Having any kind of dietary restriction, whether by choice or not, can be challenging at times when navigating in unknown areas. When I first told people I was going to Japan again and they knew I was now vegan, I was met with a lot of pessimism about not being able to eat anything there. Which is… wow, in the whole country of Japan, there isn’t a single thing a vegan can eat! Haha… bitter sarcasm, but I digress. It can be challenging at times. The key way to prevent this is preparation. A little bit of preparation goes a long way and here are some tips I’ve gathered that I would like to share.
First and foremost, Happy Cow.
Happy Cow is basically my go-to app when I’m in an unfamiliar area and I’m wondering where I can eat. They even list grocery stores, etc. so that you can find exactly what you need, no matter where you are in the world. You can even read reviews by other patrons that can be incredibly helpful. Things like this particular item isn’t on the menu, but if you tell them you’re vegan, they know how to make it for you. Little tips like that can be especially valuable if you’re traveling with non-vegans and the restaurant isn’t entirely vegan.
Happy cow also lets you sort with a few different filters. You can choose strictly vegan or places that also serve dairy, meat, etc. It’s a very valuable tool that I recommend to anyone who is traveling with these types of dietary restrictions.
Get a translation in your target language.
Find a resource online in whatever language you’re going to need, that states what you cannot eat. That way you can show it at restaurants etc., and they’ll be able to communicate with you either yes we can do that or no we cannot. Very simple way to make sure you’re not accidentally consuming animal products.
V Cards: Vegan Abroad is an ios app that will do the hard work for you in over 100 languages. As of now, they’re not on Android 😦 But you can go to their website and get the translations you need and even download a PDF with all available translations 🙂
Meals in a pinch, a.k.a have access to a kitchen.
If you’re in an area that you keep striking out and can’t seem to find any good vegan option restaurants, there’s got to at least be a grocery or convenience store, right? It might not be a meal fit for a king, but it will also prevent you from starving, too. Fruits, veggies, rice, noodles, ancient grains, crackers, breads. Just make sure with crackers, breads and noodles that there isn’t any dairy or eggs sneaked in. Check here if you’re looking for more ideas for vegan meals to make while traveling.
If you have access to a kitchen, it’s even easier to eat vegan. I purposely book accommodations with a kitchen because I know I have restrictions, and might need to utilize it. Easy things to make in a pinch:
*Pasta, make sure it’s egg free. Buy a few tomatoes or a can of tomato sauce, some garlic and spices of choice. Comes together quite quickly and is delicious.
*Potatoes and veggies. Chop up a potato or two, boil or fry, serve with a side of your favorite veggies.
*Power bowl. Get your favorite grain or what’s available (rice, quinoa, farro, etc.) and a mix of your favorite veggies, cook them all and toss them together. If you have a dressing available, even a simple vinegar/oil drizzle, can really add to the flavor. If you like rice, you might be able to find the single serve microwave bowls, which makes this all the easier.
*Salad. The savior even at restaurants. Grab a can of chickpeas to mix in for that extra protein kick to help you feel more full.
Come prepared, just in case.
I really can’t stress this enough. Maybe you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you need something to hold you over, getting you through to your next meal. Make sure you pack for these moments so you’re not left on an empty stomach for too long. Protein bars, granola bars, cereal bars, bars. I say bars because they are so easy to stock up on and travel with. You can pack whatever you please, but individually bars, I’ve found, are the most convenient and protein ones can really help you feel full until you get the chance to eat a proper meal.
Really make sure you prepare. You can also get the individual milks pack of your choice. Those don’t need to be refrigerated and can come in handy in a pinch. If you’re in the US, you’re going to be fine because just about every grocery store, including gas stations if there’s a Maverick in the area (hell yeah Cliff bars!) will have some kind of energy bar you can eat. But if you’re going into unfamiliar territory, preparation can make or break your ability to not starve on some days! In the words of the great Scar, Be Prepared.
Of course you’ll want to do some research ahead of time. Look up the food norms in the country you’re heading to and find out what kind of options you’re looking at as far as vegan goes. Also look in more concentrated areas of the locations you’ll be visiting to give you a heads up of what type of food journey you’ll be having at your destination.
I use TripAdvisor a lot when researching specific areas. It definitely has come in handy for me.
You can always pack your vegan and eco friendly toiletries if you have no idea what is vegan in the country you’re going to. Or you can do a bit of research beforehand to see what vegan cosmetic brands and the like, you can purchase in your destination country. Or invest in an eco friendly set up over time, it saves a lot of money in the long run 🙂
This is much easier if you’re staying at a hostel. Talk to the people around you, find out through word of mouth, some of the places you can check out. In Chiang Mai (which is a heaven for vegans as it is), on a group tour, there were fellow vegans in my group. They told me about a restaurant called Vegan Heaven, a second branch in a location close to me, that wasn’t on any of the websites yet. Thanks to them, I was able to eat close to home at an entirely vegan restaurant I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.
Join vegan travel groups, follow vegan travel blogs. Search Instagram with a #vegantravel to find even more tips.
This might not be something you think much about until you’re there and scrambling around your terminal to find something that suits your dietary needs. Make sure you research ahead of time for your airports so that you’ll know where to go to get yourself something to eat while waiting for your flight.
If your airport in question is LAX, simply search online for “vegan options at LAX”, and you’ll get plenty of info presented to you 🙂
These are just a few tips I’ve picked up along the way, that I wanted to share with any newer travelers, or newly vegan travelers. What advice have you been given, or additional tips have you learned along the way?
Happy vegan travels!