Flying with Celiac Disease is one of the more challenging dietary restrictions a person can face. We find it exceptionally difficult to find food while we’re moving through airports. Larger airports would seem to have more selection, but they are not much better than smaller commuter airports. Julie and I have spent more time looking for food in airports than actually sitting down and enjoying a meal. Our last trip was unfortunate – we found a gluten free restaurant advertised as such, open until 10PM with our plane landing at 8:45, so we should have had plenty of time to get to the spot and have a decent meal. By the time we reached the restaurant at 9:00PM, they told us they closed at 9. They reluctantly agreed to seat us, but no one knew exactly how the gluten free food was prepared, or the degree in which they could assure no cross-contamination. We were starving, so we really had no other choice. It would be another 4 hours before we land at our final destination.
It took them 20 minutes to prepare two cold sandwiches, which itself was concerning. We looked them over, and they seemed alright so we cautiously ate our food, but couldn’t stomach much of it given we’d need to get back to the gate by about 9:45 to get on our plane. Right away, Julie wasn’t feeling great, so she declined to take her leftovers. I took mine, but never went back to eat them. We can’t be 100% certain, but we’re pretty sure there was gluten in her food, and mine did not make me feel well either. The lesson learned for us is you cannot rely on a website to have accurate information about food or hours of operation. Beyond that, we learned that the only safe bet is taking our own food, and liquids are not permitted, so that cuts about 80% of Julie’s diet out from the start.
So now we are faced with another challenge flying with Celiac disease presents: how do we maintain our health if we cannot find decent food, and cannot safely pack food to take with us? We called airlines and they do not make accommodations for gluten intolerance, so you are basically on your own. One possibility is to travel in a recreational vehicle, but that could take a week or longer to travel a couple thousand miles. Not everyone has a week to take off just to go somewhere, and you still have to travel back home. Another possibility is to only book direct flights, eat as much as possible before we leave, and have food ready the moment we land. The shorter the distance we travel, the less stressful it will be. No matter how you slice it, flying with Celiac disease is a challenge that is not easily overcome.