Traveling as a vegan can be a challenge, as most of you are aware. Of course, if you are traveling to a vegan friendly area, such as Portland, OR, you probably don't have to do anything in advance! But we all know that it can be difficult to find good vegan food on the road. Jane and I have put together a strategy that we find works pretty well for us. I thought I'd share it with you today. (We don't do all these things, all the time.) Feel free to chime in with any thoughts or ideas you have, because there is always room for improvement.
Before travel research your destination:
- Contact your Hotel or B&B to find out if they can accommodate your dietary restrictions. Be specific!
- Find out which restaurants are vegan-friendly in the area.
- Scope out the local health food stores, food co-ops, and farmer's markets. Note the addresses. You may even want to print out maps to help you, as the maps that you get from the car rental places can be lacking.
- Find your emergency food. For us, it tends to be Taco Bell. We know we can always get a bean burrito without cheese to tide us over.
- If you are traveling outside the country, do research on local cuisines. Many cultures are not as meat and dairy-centric as we are and you can find dishes based on lentils or beans...
Prepare some food to take along with you. Lets face it, airport food leave a lot to be desired, and delays are pretty commonplace. So it's always a good idea to be prepared. We usually bring along some combination of the following:
- Sandwiches we've prepared in advance. We usually bring a total of three to share.
- Fruit (if necessary, peeled and sliced).
- Nuts and seeds.
- Trail mix - we usually just throw together some combination of the dried fruits and nuts we have on hand.
- Protein bars.
- Primal Strips -- we just encountered this vegan jerky on our last trips; now a staple in our home.
- Jane usually brings along some powdered miso soup. Just add hot water. (When getting miso, make sure there are no bonito flakes. This is a dried fish powder.)
Strategies while you are on the road:
- Bring protein sources (bars, jerky, meal replacement powders). You can usually get a salad, veggies, and pasta eating out. Vegan protein can often be a challenge. If you have your own stash, you can supplement later.
- The coffee maker in your hotel room is your friend. You can boil water to reconstitute a number of different things. And you can use the pot to heat up soups -- just be considerate of the next guests and don't put anything but coffee grounds in the basket -- and clean out the pot well.
- Ask your hotel to empty out the mini bar so you can use the fridge for your food. We've had some success with this. Some hotels just won't do it. But they may be willing to provide you with a mini fridge if they have one on hand.
- Consider staying someplace with a kitchen for at least part of your trip. Being able to prepare your own food can be quite helpful.
- You can find food at any grocery store -- salad, along with a vinaigrette dressing that doesn't require refrigeration, are easily purchased. You can supplement that with some hummus and a loaf of bread and some fruit and you have a delicious meal.
- Bring a can opener with you. If you can't find anything else, you can always buy cans of beans or chickpeas at a local grocery store (and salad...) and you've got a reasonable meal.
- We also like to buy tortillas to make wraps. If you can't find vegan mock meats, you can usually get grilled veggies at the supermarket salad bar, and hummus, or canned beans. Jane often makes a wrap as follows: tortilla, lettuce, black beans, roasted red pepper, avocado slices. It's delicious and you can find the ingredients anywhere.
- Prepare food in advance. Jane often makes granola bars, and chickpea cutlets to bring along. Once she even made muffins. She put them in a tin and we had them for a few days.
Traveling with a car. This opens up a wide range of options. Jane's finally convinced me that you can just throw stuff in the trunk for "just in case."
- Bring a cooler with some large size ziploc bags. You can get ice easily... fill the ziplocs and you can store things in the car for awhile.
- We have brought a blender with us (not often) since I really like to have my shake for breakfast in the morning. It's also allowed us to make a variety of hummus and bean spreads.
- Bring your favorite snacks and easily portable foods. If you wind up finding suitable alternatives on the road, you can always bring these things back home with you. And it's great to have something you're willing to eat on hand.
When staying with non-vegan family/friends:
- Discuss in advance what you eat. Most people can handle rice and beans easily.
- Offer to bring something to share. Or offer to cook something (make sure you can get your hands on the required ingredients).
- Regardless of how well-meaning your hosts are, always assume you will need to supplement your meal, and bring a stash of protein bars, or jerky, or other meal replacement. If it turns out you don't need it, you can always bring it home again. But far better to be prepared.
One final note, we had our hummus confiscated at the Bozeman Montana airport! It was sealed! The security dude told me if the hummus was on a sandwhich it would have been okay. Go figure! We've never had a problem at LAX, but each airport is different, and we've always found the security at the smaller airports to be far more stringent than elsewhere. So, if you are bringing food items with you, bear in mind the creamy stuff might be problematic.