VACATION RENTALS: From screened huts in Peru, to mobile homes in Florida, log cabins in Tennessee, thatched cottages in Ireland and even a castle in Scotland; Vacation Rentals are a great way to go! They come in absolutely every size, shape and location you can imagine, from dirt cheap to as extravagant as you can dream, there are very few limits. They're easy enough to find if you can Google. In the U S use the key words "Vacation Rental" and the location you're interested in. Outside the U S use the key words "Self Catering" along with the country you want to search.
We have one rule when we travel…we never eat, shop, or explore anything we could do at home. That means when we shop for Gluten-Free food we stick to locally available as well. And it’s a lot easier than you’d expect if you eat real food…fresh fruits, vegetables & proteins. I’ve also found that countries outside the U S are truly much more Gluten-Free safe than I had imagined.
MEAL PLAN/SHOPPING LIST: I always seem to travel with a troop…anywhere from 4 to 40 people…so it’s always wise to have a basic shopping list planned out. About a month before leaving we begin discussing food of course :-) Meals are planned around my specific needs and everyone else’s likes and dislikes. Yes, we do eat out when we travel. But we also love to eat in as well. I travel with some incredible cooks who love exploring the local cuisine. I will admit spending time with people who love food as much as I do really makes the trip so much more enjoyable. And we all love to immerse ourselves in the local culture which means local food as well. Thankfully, my travel buddies are not big fans of processed foods…so that makes planning and shopping for real, whole foods that much easier. If you check out the local stores online you can often find out which brands are safe or offer GF options available in that area.
BREAKFAST: I never leave the house without eating a good hearty breakfast first. Others may stop and eat whenever, wherever they want...for me it's not so easy so I make certain I'm prepared for my day. So first on the list are potatoes, onions, eggs, sausage, bacon, salt & pepper. If you cook the meats first, then you don’t need to worry about the oil/butter. Otherwise olive or coconut oil is always on our list…we never use anything else. Everyone seems to love my GF pancakes so those go on the list as well with either real maple syrup (if it’s available) or local jams or fruit preserves. If the pancake mix might present a challenge I’ll pack my own in the suitcase…just in case.
LUNCH/SNACKS: We never plan lunches, but we do like to keep something on-hand just in case. Generally it’s some local cheese, perhaps some deli-meats or roasted chicken, plenty of fresh fruit and chips of some sort. We don’t even bother with the bread or condiments…we don’t truly need them. Snacks…don't forget stuff that’s not too tender and can easily be thrown into a backpack or purse for the day. Protein bars, dried fruit, hard cheese, nuts; and trust me I’m not the only one who goes looking for them. It’s easy enough to find everything GF and others don’t even know the difference. Stay away from the chocolate though…if it’s a warm day you’ll regret it.
One thing we’ve learned is that GF potato chips are pretty much available wherever we’ve traveled. My daughters and friends all know this. And potato chips are the one food I know I can eat without any tummy upset. So when we’re out and about and everyone is stopping to enjoy a snack or lunch and we find there is absolutely nothing available for me; someone will show up with a bag of chips and a cold drink and I’m a happy camper :-) It doesn’t matter what they may be eating, I’m safe and in the company of some amazing people. I don’t ask for anything more.
DINNER: This is always a planned event, whether we shop and make it at the house, or find a restaurant in our travels where we can all stop and enjoy a great meal. I’m grateful that my travel mates will search for a place where I can enjoy my meal with them. We discuss this before we even begin to pack. If it’s going to be 7 nights we may plan on eating out for 1-3 meals and cooking at the house for the rest. We always leave 1-2 nights with no dinner planned because we’ve discovered left-overs have a way of making it into the fridge and those become lunch or dinner quickly.
We try to stay away from processed foods...UNLESS...we find something particular to the location that is clearly marked Gluten-Free. Normally, I don't eat that sort of thing at home, but on vacation or a break I love to indulge and try new things. And if they all decide to do a pizza night like we did in Portugal then I’ll raid the fridge and find something interesting to enjoy. I think that night I ended up with fresh fruit, local goat cheese, cookies and wine. I shared the wine. They all had Portuguese Pizza…it was an interesting twist.
THE HOUSE: Many of these Vacation Rentals will provide some of the basic items needed for our stay…trash bags, soaps, paper goods, some non-perishable cooking supplies…those are a big help. Not all rental houses provide things like that. Many are stripped clean after each renter and it’s up to the renter to scramble for supplies that first day. Honestly, houses that are stripped like that are a huge disappointment.
And the best part? My own kitchen! Traveling Gluten-Free can be a real challenge at times and I love being able to prepare my own meals on occasion, on my own terms without worrying about someone else’s carelessness. Generally, the kitchens are pretty clean and neat. There is NO maid service but they do have a cleaning crew go through the house from top to bottom before you move in and then again after you move out. So the kitchens have never really been a problem for me. The first thing we do upon arriving is inspect the house, find our bedrooms and begin making a note of items we’ll need to shop for. Usually tops on the list are soaps & paper products for the kitchen, bath and laundry.
I check out the kitchen. Glass is my friend! I love finding glass and ceramic dishes, glasses, cups, bowls and baking pans! When in doubt…wash it out! Plastic gets shoved to the back of the shelf…I don’t like using it. Pots & pans take a ton of abuse so I inspect them closely. Scratches, dents, unknown burnt bits…those get shoved to the back of the shelf as well. If I have to, I’ll purchase my own trusty fry pan to use while I’m there and then simply leave it behind when I’m gone. I absolutely dislike aluminum…but if needed I’ll sacrifice my dislike and purchase aluminum baking/roasting pans and foil…simply to protect myself. I’ve also been known to convert the entire kitchen to disposables if absolutely nothing in the kitchen is safe to eat from.
When we’re shopping we generally don’t get much that’s not Gluten-Free because we’re always out and about nearly every day and everyone can indulge to their hearts content. Here are some of the basics we shop for, you'll need to adjust according to your needs - Bacon, Bath Soap, Broth, Butter, Chicken, Chips, Coffee, Conditioner, Creamer, Deli-Meats, Dish Soap, Dried Fruit, Eggs, Fresh Fruit, Fresh Vegetables, Garlic, Hamburger, Hand Soap, Hard Cheese, Juice, Laundry Soap, Milk, Nuts, Oil, Onions, Paper Towels, Pepper, Potatoes, Protein Bars, Rice, Salt, Sausage, Tea, Toilet Paper, Tooth Paste, Trash Bags, Shampoo, Snack Bars, Sugar, Water.
Meeting: 4th Saturday of every month except December
Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
101 Imperial Palm Drive
Largo, Florida 33771