Travel Tips While On The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol

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As I prepare to hop on a plane tomorrow to New Mexico, I thought I would leave you all with some tips I have found helpful for traveling while staying on the paleo autoimmune protocol. The first trip I took at the end of last summer while eating this way caused me a lot of stress, and since then I have refined my practice to the point where travel is tricky, but doesn’t cause me to panic.

Rent a place with a kitchen
When looking for a place to rent, if you have the option, stay in an apartment or house instead of a hotel. Air BnB, VRBO, and Home Away are where I look for places to stay. I have found that it is the same price or cheaper than staying in a hotel, especially if you have a group. If you go this route, make sure to contact the owner to see how well the kitchen is equipped for cooking. I have stayed at places with one pot and one pan and those that are fully stocked with every tool needed, including a blender. I can’t stress enough how much easier traveling is having a kitchen!

Opt to drive instead of fly
Driving makes so many things easier, and I always prefer it to flying when it is possible. I have a large cooler that I stock with bone broth, fermented veggies, kombucha, and home-made salads for the road. I will admit that I have even taken my Vitamix on a road trip before! My favorite way to vacation is to rent a cabin with a kitchen a couple hours away and drive there with a few day’s worth of groceries and have a relaxing weekend. Unfortunately every travel situation can’t be as ideal, but when I do have control I try to make it easier for myself.

If you will be someone’s guest, give them a thorough heads-up
If you accept someone’s offer to host you, make sure they are fully aware of your needs. Use your judgement and don’t stay with people who do not understand this. I suggest having them leave some pots and pans just for you to cook your meals with and clean with a separate sponge to avoid contamination with foods you don’t eat. This can be really tricky and offensive to some people, so sometimes it makes it easier to rent your own place.

Bring food with you as backup
I like to assume that I am not going to be able to find much suitable protein and bring enough with me for the whole time on my trip. Things like smoked salmon and beef-jerky that I find locally and are AIP-friendly are harder to find elsewhere, so I stock up and bring a lot just in case. Most of my trips I end up not eating everything I have brought, but it really helps me relax knowing that I have a backup of food and won’t be forced to eat something I don’t feel good about. For flights, I bring a small cooler bag with me for the first travel day, with a couple of hearty home-cooked meals and lots of goodies, because I am surely not finding anything to eat in an airport! Here are some ideas of what I bring:

Hit up a grocery store as soon as you reach your destination
The best place to shop would be a co-op or local health food store, although they cannot be found everywhere. Next choice would be a Whole Foods. At the very least a Trader Joe’s or regular grocery will do, as more and more offer organic options (although you would be pretty hard-pressed to find good meat). Use this stop to load up on fresh stuff – fruits and vegetables to make quick meals at your rental, kombucha or coconut kefir, fermented vegetables, and fresh meat if you need it. Some places like Whole Foods have a salad bar where you can make a couple of salads in to-go containers with olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing.

Do your research before you go
Don’t wait until you are in an unfamiliar place and hungry to start your search for where to buy food. There is a lot of research that can be done before you leave. Scope out your grocery store first. If you plan on trying to make restaurants work, start with those that are familiar with gluten-free or vegan diets. Don’t be afraid to give them a call to see if they can accommodate you. The chance of getting a complete meal at a restaurant is pretty slim, so don’t be afraid to have a big snack before you go and then playing it safe with a salad at the restaurant.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you let things slide
As I noted in my last post about trying to stay on the autoimmune protocol during the holidays – same thing goes here. If it isn’t doable and you slip up, be gentle on yourself while doing everything you can to get back on track.

If anyone is interested in my travel meals I will be posting them to my facebook page!

How do you travel on a restricted diet? I would love to hear your tips in the comments! 

About Mickey Trescott

Mickey Trescott is a cook and one of the bloggers behind Autoimmune Wellness. After recovering from her own struggle with both Celiac and Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue, and multiple vitamin deficiencies, Mickey started to write about her experience to share with others and help them realize they are not alone in their struggles. She is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner by the Nutritional Therapy Association, and is the author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, a guide and recipe book for the autoimmune protocol, and AIP Batch Cook, a video-based batch cooking program. You also can find her on Instagram.

27 comments

  • Hayley says

    This post popped up with perfect timing for me, as I’m moving to a different city on Sunday. I have to leave on Saturday and it will be two days of non stop travel, so I need to bring all my food with me. I don’t really feel comfortable eating in restaurants these days as it seems too risky. I’ll be bringing BPA free canned fish, coconut oil, and some pre cooked veggies. I wish I had access to grass fed beef jerky!
    I hope you enjoy your vacation and I ‘m excited to see the meals you post 🙂

  • Thank you Hayley! I am glad you found the post helpful. Good luck on your move! 🙂

  • Nancy B. says

    I often have to spend a few days with my elderly mother who lives 4 hours from an airport. On my way from the airport, I stop at Whole Foods and buy a package of Applegate uncured beef hot dogs, some baby carrots, sometimes spinach in a microwavable bag (I know), and some fruit. I can heat up the dogs in the microwave and munch on the fruits and veggies. I usually eat one meal a day (lunch) at a restaurant that serves a big salad with a grilled chicken breast on top. It’s not like being home, but it’s fine for a few days.

    • autoimmunepaleo says

      Exactly! We all do the best we can. Thanks for sharing your routine 🙂

  • LLL says

    camping! omfg what about camping?? what about hopping freight trains? hitch-hiking?? where is the spontaneity?! what can i eat?! my travel foods now look like canned pumpkin and canned salmon. which, hey, it’s kind of delicious. it’s a good thing that feeling like a 24-year old Jenny McCarthy yuppie isn’t as bad as feeling like someone drugged me and sucked my brain through my nose.

    this diet is working.

    • autoimmunepaleo says

      +1 for best comment ever. Thanks for making my day.

  • Kattywampus says

    I’m so grateful to have found your site!
    I have sjogrens, interstitial cystitis, ibs and candidiasis and have just started the ai protocol Paleo diet 4 days ago. I’ve been in terrible pain with flu-like symptoms, which I’m attributing to toxin release (?)…at least I hope that’s it. This is all very new to me and I’m still in the process of researching and learning. In 10 days I’ll be flying from here (Houston) to NJ for a few days with my daughter in college. I appreciate the travel advice, but I do have a few questions:
    Because of interstitial cystitis, I cannot have anything acidic. Also, with too much yeast already in my system, oughtn’t i avoid any fermented foods?
    And, Is it ok to eat the salads and meat that they have in the airports?
    Thanks!

    • Mickey says

      Hey there,
      I am sorry to hear of your pain – while I think mild flu/detox symptoms are normal when changing the diet to AIP, terrible or extreme pain is not. If you are really uncomfortable, I would suggest easing into the protocol – maybe eliminating grains one week, eggs the next, etc. You really should not be suffering like that – make sure you are eating enough in general, and enough carbohydrate.

      Traveling is super difficult on AIP and it might be best to wait to start the protocol until you are home and can control what you are eating. Do you have a diagnosis of candida by a doctor? Many people tend to self-diagnose and eliminate more foods, when if they really do have candida they need to be treated by a doctor with prescription or natural antifungals while being on a modified diet. I have seen a lot of people get tested who swear they have it come to find they don’t. Just a warning, as avoiding starches/sugars/ferments makes AIP much more difficult.

      You might be able to get something edible in the airport, but I wouldn’t be 100% sure it would be ok for the elimination diet. I would bring a tin of sardines and an avocado with me instead.

      Mickey

    • Mimi Johnson says

      Hey Kattywumpus wish you would come back and tell us how you are doing?

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  • Susanne says

    I am so glad this article was here for some ideas! I must admit that it’s a bit of a different ball game living in Europe. My impression is that in western Europe, or Scandinavia, you shouldn’t have too much issue finding health food stores and Celiac friendly shops… but in Czech Republic, things are about 15 – 20 years behind. Like the quality of goods available is more like what it was 15 years ago, particularly with regard to gluten free stuff. However, there are shops, and e-shops to be found if you go digging. I’m hopeful that my upcoming trip to Spain will go smoothly as I’ve found several resources in my online reconnaissance efforts 🙂 I am just curious about what sorts of foods won’t cause issues going through security to bring to eat on the plane? I’m really not a fan of fishy tasting fish, so I’m hoping they won’t mind a lil container with cooked chicken and such…? And do you happen to know if there is an issue with the ingredients in Gravol?

    • Mickey says

      Susanne, That is a bummer to hear about traveling in Western Europe! I have been fine every time I brought a little container of already cooked food with me to eat on the airplane–last time I brought pork shoulder and sauteed greens. I’ll also bring some fruit, jerky, and veggie sticks with me. I’m pretty sure anything that is not obviously a liquid (like a smoothie or juice) should be fine through security. I’ve never heard of Gravol… what is it?

      Good luck!

      Mickey

  • Jasmine says

    Could you tell me where you get beef jerky? And also sugar free bacon? We are going hiking and I’m trying to be strategic. Thanks!

  • Carol Nathan says

    Hi….I love this post! I travel a ton for work and am always looking great tips. Can you tell me what you do with dehydrated coconut water crystals.

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  • Sara says

    Thanks for all the tips here. I have a question regarding carrying fish snack packs, nuts and seeds and other food items on the flight. Is it okay to carry them because it seems like you have to declare food items on the custom forms. I have a trip coming up and I need to carry a whole bunch of AIP food and snacks but not sure if it’s going to be an issue at customs in Europe. Did you have any issues at customs in your travels?

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hey Sara! That is a great question. First, I would make sure if you are carrying fish snack packs to make sure they are dry, and inspectable by security (if they are too liquidy, they likely won’t let them pass through). Second, you need to research the country in question to see if you can bring food into the country. I recently traveled to Iceland and Sweden and neither checked what foods I brought in at the border. I have had issues bringing meat (Epic bars) into Mexico before though. Hope it helps!

  • Lolo says

    Hi Mickey,
    I’ll be traveling to Sweden (Stockholm and a bit up north) and was wondering if you have any tips? Do they have good restaurant/snack/market/grocery store options? I plan on bringing some Epic bars, Lara bars, etc and maybe canned fish. Any tips are greatly appreciated!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hey Lolo! I was in Stockholm earlier this summer and found it super easy to navigate. We loved the Paradiset grocery stores, and Kalf and Hansen and Doctor Salad to eat out. We rented an AirBnB and cooked a lot of our meals. Have fun!

  • Alyssa says

    Any tips for how to recover AFTER a trip? I’m traveling right now and really looking forward to getting home and doing some “rehab” on my body. I’m already planning on consuming lots of bone broth and liver when I get back, but any other tips? Any and all advice from the community is much appreciated! Thanks!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hey Alyssa! I like to do a little AIP reset after I travel. I personally go back to a nutrient-dense elimination diet, avoiding those “gray area” reintroductions and focus on lots of home-cooked meals with organ meats, broth, and veggies. Hope it helps!

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