This post applies to vegan travel but should also help those with other special dietary needs, such as gluten free.
1. Take a small, soft cooler bag.
I use this for
– taking my own vegan food on flights
– buying extra vegan desserts when I visit a vegan restaurant
– transporting food like hummus on public transport
You can make an ice pack by freezing a soda bottle full of water in the ice compartment of a hotel mini fridge (or ask hotel staff to freeze it).
2. Before you go, Google map vegan food options near the attractions you’ll be visiting.
The trickiest part of vegan travel is eating on the go. Have a plan for this so you don’t get over-hungry. If there aren’t vegan/vegetarian restaurants near wherever you’ll be at lunchtime, search for things like falafel or identify a supermarket or organic market where you can find items to put in a sandwich. If you’re like me and visiting Italy, you might just want to eat dairy free gelato everyday for lunch!
3. Search message boards like post punk kitchen to find local vegans.
Local vegans will be able to give you tips like an excellent brand of vegan cookies, vegan chocolate etc. Tasting local food doesn’t have to mean just eating at restaurants. It’s fun to try the best vegan supermarket items a country has to offer (either marketed as vegan or “accidentally vegan”).
4. When in cities, rent a short-stay apartment rather than staying in a hotel.
If you stay in an apartment you can plan to cook easy meals. Renting an apartment is not generally any more expensive than a basic hotel. By doing this, you can cook up simple meals using local ingredients and produce.
5. Decide how strict you want to be.
I mostly only eat at vegetarian restaurants where no meat or fish is served. Some other travelers choose to be more flexible and expect to tolerate things getting lost in translation (e.g., fish flakes in your soup, a supposedly vegan dish made with chicken stock, or even unexpected meat chunks because you are being served a meat dish with the meat fished out).
6. When vegan food is cooked on the same grill as non-vegan food.
If you don’t want your street food to be meat juice flavored, why not ask for your item to be cooked on top of a piece of aluminium foil (so your food isn’t touching the grill). I wouldn’t request this in France, but in places like New Zealand I would… especially if buying from a food stall. I realize for some people this tip will sound way too obsessive, but each to their own.
You can also bring your own small pan – seriously. It’s not that weird (ok it is weird, but you’re a vegan so you’re already risking people thinking you’re weird). Remember that people who keep kosher don’t like cross-contamination either.
7. Don’t just go with the flow, and spend your whole vacation eating salads at non-vegetarian restaurants.
Omni restaurants often don’t cater well for vegans. You will get incredibly cranky if you’re not eating well. Also, you deserve to enjoy the food aspects of your trip too. Plan for how you can find an hour for you to trek across town to a vegan bakery without terribly inconveniencing your traveling companions.
Note, that even though I don’t typically eat at non-vegetarian restaurants, I do accompany my partner and chat with her during her meal.
8. When at the beach, bring your camping stove.
When I’m visiting exotic islands, I bring my camping stove and a supply of yummy vegan food. I typically cook my own protein and purchase rice from the guest house restaurant.
9. Take some of your own food.
Take your own vegan travel snacks, and depending where you’re going, take items like cartons of soy milk. Before going to offshore islands, stock up on big bags of fruit on the mainland. Fresh fruit can be surprisingly difficult to buy on islands.
10. Experience makes it easier.
As you get experienced traveling as a vegan, it’ll get easier. For example, you’ll develop routines – I take a stack of peanut butter sandwiches on every long haul flight. I sometimes prepare them on frozen bread and wrap them in paper towels. It helps them stay fresh longer.
And, you’ll get better a doing pre-trip research (Unless it somewhere really remote, I don’t go anywhere without a list of vegan-friendly desserts I’m going to try when I get there). There is some delicious vegan food out there in the world just waiting for you to bowl up and try it!