“Isn’t it challenging to be vegan while traveling?” A genuine question I’ve been asked as a response to my busy travel itinerary. And the reality is, it doesn’t have to be! At times it can be challenging to find healthy options but by planning in advance you can certainly choose to remain vegan while traveling.
This past year I spent almost half the year traveling. I visited various vegan-friendly cities and the occasional not-so-vegan-friendly city throughout the country.
I’ve compiled this list of helpful tips for eating vegan while traveling. Hopefully these tips help the veg-curious person plan while traveling and additionally helps the longtime vegan with a few new ideas!
– PACK SNACKS –
Even if you have a short 45-minute flight ALWAYS pack snacks for the plane. You never know if your flight may be delayed extending your travel time by potentially a few hours. You don’t want to be stuck in an airport with limited options (if any). Thankfully a few folks out there have compiled lists of vegan-friendly food in airports: airport guide by VegGuide.
A few years ago, friends and I were flying SFO>PDX for a fun vegan tour. We boarded the plane at SFO and sat at the gate for an hour before the captain came on the loudspeaker announcing there was an issue with the motor and they were waiting for a mechanic. 45-minutes later we were switching planes. We boarded our second plane. An hour later, I kid you not, we were told that plane ALSO had a mechanical malfunction and that we had to step off that plane. I was so incredibly happy my friend had baked vegan conchas and brought them on-board because after 3 planes and a 3 hour delay, we were pretty hangry.
A few airport snack ideas (and liquid-free since carrying on liquids is a thing):
– Trail mix
– Roasted Chickpeas
– Dried fruit (figs are a great option because of their fiber content)
– Pumpkin Oatmeal Anytime Squares from Oh She Glows
– Seaweed snacks
– Chocolate Chip Banana Bread by Chef Chloe
Going to a non-vegan friendly location? If you’re going somewhere you know will be very difficult to find vegan options, check a bag and pack shelf-stable food. I’ve been known to travel with packets of oatmeal, nut butter pouches, tea, miso soup, instant noodles (just boil water in the hotel coffee machine), partially pre-cooked quinoa or rice in a shelf-stable package, tasty bites in pouches (a few flavors are vegan), ginger candy for nausea, and more! You can even take canned soup (I’ve done that before!) just don’t forget to pack a can opener too.
– CHOOSING A HOTEL –
If you have the opportunity to be selective about your hotel then you can definitely find a vegan-friendly hotel (or bed & breakfast).
Call the hotel to ask if their restaurant can make vegan options
I have planned various events at hotels across the country and I am always pleasantly surprised how accommodating the kitchen can be for special dietary requirements. If you’re traveling for work and may not have the opportunity to leave your hotel much, it’s not a bad idea to rely on your hotel’s kitchen for meals.
Request a hotel mini-fridge
If staying at a hotel, double check that your hotel supplies mini-fridges for each room. You’ll want a place to store perishable food from the next tip!
– STOCK UP ON ESSENTIALS AT YOUR DESTINATION –
If you’re on vacation, your first priority isn’t touring the local grocery store but having essentials stocked in your hotel’s mini fridge will put your mind at ease for the duration of your stay.
Grab a few snack items especially fresh fruit. Fruit is a great portable snack and it’s super handy if you spend more time walking around a brand new city than you expected while searching for that one vegan restaurant.
Personal note: I love visiting natural food stores of the city I’m visiting because you get to explore all the local vegan goodies especially in the baked goods section (my personal favorite). It’s also a great place to pick-up gifts for your vegan friends (because we all love food gifts)!
Additionally, I typically pick-up locally brewed kombucha, or a few probiotic drinks, like Kevita. I travel for work almost weekly and can’t risk catching a bug, so I also grab sauerkraut or kimchi to help boost my immune system response. You can of course get creative and pair the sauerkraut with crackers and avocado. Other probiotic-rich ideas include dairy-free yogurt or kefir.
– RESEARCH AND PLAN –
Fellow vegans don’t have to be told twice about this! We all know how to research and plan a good vegan meal. If you’re like me, I ask my friends for vegan restaurant recommendations before I even book my plane ticket!
Here are recommendations for researching and planning your food adventures:
HappyCow – find vegetarian/vegan restaurants around the globe. One of the few resources out there that includes international restaurants. The downside to HappyCow – they only list all vegetarian/vegan locations and not restaurants that may have vegan options or even a full separate vegan menu. Understandably they want to support the all veggie locations but in certain parts of the world it can be challenging to find all veggie restaurants.
Yelp – search by customer reviews to see what they’ve said about the vegan options. For example, whether that restaurant has a whole dedicated vegan menu or if their vegan options are lacking (maybe it’s just a bare salad). What I like about Yelp is that you get real current information about vegan options at restaurants with a map. If you know you’re going to be in one particular neighborhood then you can simply navigate the map to that area. Let’s say I’m planning to spend a Sunday bicycling around SF’s Golden Gate Park and want to know what vegan options are in that area: Et Voila! The downside to Yelp – you are not going to find many entries outside of the US and when you do, it’s mostly American tourists contributing.
Google Maps – Now that we have all the recommendations (from friends, Yelp, HappyCow) we need them in one accessible place! My recommendation: add it all into a google map. You can also add points of interest into the same map as your vegan food tour.
So let’s say you’re touring SF, walking around Haight & Ashbury in San Francisco and your stomach begins to indicate loudly that you need a good hearty meal. Just open up your map in the mobile app and review your pre-selected restaurants near your current location.
See my San Francisco map below! Now I’m a local here so I have quite a long list going. Obviously you can customize your own map to best suite your own itinerary. Note the “i” icon in the middle of the bay is the KEY and I recommend reading it if you plan to use this map as reference.
To create your own map: open google maps in a web browser (not a mobile app), select the menu drop down icon (three horizontal bars), select “Your Places”, select “Maps”, select “Create Map”.
To access your map from your mobile device: Install the google maps app if you don’t already have it, select the menu drop down icon (three horizontal bars), select “Your Places”, select “Maps”, select the map you created.
I have quite a few vegan maps of cities around the world that I plan to make public soon like: Mexico City, Paris, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and more. Let me know if you’re interested! Also looking for reliable contributors.
– MEAL DELIVERY APPS –
You may be thinking – there’s no way I’ll use a meal delivery app while traveling! – but it has saved me a few times this past year and it could help you too! In addition, I found that I spend more money lyfting back and forth from a restaurant than just paying the delivery fee.
First, find out which delivery apps are most commonly used in your destination city. To do so easily, find a vegan restaurant you know you’ll want to visit and look up their online menu. It’s likely they list which delivery services they partner with right on their website. Download those apps on your phone in advance while connected to WIFI. Tip: ask your friends to share their referral code (for possibly a little delivery discount).
Since I travel for work, I often have long days spent in convention centers, hotels, or in meetings. Delivery services have saved me so many times. I’ll get food delivered to the hotel or convention center and often times the options are far better than anything you may have been able to put together from a vending machine (a bag of fritos only gets you so far) or the hotel’s cafe.
Let’s hear it! What is your top recommendation for other vegan travelers out there?