Updated June 2022 by Serena Bansal Registered Dietitian BSc Hons
Can people with coeliac disease and gluten intolerance enjoy an all inclusive holiday? Following my recent coeliac adventure to Mexico, I share my top tips on ensuring a gluten free holiday.
Table of Contents
Before You Book
Research the best resorts for gluten free food, by looking at reviews online. Yes, most resorts will provide a gluten free meal, but the variety may not be great.
Most holiday companies will share the details of their best gluten free resorts on their website. But Trip Advisor will provide you with less biased reviews on gluten free holiday resorts.
Before You Go
Contact the hotel:
When you have booked your holiday, email the hotel to make them aware of your needs. Be very specific with mentioning not only gluten free but also the cross contamination element.
Download a travel card:
Unless you are fully bi-lingual then I highly suggest you download a travel card in the country’s own language. This card comes in a variety of languages and outlines your dietary needs. It can be downloaded free of charge (although please donate) from Celiac Travel.
Download a Coeliac UK travel leaflet:
These provide you with a variety of useful information such as useful phrases, food labelling and what to eat. These leaflets are available for a huge range of different countries and can be downloaded from Coeliac UK.
Arrange gluten free airplane food: (see below)
After getting through the usual gluten free hurdles of the airport, the airplane food is the next consideration.
If you are going on a short journey which includes no meals then taking your own gluten free snacks is the best option.
However, if like me, you are going long-haul then you will need to contact your airline to ensure the hostess team are aware of your special dietary requirement. You can usually do this through the log in details provided to you when you book the holiday or by calling your airline’s customer service.
Despite the airline knowing that you are gluten free, don’t expect any overly exciting snacks. I would recommend taking your own to avoid the mundane explanation that ‘no I can no eat a pretzel.’
All inclusive resorts will offer several restaurants and it pays to check the menus before you go out. You may find that there are very few gluten free options or that they only offer fruit as a desert (being gluten free = being sick of fruit as a desert).
Always take your travel card with you so that the waiter has a good idea of your dietary needs. Even if their English sounds good, explaining the full needs of a gluten free diet is difficult to get across.
Navigating The Buffet
Buffets will often provide the gluten free traveler with many food choices, which is great. However, be sure to ask the waiter or chef each day to go around with you and tell you what is gluten free. What is gluten free one day, may not be the next.
Cross contamination is your biggest hurdle as other holiday makers may use the same spoon for 2 different dishes. I distinctly remember watching the guy in front of me on holiday dump the maple syrup ladle onto the pile of pancakes on his plate – before replacing it. This resulted in me having to ask the staff to bring out some new syrup – just for me.
The easiest way to get around cross contamination is to be the first one there. You can’t always guarantee this so an alternative option to consider is ordering room service for typical buffet meals such as breakfast.
I honestly thought that gluten free drinks would be very easy on holiday. That was until I had symptoms after having a cocktail. In different countries, they use different mixers and so unless it is a simple drink such as tea/ coffee/ juice/ a spirit and mixer then you need to find out if it contains gluten. Most resorts will provide you with a cocktail menu which should include allergy labelling.
Yes – those who are a gluten free can enjoy an all inclusive holiday (with a little bit of careful planning!)
If you would like further advice you can trust about a gluten free diet, then please contact me.
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.
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