A few thoughts on travel…

Obviously, travel takes on a an entirely different dimension when you are gluten-intolerant. And if you have multiple intolerances, like me, it gets exponentially harder. You can’t eat the bagged snack on the airplane and if you’re irritable and your kids are fighting and the small child sitting behind you is mindlessly kicking your seat, you can’t even have a beer. But take heart, gluten-free is becoming downright trendy (thank you Chelsea Clinton and Gwyneth Paltrow), and we have more options than ever before. And it’s just going to get better.

This past summer, as I was sitting aboard our Alaska flight, waiting for take-off, I was feeling pretty optimistic. We were flying to Oregon to celebrate my mom’s 88th birthday with her. She’s an amazing person and I was beyond excited to share her special day with her. The only hesitation I felt related to our accommodations. Trying to prepare our own food, while on vacation, usually leaves me exhausted, ill and needing a few day of vacation recovery (which kind of defeats the point of a vacation, really).

Now, we’ve tried a variety of different options, starting with the traditional hotel. The Hilton Garden Inn was as hospitable as they could be, but I couldn’t get by with the borrowed toaster I’d plugged into the tiny space below the tiny microwave. Then there was the extended stay hotel where I cooked rice pasta in a burned out pan in the tiniest kitchenette in the state of Oregon, while using my daughter’s socks as potholders. Can you feel the stress? We thought we’d really figured things out when we decided to utilize the small kitchen off the main dining room of the beautiful retirement lodge where my mom lives. What we didn’t count on was a really sensitive smoke detector and an excrutiatingly loud fire alarm as we cooked turkey bacon in the microwave. So if the recurring thought of peeling someone’s grandma off the ground because one of my kids accidentally knocked into their walker wasn’t enough, the idea of a kitchen alarm sending nearly 150 seniors into cardiac arrest was the last straw.

At the risk of not being invited back, we knew we had to come up with a real solution. That’s when we found eco-friendly Brooklane Cottage during a desperate internet search. The pictures looked good and it’s proprietor assured me it had a fully functioning kitchen. We crossed our fingers, but kept our expectations low after so many failed attempts to find a viable solution. What we didn’t count on was a tastefully appointed, immaculately clean cottage with a beautiful, fully stocked kitchen. The kids slept comfortably in the front room and we took the master with a bed that felt like home. Out back was an active chicken coop and a trampoline. Ours kids were totally happy and the presence of the washer and dryer pushed me into sublime contentment.

Turns out, if a hotel can’t meet your needs, there are all sorts of alternative travel accommodations available. If you’re traveling in the summer, check out your destinations’s local colleges and universities. Many of them rent living quarters by the week. And for the very intrepid (and very trusting), home exchanges can offer you an opportunity to really sink into your surroundings. For shorter stays, cottages, cabins or vacation rentals are the way to go. But the best part for us is that we get to visit my mom, stress free. That the lodge director has learned to smile at us again when she sees us coming is just icing on the cake.