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Travel Diary: Traveling While Gluten-Free

Travel Diary: Traveling While Gluten-Free

Photo: Raphael Rychetsky 

Blog by Jillian Rodriguez

We’re nearly 130 miles into our road trip and ready to take our first pit stop to fuel up the car and ourselves. We’re on our way to Chicago from metro Detroit – the first stop of a three-city road trip. A family wedding in northern Wisconsin has inspired us to turn the weekend into our first road trip of the summer.

We’ll break up the 9-hour drive to Wisconsin with an overnight trip to see friends in Chicago. On Friday, we’ll drive to Antigo, Wisconsin and the wedding celebrations will commence. On Sunday, we’ll begin the trip back, stopping in Mackinaw City, Michigan overnight and spending Monday exploring Mackinac Island. By Monday night, we’ll be back home in Royal Oak.

But there’s one plot twist to our road trip: myself and my partner are both gluten-free (for Celiac Disease) and vegetarians (by choice). That means our Kia Soul is locked and loaded with bags of gluten-free snacks and easy meal options, and both of our phones have the Find Me Gluten-Free app on the home screen.

Photo: Lance Anderson

Ready to road trip while on a GF diet? Let’s do this.

Stop #1 Chicago, Illinois

We pull up to our friends’ place in Ravenswood a little after 10 P.M. CST. The time change has us feeling even more exhausted, but the adrenaline of seeing old friends gives us a second wind. We bring in our overnight luggage and a bag of reserve snacks we packed in advance for our first night. Our friends aren’t gluten-free or vegetarian, and we don’t want to burden them with coming up with late-night snacks for us that fit our restricted diets.

Instead, we all settle in at their dining room table and catch up, sharing a bottle of red wine. We unpack our snacks and we each have a banana and snack on Coconut Cashew Crunch GFB Bites. We grab a bowl and put some Trader Joe’s Root Vegetable Chips on the table to share with the group.

Before bed, we use the Find Me Gluten Free app to find a nearby breakfast place with gluten-free and vegetarian options. We find Wheat’s End Cafe in Lakeview and note that it opens at 10 A.M. In the morning, we head to Wheat’s End and are delighted by gluten-free delicacies like a Cheddar Chive biscuit, loaded avocado toast (yes, we are millennials!), and a veggie lover’s panini. They even had freshly-made gluten-free donuts. Wheat’s End made all of our gluten-free dreams come true, and we hit the road for Wisconsin satisfied and energized.

Photo: John Westrock 

Stop #2 Antigo, Wisconsin

Okay, I know we said we were full from breakfast, but something about road trips always seems to make me extra hungry. About two hours into the trip, we need gas and decide to roll it into a quick lunch break. I pull up Google Maps to see which major cities we’ll be passing en route to Antigo — Milwaukee’s just a short detour off our route. Looking on the Find Me GF app, I find the burger bar Stack’d, which has more than 30 positive user reviews from fellow GF folks. We stop in Milwaukee and split an awesome portabella burger, veggie burger, and sweet potato fries. The staff is informed and friendly, they have a dedicated fryer, and gluten-free hamburger buns. What more could we ask for?

A few hours later, we roll into Antigo, Wisconsin. Antigo is a small town with sprawling farms and a smattering of businesses. Fully prepared to live off of the cooler of food we brought from home (packed with fruit, hummus, quinoa salad, and black beans), I do a quick search of gluten-free friendly restaurants in the area just in case. Lo and behold, our hotel is across the street from Sweet Thyme Coffee Shop & Restaurant, an adorable little cafe that offers gluten-free wraps and sandwiches, prepared in a dedicated space in their kitchen. We have brunch at Sweet Thyme both mornings and thank the GF gods for having our backs this time around.

Photo: Aaron Burden 

Stop #3 Mackinaw City, Michigan

After a fun-filled weekend with family, we hit the road and begin the first leg of our road trip back to Detroit. We’re winging it and use Airbnb and Hotels.com to find a last-minute place to stay. We find a hotel room in the heart of Mackinaw City and pull in around 8:30 PM. There’s no microwave in our hotel room, so we ask the front desk if we can use the one in their breakfast room. Sometimes, being gluten-free means asking for a few favors. They’re more than okay with it and we know that worst case scenario, we can heat up a meal for a quick dinner.

Luckily, it doesn’t come to that and we find a place just down the street that offers gluten-free pizza. Pizza Palace is right downtown Mackinaw City, and their staff assured us they change their gloves, use a fresh pan, and use ingredients that aren’t exposed to gluten. Our pizzas were delicious and we had plenty left over to enjoy the next day for an impromptu picnic on Mackinaw Island.

How do you master the art of a gluten-free road trip? Let us know in the comments below!