Happy March! As the weather starts to get warmer, we’re naturally feeling more and more inspired to finally book some time off and embark on that well-deserved vacay. Maybe you’re planning a backpacking trip through multiple countries, a week-long stay by the beach or something less distant like a road-trip to another province or a visit to our neighbours down south. Among the gazillion bullets on your pre-vacation prep list probably lies the question of how to sustain a vegan diet while away.
As an avid traveler, I often face this dilemma myself – although calling it a dilemma might not be all that accurate given how vastly the vegan movement is growing (woot woot!). To help ease your mind, I’ve compiled several tips on eating plant-based while traveling – so you can enjoy your adventurous escapades to the absolute max.
Book accommodation with a kitchen
While the vegan movement continues to be on the rise, it still remains a predominantly western concept. More often than not, you will stumble upon destinations where eating animal-based foods remains a deeply ingrained cultural practice. While veg modifications in these places are usually possible, there will inevitably be times when you’ll find yourself struggling to find even a single veg restaurant in sight. In such cases, your best bet is to book accommodation with a kitchen. This will allow you to prep your own meals while also save money by opting for grocery stores or local farmers’ markets instead of restaurants.
Learn the most useful phrases
“Y a-t-il de la viande ou des produits laitiers?” (French for “Are there any meat or dairy products in it?”) Learning local phrases and common words helps to communicate what you can and cannot eat. It also helps to comprehend ingredient lists and labels at grocery stores. Lucky for us, apps like Word Reference or Google Translate make overcoming language barriers a lot easier.
Make use of technology
Speaking of apps, thanks to our tech-y generation we can find almost any resource we need online. If you plan on purchasing data roaming services during your travels, make use of the various veg-specific apps available. Happy Cow for example, allows you to locate nearby vegan restaurants by plugging in your current location. If you don’t plan on having cellular data turned on while you’re away, check the desktop version of Happy Cow before heading out in the morning either on Wi-Fi at your accommodation or ask the reception desk for tips on places carrying vegan eats.
Don’t let the lack of 3G or Wi-Fi discourage you
On the other hand, you might encounter times when cellular data or Wi-Fi aren’t available. Maybe you’re even planning to unplug altogether. Don’t feel discouraged. This just means you’ll have to do a little more planning beforehand. Sort of like when you first became vegan and persistently relied on resourcefulness. An easy way to tackle this is by researching restaurants or grocery stores in your destination prior to your departure. Write down the names, addresses and store hours of possible places in Notes on your phone.
Stay in hostels
If you’re a younger traveler like myself, hostels are a great way to travel on a budget and meet like-minded peers. They’re also a great way to network with fellow travelers and gain insight into local restaurants and vegan finds. Best part? There’s a hostel at almost every corner. Most hostels also have common kitchen areas where you can prep your own meals. Having been young nomads themselves, the staff are almost always very friendly and willing to help find resources to accommodate your way of traveling. I personally love using HOSTELS.com for great hostel finds.
One of the most commonly over-looked aspects of traveling plant-based is the getting there part. You’ve got your flights booked, great. But did you request an in-flight vegan meal? Most travelers assume that their dietary preference can be made on the spot – “Pasta or chicken ma’am? Oh I’ll take the vegan option.” Sadly this isn’t how it works. In fact, most airlines aren’t able to accommodate a dietary request they weren’t made aware of prior. As soon as you book your flights, make sure to contact your airline and put in a request for a vegan meal on-board – if you’re willing to pay the extra cost. When traveling across the Atlantic last year, I paid an extra $25 (one way) for a vegan dinner which consisted of some steamed veggies in tomato sauce and rice. Needless to say, the meal did not fill me up but I was happy to be having a hot meatless meal nonetheless.
If you’re opting to snack it out instead (understandably so), remember to only bring packaged and sealed products on your flight. Great segway to my next point.
Stock up on emergency on-the-go snacks
Whether you’ll be spending most of your time in the city, at a resort, in a car, or on hiking trails, having snacks on you at all times will be a major life saver – especially if you’re traveling with a partner or group that isn’t vegan. You never know when hunger will strike and not having immediate access to a vegan meal shouldn’t be an inhibitor to spontaneous adventure you otherwise would have been enjoying. Protein bars, granola, trail mix, crackers or fruit are personal favourites when it comes to staying energized on-the-go.
Planning that dream trip you’ve been envisioning can be stressful, but don’t let your eating repertoire add on to the pile. Soak up every moment of your long-awaited and well-deserved getaway, even the prep that goes along with it!
Positive energies always.
This post was originally written for Plant Based Toronto.