I was wondering if I’d ever actually get this post published, since this summer has been a whirlwind! Last month, Mark and I went on vacation to southern California and this month, we’re going away for a few days to meet up with family in Deep Creek, Maryland. While I enjoy getting away, seeing sights, and spending quality time with my husband, traveling while on a special diet like autoimmune protocol (AIP) or even the less restrictive Paleo diet can be stressful.
So, rather than going into great detail about all the beautiful places we visited on our vacation (like my San Francisco trip post from last year), I’m taking a new approach. In today’s post, you’ll find my advice on how I prepared, planned, and packed for travel on the AIP/Paleo diet. And of course, I’ve included plenty of food photos from the restaurants we tried! 😉
Since we’re in prime travel season this summer, I hope the following Five Tips for Traveling AIP and Paleo will come in handy! This is a long post, but it’s packed with helpful information, so settle in with your cup of coffee and/or bone broth. I also encourage that if you have even more travel tips, feel free to share your own in the comments section below! After all, we’re on this life and health journey together and the more we can learn from one another, the better!
It probably comes as no surprise, but I’m a planner at heart. I really enjoy planning – meals, events, my week’s activities, etc. So, planning a vacation is actually a fun challenge for me! When we had the idea last year to burn our frequent flyer miles on a trip to Laguna Beach, California, I was all for it! At the time, however, I assumed I would be finished with the AIP diet and back to eating eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, and nightshades again!
Alas, things never go quite as we planned, do they? About a month before we left, I got the news that I would need to stay on my autoimmune protocol diet for the foreseeable future. Not going to lie – my hopes were a bit dashed. My dreams of eating loads of fresh California salsa were no longer. And my reservations to a top-rated Mexican restaurant went out the window. And then I came to my senses and realized that our vacation could still be amazing even if I couldn’t be as free with foods as I wanted.
So, I was determined to equip myself with everything I needed to rock my AIP and Paleo diet and not feel deprived, even on vacation. And you know what? I legitimately enjoyed our trip and was still able to satisfy the inner-foodie in me at the same time! Here are the tips that I felt worked best for me.
1) Do your research.
This may be obvious, but spend some time researching the area you’ll be staying in. Are there grocery stores and Paleo or gluten-free friendly restaurants nearby? I actually try to do this before I book a vacation, so it helps me from being stranded without any options. We were fortunate to have a Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, and several local grocery stores nearby that carried items like grass-fed beef, coconut oil, and organic produce. I also scouted some promising gluten-free/paleo restaurants in the area.
Granted, I realize that southern California probably has way more paleo-friendly options than the middle of a campground in Montana, but the more you know ahead of time, the more prepared you can be. If you have any control over where you’ll be traveling, find a place that will make your trip less complicated. Since I’ve lived with celiac for a number of years now, I look for condos or some sort of accommodations with a kitchen, no matter where we go. It makes life WAY easier if you have the option to cook for yourself! If you have no choice and you’re in a place without a kitchen, AIP can still be doable, but it’s going to much harder than in a rental where you have a stove, oven, and fridge.
Even though it’s best to cook for yourself and not rely on restaurants, sometimes you just have to. So, let me highlight a few food finds from our SoCal trip that were really helpful and great with accommodating AIP and/or Paleo.
Poké Ria – You had me at poké. Seriously, I fell in love with poké in Hawaii and couldn’t wait to try it again. Unfortunately, it’s often doused with sesame oil or soy sauce, making it not AIP compliant. But the great thing about places like Poké Ria is that you can make your own poke bowl and just have them leave off the sauce. I carried some travel packets of coconut aminos with me and just used my own sauce, but had them load up on other Paleo-friendly items like fresh tuna, salmon, greens, cucumber, onions, avocado, cilantro, lime, ginger, and salmon roe. This was such a fresh, flavorful way to start off our trip, especially after a long day of travel!
Burger Lounge – This chain has several locations across California and it caught my eye because it serves all grass-fed beef! Total victory for the AIP diet! We stopped in the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter location and I ordered “The Paleo Burger,” which is a secret off-the-menu burger. All I did was mention it and they had no problem making it up. I ordered it as is, except for the tomatoes. It came with lettuce, grilled zucchini, nitrate-free bacon, microgreens, avocado. (No sauce, which is good news for any AIPer!) Instead, I used a travel packet of coconut aminos to season it up. Super tasty and filling lunch!
Herringbone – This restaurant is owned by Top Chef alum, Brian Malarkey. We visited his beautiful La Jolla location and the ambiance, service, and food did not disappoint! The server we had went over the entire menu to accommodate my food needs. And since this place was a seafood restaurant, I didn’t really need to modify my meal very much. I started with a strawberry balsamic mixed green salad, followed by a whole-roasted Branzino with grilled asparagus. (It did contain almonds, but they’re allowed on my modified AIP diet.) Perfection! My husband ordered some Mexican street corn to start and then a halibut filet with bacon, brussels sprouts, and gnocchi. Beautiful food!
Broadway by Amar Santana – Another restaurant by a Top Chef alum and this one blew our minds. Their swanky Laguna Beach location was an amazing food experience! We had ringside seats by the kitchen, so we watched the chefs at work. The service was wonderful and they presented me with gluten-free and dairy-free menus. They also listened to my special requests and were very careful about not cross-contaminating. We tried a couple appetizers, but our favorite was the sashimi with avocado sorbet. (It did contain sesame oil, but I haven’t noticed a problem with nuts or seeds at this point, so I went for it.) SO good!! My main was a perfectly pan-seared chicken breast with greens, broccoli puree, bacon, onions, and a delicious jus. Mark got a steak, potatoes, and shishito peppers entree, which was stunning. Highly recommend this place!
Pressed Juicery – And if you thought I was going to forget about dessert, you’d be wrong! I had heard rave reviews about a juicery that made their own almond milk soft-serve and fresh juice sorbet. We hit up this place on our last day of vacation and it was incredible! What I ordered wasn’t AIP-friendly, but they did have plenty of juices that were. I opted for the vanilla almond milk soft-serve, which is made from all pure ingredients – no gums or fillers! They topped with off with organic berries, coconut, and homemade cacao drizzle, made from honey, coconut oil, and raw cacao powder. We definitely ended our food week well!
2) Stock up on AIP/Paleo travel products.
As soon as I booked our trip, I started building up an inventory of some trusty travel snacks and packable foods. Amazon, Thrive Market, Whole Foods, and a few local specialty stores came in handy here. Allow me to share some of the products that I bought that were useful:
Epic Bars – I always have a spare Epic beef jerky bar in my purse, so this was a no-brainer for vacation. I usually get the beef/bacon variety, but I also tried the bison/cranberry and it was equally delicious.
Wild Zora Bars – A tasty alternative to the Epic brand is Wild Zora. The lamb and rosemary bars are phenomenal and they have a new pork bar that is AIP, too. I didn’t take these on my trip, but I do recommend them for travel! So good!
Paleo Angel Power Balls – I’d seen these on Amazon and wanted a reason to try them! These handy travel packs come with 2 Power Balls per package. They almost taste like macaroons, but they’re way healthier, thanks to the infusion of grass-fed beef collagen protein. I snagged the AIP Variety Pack and the flavors were delicious! A great on-the-go snack or addition to breakfast.
Coconut Oil Travel Packs– If you have access to a Trader Joe’s, check the baking aisle to find boxes of little coconut oil travel packets! It’s so much easier than having to pack an entire jar of coconut oil, especially for short trips. We cooked with them all week long and still had some leftover!
Coconut Aminos Travel Packs– As you saw in my poké bowl photo above, I discovered that Coconut Secret brand makes little travel-sized versions of their coconut aminos sauce. This was a life-saver for cooking, putting on salads, and carrying in my purse when we went out. I found these at Whole Foods.
KC Naturals AIP BBQ Sauce – This isn’t something you’ll want to put in your carry-on, but I recommend these sauces if you can squeeze them in your checked bags. And definitely take them on a road trip! I put this sauce on burgers, salads, and just about anything. It’s a good nightshade-free BBQ sauce substitute that is versatile enough to use on vacation. They’re pricey, but worth it!
Canned Wild-Caught Sardines or Salmon – The key here is wild-caught! You can usually find these items at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and other large grocery stores. They’re super easy to pack and take with you for lunch salads and wraps.
Nuco Turmeric Coconut Wraps – Speaking of wraps, I’m in love with these wraps that are purely coconut and turmeric! They pack beautifully and I ate several on my trip for an easy lunch. Packed them full of avocado, mango, carrots, salmon, fresh greens, and coconut aminos. There are also several other flavors available. Found on Thrive!
Plantain Chips – These still might be my all-time favorite snacks! Inka is a solid AIP brand and I like that the bags are smaller, so they’re easier to pack! Terra Chips brand of plantain chips are also delicious and Thrive Market has a house brand that I’m currently in love with, too!
SeaSnax – These toasted seaweed snacks are a light, tasty, chip alternative. Made simply from seaweed and roasted in olive oil, I like to have these on hand at home and when I travel. You can find them at Whole Foods and on Thrive Market. The plain, lime, and onion flavors are all AIP-friendly.
JicaChips – JicaChips are a lighter alternative to plantain chips. They’re super crispy and are made from jicama root, which is almost like a cross between an apple and a potato. They’re a teeny bit sweet, but mostly savory. Plus, you can eat the whole bag for only 100 calories!
Barnana Bites – These chewy, dried banana coconut bites make a delicious treat for traveling. I like to keep them on hand as a dessert option if I can’t access fresh fruit for after dinner. I love them with a cup of tea!
Numi Turmeric Tea – Since I mentioned tea, my current favorite brew is Numi’s line of turmeric teas. Specifically, the “Golden Tonic” flavor, which is just turmeric, lemon, and lime. It’s a unique flavor, but I really enjoy it! I stashed a bunch of tea bags in my purse to take with me if I was out at a restaurant or cafe and couldn’t have any of the drinks made in-house.
Fresh Fruit and Veggies – The things I crave most often while traveling are fresh fruits and vegetables, so the more you can take with you, the better! I packed some apples, bananas, and raw veggies to take on the plane. If you’re driving, fill a cooler full of mason jar salads, fresh berries, and even pre-packed meals for the week.
3) Pack as much as you can!
(Well, maybe not the cat.) But in all seriousness, don’t leave things to chance! If you’re driving and staying in a place that has a kitchen, then take as much special cookware (like the beloved Instant Pot), bakeware, and ingredients that will help you. Or if you’re flying, you’d be surprised how much you can still take with you! While I stuffed quite a few AIP travel snacks into my carry-on, I also dedicated a small checked bag with a bunch of AIP foods and cooking utensils. Things like cans of sardines, salmon, BBQ sauce, coconut oil, tea, parchment paper, foil, and some tupperware for storing any foods we didn’t eat right away. Wrap up glass jars in plastic bags and enfold them in beach towels to prevent breakage.
If you’ll be doing some cooking on your trip like I did, pack up your AIP spices and sea salt in little snack bags and label them. Smoked sea salt is also a great thing to pack, especially if you’ll be grilling, like we were! Doing this saves you from having to buy a bunch of spices upon arrival.
Aside from the food and cooking essentials, I also separated out and pre-packed each day’s worth of supplements to avoid taking entire containers of vitamins. Definitely recommend doing that, even if you don’t have to fly to your destination.
In addition to food and cooking basics, bring some AIP or Paleo recipes along so that you can write up a shopping list on the plane and hit up a grocery store when you arrive. I used my reliable Turkey Apple Breakfast Hash recipe and made a big batch at the beginning of the week so that I had an easy AIP breakfast for most of the days. I’d alternate between that and some of my Epic bars, fresh fruit, and Paleo Angel Power Balls.
Our lunches were mainly salads and wraps, using either dinner leftovers or the cans of salmon and sardines that I brought along. And when we didn’t do dinner our, we cooked and grilled most of the week. Simple things like grass-fed beef burgers, chicken, baked sweet potato fries, and roasted veggies.
Everything that I took the time packing, we ended up using, so I definitely didn’t feel like anything I brought was a waste! Plus, I always feel like it’s better to overpack than underpack!
4) Carry a refillable water bottle with filter straw.
Staying hydrated was a priority for me on this trip, especially since I had to carry around supplements to take at specific times of the day. Since I have thyroid issues, it’s important for me to drink fluoride-free and chlorine-free water. While this is easy to do at home with our Berkey filter, I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d avoid bottled or tap water on our trip. Another issue was how I would avoid plastic bottles, since I couldn’t take my glass water bottle on the plane with me. And then, with the discovery of two wonderful products, my problems were solved! Introducing, the HydroFlask bottle with a fluoride-free AquaGear Filter Straw!
This water bottle is no joke! It’s made from stainless steel and comes in a variety of sizes and colors. It keeps liquids cold or hot for hours, so it’s perfect for traveling. And the Aquagear filter straw is designed to fit both the Hydroflask and Kleen Kanteen water bottles. You can get the bottle and straw on Amazon. They’re not cheap, but if you travel often and need to drink fluoride-free water, it’s worth it! It was great on the plane and throughout our week of travels to various beaches, cities, and everything in between. I could fill up straight from any tap or water fountain and there was no lag time with the filter. Just drink up!
5) Give yourself grace and have fun!
Despite your best efforts, you might end up straying from your diet, even by accident. But the point of vacation is to relax your mind and enjoy your surroundings! While I was pretty vigilant about not crashing my AIP diet, I did let up on a few things (mainly at restaurants) like not being as picky over cooking oils, certain spices, gums/thickeners, and even chocolate. I personally felt okay about doing so, and my body didn’t react, but each person is different.
So, my advice is listen to your body, do as much as you can to stick with your health plan, but be kind and gracious to yourself if you forget to take a vitamin or eat a food that you might not normally eat on your diet. Even if you slip up a little on your trip, you know that you’ll get back into your groove once you get home. And don’t be surprised if you need extra rest during and after your trip, since traveling alone can be hard on the body. Especially for those with autoimmune problems.
Well, friends, this ends my long-winded rambling about packing, prepping, and planning. Thanks for sticking with it! I hope you’re able to put my Five Tips for Traveling AIP and Paleo to practice this summer! Whether you’re driving or flying, on vacation or on a business trip, I wish you a wonderful, stress-free travel season!
And finally, since it wouldn’t truly be a vacation-related post without them, here are a couple photo highlights of our trip to Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and San Diego! I couldn’t resist! 🙂
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