Does the thought of traveling on the Autoimmune Protocol strike fear into your heart? If so, you’re not alone!
A couple of weeks into my Autoimmune Protocol journey, I had a big realization: I had the opportunity to travel away from home during the strict elimination phase. Not just once or twice, but at least three times. Normally I would be pretty excited about the prospect, but at this time in my life I practically had a panic attack and visions of myself chopping up veggies with a plastic knife on a hotel bed ran through my head.
Seriously, though, traveling during the strict elimination phase of AIP is a really big challenge and can cause a lot of anxiety. I even considered saying no to these trips and putting off travel until I had at least started some reintroductions. But then I realized, I don’t want a stupid disease to take away my freedom. I have chosen to live an AIP lifestyle in order to take control of my health, but I don’t have to let it take control of me. So I made the decision to be resourceful and figure it out.
My first two trips were by car, which definitely put me more in control of the situation—I packed a cooler and a couple of extra bags of ingredients and snacks and I was good to go! My second trip also included a full kitchen, which isn’t too much harder than cooking at home. My third trip, however, required a flight down to Atlanta for a business conference in a downtown hotel. I quickly discovered that flying on AIP requires a bit more creativity, but it can be accomplished with some advance planning and flexibility once you arrive.
My first step was to call the hotel. I explained that I had a medical condition that required a special diet, and that I would be sending frozen food to the hotel via FedEx. I then asked how the hotel would be able to accommodate my dietary needs. I was told that my food would be stored in a freezer until I arrived, each room had a mini-fridge, and a microwave could be delivered to the room upon advance request. I was blown away—I didn’t even know that requesting a microwave was even a thing! I was also told that if for some reason one wasn’t available, there is a microwave available in the lobby that I could use to reheat my meals (apparently many hotels have this, so make sure to ask).
My next step was to plan out all of my meals while I was gone. I counted up each breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, plus added extra just in case my flight was delayed. Good thing that I did, because it was! Once I figured out what I needed, I placed my online orders several days in advance. Grocery delivery via Amazon or a local service is definitely an option if you have space to prepare meals. Since I was staying in a small hotel room, I used Paleo on the Go, a frozen meal delivery service that features a separate AIP-only menu (I highly recommend the Moo Shu Pork Tacos). The prices are more expensive than I usually pay for food, but the food was delicious, and compared to eating out at restaurants like I usually do on a trip it was very reasonable.
I ordered my AIP snacks a few days in advance and filled the online cart with much more than I thought that I would actually eat. I didn’t want to feel deprived or that I had to carefully ration every single bite. I packed a large tote bag of full of my favorite snacks (Artisan Tropic Cassava Strips, Paleo Angel Power Balls, and Dang! Coconut Chips to name a few) and carried them onto the plane—there was no way I was letting the airline lose that precious cargo! It ended up being a great idea, since my return flight home was delayed by several hours and my extra snacks turned into dinner the last evening.
Before I left for the airport, I made a large salad with chicken in a disposable container and poured the olive oil and balsamic vinegar right on top so it didn’t count as one of my liquids. I prefer glass storage containers at home, but the disposable one allowed me to toss it at the airport and free up luggage space.
The thing that I dread about travel the most is the packing, and dealing with an autoimmune disease meant that I had a lot more to think about than food. To keep everything organized, I made a packing list for all of the non-edible provisions I was going to need. I kept in mind that there is more to AIP besides nutrition, including quality sleep, gentle movement, stress management, and social connections. Here is an example of my checklist:
- Ankle brace
- Comfy Shoes & Slippers (a must for my joint pain!)
- Gym Clothes & Tennis Shoes
- Self-Care Items
(Face Mask, Epsom Salt, Bath Bombs, Great Book)
(This seems like such a simple thing, until you’re on the 10th floor in your pajamas ready to dig into some AIP Shephard’s Pie and you’ve only got your fingers.)
While I wanted everything to be perfect, it never is, is it? When I arrived at the hotel, my room didn’t have a microwave despite calling twice to reserve one, and more importantly, my frozen meals had not been delivered due to winter weather. I will admit that I had a total freak out, but then I took a deep breath and figured it out. After insisting that I had a medical condition that necessitated the microwave, I was upgraded to a suite that included one. Because of my advance research I knew that the hotel restaurant had food that would work, and between that and my giant tote bag of snacks I was able to survive until my pre-ordered food arrived.
I realized that because I prepared in advance but was also willing to pivot in the moment, everything turned out just fine. I was a bit sore and worn out after my trip, but it was proud of myself for conquering my fear of AIP travel. In the end, living a life of freedom that is full of meaningful human connection is what brings me joy, and the extra effort was worth it.
What AIP travel tips have been a lifesaver for you? Comment below, or post your travel tips directly to our Simply AIP Facebook group here (https://www.facebook.com/groups/294743447720378/).