The pros and cons listed below are in reference to what people who need a strict gluten free diet at all times need to consider, and not what most people might need when traveling. In the end, it is a personal decision and not all of these will apply to you. Use the lists to guide you in choosing a place to stay on your trip.

What To Consider When Booking A Hotel For A Gluten Free Stay

Hotels are what come to mind first when looking at accommodations for travel. And they can be a great option for staying close to a destination. My family commonly chooses a hotel to stay at when getting together with family, even when the rest of the family is staying together at the house.

Benefits of staying in a hotel include a dedicated refrigerator, which usually includes a small freezer, and a microwave. It isn’t a given that every hotel room will have these available so make sure you ask that they are available in your room and advise the front desk that you need them due to a medical condition.

Benefits of Staying in a Hotel

  • Fridge In Room
  • Freezer In Room
  • Microwave In Room
  • No Shared Food Prep Space
  • Kitchen or Kitchenette Option In Room
  • Breakfast Options
  • Usually Located Near Grocery Stores

Cons of Staying in a Hotel

  • Fridge Not Guaranteed
  • Freezer Not Guaranteed
  • Microwave Not Guaranteed
  • Kitchen Option Not Guaranteed
  • Rooms With Kitchens Cost More
  • Breakfast May Not Have Gluten Free Options
  • Hotel May Cook With Flour On-Premises
  • Rooms Without Kitchen or Kitchenette Have No Food Prep Space
  • Cooking Not Allowed In Rooms Without Kitchen

Ultimately, it depends on the hotel, the room, location, and specifics whether this is the best option for you. Consider which is the most important to you, and ask the right questions.

What To Consider When Renting A House For A Gluten Free Stay

Between VRBO, Air B&B, and other online opportunities for people to rent their house, vacation home, apartment, or other space. These spaces are usually dwellings that are self-sufficient and not simply a room with a bathroom like a hotel.

Having a kitchen in almost every option available can be a great bonus. But there are additional considerations for these spaces that you don’t need to worry about in a hotel, which is their biggest competition.

Benefits of Renting a House

  • Full Kitchen In Most Rentals
  • Full Size Fridge
  • Full Size Freezer
  • Microwave
  • No Shared Food Prep Space
  • Easily Cook All Your Own Meals
  • Options For No Shared Vents Or Hallways
  • Comparable Price With A Hotel
  • Multiple People May Mitigate Costs

Cons of Renting a House

  • Can Be Hard To Search
  • High Cleaning Fees And Deposits
  • Kitchen May Be Covered In Gluten
  • No Set Expectations For Each Rental
  • Further From Grocery Stores
  • No Food Provided
  • High Variance In Cost
  • Cookware Purchase To Use Kitchen

What To Consider When Booking A Campsite Or Rustic Cabin For A Gluten Free Stay

Staying close to nature can be a great way to spend a vacation. But they will likely be the furthest of any accommodations from a grocery store with great gluten free options.

Where I live the campgrounds have rustic cabins they call “yurts” which are even more rustic – they are round exteriors with weatherproof cloth walls. They usually have only one room with a set of bunk beds. A little nicer than a tent, and no setting it up!

The rustic cooking setup lands a spot in both the pro and con categories, but the cost per night is attractive. Some money can be saved as well on the rustic cookware. In other words, you can make do with a roll of tin foil and some sticks.

Bathrooms are something to think about, especially if you have issues with symptoms that require close access to a bathroom when you accidentally eat gluten.

Benefits of Staying at a Campsite or Rustic Cabin

  • Everyone Brings Their Own Food
  • Everyone Brings Their Own Cookware
  • Easier To Fit In
  • No/Limited Equipment With Gluten

Cons of Renting a Campsite or Rustic Cabin

  • Far From Stores
  • Rarely Have A Kitchen
  • Grills Provided Are Highly Contaminated With Gluten
  • Bathrooms Are Communal
  • Bathrooms Are Not Always Near

What To Consider When Gluten Free And Staying With Friends And Family

This is a great option when the situation is possible, and of course, the lack of cost for this option makes it very attractive. However, there are a few things to consider that may make you reconsider this option.

At the very least, this list will be a great starting point for a discussion with the friend or family you intend to stay with, even if staying elsewhere is not an option.

Most time when we travel, my family chooses to stay in separate accommodations due to the complicated nature of the situation. This changes depending on a few factors, but is mostly due to how full the house is and therefore the lack of storage and dedicated cooking space.

Flour in the air is usually the biggest issue because it is easy for people to forget and many people don’t see how it can be a problem. Talking with your hosts honestly is usually the best way to proceed.

Benefits of Staying With Friends And Family

  • Cost
  • Less Travel to Spend Time With Everyone Else
  • Typically Within Easy Access To Grocery Stores
  • Help With Childcare (if applicable)
  • Friends And Family Typically Know Your Gluten Free Needs Already

Cons of Staying With Friends And Family

  • Shared Cooking Spaces
  • Cross-Contact with Gluten Almost Inevitable
  • Shared Food Storage
  • Special Items May be Used by Others
  • Stores With Gluten Free Items May Be Further Away
  • Need To Discuss Food Preparation With Host
  • May Need To Provide Food Storage
  • Limits To Food Options and Prep

How To Choose Your Gluten Free Accommodations

The above lists are just some of the things to consider when planning where you will stay. Depending on your individual situation and the plan for your trip, some will apply and others will not. Unfortunately, we need to consider more things when planning every stage of a trip whether for family, business, or vacation than those without food restrictions.

It can be extremely frustrating and feel isolating, but asking these questions ahead of time will help to ease stress during your travel. Isolation can be difficult during these trips, especially when surrounded by others.

Never, ever, assume any part of your trip will be taken care of by others. Don’t assume the hotel will have safe breakfast options, always check with the front desk, and even then make sure you have additional options in case they are out of the food items you planned on.

Friends and family usually really want to help you and want to understand, but most people are not aware of everything that goes into keeping a strict gluten free diet and it can be a lot for them to handle. They may also forget about some things, even with the best of intentions.

Look at the options, consider the questions above, and make the best decision for your trip. Plan ahead to allow for an enjoyable trip, free of gluten.