I’m sure you have realised that for the past month there has been no weekly posts. I had these visions leading up to going on holidays of scheduling posts each week, then it dawned on me that I probably should just take a break and get back to it refreshed after our holidays.
If you follow my instagram and facebook pages then you would have been able to work out that we went to California. It was our first family vacation overseas. We had a family wedding to go to in Ensenada, Baja California so we decided to take our girls on a road trip from San Diego up to Santa Monica. We highly enjoyed it, but it was challenging at times and came home exhausted.
We flew Virgin Australia from Sydney to Los Angeles and arranged for 4 gluten free meals when we booked. Given that there are 3 of us that are gluten free in our family of 4, we just thought it was easier if Char (Miss 6 year old) also had a gluten free meal. I did ask our travel agent if they do gluten and dairy free but they can only do one, so in anticipation of not knowing whether it included dairy I brought some Lacteeze tablets on recommendation from a friend on instagram (you know who you are, and thank you again). I went to our local Chemist and they ordered different strengths and package sizes so I brought them all and took them all. When the main meal and breakfast came, I chomped on some Lacteeze before I ate. I also took some packaged foods on the plane so we had guaranteed food to eat. I packed the Lacteeze and food into ziplock bags in our carry on luggage so I could quickly take it out going through customs, as I was unsure whether we could take food. In the USA they also allowed the food given it was packaged and not fresh food. I also packed some Gin Gins for me for the descent as I usually have problems unblocking my ears.
During the flight we discovered that the free for all chips were gluten free. My kids couldn’t have been happier. No wonder they never slept!
The flight back to Sydney from Los Angeles was on the otherhand a different story. I didn’t pack food, as I ‘assumed’ it would be just as good as the food going to the USA. A decision I quickly regretted. I thought it was odd to get a glad wrapped rice cake for the dinner and breakfast meals, but when we looked at the food, we were glad as it was all we ate. The fruit salad was very sad and consisted of a segment of a grapefruit and 2 grapes. Anyway, we learn from these things. Always pack food as a back up. We arrived in Sydney very hungry!
Our first stop in the USA was Ensenada for a family wedding. We stayed in a hotel in Ensenada that was kindly arranged by the bride. She also brought us some gluten free food so that we didn’t have to rush out to find a grocery store to buy food. We then went to Walmart and stocked up on more gluten free essentials and fruit. The food was amazing, but sadly did not agree with me. I ate limited corn, as my dietitian took me off corn at the beginning of the year, but I did have a little. Hence my problem. The guacamole, fresh dates, pineapple, grapes, watermelon and ceviche (not all together) were absolutely delicious. Glenn, Bella and Char also loved the fried and baked corn chips. We also really liked the wine from Valle de Guadalupe.
Our next stop was a 2 bedroom apartment in San Diego that we found on AirBnB. It was in a great location and I loved that we had a kitchen to cook. Our host gave us his Ralph’s membership card, so we got the extra little discounts on food as our apartment was only one block across the road from it. We basically had 2 meals in our apartment – always breakfast and depending on what we were doing either lunch or dinner. Most days, we took a packed lunch and ate dinner at Tender Greens. If you follow me on social media you will know how much we enjoyed eating at Tender Greens.
The staff at the San Diego Tender Greens were amazing. They explained the concept of Tender Greens and went through the whole menu explaining what they can do as gluten free. If you go you have to tell them when you order that you are gluten free. They will ask if it’s an allergy or food preference. We told them it’s an allergy given I’m so sensitive (thank gosh now that I’m a confirmed Coeliac we did this). They then get a chef to wash their hands, change their gloves and move to freshly prepare your food. Couldn’t ask for better service!
We found that to be the case no matter where we were. At Seaworld, we were given a card to show staff at specific food places. We took our food that day, so other than a packet of jelly belly beans at the end of the day, we didn’t use it. It was the same with San Diego Zoo, we were told where to buy gluten free foods and what was gluten free. Although we did take our own food, Bella enjoyed the Apple Fries (without the sauce).
By the time we got to our next stop, Carlsbad, we were a little more relaxed about how easy it was to find gluten free food so we only took snack food and drinks to Legoland. Our travel agent arranged for us to stay at a hotel with a kitchenette which turned out to be fantastic, as we were able to again have 2 meals there. The hotel reception gave us some great pointers on where to buy food and cafes that offered gluten free food. We went to a few places. One was a 100% gluten free bakery that also had a range of gluten/dairy free foods to select from, so we were all covered.
Legoland was very organised, as they have a brochure that lists out what foods are gluten free, dairy free, etc. It made it SO easy. Again, we experienced the same great service when ordering gluten free food. It was also so refreshing to see fresh chopped fruits, etc. The girls did munch on fresh fruits however highly enjoyed a gluten free ice cream both days. We rarely buy ice cream in Sydney, so it was a real treat. The ice cream parlour got a clean ice cream scooper, changed gloves and went out the back to open a new tub of ice cream. Yes, you have to wait but who cares when you get that type of service. I was truely amazed.
By the time we got to Anaheim, we thought that our travel agent did such as good job with the Carlsbad hotel that we wouldn’t have a problem cooking in the kitchenette in our next hotel. Sadly, we were mistaken as the kitchenette consisted of a microwave and bar fridge, so we could only eat breakfast in our hotel room. As we had a car, we went and brought some disposable plates, cutlery, chopped fruits, milk and cereal so we could at least have breakfast. I wasn’t too concerned though as I knew Disneyland catered for gluten/dairy free. I would next time however do more of my own research next time to either stay a little way from Disneyland in an apartment or find a hotel with an actual kitchenette that includes a stove, etc.
The catering for allergies at Disneyland is absolutely fantastic. Like everywhere we went, we had great service. We started our Disneyland adventure with gluten free, dairy free mickey mouse waffles and rather than bacon or sausages with our waffles they brought us fresh fruit. Nothing is too much trouble. There are so many options available on where to eat but given we were only there for 3 days, we only went to a few. The ones we did go to, well they were fantastic.
We started all of our ordering of food by telling them we were gluten free and gluten/dairy free then they would give you a run down on the menu. For our lunches and dinners the chef would come out to confirm and advise what they could do.
Bella and I enjoyed the most the lettuce wrapped burgers at the Hungry Bear Restaurant (Disneyland – Critter Country dining O on the map) with sweet potato fries the most.
Glenn and Char enjoyed gluten free hot dogs (not dairy free – sad face) from Award Weiners (California Adventure – Hollywood Lane dining F on the map).
There was also lots of fresh fruit around both Disneyland and California Adventure and gluten free chips so you could always grab something when there were no cafes or restaurants around, and the Dole Whip, well that’s another story.
Of course, there is also Starbucks in both Disneyland and California Adventure and the girls enjoyed an ice cream scoop in a cup from Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream (in California Adventure on Buena Vista Street dining B on the map).
In all honesty I think we spent more on food than on souvenirs as there were so many options! The only disappointing foodie thing was that it took us til the 3rd day to get a dole whip. It is so delicious and I was impressed that I could eat it as it’s gluten and dairy free, so we made sure our Disneyland experience ended with gluten free, dairy free dole whips.
When we moved onto our last stop at Santa Monica we were in a 2 bedroom apartment that we also booked on AirBnB. Again, we loved it, and loved getting back into the kitchen. If we didn’t fall in love with Tender Greens I may have more to say, but when we did eat out it was at Tender Greens in Santa Monica, as we could walk there from our apartment.
Our final night included a walk to the closest Wholefoods buying gluten free treats to bring home, which were demolished in the first week and shared with my parents (my dad is also gluten free). I also during our time brought skin, hair and beauty products that are gluten free – now using and loving, so I’ve included them on my lists under the ‘Products‘ section on my website.
In a nutshell for me and my family we would stay in apartments or hotels with full sized kitchens so we can buy food (which by the way is so much cheaper in California than Sydney) and feel more in control of what we are eating. It also keeps the costs down, as eating out for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for a family can be expensive.
My final tip if your a coffee drinker, is to order a single shot or double shot which to Australians is like our espresso, short black and long blacks. It took me around a week to work this out. They do however have coconut milk in alot of cafes and coffee shops, so if you only drink coffee with a non-dairy milk (other than soy, as we found soy available everywhere) then you might like to try it out.
Oh, I almost forgot, don’t forget to pack your chewable Gastro Stop (if you are gluten and dairy free) just in case, we forgot and in the USA we couldn’t buy anything without corn in it. Luckily a relative gave us some when we were in Ensenada. My first day back at work I went to the chemist and stocked back up on it. I also took my vitamins and essential oils so I tried to keep as healthy as possible whilst we were travelling.
Happy gluten-free holidaying! I know this family will certainly do another overseas holiday.
Me, Tracey Francis, at Santa Monica beach…enjoying some vitamin-sea!