Don’t quote me on this but traveling gets a bit tougher when you’re vegan.
What used to be the least complicated part of my trip (preparing food), it’s now the one causing the most doubt. I don’t know if I’m just slow, but I spend upwards of 15 minutes searching for food in the supermarket.
Perhaps, since I’m more conscious about my health, I’m also more picky about my food.
Even so, it’s also a bad idea to visit a supermarket without any prior research, or an idea of what you want to eat. Choosing what to eat gets unusually tough if the franchise you visit is not as equipped as Whole Foods. A scenario that is quite common in rural regions, that’s why you should always be prepared for everything.
The main theme of this blog post is “preparation” because traveling (as a vegan), only gets easier if you take some time to look at things in advance. Whether it’s eating out or avoiding plastic, the tips I’ve numbered here are meant to make the time you spend traveling more enjoyable.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
#1 – Don’t Forget To Plan In Advance
Quite the obvious tip, you might think.
Well, while planning allows you to buy cheaper plane tickets, and find more affordable places to stay, it plays a bigger role in making your experience more enjoyable.
A good example is “meals”.
If you want to travel, but don’t have the budget to eat at vegan restaurants every day, you want to be strategic about your meals. It’s very easy to get confused in a grocery store or supermarket and leave with a plastic bag full of bad food.
I’m not saying you can’t eat junk food, but for a vegan diet, being thoughtful about nutrition is essential.
Planning advance allows you to put your energy into exploring different locations, and less energy in brainstorming about your 20 weekly meals (which can be very time-consuming).
Take Into Consideration The Place You’re Visiting
While you’re brainstorming (in advance), think about the places you’re visiting.
Perhaps you’re heading to the mountains and don’t have access to supermarkets, so you need to think about transportable food or foods that take longer to expire outside of the refrigerator.
Or perhaps you’re visiting a less developed city and the vegan options in local franchises are limited. If you don’t plan your meals in advance, there’s a higher chance you may fall into the trap of eating non-vegan food.
Plus, don’t forget to make your meals super simple. Assuming that you’re not traveling to a big city, you might find that the things you’re looking for are not available.
As such, keep your thought process simple.
For instance, my last meal while traveling was a sandwich with mushrooms, corn, lettuce, and tomato. Pretty simple, right? Well, you can do better, especially if you follow the next tip.
#2 – Rent A Place With A Kitchen
Why is renting a place with a kitchen crucial?
Well, because you can’t expect to find vegan restaurants in every corner.
Besides, the easiest way to have a good, nutrient-packed meal is by cooking your own food. This is especially important if you care about your health. Plus, a place with a kitchen makes your meal-planning way easier.
On our recent trip to Peniche, Portugal, I and my wife stayed in the establishment above. We bought vegetables in a grocery store nearby and we cooked a regular vegan meal. Interestingly, we met a wonderful American couple with whom we instantly bonded and chatted for hours.
Yes, you have to share the kitchen with other people, but generally, it’s an easy process.
#3 – Pack Some Essentials To Avoid Waste
You’re probably familiar with the dangers of plastic, so you know what I’m gonna say here.
People tend to think that it’s okay to use plastic as long as it’s recycled but that’s not necessarily the case. I have always been a big recycling person until I researched a bit more about it.
In recent years I’ve learned how harmful plastic actually is, and how our recycling method might be lacking.
Just like any industry, recycling is also a business, so when you put plastic in a bin, you’re essentially giving companies materials to create new products. Basically, recycling can follow one of two routes.
Upcycling vs Downcycling.
Upcycling refers to using original materials (i.e plastic, cloth) and creating higher valued products from it. From the original material, you upcycle it and create stuff like handbags or backpacks.
On the other hand, downcycling occurs when waste material is converted into something of lesser value. Instead of transforming a piece of cloth into a bag, you melt it and downcycle it into yarn. In this case, you’re essentially downgrading a wasted material to create new materials.
More importantly, upcycling is actually considered better than downcycling for two reasons:
- It prolongs the life of old materials.
- You don’t need to spend resources creating new materials.
All in all, it’s better.
Avoid Single-Use Plastics
Unfortunately, not all plastic gets recycled.
Typically, plastics imprinted with numbers 3, 5, 6, and 7 are difficult to recycle, so the majority ends up in the landfill. This includes: Polyvinyl Chloride (i.e: grocery bags); Polypropylene (i.e: bottle caps); Styrofoam (i.e: plastic cutlery) and Miscellaneous Plastics (i.e: plastic CD’s and DVD’s).
In other words, these are all plastics we rely on quite heavily when traveling.
If you bring along reusable bags and reusable cutlery, you’re helping prevent a lot of the waste that badly affects the environment and sea life. In fact, there are many things you can bring along.
I personally carry a reusable cup for each time I visit Starbucks (or Costa), which I’ll go to occasionally.
#4 – Take Advantage of Local Farmers Markets
When you don’t have supermarkets or grocery stores packed with variety (and freshness), you should consider local farmers’ markets. There you can find fresh and diverse produce, sometimes better priced.
There’s just no comparison. The produce in farmers’ markets is by far superior. Plus, buy leaving money on a farmers’ market you’re directly supporting the community, instead of giving it to huge, no-face corporations.
While you’re at it, bring along a reusable tote bag to carry the produce. 🙂
#5 – Don’t Forget Happy Cow
If you’re an app kinda person you’re probably aware of what Happy Cow is already.
But if you don’t, let’s just say it’s a restaurant/bar/coffee app for vegans and vegetarians. Whether you’re in Europe or in China, Happy Cow helps you find a vegan restaurant to eat.
Here are a few of the things Happy Cow can do:
- Show you the exact location of the restaurants you plan to visit;
- Shares legitimate reviews made by other people;
- Gives you an estimate of whether it’s pricey or not;
- People are likely to share images of the food in the restaurant;
- It also shows you restaurants with vegan-friendly options… which is quite useful for regions where veganism is under-developed.
- Plus, it has a vegan-friendly community.
In other words, this is the go-to app for any hungry vegan.
#6 – Learn Ingredients In Other Languages
Learning local phrases is quite handy to communicate with street vendors, waiters, and more.
But besides the basic greetings, learning the name of ingredients is especially useful. In countries where people don’t often speak English, you must be able to explain how your dish should be, even more, if you a type of food allergy.
Not only that but if you’re able to read menus and ingredient labels in another language, that will make a big difference since ingredients are not the same everywhere.
For example, I love garlic bread. In the UK I always managed to find garlic bread without butter… but in Portugal, almost every variety contains butter. If we assume everything is the same, we’re in for a huge disappointment. That’s why it’s important to understand the name of ingredients in a foreign language, at least to have an idea of what you can order.
Since you may have to visit a restaurant with vegan-friendly options in the future, you want to be able to express your preferences. How many times have I ordered pizza without cheese (both in Czech Republic & Italy), and the pizza still came with cheese. It might have been pure negligence or just the language barrier.
#7 – Meet Local Vegans
Who better to show you around than the actual locals?
If you really want to have a full, enjoyable experience, you gotta go out and meet locals.
I still remember when I visited Warsaw, Poland, I spent most of the time seeing the touristy spots and feeling quite bored in the process. I wasn’t impressed with the city, and at first, I wasn’t enjoying myself.
It wasn’t until one of the locals took her time to show me some hidden gems within the city, that I marveled at the place.
We visited an underground tea house, with an ambiance that was straight out of a movie. In fact, it was so well hidden in an old town square, that even my local friend told me that only people living in Warsaw generally know the place.
In addition, the experience of meeting different people is crazy.
For the most part, vegan are sweeties, and I bet you won’t be disappointed. If you’re an introvert like me, it might take a while to get used to it — but there’s nothing better than bonding with other people.[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=””]There’s a really amazing app called Meetup, and you can use it to meet locals in various places. Before you head to your destination, try doing some research and find groups with common interests (i.e: veganism), and join them for a chat. This app will help you meet new people more easily since you don’t have to feel awkward by cold approaching random strangers on the street.[/thrive_text_block]
#8 – Don’t Forget To Pack Vegan Essentials
Probably the hardest thing to find is vegan cosmetics.
Regardless of the accommodation, you’re probably given cosmetics that are either:
- Contained in a plastic tube (or bottle)
- Tested on animals (depends on the place you’re traveling to)
- Riddled with animal-based ingredients (i.e: Honey, milk…)
It’s usually location-dependent, but if you’re heading to Asia, Africa, or someplace where the vegan fever isn’t as pronounced, the best choice for you is to pack some essentials in your checked luggage before you depart from home.
I find that in European countries, you have no problem finding vegan essentials in supermarkets, but in exotic locations, it might be a different story.
However, don’t let that stop you from letting your preferences get known by the accommodation you’re staying in.
#9 – Let Your Preferences Be Known!
Sure, that sounds like a piece of cake… but a lot of people just stay quiet.
Think about it, how is veganism pushing itself into the mainstream? It was because some people were willing to make their opinions heard. If you don’t take a similar approach, you can’t expect establishments to cater to you, and your preferences.
Personally, I value reviews a lot — and I believe honesty should be the first thing you think of when writing a review. If you can’t write a constructive review, you can’t expect some things to change.
The same goes for whenever you book a restaurant or accommodation.
Before you book a place that includes free breakfast, you must let them know that you’re vegan and that you’d like them to cater to your dietary needs. If you were allergic to nuts, wouldn’t you be candid about it?
The more outspoken you are, the more people will listen to you.
Don’t forget, you’re parting ways with your hard-earned money, so establishments will at least hear you out and try to find a solution. This will also help them prepare for the next time another vegan comes around.
#10 – Follow Vegan Travel Blogs
Vegan Foundry isn’t a vegan travel blog, but there are MANY blogs out there that focus on that subject. You’re always bound to find opinions from vegans who’ve been to the places you’re planning to visit.
In fact, the people behind these blogs are often nomads who’ve traveled over 100 countries.
At the very least, they might help you decide upon the restaurants you should visit on your first day, as well as the most astonishing spots with the most incredible panoramas.
If you don’t mind, allow me to share with you some of my favorite vegan travel blogs:
- Do you want a vegan travel encyclopedia with the most up to date information? Visit The Nomadic Vegan.
- Do you want content with a mix of travel, conscious living, and yoga? Mostly Amelie got you covered.
- Another one of my favorites is Vegan Travel, where you can find a collection of vegan travel guides for most continents and respective countries.
If you want a more extensive list of vegan travel blogs, you can also check out this blog post I wrote containing a total of 12 vegan travel blogs. This post goes more in-depth on each vegan travel blog.
In addition, you can also check the best vegan travel destinations, in case you’re a bit hesitant on where to travel. Obviously, in this list, you’re going to find locations set in modern countries, because those are the places where the vegan culture is shaping itself the fastest.
However, don’t let that keep you from visiting other countries, just because you can’t find “vegan restaurants”. Within the realms of Asian cuisine, there are plenty of vegan/vegetarian recipes.
Thanks for reading this blog post. 🙂