Whole30 travel is a special kind of monster. While our fearless leader Melissa Hartwig advises against taking the cruise of a lifetime or an anniversary trip to Paris during your Whole30, sometimes things come up.
What if you’re on Whole30 Day 9 and your friends invite you to the lake house for the weekend? What if you’re crushing Whole30 Day 17 and your boss needs to fly you out to make a killer presentation?
Do you say no? Or abandon your Whole30?
No way! Whole30 travel is completely doable and I’m here to show you how.
Whole30 Travel: the Basics
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The only way to succeed while traveling on the Whole30 is through mindfulness and careful planning. While vacation is normally a time to zone out and relax, if you want to stay compliant, you’ve got to create a game plan.
I traveled frequently throughout my first Whole30 and was able to stay on track! I have a girls trip planned during my upcoming second one and am not sweating it at all.
Here’s how I do it:
Pack Whole30 Approved Snacks
You are likely to encounter more “emergency moments” while traveling on the Whole30 then you would at home. You might be trapped in a car full of friends munching on candy and beef jerky or stuck in meetings all day without a chance to sit down at eat. You can survive both of these if you plan ahead.
Make sure you have an accessible purse, carry on, or cooler with the follow things packed:
- 2 Lara, RX, or Epic bars for each day you’ll be away (or a combo of the three).*
- a few packs of almond butter.
- a small bag of sliced apples
- 1 banana
- a small bag of celery
- a small bag of carrots
The point is to have plenty of Whole30 compliant snacks with you, so if you are faced with long periods on time without access to compliant food (i.e. gas station stops on road trips, mixers on buisness trips, etc.) you don’t have to go without any food which can make you desperately hungry and in need of a quick fix — which usually isn’t compliant.
You can bring plenty of non-perishable emergency items with you (like the Lara and Epic bars) and replenish things like carrots, apples, etc. by popping to the local grocery store or the hotel’s breakfast bar.
I went on multiple road trips during my first Whole30 and while it was kind of weird not loading up on traditional “road trip snacks” along the way, I actually felt powerful when I went into a gas station, just got a bottle of water, and popped back out to my car to continue munching on my apple slices.
*Small reminder that not ALL Lara and RX Bars are compliant. Check the ingredients!
Flying on the Whole30
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Shorter domestic flights on the Whole30 should be no big deal. Just get water, hot tea, or black coffee to drink, and pull a Lara or Epic Bar out of your bag to munch on instead of the peanuts or crackers.
Long haul flights are where it gets tricker. If you’ve got a flight where they are going to feed you, chances are substantial portions of the meal are going to be non-compliant. Have no fear! With a little preparation (and perhaps a small fee!) it looks like you can get a meal that is mostly compliant.
Start by searching “name of airline special meal” which will take you to the list of alternative meal options. For example, here’s a special meal menu from United and American Airlines. Be sure to look over the meal options more than 24 hours in advance of your flight so your airline of choice has time to accommodate your request. Most major carriers have vegan and gluten-free options, which could be workable.
It’s worth it to call your airline to assess if you can build a custom meal for a small fee – or pick the vegetarian option and avoid the grain and dairy components, filling the holes with the Whole30 snacks you brought with you.
Staying at Hotels on the Whole30
Hotels on the Whole30 are easy enough — especially if you can book a room with a kitchenette. If a full kitchenette isn’t available, call the hotel to request a room with at least a mini-fridge to store Whole30 grab and go foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts — which you can easily pop out and grab from a local grocery store.
You can even make baked potatoes in the microwave, which is a Whole30 on the go option if your hotel room has one available.
Staying with Friends and Family on the Whole30
This can be the hardest part of Whole30 Travel.
If you are on the Whole30 and staying at loved one’s home, staying compliant will be technically easier, as you will have access to a full kitchen in which to cook the meals of your choice, but the emotional work to be done has the potential to be exhausting.
We have been socialized to see refusing food as a rejection of the giver’s love and hospitality, which can only be amplified while you are a guest in their home. To help avoid this, offer to cook Whole30 meals for your host as a sign of gratefulness for their hospitality.
You should also give them a head’s up about your dietary restrictions before you arrive. Make sure to focus on what you can have, so they don’t feel restricted or confused when shopping (e.g. I love sunny side up eggs! Eating roasted veggies with olive oil is my favorite! Grilled chicken and green beans is delicious to me!)
Eating Whole30 at Restaurants
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If you do some Whole30 travel, you will likely find yourself at a restaurant — but don’t panic! Eating Whole30 at restaurants is possible. My mom and I were both on our first Whole30 when we went away for a girls weekend in the Texas Hill Country. We were able to eat at one of the region’s most famous steakhouses and stay 100% compliant.
Steakhouses and the like are your best best for Whole30 compliant restaurants. So if you are on a buisness trip, family getaway, or girls weekend and would like to stay compliant, speak up and request one.
Study the menu online before you head to the restaurant. I’ve found this helps me as I’ve had more time to look things over and begin to formulate the questions I want to ask the waiter.
Grilled meats (the staple menu items at steakhouses) typically don’t have any contraband in them, so by ordering a steak (with no butter pat!), pork chop, or salmon with a side of grilled veggies and a “dry” baked potato, you should be good, but make sure to double check about unlisted sauces or cooking oils. If you want to spice up your potato, I usually flavor mine with salt, pepper, vinegar, and oil.
If you want to go meatless, many salads are okay — just make sure to stick with vinegar and oil as dressing (or if you want to go hardcore, you can pull some Whole30 approved salad dressing out of your purse).
And, if push comes to shove, you can technically eat at Chipotle.
Get a salad with carnitas (the only meat cooked in sunflower oil instead of rice bran), plus any salsa you want (except the corn!) and some guac.
Be Prepared to Break Tradition with Whole30 Travel
Sometimes eating Whole30 hurts. Let it! Relish in it! Think of it as pain leaving the body!
Is there a diner you eat at every time you road trip? Skip it in favor of a place where it’s easier to be compliant. Or if your traveling mates insist, be a good sport and eat there, but make sure to stick with eggs and fruit.
It might be a little sad not having your special diner pancakes, but if you eat there every single time you visit, that’s just it! Those special pancakes (or whatever meal you have) will still be there next time, when you’re not on Whole30. Who knows, you might not even want them then.
Sometimes when traveling, you might feel rushed and opt for a quick drive through meal or something from an airport kiosk. Challenge yourself to do better. You made a commitment to yourself to eat Whole30 and you’re not going to let a little change in your schedule and daily rhythm stop you.
If you can’t find something Whole30 compliant while traveling, relax. Take a step back. Pull out your emergency Lara Bar that you brought with you for such a time as this and make a plan.
You’ve got this.
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Emily’s all over the place. She’s an expert on working holidays, studying abroad, and turning your #GapYear into a #GapLife. Learn how here.
Thanks for the reminders about planning ahead with emergency snacks and shopping local. I think sometimes when traveling we forget the locals don’t eat out every meal! :p
hahaha so true!
Great tips. We are on day 18 of the Whole30 and I’ve cut so many veggies and fruits and cooked so much that traveling doesn’t sound so awesome for the next 2 weeks. However, my husband had to go out of town for a week and I packed him enough food for the whole trip. It really helped him. I’m actually enjoying the recipes though, so that’s a good thing.
There are so many recipes that are actually really good! The first time I did the Whole30 I was surprised by how much I liked all the food. Good luck on your last few weeks! I’m a day 20 today.
I give you so much credit for sticking to the Whole 30 while traveling. I tried and failed miserably haha. My problem was not planning enough ahead of time with snacks and for long flights. Really great tips though! 🙂
It does get really tough when you don’t plan ahead! I’ve been in a couple situations where I didn’t bring enough compliant food and I’m like…this is it…I’m going to starve. hahaha.
Planning is key! If you come prepared, it is so much easier to stick to it.
I so, so agree!
I didn’t know what Wole30 was! So I Googled it and now I know, thanks for that!
I’m glad to see you fond a way to keep traveling despite the Whole30. If you’re prepared, you can do almost everything.
I’m glad you’ve discovered it! It’s really helped me.
This is an interesting article! I have not something like this before, but it’s worth a try
Most of the tips are very helpful if also wish to stay on a specific diet!
Thanks for sharing ♥️
Yes, for sure! You can apply these to most any type of eating.
I’ve never been on a whole30 diet but recently I’ve started to gain control about what I eat. Travel is where it gets bad and I eat all junk or whatever that’s easily available. These are some wonderful tips, hoping to use them on my next travel trip 🙂
I so feel you! My vacation brain is like EAT IT ALLL, but my stomach is like PLEASE NO hahaha.