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The Vegan Traveler
Maintaining a Vegan Diet on the Road
Maintaining a good diet is challenging whenever anyone is on the road, and it can be particularly difficult for vegans (or anyone else with special dietary needs).
Here you will find some good, sensible advice for maintaining your vegan diet while on the road, whether you are traveling close to home, visiting another country, or having an adventure anywhere along that continuum.
The Very Basics
Naturally, you want to pack as much nutritious food as possible, keeping in mind that it has to travel well.
Eat perishable foods, like fruit, before it gets bumped and bruised.
Enjoy sandwiches before they become stale.
Carrots and hummus are always easy to take along, as are trail mix and homemade or store-bought nutrition bars.
If traveling by plane, check with the airline about their policy regarding bringing your own food onboard. Make sure they know you have special dietary needs.
At your destination, be mindful that eating fresh fruits and vegetables can be a challenge while traveling. Do your best to eat fresh as much as possible while limiting unhealthy choices that can typically define "travel food."
Maintaining a Healthy Vegan Diet While Traveling
How easy or difficult is it for you to be a vegan traveler?
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Traveling by Car
If you're taking a car trip and can stop for a picnic lunch, pack a cooler with pasta salad, fixings for wraps or sandwiches, soy yogurt, fruit, veggies with dip, and whatever leftovers you happen to find in the refrigerator that morning.
But at some point, you may feel bored with whatever you brought and weary from traveling and just want to pick up something at a place off the highway.
Here are two very helpful websites:
Online Guides to Eating Out
Packing a Meal to Go
If possible, packing up food for a meal or two can be a great option!
Reusable containers are good for the environment, though they can present complications while traveling.
On a car trip, I pack up any leftovers we have in the house to get us through the first meal on the road.
Depending on the circumstances, I also try to use bento-style containers while at our destination. They are a healthy, convenient option to tote along vegan fare while sightseeing and ensure that finding a vegan meal will not be a problem.
These reusable containers are excellent options if you are able to fill them with "real food" and wash them out by the end of the day. Sometimes, I'll just use a wet wipe to clean them out until they can be properly washed.
Bento to Go!
This is the lunchbox I use when on the road -- either for a day trip or overnight. They are sturdy but also inexpensive. If they are lost or damaged while traveling, it's not a major loss. But I have to say that I've never had one broken or lost in the three years I've been using them!
Dine at Local Vegan-friendly Restaurants - Anywhere in the World!
You may want to do a little research on restaurants with vegan options for the destination you're visiting.
Both of the following websites are excellent tools for finding restaurants around the world, categorized as vegan, veg-friendly, and having some vegan options. The first one, VegDining, has a membership you can purchase that entitles you to a discount at participating restaurants.
Effective planning can reduce the stress of maintaining a healthy vegan diet while traveling.
You may not be able to anticipate everything, but the more potential difficulties you can address ahead of time, the easier the travel will be!
You Might Also Like to Read this Article
- A Vegan's Guide to Dining Out
Dining out at a restaurant can be a bit tricky as a vegan. Here are some ideas and tips to help you enjoy the experience of dining out.
Being a Welcomed and Satisfied Vegan Houseguest
If you are going to stay with friends or family who aren't vegan, it's best to discuss the meal plans with them ahead of time so you know if you will be responsible for preparing your own food. If you are, bring any recipes you think you'll need, along with any specialty ingredients you may not be able to purchase in the area.
If possible, you may choose to give your host a shopping list so they can pick up whatever you need before you arrive. It could be that your host is happy to prepare meals for you but could use some ideas and/or recipes. Give some suggestions, doing your best to make it easy for them to feed you.
A Great Resource for Vegan Travelers
This book has recipes that are meant to be simple enough to prepare when you're away from home, assuming that you have access to a grocery store (or someone's pantry) and a kitchen -- at least a microwave oven. It also has some helpful hints for packing food and navigating restaurant options.
Hotels and Hostels
In the event you will be staying in a hotel, try to find accommodations that provide at least a small refrigerator and maybe even a microwave oven so that you can prepare simple meals.
Some hotels allow guests to keep food in a refrigerator located somewhere other than in the room itself. If you stay at a bed-and-breakfast, the owner may allow some use the kitchen facilities or provide vegan options for breakfast. Letting people know that you have special dietary needs can lead to you having privileged access to kitchen facilities.
One option that is very appealing to some travelers is to stay at a hostel. A hostel is a little like a college dormitory. There is a common sleeping area with a half-dozen beds or so, perhaps a lounge area, and a kitchen.
This can be a great way for vegans to travel because hostelers can prepare their own food in a real kitchen. (Some kitchen facilities are better than others.)
Staying in hostels also provides a good opportunity to meet other travelers. There are hostels across the United States and all over the world. Hostelling International is a good place to get started to learn about hostelling.
If you are traveling internationally, there are particular considerations - such as how to tell someone you're vegan in a foreign language. Click here for a list of appropriate phrases in a multitude of languages.
If you prefer such information in print form, The Vegan Society has a handy little gem called The Vegan Passport.
My Experience with Foreign Travel
I do not have extensive personal experience with world travel. I did go to the Netherlands on a business trip and didn't have significant difficulty finding food in the hotel restaurant or at local places my coworkers and I went to for a couple of meals.
I also went to Canada a couple of times for work, but that's not so very foreign, eh! For all of these trips, I packed things like vegan nutrition bars and packages of peanut butter crackers to get me through any "emergencies."
My biggest international adventure was a trip to Scandinavia. My traveling companion and I spent most of our time in Sweden, both in the amazing capital city of Stockholm and Abisko National Park in the Arctic Circle. We also visited Finland and Denmark.
While traveling, we stayed at hostels, which allowed us to prepare a lot of our own meals. But here's the thing: We weren't always able to purchase fresh ingredients, and I hadn't fully appreciated how difficult it might be to find vegan food when dining out. In Sweden, they eat a lot of cheese and a lot of fish - a lot!
I had anticipated that I might soften my vegan standards by eating things like muffins or pancakes, if necessary. But I truly had not envisioned so much food covered with cheese, which was totally unappealing to me. After a ridiculous number of meals of pasta and tomato sauce, I found myself getting crankier and crankier; I realized it was because I was experiencing a lot of meal-related stress.
Traveling to Foreign Lands
Things to Consider
If you are going to a foreign country, you want to have solid information regarding what kind of food is commonly eaten there.
If you discover that most foods have dairy (or fish or other meat), you need to make a decision about how to proceed.
Do you want to bend your dietary rules while traveling ("When in Rome...")? Are you able to choose a more vegan-friendly destination? Will you bring enough nutrition bars to last you the entire trip and accept that you will HATE them by the end?
If you're going to a country where you don't speak the language, are you willing to risk accidentally eating something that isn't vegan? That isn't vegetarian?
There are no "right" or "wrong" answers to these questions.
They are simply things you have to decide for yourself.
I always tote along packs of peanut butter crackers, Luna bars, and Cliff bars for my kids and myself.
There are many flavors -- all of them delicious. Our favorites are Chocolate Peppermint Stick, Caramel Nut Brownie, and Chocolate Dipped Coconut.
Almost every flavor of Luna bars is vegan so they're an easy go-to option.
If the weather is very hot, these may get a bit melty. Freeze ahead of time, if possible, to delay the onset of ooey-gooey.
Lots of different varieties, and all I have seen have been vegan!
They're slightly different than Lunas and don't have a tendency to melt in hot weather.
While they can be susceptible to breaking, crackers are unaffected by weather conditions. Not all brands of peanut butter crackers are vegan, so check the ingredients.
Convenient Packages of Vegan Food
Wherever you go, be sure to bring along plenty of packaged food to get you through any "emergencies" in which you find yourself with limited options.
This kind of food may include nutrition or granola bars, packages of peanut butter crackers, trail mix, dry cereal, oatmeal, small shelf-stable containers of soymilk, and canned or boxed meals or soups that can be easily heated on a stove or in a microwave oven. The idea is to bring food that does not have to be refrigerated and can be stored and prepared easily or carried along with you in a small bag. The food should be as healthy and nutritious as possible while being convenient.
There are definitely challenges that face the vegan traveler, but with good planning and some flexibility, these difficulties do not have to be an undue burden. Knowing what to expect, making arrangements ahead of time, and packing your own food help to make travel more enjoyable.
Certainly, it is not be possible to anticipate every situation you will face on the road - that is part of the excitement of traveling! But most needs can be met within reason, and being a vegan does not have to feel like a major detriment to your journey.