Tips on Traveling on Day Trips with Gluten-Free Kids

May 26, 2011 by

I cried the day I found out that my children were gluten-intolerant like their father.  I grieved for the childhood I perceived they’d be missing out on – chasing the ice cream man for a cone, pizza at sleepovers with girlfriends, beer with the guys as my son grew into a man. I saw all the things they couldn’t have and I was sad for them. And, selfishly, I was a little sad for me. My entire life was about to change and it was a lot to take in.

But since I had already eliminated grains for my own personal health and Mike was already GF because of his Celiac, we got the hang of it pretty quickly with the kids. Today, I no longer grieve for the life they won’t have but instead am so proud of the healthy life they WILL have. However, some of the hardest things we’ve encountered as a family has been the “on-the-go” options of taking day trips with the kids. Gone are the days we could just grab some diapers and a change of clothes and head out of town for the day on adventures, figuring we’d stop off somewhere and eat or just grab something quick while out. Now our world is a little more planned out but not impossible.

So when  Diane from The W.H.O.L.E. Gang asked me if I’d like to be part of an amazing group of gluten-free bloggers to share tips and tricks for  30 Days to Easy Gluten-free Living, I was definitely on board. I know there’s a lot of parents out there who have newly diagnosed children or even just parents who are looking for healthier ways to feed their kids on the go. So I’m going to give you my Tips on Traveling on Day Trips with GF Kids.

1) Buy a large lunchbox or a mini cooler. Especially this time of year, they’re all on sale and can be really affordable at Target, Walmart, etc. We use one with a solid/plastic inner liner. For one thing, it keeps the stuff cooler longer. For another, it can’t get crushed under a toddler tushie, like this one:

2) If you know you’re going on a day trip on the weekend, run to the store Friday. This way you know you’ll have plenty of options and not be running out right before you need to leave. You can also use the day before to make some homemade snacks to pack like homemade lara bars, grain-free cheeze-its, pepita parmesan crackers, or power balls.

3) Know your kids or ask them what they’d like to eat that day. Packing a whole cooler full of food they won’t eat isn’t going to help the Hungry Toddler About to Have A Canary Because He Is Starving But Doesn’t Want Hummus FOR THE LOVE.

4) Get them involved in the morning picking out what they’d want to eat. Let them help you peel the apples or put the cream cheese on the celery.

5) Fast and convenient doesn’t have to be packaged/processed food. If you’re really strapped for time, buy the apple slices or the already-chopped melon. Sure it will cost you more money but if you’re committed to a whole foods approach, it should be worth the extra cash. Most supermarkets will have pre-cut/pre-sliced veggies and fruit in the produce section. Grab some pre-cut celery and swing over and grab a small tub of natural peanut butter and you have a quick snack!

6) Build in an extra 30 minutes. If you want to leave at 10 am, set your time to be ready to leave at 9:30. Chances are you are going to forget something or be rushed, and having this padding helps the momma from losing her ever-loving mind before she even gets in the car.

7) Keep your car stocked. Often, we end up staying longer at places than we anticipated. Be it a friend’s barbecue, stuck in traffic, at a show or museum and the lunch and snacks we packed are long gone. This is when the stocked car helps. In both of our consoles, we have a few of these stocked away:

as well as some juice boxes. Is it ideal? No. But we’re human and when you’re stuck in a two-hour traffic jam, you do what you gotta do. You can also keep your car stocked with nuts, dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, etc. I don’t recommend keeping bottled water in a car due to the leaching of chemicals the plastic into the water in the heat (but that’s just me).

8) Know what “quick” items you CAN grab. Educate yourself and know what things you would be able to purchase in a convenience store if you had to. Beef Jerky? No. It often is made with soy sauce/teryaki which contains wheat. Mixed nuts? Check for malt or caramel flavoring. These days, most convenience stores carry lots of nuts, trail mixes, cheese sticks, etc. Just always read ingredients. And if you’re ever really stuck, plain Potato Chips (when the ingredients are just potatoes, salt, and oil) may not be the healthiest choice but they are GF safe and will almost always quiet a hungry kid.

9) If you know what city you’re going to and want to eat out, check out the GlutenFree Registry. It has over 19,600 restaurants logged in for cities all over the country. You should be able to locate something in or near the area you’re going to. Call ahead the week before to talk to staff, make reservations, etc. You can also turn to Twitter or Facebook and ask if anyone from or near that city has any good recommendations for gluten-free dining with kids. Use the hashtags #glutenfree, #gf,  or #celiac and you’d be surprised how many helpful people there are in the community.

10) Ease up if you can. If you’re like me and feed your kids a natural whole-foods diet 95% of the time, than packing a bag of Glutino pretzels for a road trip does not make you Mommy Dearest (WIRE HANGERS!). Unless your child has other food or dye sensitivities, use the day trips as a “fun” day and let them pick one treat they normally wouldn’t have. You want them (and you!) to have fun on these trips, not worry about everything. Kids are kids. Vanilla ice cream for dinner never hurt anyone (assuming they’re not dairy-free!)


Here are the rest of the amazing contributions from this month. I hope you get the time to check them out: I know many of these women personally and their tips and tricks are truly from the best.

Monday May 2nd    Diane from  The WHOLE Gang sharing Easy Gluten Free Grocery Shopping Tips

Tuesday May 3rd  Iris from The Daily Dietribe sharing on How to Start a Gluten Free Diet.

Wednesday May 4th  Heather from Gluten-Free Cat sharing Smoothing the GF Transition with Smoothies

Thursday May 5th  Alta from Tasty Eats at Home sharing Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Friday May 6th  Elana from Elana’s Pantry sharing Quick and Easy Gluten Free Cherry Vanilla Power Bars

Saturday May 7th  Cheryl from Gluten Free Goodness sharing Easy Meals GF Style

Sunday May 8th  Megan from Food Sensitivity Journal sharing Gluten Free Baking Undone:  Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Monday May 9th  Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free sharing Magic Cookie Power Bars.

Tuesday May 10th  Ricki from Diet, Dessert and Dogs sharing Gluten Free Baking Tips

Wednesday May 11th      Ellen from Gluten-Free Diva sharing Gluten Free Travel Tips

Thursday May 12th     Kim from Cook It Allergy Free sharing Eating from your Garden for Easy Gluten-Free Living

Friday May 13th     Melissa from Gluten Free For Good sharing Gluten-Free Food Rules (recipes included)

Saturday May 14th  Brittany from Real Sustenance sharing Healthy Allergy-Free Quick Bread with easy flavor variations.

Sunday May 15th  Nicola from g-free Mom sharing Kids Lunch Boxes

Monday May 16th     Wendy from Celiacs in the House sharing Fast Food for Gluten Free Teens

Tuesday May 17th     Shirley from gluten free easily sharing Your Pantry is the Key to Living gfe

Wednesday May 18th     Nancy from  The Sensitive Pantry sharing Tips for BBQ and Picnics

Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods

Friday May 20th  Silvana from Silvana’s Kitchen sharing Everything I’ve Learned So Far about Gluten-Free plus my Dairy-Free Nutella Knockoff recipe!

Saturday May 21st  Maggie from She Let Them Eat Cake sharing Easy Gluten-Free Living With Preschoolers and a Vanilla Cupcake recipe!

Sunday May 22nd  Sea from Book of Yum sharing Easy Gluten Free Vegetarian Soy Free Breakfast Burritos

Monday May 23rd     Tia from Glugle Gluten-Free sharing The Value of Support

Tuesday May 24th    Alisa from Alisa Cooks and Go Dairy Free sharing Wrap it Up-Thinking Outside the Bun

Wednesday May 25th  Hallie from Daily Bites sharing Cooking by Color

Thursday May 26th     Carol from Simply…Gluten-Free sharing tips on Entertaining

Friday May 27th   AndreAnna from Life as a Plate sharing Tips on Traveling on Day Trips with Kids

Saturday May 28th  Zoe from Z’s Cup of Tea sharing

Sunday May 29th  Kelly from The Spunky Coconut sharing Buying in bulk to save money, Cooking in bulk to save time.

Monday May 30th  Jess from ATX Gluten-Free sharing 1 Meal 3 Ways, Jazzing up Leftovers

Tuesday May 31st  Naomi from Straight into Bed, Cakefree and Dried sharing how to prepare grains so they are more nutritious & digestible and create fluffier wholegrain baked goods!

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  1. Really great post, AndreAnna! Love these tips, especially not obsessing on the occasional packaged treat like potato chips. ;-)


  2. Awesome ideas AndreAnna, for adults too! I especially agree with #10. After traveling quite a bit, I had to relax some rules (the non-medically necessary ones) and it really did make life flow more smoothly, even if I wasn’t perfect.

  3. Since I am at the been there and done that stage of parenting, I have to say that tip #10 is the best. Easing up can mean the difference in the mental health of all involved. Mine are grown and making pretty healthy choices and a few bags of chips or pretzels on a road trip did not ruin them for life. Great tips!

  4. Love the Wire Hangers reference. I got my sister a GREAT Mommy Dearest b-day card last year for her birthday. We both laughed hard! For some weird reason, I loved that movie. Too much information? Anyway, great post. I think our kids are really close in age (mine are 2 1/2 and almost 5). You’re bang on! Especially with your last one. Thank Glutino for pretzels. You have to relax a little if you want everyone to have a happy, memorable trip!

    • AndreAnna

      Maggie – exactly!!! I think freaking out about food can ruin an entire day and life’s too short for that!!

      And yes, our kids are close! Charlotte just turned 5 this month and Sawyer will be 3 in July.

  5. Oh my, I had to giggle reading #3. Yea, I’ve been there. Hahahah!!! Good tips. I’m getting ready to make a two week trip with a Celiac child who breaks out with DH if she even gets an iota of Gluten. SHould be fun.

    Extraordinary Life

  6. These are great tips for adults and parents with kids alike! And you’re right, relaxing and allowing that occasional bag of potato chips won’t be the end of the world. :) Great post.

  7. I don’t have kids, but I definitely make use of most of these tips! Great ideas–and I agree, it’s a holiday, ease up a bit & have some fun! :)

  8. Being prepared is SO important. Love the restaurant registry link! Whenever I travel I also check ahead to find out what local super markets are nearby so I can stock up on a few of my “essentials.” I also ask ahead for a fridge in the room if I’m staying at a hotel. Great post!

  9. Some great tips. And, like everyone else, I think #10 is the best. We are always so hard on ourselves to be perfect with everything, and we forget that sometimes good enough is good enough.

  10. kamisaki

    this is an awesome post. We are remodeling our rental house in a different town, and it is 2 hours each way. I have to take my toddler with me each time I go to work on the house, and having snacks handy is a necessity, especially since the kitchen is completely torn out! These are fabulous ideas. I have to admit, although I know it is a typo, the comment about the kid having a canary if they have to eat hummus one more time made me laugh out loud. I just pictured my 3 year old eating a canary because I tried to force hummus down her AGAIN (which is actually pretty accurate) :) Coronary is the word, but that’s only because I’m an ICU nurse, and it stood out to me :) Thanks again for a great post!

    • AndreAnna

      Wow, two hours each way is a lot! Ha! Thanks so much for your comment. I actually did mean “canary,” haha! It’s just a saying we’ve always used, like “Don’t have a cow” which, now that I think about it, also makes no sense. Wonder what the true etymology is? Guess it’s regional? LOL

      • kamisaki

        that’s hilarious! We say “don’t have a coronary”, meaning “don’t have a heart attack” when we don’t get something we want. I’ve never heard it the other way. Though the image of a 3 year old attacking a canary has made me laugh all day. With the stress of this house remodel, I needed a smile…thanks for that :)


    The best idea is to create a travel kit for your child. In the travel bag include the “necessary” items such as pens, pencils, crayons, travel games and writing paper.

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  12. ali

    AMazing i like it

  13. Jack

    The kids are really enjoy these trip. Last Sunday i was go with my kids True Healing Self Healing on a hil station and zoo. All the day we enjoy so much and eat together

  14. Hello
    These are great tips for adults and parents with kids alike! And you’re right, relaxing and allowing that occasional bag of potato chips won’t be the end of the world.
    Thanks :)


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