Gettin my veggie juices on at Aux Vivres, a vegan restaurant in Montreal.
1. Google it. Well, this one is probably obvious, but the Internet is a pretty important place to us vegans. So take advantage of all the resources out there when planning your trip! Search Happy Cow, a website that will provide you with a comprehensive list of vegan-friendly restaurants in the city you’ll be visiting. They even have a handy app. And check out other vegan travel sites and apps like Will Travel for Vegan Food, Vegetarious, Vegan Xpress, and even Yelp to get some results. Sure, if you’re visiting Aunt Ethel, you may not find any all-vegan joints to eat at, but you’ll be surprised at the number of ethnic places and chain restaurants you CAN eat at. Make a list, and keep it handy throughout your trip.
2. Pack snacks. Again. This one is probably obvious. Especially if you were raised by my mother, who happily travelled across the country with two little girls, but never went anywhere ANYWHERE without a ton of snacks. Honestly, I think that woman has back problems from all the snacks she lugged around in her bag. So, taking advice from my mother, I always make sure I have tons of snacks. I really like to pack Larabars and nuts, because they’ve got some protein, which can be helpful on the rare occasion that you find yourself stuck with a sad iceberg lettuce salad for lunch. I also like to pack some of those nut butter squeeze packets and protein bars for breakfasts. But I’ll talk more about breakfasts in tip #3.
3. Breakfast. Out of all of the meals of the day, breakfast is probably the hardest for us vegans to find at a restaurant. So when we travel, we like to pack protein bars, instant packets of oatmeal (you can make instant oatmeal in a coffee mug with hot water from the coffeemaker in a pinch!), and packets of almond butter to spread on toast or bagels that we grab from our hotel. Sometimes we even stop by a grocery store in the town we’re visiting, and we grab fruit and other breakfast items that we can easily eat. If we can find them, we usually get some of those shelf-stable single serving boxes of soy or almond milk for our coffee. If you’re driving to your destination, then you can bring a lot of this stuff with you. And don’t forget to pack tons of snacks for the road!
4. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make some calls before you embark on your trip. My husband always contacts our hotel and requests that there be no down bedding in our hotel room when we book with a hotel (they usually just think we have a down allergy, but really…we just don’t want to sleep on a bed covered in dead duck feathers!). We also find out if our hotel has a fridge and microwave. If we’re staying at a resort or a bed and breakfast, we’ll call ahead and ask if they can provide vegan options. If my husband is attending a conference, he’ll call ahead and let them know about his dietary needs BEFORE he arrives. Don’t be afraid to speak up, you have every right to ask questions. And even if they screw up and put down pillows on your bed, or they (gasp!) offer you a complimentary non-vegan cookie after you just TOLD them you were vegan… Just be nice, and say thank you a lot. People in the service industry get yelled at by cranky people all day long… don’t be one of those people that makes them hate their job.
5. If we’re staying with family, they’re usually pretty great about accommodating us. We never expect them to have to accommodate us, but it’s probably a good idea to at least let them know about your dietary needs if they don’t already know about them. Usually we tell our host/hostess not to worry too much, and we’ll pick up some groceries when we get into town. If they insist, we give them a small list with things like fruit, oatmeal, and almond milk. And be flexible. Now is not the time to scare Aunt Ethel by making her have to find carrageenan-free, fair trade hemp milk. And we always bring them a gift to thank them for putting up with our high maintenance diets. They probably lost sleep wondering if you could eat the bread they bought you because…is yeast vegan? Be a good vegan ambassador and bring your host or hostess some vegan chocolate, dammit!
6. Let food be an adventure. This isn’t so much a tip as much as it is something that will happen to you when you travel vegan. Vegan travel forces you to go off the beaten path, travel to parts of a city you hadn’t planned on visiting, and gives you an opportunity to see the place you’re exploring in an unexpected way. In our four years as travelling vegans, and dozens of cities we’ve visited, Jeremy and I always have an adventure while scouting out the vegan options in town. We’ve gotten lost, found unique shops and sights that we never would have found had we not been searching for vegan food, and we’ve met some amazing vegan locals who are usually delighted to give out tips and tricks. There was even a time when Jeremy and I walked through a blizzard to get to a vegan café in Montreal, where we were served an amazing meal that we’ll never forget. Traveling as a vegan might seem scary the first time you do it, but trust me, with a little research and planning, you’ll be a pro in no time. Sometimes you’ll have an amazing meal or meet a really inspiring vegan along the way. And other times, you’ll have to get creative to find yummy food, but in the end, you’ll be amazed at how easy and delicious vegan travel can be!
Jeremy and I visited our friend Parker, who lives in Asheville, NC. It also happens to be home to some amazing vegan grub! We had an awesome brunch at The Laughing Seed Cafe.