Whether it’s simply taking a day trip, or holidaying for longer periods at home or abroad, life is absolutely not going to stop following your child’s diagnosis with coeliac disease. But it will be different. And whilst we know it can be a bit of a military operation getting the family packed up and ready even without special dietary requirements, when you have a coeliac in the family, planning ahead is even more important than ever before.
If you’re taking a day trip and planning on eating at a restaurant in the UK, we suggest you do your research before you even set off. Just google the area or visit the websites of local cafes or restaurants to see whether they have any gluten free options. If you are abroad and out and about, don’t assume ‘gluten free’ will be understood. There are a tonne of translation terms and even cards which are downloadable on the web. Print out copies in the language of the country you are travelling to or some sites offer a more robust plastic card, a bit like a credit card which can be re-used and shown each time you visit a restaurant, but these are chargeable.
Long car journeys - it’s a good idea to have a box of gluten free snacks and supplies in the car, just in case you can’t find anything on your travels. Motorway service stations aren’t great at providing good gluten free options, especially child friendly ones. Non perishable nutritious products such as nuts, dried fruit, gluten free biscuits, gluten free crackers and gluten free snack bars are always winners in our family to stave off the hunger pangs.
At the airport and on the plane - This can be very stressful at the best of times, especially with young kiddiwinks in tow. Everything from the drive to the airport, parking the car, checking in and moving through Security, so woe betide if your child suffers a bout of ‘hangry’ and there isn’t anything suitable to eat (and quite often there just isn’t)...your relaxing holiday just isn’t going to get off the start you had hoped for. On a recent holiday to Greece, we were stunned to find that the airline didn’t even offer a gluten free meal choice (good job we checked ahead), so we brought sandwiches which the whole family ate instead of having a hot meal on the 4 hour plane journey, so Freya didn’t feel different.
However, the very same airline did accommodate for coeliacs in other ways. They allowed an extra 15kg weight allowance (so like an extra suitcase) in order to bring gluten free foods on holiday. We’re not sure if all airlines do this, but always good to check ahead.
Staying in a hotel - It’s imperative that when you choose a hotel, whether the restaurant serves a la carte or buffet style, that you discuss your child’s dietary requirements with the hotel ahead of travelling. On a recent trip to Rhodes at the Princess Andriana; Freya’s parents were concerned how to ensure a gluten free diet during an all inclusive holiday, but found their experience was exceptional. Chef always ensured Freya ate whatever she wanted, but a gluten free version, which was prepared separately from other foods. The whole family had a super time and would highly recommend parents with coeliac children to go there (PS. just so you know, we don’t get a kickback for mentioning this - just sharing the knowledge people. Go, if you get chance, it’s ace!)
Self Catering - Would you believe that bacon we bought from the local supermarket in Portugal contained gluten?! No, we couldn’t believe it either, until poor Freya was suffering a bout of glutening on a recent trip and after a process of elimination, we tracked it back to that. We didn’t even think to check the packet but when we did, we found the culprit. So here’s a tip, don’t assume foods you buy quite freely in the UK, remain gluten free when abroad and always check the label.
So whilst we know it’s not rocket science, our key to a successful holiday is simply plan ahead, learn the lingo and check every label. Oh yes, and relax...