The thought of traveling while following the autoimmune protocol (or while living with chronic illnesses or conditions) may evoke fear or a sense of panic. Though I wrote a post in 2014 about traveling while following AIP, in the time since then, I’ve done a lot more traveling & have learned many more tips and tricks. I thought it may be helpful to others to write a more in depth series about my personal experiences for traveling while following a healing diet and lifestyle. Car travel seems to be an easier option for most people, so I’ll be primarily covering the challenges of domestic air travel within the United States; however, many tips should also apply to other forms of travel (or to international travel, though the laws of what you can take in to a country vary greatly).
In this post (part 2), I’ll cover things I do on my travel days.
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- I still struggle with the amount of luggage usually required when I travel. I often feel self conscious about how many pieces of luggage I need for just a couple days away. But honestly, it is important to take care of myself & if that means I have an extra suitcase to accommodate the batch cooked food I’ve made, then I have an extra suitcase. Spoiler alert, I usually take that extra suitcase ;)
- My travel was also revolutionized when I started using suitcases with 4 wheels. It may sound like a trivial thing, but as someone who struggles with chronic pain, it is much easier to wheel a heavy suitcase with 4 wheels than to pull one with 2 wheels.
- I try to pack the heaviest things in my checked luggage (and frozen food can really weigh a lot), so that I don’t have to worry about carrying it all myself. But there is the potential of luggage being lost en route…. It’s a tough choice between convenience or peace of mind, but most often, I check my food.
frozen batch cooked food & a Thirty One Gifts picnic thermal
Packing batch cooked foods
- The last thing I do before leaving for the airport is to pack my food in thermal containers for travel. This process does take more time than one might think, so I try to budget 30 minutes just for packing my batch cooked foods in with the portable kitchen & convenience foods I mentioned in part 1.
- I use to be a consultant with the company Thirty One Gifts and while I no longer have any affiliation with them, I still love their products, especially their thermals. I pack all my food for travel in Thirty One Thermals, some of which are ones I’ve purchased myself & some are ones I “earned” during my brief time as a consultant.
- In my checked luggage, I use a perfect party set (which is my favorite thermal for airplane travel), a picnic thermal tote (seen above), and a thermal tote . Sometimes I need all of those thermals, sometimes I only need a few…. it all depends on the length of my trip. My batch cooked foods (see part 1), portioned into ziplock bags (double bagged if its something like soup) & frozen solid overnight, get packed into those thermals. If there is space, or if for some reason not all the food is completely frozen, I’ll add a few ice packs (like these ones, or these ones, or these are the ones my mom uses). In a pinch, I’ve used ziplock of ice, but I don’t really recommend it because they can leak, which actually happened on my last trip.
batch cooked food, portioned into Ziplocks, and ready to be frozen
For my lunchbox that goes in my carry on, I use a lunch break thermal packed with:
- a real fork and spoon (I pick up a plastic knife once through security)
- a cloth napkin
- a Pyrex 3-cup dish with a lunch that tastes good cold (and contains a good dose of carbs to help with my motion sickness). I use that dish later for re-heating other meals that have been packed in ziplock for travel
- travel containers of my favorite salts (like truffle salt or smoked salt).
- fresh fruit
- an avocado
- homemade salad dressing in a tiny bottle (like one from this nalgene set or a GoToob) and double bagged (keep in liquids bag when going through security.
- frozen solid ice packs IMPORTANT NOTE: the ice packs must be frozen SOLID or TSA will not allow them through security. I always add the ice packs last to ensure they’ll stay as frozen as possible.
Also in my carry on:
- I pick up a bottle of regular water & a bottle of sparkling water once I go through security & those both go in my carry on too.
- convenience snacks that don’t require refrigeration, like Epic bars (beef/apple/bacon and bison/bacon/cranberry are my favorites) & plantain chips
- a neck pillow (this one is my current favorite). I really do try to sleep on flights whenever possible. One, I’m usually a little tired from travel prep or from deviating from my routine and secondly, sleeping helps ward off motion sickness.
- supplements & medications. Once again, in case the checked luggage doesn’t arrive as planned, I keep my supplements and medications with me.
- sanitizing wipes, especially useful for tray tables covered in glutenous crumbs. I like these individually wrapped ones
- headphones for listening to podcasts or music during travel, plus they also help my ears to clear during pressure changes
- Kindle and iPad mini, in the spirit of keeping my luggage as light as possible ;)
- dressing in layers: I can get really cold on planes, especially the smaller planes. But I also can get really hot, especially if I get motion sick (more on that below). I always dress in layers & carry a scarf or jacket in case I get cold. And I usually throw a pair of Smartwool socks into my bag, just in case my feet get especially cold.
Going through security
- Like I mentioned in my previous post, last fall I signed up for TSA pre-check. The lines are shorter & I don’t have to go through a body scanner.
- I never announce to TSA that I'm carrying food, even if I have an entire carry-on sized suitcase packed with frozen solid food in thermal containers. Only once have I had my frozen food pulled for a secondary screening, but I am hyper-vigilant that everything, including my ice packs, are frozen solid, and that anything that may be liquid (such as homemade salad dressing) is in a 3 oz or smaller container in a quart-sized bag.
Motion sickness help
I’ve had a lot of struggles with motion sickness throughout my life. Things improved slightly while on AIP, but I still feel nauseous more often than I’d like. My best remedy is to sleep most of the flight, but when that isn’t possible, here are the remedies I’ve concocted from personal experience:
- sitting more forward on the plane, which sometimes requires an upgrade to my ticket
- drinking bubbly water: ask for club soda during the flight, if you can't find anything at the airport
- eating plantain chips, apples, mint chocolate (aip reintroduction; Equal Exchange is my favorite) and generally not letting my stomach get too empty.
- using a neti stick aromatherapy inhaler (especially if I'm smelling jet fuel)
- allernest: a homeopathic allergy solution that also seems to soothe motion sickness. I take this at the recommendation of my doctor & I cannot vouch that the ingredients are strict elimination phase AIP.
- flying anxiety. I’m fortunate that I don’t experience anxiety while flying or fear of flying, but I know that struggle is very real for many people. I do utilize the app Headspace daily for meditation & they do have a guided meditation specifically for fear of flying.
- wheelchair service, if necessary. I don’t make the decision to utilize wheelchair service lightly, but I have needed to use it in my pre-AIP days. I would use it again if I was traveling during a flare or if I’d had a very bad instance of motion sickness.
- have a plan in case you get stranded mid trip: flights are regularly delayed and canceled, so make sure you have a plan for what to do if that happens. I always over-pack snacks & food, just in case something happens. And I travel with my medications/supplements in my carry-on in case I can’t get to my checked luggage.
Ok, that's it for the second part of my series on traveling while following AIP. If you have any additional tips or tricks, please leave a comment. I'll be back in a future post to talk about how I handle things at my destination.