Many new and veteran vegans share one romantic aspiration: to travel more. We find ourselves on Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram, constantly enticed by a gloriously aesthetic photo, captioned by the hashtag wanderlust. The recent decrease in gas prices have made trips of all lengths more affordable. Though there are many vegan restaurants, food chains, and markets that cater to the vegan diet, traveling to an unknown city can raise some questions. Here, I offer you some of my secret vegan travel tips regardless of which longitude and latitude your wandering spirit leads you!
Sharing a meal with someone is the one universally understood cultural experience. Two major variables apply for traveling as a vegan and eating with others. One: are you traveling with another vegan? Most often, the answer is no (especially if you are alone and want to stay in youth hostels, or hang out with locals). Two: what is your budget for eating out? Answering these two questions will save you and your travel companion(s) a lot of travel angst!
If you are sharing a meal with a fellow vegan, there are a few easy remedies for dining in a new city. Plan places to eat by looking on Yelp. Yelp is available worldwide and this is the best way to guarantee there are available and reviewed options that fit your budget. In Europe, use happycow.net which serves as a specifically health-conscious version of Yelp. Download the app into your phone and narrow your search for all options necessary to your trip. If you are eating with any non-vegan(s), search for veg-friendly and choose a lovely fit for the group. If you have recently decided to be vegan, this is a rather helpful tool. Do not fret over the idea of giving up simply because it is too hard or there are “no other options”!
Traveling internationally can prove to be rather tricky if you do not have means to access wi-fi or cannot use your cell phone. Here are two of the best packing items you can take with you to plan for last minute measures.
1. Salt and Pepper packets.
Save these little lovelies from your last meal. Find a local grocery store and purchase an avocado or a small basket of cherry tomatoes. Season them and voilà, you have a small meal to take as you sit on a park bench in the middle of Hyde Park in London. This leaves you without a heavy and uncomfortable feeling mid-day.
2. Red Pepper Flakes
For three summers I traveled to Africa and worked with a children’s home. Every single day, the family I lived with ate beans, rice, and chicken. As a vegan, I firmly believe red pepper flakes can save your meal. If all else fails and you cannot order anything off the menu, ask if they can make you rice and black beans, add pepper flakes or ask for salsa, and fill up on the protein combination with a small flare.
Spending the day in a new city most likely includes a lack of familiar transportation. Most often, you walk more than you take the train, tube, trolley, or muni! This is a lovely and cherished perquisite of being a tourist. Be mindful to eat small meals throughout the day, as this will save you from spending too much time in restaurants, keep you nourished, and save you overindulging on vacation. Here are two small meals at low cost that you can find anywhere.
1. Small fruit and roll of bread
Most hotels and hostels host a complimentary breakfast in the morning. Wrap a small roll and an orange or apple and keep it in your bag. Grandma will be rather proud of your old fashioned antics but most importantly; you will have a quick go-to without spending the extra money on a meal too large for what you need.
2. Toast with avocado and tomato
Many coffee shops, cafes, and small bakeries (especially in Europe) tend to have small fresh rolls, bread, or slices of toast you can ask for with tomato and avocado! Usually priced much lower than ordering a full sandwich, you can tip them more generously for their hospitality toward your off-menu request.
Traveling to new cities does not mean you have to make exceptions for your lifestyle but it also does not mean you can expect everyone around you to accommodate you all the time. Be flexible in your expectations, be extremely humble and thankful for any accommodations made for you (you might be their only experience with vegans!), and ALWAYS do a little research asking yourself and your traveling companions if you have any restrictions or hesitations with your eating habits.
I leave you with some lovely vegan options in a few cities worth visiting!
Los Angeles, California
Orange County, California
The Gypsy Den: Veg-Friendly and visually stimulating
The Pop Bar: Vegan Desert
South of Nick’s: Accommodating to vegans
Sidecar Doughnuts: Vegan delightful doughnuts served on Thursdays
Papa Lennon’s: Perfect for date night & Vegan Pizza-friendly
Farmer & Cook
Santa Barbara & Immediate areas
Mary’s Secret Garden
San Luis Obispo
Big Sky Café
Kreuzberg Coffee Company: Vegan option offered daily
Il Café: Best coffee and bread
Louie Louie: Willing to accommodate to any need with a retro diner twist
Fjaderholmarnas Krog: Expensive but on an island!
Universo Vegano-Navigli: The owner is the sweetest woman.
Where do you want to go off to in 2015? Share your dream destinations and vegan travel tips below!!
Related: How to Eat Healthy While Traveling
Photo: Vanessa Alcala