There’s an unfortunate misconception that traveling as a vegan is difficult - making vegans feel that they can’t travel (and also causing many travelers to feel they can’t go vegan even though they want to, which I’ve heard many times). However, it’s not difficult to travel as a vegan, once you know a few tips and tricks. You’ll get to explore a side of local culture that few get to see and meet vegans around the world.
Here are 8 tips to make vegan travel not only easy, but enjoyable:
1. Plan ahead The key to having an enjoyable vegan vacation is to make sure you plan ahead. Look up vegan-friendly restaurants in your destination before you go on Happycow, VegGuide and local websites. It's also helpful to look up some phrases ahead of time such as: I am vegan. I do not eat meat, chicken or pork. I do not eat fish. I do not eat eggs. I do not drink milk, eat butter or cheese, or consume dairy products. Is there chicken/beef/pork/fish stock in this? Is there oyster sauce/fish sauce/shrimp paste in this? Is there lard in this? Plus, you can look up some common accidentally vegan dishes in your destination - for example in Greece, fava (a hummus-like bean purée) and Greek salad minus feta.
2. If you're not into planning, make friends. In my book, The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, I talk about what to do if you don't enjoy planning and don't want to research all the restaurants in advance. Don't fear if you don't like research - it's not compulsory. I'd suggest instead reaching out to your social network and seeing if they've been to your destination or know of anyone who has. Ask your local vegetarian and vegan friends if they’ve been to your destination or know anyone there, and ask for advice on social media (post your questions on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #vegantravel, for example).
3. Have backups. While you shouldn’t have any trouble finding vegan food if you do your planning as described above, it’s always a good idea to have a few backup options, such as knowing vegan options in chain restaurants if you’re staying stateside, or how to order vegan in any restaurant. Or, keep a few emergency fruit and nut bars in your bag.
4. Choose where to stay carefully. You might want to consider staying somewhere with a kitchen, or at least a fridge (so you can have breakfast in your room). If you want somewhere with a kitchen, try to find a holiday apartment, hostel with shared kitchen facilities, Airbnb or VegVisits (an all-new vegetarian & vegan holiday rental listings site).
5. Don't forget about toiletries! You will also want to make sure the toiletries you bring are vegan-friendly. If you’re traveling by plane with a carry-on, you’ll need to make sure all liquids and gels are in 3.4oz or smaller containers and fit in a 1 quart-sized bag. You can buy empty 3.4oz plastic bottles in most drugstores and fill them with your own shampoo, soap, lotion, etc. You can also buy mini containers of some vegan-friendly products. You might also consider purchasing toiletries in non-liquid form. Lush, for example, make many vegan- and eco-friendly solid soaps, shampoos and toothpaste tabs. Or, go multipurpose: Dr. Bronner’s makes a liquid soap that can be used a soap, shampoo, toothpaste and laundry detergent.
6. Emergency cooking If you’re going to be staying somewhere with a kitchen, you might want to know a few simple recipes you can make just in case, like one-pot pasta. Even if you’re staying in a hotel, you can make a few basic recipes in your coffeemaker, like soup or couscous (yes, it’s really possible, and I have recipes for both in my book!).
7. Don't starve because it's Sunday. Be aware of local customs - for example, if most restaurants and businesses close on Sunday or Monday. If this is the case, make sure you look up and make note of some vegan-friendly restaurants that are open on Sunday - or stock your kitchen on Saturday. Be extra conscientious of your first and last meals, too. For example, you might want to make note of a vegan-friendly restaurant or two that are near your hotel and open when you arrive. The last thing you want to do is arrive somewhere tired and hungry (and possibly jet lagged) and then end up wandering the streets in a hungry state, desperate for somewhere to eat and arguing with your partner/travel companion/self.
8. Enjoy yourself! Lastly - and most importantly - have fun! With a little advance planning, you can have a stress-free vacation - because the last thing you want to do on vacation is be worrying about where to find food.
Caitlin Galer-Unti is the author of The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, out now and available for purchase as a paperback or Kindle book on Amazon. Caitlin writes about how to find and make food that is sometimes healthy and always delicious on her blog, The Vegan Word, which has been featured on The New York Times and Yahoo!.