Is it possible to follow AIP while traveling? Absolutely! It takes some preplanning and some extra effort, but it is definitely possible. My job is about 75% travel – and during our busy times of the year, it is closer to 100% – but I have figured out some strategies that allow me to stay well nourished and even follow the elimination phase protocol even while living out of a hotel. In this post I am sharing the five major challenges and how I dealt with them, as well as some tips from around the internet.
You’ll find some practical tips here, but most of all I hope you will take this as a pep talk. You CAN have a full and productive life, even while managing autoimmune disease. Don’t be afraid to embrace opportunities to travel, whether for for fun or for professional opportunities!
Traveling on AIP means planning to eat, so you can eat the plan!
Although I have successfully reintroduced some foods and am not always “perfectly paleo” when it comes to food sourcing, I do revert back to the elimination phase of the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP) to reset my system a couple times a year and I always build the foundation of my travel eating plan on the highest quality and cleanest food I can get. That generally means that I bring food with me, so my first challenge was to find a portable source.
Challenge #1: Get some AIP frozen food
My frozen meal source is Paleo On the Go. There are other paleo frozen meal companies out there, but I like Paleo On the Go the best because they have a huge menu of AIP compliant meals and all of them are absolutely delicious, plus they are just the nicest people! I even had a chance to tour their facility in Florida when we were visiting family over Christmas and wrote about it as well as my favorite menu items in this post. Since then, they have added even more mouth watering meals and I have some new favorites… the grass fed beef brisket with AIP BBQ sauce and roasted garlic mash is at the top of that list!
Pro tip… Purchase at least $333 at a time so that you get free shipping. I usually do that by selecting the monthly AIP meal deal for $315 (14 complete meals, 2 broths, 2 treats, and a bonus soup) and then add on a couple other favorites or some extra tortillas, pot pies, or broth to stock the freezer. While I don’t bring those with me on my trips, they are nice to have when I get home to an empty refrigerator.
NOTE: Since falling in love with their food for my personal use, I signed on to be an affiliate with Paleo On the Go. That means that I get a small commission for referring new customers to them. It also means that I can give you a special discount code (one time use) for being a loyal reader! Enter the code GUTSY and get 10% off your entire order.
Challenge #2: Keep your AIP frozen meals frozen!
You can have your frozen meals shipped directly to your destination, but I’ve found it easier to just bring them with me. Most of the time I just put them in a standard insulated zipper bag (like the kind you’d get at your grocery store to keep your produce cool until you get home) and then pack that inside my suitcase. I was skeptical before I tried it, but they actually stay frozen very well. I once had a day of major travel mixups and what should have been a 4 hour journey stretched to 12. Even then, my meals were still completely frozen. Most hotel rooms these days have mini-fridges in them, and those that don’t can put one in your room if you tell them you need it for medical reasons.
Pro tip for flying… You can pack food, even liquids, in your checked luggage on domestic United States flights. As long as everything is frozen, TSA will also let you bring it in your carry on. Unfortunately, customs regulations restrict the bringing of certain food items across borders, so make sure you check ahead of time if flying internationally.
Pro tip for driving… I recently invested in an RTIC cooler when I went on a multi-day trip that required me to stay in a different hotel every night with long drives in between. It was pricey, but worked really well and I consider it a wise investment. You can buy direct from their website or from Amazon.
Challenge #3: Heat up your AIP travel food
Of course, frozen meals are not very helpful if you don’t have a means of heating them up! I usually stay in hotels with microwaves, but I much prefer using the Hot Logic Mini Oven. This little device looks like an insulated lunch box with an electrical cord sticking out of it! It uses a “low and slow” conductive heating system to gently reheat the food in about an hour and then keep it a perfect temperature until you are ready to eat. I put my breakfast in it before going to bed and my dinner in it before I leave the hotel room for a day of work and enjoy the hot meal whenever I want! You can even get an adapter and use it to heat meals in the car.
Pro tip… You can fly with the Hot Logic, even in your carry on luggage. Every now and then I will get stopped by TSA because it looks kind of strange on the x-ray machine, but they just pull the bag aside and do a swab for explosives and let me on my way.
NOTE: I am also an affiliate for Hot Logic, because I really love it that much! Again, that means that I get a small commission for referring you to them and I have an exclusive discount code for you! Enter the code GUTSY and get 20% off your purchase. If you prefer, you can also find them on Amazon.
Challenge #4: Get your AIP travel food paid for
As I mentioned earlier, my travel is primarily for business, and my employer pays for meals when I am on the road, so I asked them to pay for these too. If you travel on a per diem, then it is even easier. Those of us with expense accounts probably need to get special permission to do it this way instead of the typical restaurant meals each day.
Not sure how to ask? Or feel weird about divulging personal health information? Here is the gist of what I said to my manager when requesting it…
“I am on a medically required elimination diet that makes it difficult to eat in most restaurants. The best way for me to eat and stay on the plan is to bring frozen meals with me. I have found a source that and each meal will cost about $20-30 but I need to make the purchases in bulk, which means I will be submitting a single receipt for approximately $400 to cover 15-20 meals. Please let me know if this meets your approval and what kind of documentation I need to provide.”
My manager was immediately supportive and noted that this was entirely reasonable because the company allows us to spend even more than that per day in restaurant meals. It required a couple hurdles to clear and the faceless computer still occasionally kicks back my expense reports, but the humans have always worked it out for me. My advice: Don’t be shy about asking! If your company values you, they will want to do what makes you as productive as possible, and you can definitely do it without having to share all the gory details of your personal health and the protocol you are following.
Challenge #5: Eating AIP on the go
We all know how important WHAT we eat is for our health, but we sometimes forget that HOW we eat is equally important. It is important to sit down, get yourself into a “rest and digest” mode, and generally act like a civilized human being whenever possible! It’s a minor thing, but I really dislike eating with disposable silverware, which is why I recently bought this cute little set of portable utensils and keep them packed in my suitcase.
But sometimes I have no choice and have to turn to shelf stable, packaged foods that need no heating or refrigerating and I can eat while driving down the road or on the airplane or in between meetings are necessary.
Some of my favorites AIP-compliant convenience foods…
- Artisana Organic Raw Coconut Butter Packets (available from Amazon and from Thrive Market)
- Artisan Tropic Plantain Strips and Cassava Chips (available on Amazon and from Barefoot Provisions)
- Vital Proteins Collagen Peptide Sticks (available from Amazon and from Barefoot Provisions)
- Epic Bison, Bacon and Cranberry Bars (available on Amazon, from Thrive Market, and from Barefoot Provisions)
- That’s It Fruit Bars (available on Amazon, Trader Joe’s also has a store brand version)
In a pinch, an Epic bar (protein) combined with some plantain chips (carbs) and a packet of coconut butter (fat) plus a fruit bar for a little something sweet actually provides a good AIP-compliant balanced meal that keeps me satisfied until I get a chance for something more substantial.
More tips from around the internet
- Love the details in this post from Sweet Treats on planning for AIP travel and this follow up post on airplane tips.
- Sometimes I have no choice but to eat in a restaurant. Here are some tips from Grazed and Enthused on eating safely at a non-paleo restaurant.
- There aren’t very many, but Phoenix Helix has compiled a list of Paleo Restaurants worldwide. Let’s hope the list grows!
- Great tips here from Field Notes on Healing on navigating business trips. I completely agree with her advice on learning how to paraphrase your requests.
- Most of my travel is domestic and my flights are fairly short. See this post from Adventures in Partaking for advice on long international flights.
- I only have to take care of myself (and occasionally Mr. Gutsy when we travel together… but he’s pretty self sufficient!). For those of you with little ones, this post from Provincial Paleo on traveling with children by plane is super helpful. And this one from the Tasty Alternative has tips for traveling with kids by car.
- I am not a camper (I like soft beds and flush toilets too much), but for those of you who like that sort of thing should check out this post on camping from Kaiku Lifestyle.
- I have never done it but this post on The Paleo Mom explains how it is possible to take a cruise and stay paleo.
- Finally, I know you will enjoy this post about airplane travel and staying in a rental property from A Squirrel in the Kitchen – especially because it is a post about a trip with me!
One more resource…
Finally, for the do-it-yourselfers, here is an awesome ebook from my friend Bethany that is full of travel-friendly recipes you can make ahead of time as well as tips and tricks from someone who really knows the meaning of the word “safari”! It’s only $6 and worth every penny.