Food is an important part of travel, but things get complicated when you have to eat 100% gluten free. What is a trip to Paris without a buttery, flaky croissant? Or a trip to Rome without devouring a whole pizza? Lucky for you, you can travel pretty much anywhere in Europe gluten free with a little bit of planning. This is a guide to exploring gluten free Europe based on my experiences as a traveling Celiac.
After 10 years of living 100% gluten free with Celiac Disease, I’ve learned that one of the hardest parts about it is the fear of getting outside of your comfort zone. Traveling gluten free to Europe is all about taking one step outside that comfort zone, and setting up a safety net that makes you feel comfortable.
Traveling gluten free doesn’t have to be filled with anxiety. You can start checking things off your bucket list tomorrow, you just have to approach it a little differently.
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Gluten Free Travel Tips
If you’re just beginning your trip planning, check out my gluten free travel resources page for the tools I use to find and book flights, accommodations, and gluten free Europe restaurants.
Here are my top 10 travel tips for exploring gluten free Europe.
1) Plan ahead. I’m a foodie at heart, and I haven’t let celiac disease put a damper on my obsession with food. I put in a few hours of research before every trip. Uncovering the best gluten free eats is part of the fun! Check Findmeglutenfree, Tripadvisor, and local gluten free blogs. Always contact places you’re interested in ahead of time to double check – don’t take an internet stranger’s (that’s me) word for it.
2) When in doubt, don’t eat it. Pretty self-explanatory. You don’t want to get glutened on vacation. It’s bad enough at home, it’s worse when you’re traveling. Believe me. Don’t risk it.
3) Don’t take online reviews as gospel. This goes back to my first point. Use them as a starting point, but always reach out to places you’re interested in and see if they can meet your needs.
4) Book a place with a kitchen. It can serve as a fallback option if you can’t find safe gluten free food out. You’ll always be able to find things at local supermarkets in Europe that are naturally gluten free like fruits, veggies, and meats. I usually use Airbnb.
5) Cook for yourself to save money and stress. Now that you’ve booked a place with a kitchen, you can cook 100% gluten free for yourself! If you’re traveling long-term, consider buying a pan and spatula to cook with to eliminate cross-contamination.
6) Less cities, more time in each place. Plan on spending four to five days in big cities – think London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney – and two or three days in smaller cities, like Seattle, Porto, or Melbourne. That way, you will have plenty of time to explore the cities without feeling rushed.
7) A lot of countries in Europe take Celiac Disease very seriously. Did you know that Italy, the pizza and pasta capital of the world, is notoriously good at serving celiacs? Gluten free travel isn’t always as hard as it seems.
8) Eliminate the language barrier with a gluten free restaurant card translated into the local language. Nothing is more stressful than being at a restaurant, and not being sure if the server understood your needs. I recommend these Gluten Free Restaurant Cards from Legal Nomads, which will help you get 100% gluten free food even if you can’t speak the language. They have been a big part of helping me travel to places like Chile and Germany where there is a language barrier. Carry a card with you on your trip to eliminate the language barrier and clearly explain your needs, including cross-contamination.
9) ABS. Always. Bring. Snacks. When you’re traveling gluten free, bringing snacks is essential. Whether it’s for the plane, or to get by in a pinch, snacks serve one main purpose: to avoid the hangries.
10) Order a gluten free meal on international flights. Most airlines will pack you a safe gluten free meal if you request it at least 48 hours in advance. Bonus: you get served meals separately, before the rest of the plane! The quality of these meals is a different conversation. It varies. Wildly.
Armed with these travel tips, you can make the most of your gluten free Europe adventure!
My Secret Weapon: Gluten Free Restaurant Cards
If you’ve ever tried to travel internationally 100% gluten free, you know that one of the most daunting things is overcoming a language barrier. If you’re traveling around Europe and need to eat strictly gluten free, traveling with a Gluten Free Restaurant Card to eliminate the language barrier will make your life infinitely easier.
I recommend the cards from Jodi over at Legal Nomads, who has put a ton of time and effort into formulating a card that has everything you need to communicate to get safe gluten free food – including cross-contamination and local specialties – and getting it translated by a native speaker.
I have used the free version of cards, but found that they don’t work for me because they DON’T EVEN MENTION CROSS-CONTAMINATION. What is that? That’s like 90% of the battle.
She has cards for:
Make sure to grab a gluten free restaurant card to eliminate the language barrier and navigate Europe gluten free with ease.
My Favorite Gluten Free Travel Resources
Find Amazing Places to Stay
- I prefer staying in private rooms in hostels, where you get a great blend of the benefits of a hotel (like knowledgeable staff) and an apartment (like a kitchen). I use Booking and Airbnb almost exclusively.
- Booking.com – my go-to site for finding hotels, hostels, and sometimes apartments. Click here to read how I find a place with a kitchen on Booking.com.
- Airbnb – while it has evolved into something I’m not as big a fan of, Airbnb is still a great place to find apartments to stay in while traveling.
Find Unforgettable Things to Do
- Airbnb Experiences – my new favorite after a cooking class in Mexico and great experiences in Colombia. I’m head-over-heels in love.
- I always start off my time with a walking tour, and Take Walks and Context Travel are the best walking tour companies around, and worth the premium vs. the free walking tours.
Find Crazy Cheap Flights
- Scott’s Cheap Flights premium subscription – I saved $900 dollars on my flight to New Zealand, and it was only $39. They send you flight deals from your home airport. Highly recommended if you’re planning on traveling in the next year.
- Kayak is my favorite of the many flight search engines. They have budget airlines, and an awesome “Explore” tool.
Find Gluten Free Restaurants
- FindMeGlutenFree – the best of the gluten free travel apps, but don’t take it as gospel. Read exactly how I use it on my gluten free travel page.
- TripAdvisor and Yelp – always make sure to search “Celiac” for best results.
My Favorite Gluten Free Travel Snacks
- The GFB makes amazing certified gluten free protein bars, protein bites, and power breakfast oatmeal. They’re all delicious and high in protein, and I always have at least one, usually all three, in my travel bag.
- Lotus Foods Ramen: Now certified gluten free! Red Miso is the best flavor, and their ramen cups are a great airplane meal because you just add water.
- Yumbutter Almond Butter Packets: I love their Superfood Almond Butter. It’s certified gluten free, and their packaging is way better than others for on-the-go snacking. Or get the variety pack to try a bunch of different flavors.
Travel Insurance: I recommend having travel insurance for your trip, so you’re covered in case something goes wrong. Travel insurance from World Nomads is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travelers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. I personally use World Nomads so I’m covered on my trips.
European Gluten Free Travel Guides
Looking to travel 100% gluten free to Europe? Here are my Gluten Free City Guides for some of my favorite European countries and cities.
- Gluten Free London: The Best Gluten Free RestaurantsWondering where to eat gluten free in London? First of all, you’re in the right place. We recently spent two weeks in London, and most of…
- Gluten Free Madrid: A Complete Guide for CeliacsWondering where to eat gluten free in Madrid? Don’t you worry, there are plenty of great gluten free restaurants in Madrid – both dedicated gluten free…
- Gluten Free Barcelona: A Complete Travel Guide for CeliacsWondering where to eat gluten free in Barcelona? In this guide – written by two gluten free foodies who spent a week eating their way through…
- Gluten Free Rome: A Complete Travel Guide for CeliacsAh, Roma! That home of pasta, pizza, and all the other delicious things that are generally full of gluten. It can’t possibly be easy to eat…
- Gluten Free Florence, Italy: A Complete Guide for CeliacsLooking for a guide to where to eat gluten free in Florence? We’re two gluten free foodies – I, Matt, have Celiac Disease and was diagnosed…
- Gluten Free Milan: A Complete Travel Guide for CeliacsLooking for the best gluten free restaurants and bakeries in Milan? You’re in the right place – we just got done eating our way through the…
- Gluten Free Paris: A Complete Guide for CeliacsWondering where to eat gluten free in Paris? You’re in luck! We just spent a week eating our way through Paris – all 100% gluten free,…
- Gluten Free Lisbon: The Best Gluten Free Restaurants for CeliacsLisbon is a wonderful city, full of rich history featuring a diverse cast of characters who have undeniably left their mark on Portugal’s capital. One of…
- Gluten Free Budapest: 12+ Dedicated Gluten Free SpotsI have to admit – when I first started planning a trip to Budapest, I made sure to book an Airbnb so that I would have…
- Gluten Free Italy: A Complete Guide for Traveling CeliacsI know what you’re thinking, because I’ve heard it from countless people – both online and in real life – when I’ve mentioned Rome (or Italy…
- Gluten Free Amsterdam: Complete Travel Guide for CeliacsSo You’re going to Amsterdam. Your flights are booked. You know where you’re staying. But you need to figure out where to find the best gluten…
- Gluten Free Munich: A Complete Travel Guide for CeliacsWhen I first started planning a European Christmas Market adventure in 2017, Munich came up as a possible destination. We did a fantastic trip that took…
- Gluten Free Berlin: A Complete Travel Guide for CeliacsWhen I first started thinking about how I was going to eat gluten free in Berlin, I was a little concerned. German food is not known…
European Travel Guides
- Where to Stay in Paris: 5 Amazing Areas to StayParis was one of my first international travel experiences after I graduated from college and left the US for the first time in my life. I took…
- How to Plan an Amazing Portugal Itinerary (10 Days)Planning a trip to Portugal? You’re in the right place. We started and ended our three month European adventure in Portugal, and fell in love with its…
- 4 Days in Rome: How to Plan an Amazing Rome ItineraryWondering exactly how to spend 4 days in Rome? Or maybe you have more or less time and you’re trying to figure out how to plan an…
- Gluten Free Budapest: 12+ Dedicated Gluten Free SpotsI have to admit – when I first started planning a trip to Budapest, I made sure to book an Airbnb so that I would have a…
- Gluten Free Italy: A Complete Guide for Traveling CeliacsI know what you’re thinking, because I’ve heard it from countless people – both online and in real life – when I’ve mentioned Rome (or Italy as…
- Traveling Gluten Free: 84 Tips, Tools, and Resources to HelpTraveling gluten free can feel overwhelming. It can feel complicated. But it can also feel uplifting. Exciting. Empowering. You’re going to love the feeling you get when…
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