Gluten-Free Globetrotter: How to plan your gluten-free vacation

I am very excited to announce I am the guest speaker at the next Celiac Sprue Association Long Island chapter meeting on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Here are the details:

Join the CSA Long Island Celiacs Chapter #23 for a discussion with Erin SmithGluten-Free Globetrotter and lead organizer of the NYC Celiac Meetup group, to discuss gluten-free travel tips. Erin just got back from an amazing trip to Thailand and she is excited to share her gluten-free globetrotting tips with the CSA LI group.

Gluten-Free Globetrotter: How to plan your gluten-free vacation

  • Gluten-free travel tips
  • Safe food on-the-go
  • Gluten-free travel planning resources
  • Gluten-free friendly destinations
  • Q&A

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Dr. Martin Spatz Conference Center, Room A
Winthrop-University Hospital
259 First Street
Mineola NY 11501

Conference Center is located on the Lower Level in the Main Hospital Building

Gluten-Free Globetrotter

Erin Smith

Erin Smith was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1981, so she’s been eating gluten-free almost her entire life. Erin has a unique perspective of growing up in the gluten-free community. She is passionate about sharing her experiences and expertise with others.

Erin has been writing her gluten-free lifestyle blog Gluten-Free Fun since 2007. In 2011, she launched Gluten-Free Globetrotter, a website that encourages those with celiac disease to travel the world and not be scared about eating gluten-free domestically and abroad. She has traveled to more than 20 states, 14 countries, and 3 continents all while maintaining a 100% gluten-free diet.

Erin is the lead organizer of the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup group, a social community that has grown to over 1650 members in the 8 years she has been organizing the group. She is also a staff contributor to Delight Gluten Free Magazine, frequently writing about gluten-free travel.

Transportation: If you are coming out from Manhattan, the Long Island Rail Road Mineola station is right around the corner from the hospital.

Asia, general, Thailand

Gluten-Free Globetrotter is Going to Thailand

Flag of Thailand

Yes, it is true. I decided back in the fall that I wanted to plan a big trip for my birthday. What better way to celebrate than to to travel almost 10,000 miles away from home? YIKES! This will be my first time in Asia, so I am adding a brand new continent and two countries (layover in Dubai, UAE) to add to my list of travels. This is a trip that takes me way out of my comfort zone but I am ready for the challenge. Am I nervous? HELL YEAH. Am I excited? Even more so!!!

As with all of my trips, I do a ton of planning before I leave. This trip is no different except that I am finding it somewhat difficult to navigate this Southeast Asian country in terms of gluten-free research and reviews. I’ve read mixed reviews from gluten-free travelers about eating safely in Thailand. Besides eating gluten-free due to Celiac Disease, I also have a shellfish allergy. I think the latter is going to pose more of a problem than the gluten.

In preparation for my food restrictions, I received complimentary food allergy translation cards in Thai from Select Wisely that highlight both my avoidance of gluten as well as shellfish. These cards are “strongly worded” to alert the vendor or restaurant of my food allergies and came highly recommended by Jodi of Legal Nomads via Twitter. (Jodi is an extensive world traveler who also happens to have Celiac Disease.)

Thai translation cards from
Thai translation cards from

Jodi has written a book called The Food Traveler’s Handbook which includes “guidelines tailored to travelers with special dietary needs such as food allergies (celiac disease, nut allergies, etc), vegetarians.” I do not have the book yet, but I was quite inspired when I heard Jodi speak about her foodie travels from across most of the world at the book launch last fall. I love Celiac travelers that do not let their gluten-free diet stop them from traveling the globe!

Jodi gave me some other helpful tips via Twitter and email. She said “rice flour noodles abound, but a shellfish allergy is far more of an issue since [Thai] use shrimp paste/ground shrimp a lot.” Jodi adds “seitan (faux meat) is made from gluten” and often used at vegetarian places in Thailand “even with just the vegetable dishes.” Finally, Jody warns that “khao soi noodles in the north are made with flour and should be avoided” and like in the United States “soy sauce has wheat flour, so you’ll have to ask for dishes to be soy sauce-free.”

While translation cards are a “nice to have”, it is also a smart move to do some thorough research for safe places to eat while so far away from home. I often use TripAdvisor forums to search for positive (or negative) reviews of restaurants. I heavily rely on other gluten-free traveler experiences found in blogs, online forums, Facebook, and Twitter. Since this research takes time and effort, I thought it would be helpful for me to round up the articles and blog postings that I have discovered during my Thailand gluten-free research. Obviously I will blog about my own experiences once I return from my two-week journey but here is my summary to date.

Blogs about gluten-free travel in Thailand

Forum posts about gluten-free travel in Thailand

Restaurant and shopping suggestions

I don’t want to give too many suggestions here until I have the opportunity to try these places myself. Sometimes online reviews get a little bit shady and I need to go with my gut (ha!). I have read on multiple sites there is a cafe in Chiang Mai that sells gluten-free baked goods but sadly many people have gotten sick from their food. Rather than risk any additional stomach issues (already kind of banking on TD), I plan on steering away from questionable places.In Chiang Mai, The Salsa Kitchen came highly recommended from a number of websites. I contacted the owner who said his mom and sister both have Celiac and eat at the restaurant all the time. While eating Mexican food in Thailand might seem strange to some, I would rather have a safe meal than a non-cuisine. It was great to connect with the owner and discuss my food issues with him before I even left the states. Talk about reassurance! I definitely plan on going to The Salsa Kitchen during my time in Chiang Mai.

I found a link to a store called Maison du Vins 1994 in Bangkok. Although their site is in Thai, I used Google translate to discover they sell imported gluten-free food. Although not really near the places I plan to go in Thailand, I definitely hope to make it there one day. I love checking out markets and shops with gluten-free products when I am both home and abroad.

As you can see, I have already done a lot of research for my two-week holiday to Thailand. While I feel that some of my research will come in handy, I won’t know for sure until I am there and experience the sights, sounds, smells, and food first hand. I will be sure to report back on all of my gluten-free food adventures when I return. Until then…