Traveling gluten and lactose free – The ultimate survival guide

Living with food intolerance is not easy and it gets even harder while traveling abroad, as we get out of our comfort zone that includes a kitchen, controlled ingredients, familiar restaurants and reliable products.

But the truth is that nothing can or should prevent us from living our dreams and of course traveling must not be banned from our lives simply because of the food intolerance.

Many of you still do not know but I cope with significant food intolerance which require some extra care in my routine. In spite of it, I travel full time for long periods and still can keep up with my health.

I am intolerant to gluten and lactose and these conditions made me develop some techniques to avoid problems while traveling, after all I can’t miss an opportunity to visit new places and I bet you are just like the same, right?

Since there isn’t many helpful texts linking those issues online, I decided to sum up some important and precious tips I learned traveling with food intolerance and I hope to help you to travel more and better.




International flights tend to be long and often last for more than 8 hours, which means you will probably have at least two meals while in transit.

Starving for so long is not an option, therefore, the best way to deal with this situation is to communicate your food intolerance to the airlines companies in advance and make sure they will be prepared to feed you properly.

This procedure can be done at the time of booking, but from my experience, I recommend you to get in touch with them in two subsequent moments: 7 days and 48 hours prior to the departure of the flight.

In case they do not arrange everything for you or if you forget to communicate your intolerance to them, try not to panic and talk with the flight attendants, explain the situation and ask very nicely if they have any extra meals suitable for you.

I have already managed a bad situation this way, but please keep in mind that it isn’t always going to work out fine, so make sure to follow the protocol and minimize the chances of living a nightmare up in the air!

Also, before booking your ticket make sure you research your airline because some don’t even offer suitable means and others will kindly offer special meals for individuals following certain diets including gluten-free approved and monitored by a Registered Dietitian.




Please, never forget the traveler mantra: you will not find anything gluten or lactose free to eat at the airport, nothing at all. 

Unfortunately, airports have a bad reputation all around the world concerning to restaurants, as everything seems to be breaded, oily and overpriced, so the best thing you can do is to avoid them.

Thus, the best decision to make is to pack safe food for the trip and for the waiting time at the airport 🙂




The first and most important travel tip for travelers who suffer with gluten and lactose intolerance is to rent apartments featuring equipped kitchen wherever you go.

Nothing can possibly be better than being able to prepare your own food safely, so you can always have meals, breakfast or snacks at home or to take away.

For me this is the best way to get along well with intolerance while traveling and to maintain a nutritious diet, specially because we all need a lot of energy available to make the most of the experiences. Am I right?

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So, whenever it is possible I choose to stay in Airbnb apartments and cook my daily meals to eat at home or to take away. In addition to food safety, renting an apartment is a good way to save money, so there is no excuse for not giving it a try!

I know, you may even be thinking that it is not worth spend time cooking during your holidays, but the truth is it can be much more practical to do this than to walk around for hours looking for suitable restaurants – believe me, I have done that.

Moreover, you do not need to cook all your meals at home, as you can find pleasing restaurants to try out but it is always good to have a “safe harbor” to rely on when you can not find suitable options around you.




Even if you are planning to rent an apartment for your trip, it’s always nice to have restaurant options to enjoy foreign cuisines and try different recipes.

So the best idea is to look for restaurants in advance and plan your daily itinerary considering the addresses searched, to minimize the stress when hunger strike

Unfortunately, not all restaurants offer meal options for intolerant and even less for celiacs, so it is best to ensure that you find good options out there before traveling.

The good news is that there are numerous websites, blogs and apps that gather valuable information for each city and you just need to put some effort on finding the best places for you!

 Some good information can be found on Delphi forums, the forums, the Brain Talk forums and also on Gluten Free Roads.

Oh, and a very good advice is to look for restaurants that offer cuisines that are naturally gluten-free, such as japanese, thai, indian and raw food.




Unfortunately, not all the shops and supermarkets offer lactose and gluten free products.

So whenever you find a store with these features, do not think twice and buy the quantity and variety of products you need for some days.

As far as I have learned to travel with intolerance there is no more frustrating situation than loosing the opportunity to buy reliable products in a place and then realize you will not find anywhere else. You will thank me later 🙂




In case you don’t follow my adventures on Instagram, it is now time to know that I am the kind of person that is always carrying a tupperware packed with food around my trips. And I can ensure you that this habit has saved my life in so many moments – literally!

So, my advice is that you always travel with a thermal bag packed with food and some fruits, but please remember to choose a light bag so you don’t need to carry unnecessary weigh in your suitcase and backpack.

In addition, I suggest you buy and take your tupperware from home, as it is extremely difficult to find them in some other countries.




English is the universal language of tourism and it is possible to obtain important information on most occasions using this language.

However, be sure to search and take notes of the terms “gluten – lactose” free in the languages of the countries you are visiting and therefore avoid possible inconveniences.

When eating in restaurants, don’t be ashamed and ask as many questions you need to make sure your food will be safe and if the waiter is not sure about it just ask them to go ask the chef.




I try to keep a healthy diet filled with as much vegetables, fruits and raw food as possible and my worst nightmare is to replace a meal for a snacks or sandwiches.

But the truth is that sometimes McDonalds may be thee the best option for intolerants while traveling, as they usually offer gluten-free breads.

Of course that is an alternative for intolerants and not for celiacs, as the contamination in their kitchen is probably one of the worst in the world!

So, whenever you figure it is impossible to find better meals, fast food can save you. I know it is a crazy idea, but trust me, you will thank the gods for the existence of McDonalds when you travel to Viena and find nothing eles but breaded schnitzels to order in restaurants!




I know the bizarre effect that consuming substances your body is not able to digest can cause on our health system.

So, try not to eat what you are not supposed to at any cost. Even when I am traveling, I never get tempted to “cheat” on my strict diet, because it would mean cheating myself and my welfare.

I know exactly what gluten and lactose does to me, and it’s no good. I bet you also know it is not good for you too, so don’t risk ruining your trip.

When in doubt, always choose fruits combined with nuts and grains because they will provide you satiety and therefore avoid those terrible choices-mistakes of giving up on your special diet and regretting very soon.


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Lara Nogueira

More about Lara Nogueira

Lara founded "Finding New Paths" as a platform to share inspiration from her travels and to inspire others to experience our world in an unique way. She now divides her time between studying a Masters ( International Tax Law ) in Sweden and her adventures abroad!

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