Vegan Travel: 4 Steps to Plan Your Best Ever Trip
There’s an unfortunate misconception that vegan travel is difficult, taxing and not very fun.
This misconception that vegan travel’s hard is not true, but the belief is so pervasive that I’ve met backpackers who were putting off giving up meat because they were certain going meat-free would ruin their travels. I’ve also met vegetarians and vegans who ate meat on their trips because they didn’t believe they could be vegetarian/vegan on the road.
Vegan travel is actually really easy (we’ll get to that in a minute!), but unfortunately some people continue to spread the myth that it’s hard.
Perpetuating the misconception
Take this article* I stumbled across from the Wyndham hotel chain, which begins with the statement “Vegan travel can be a challenge. Without serious planning, finding ways to adhere to a vegan diet while on vacation often causes more stress than the trip’s worth.” (*Note: Shortly after I linked to it, Wyndham took the post down. Maybe they got the point that vegan travel isn’t hard!)
The article then carries on discussing how frustrating it is when chefs and waiters don’t understand your questions or sometimes even know what you mean by “vegan.”
What follows is the suggestion that you cut the hassle and, instead of exploring where your heart desires to go, plan a trip to one of their six recommended destinations.
This is a ridiculous proposal – give up your dreams of travel and go to one of these pre-approved vegan-friendly destinations?
Don’t give up your dreams
Now, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend New York or Berlin if you want to spend a relaxing vacation exploring the best of vegan dining, but give up on your dreams of exploring Transylvania, Romania or visiting Peru simply because they’re not on Wyndham’s list of vegan-friendly destinations?!
It doesn’t have to be like this. You don’t have to choose between travel and being vegetarian or vegan! Nor do you have to limit yourself to six destinations for the rest of your life.
Thank God, because that would get pretty effing boring after a few years.
Nor will you insult your hosts or fail to experience the “real” Argentina/Bulgaria/Sri Lanka.
4 Steps to plan your vegan adventure
But like I said, vegan travel isn’t hard. All you need is a little bit of the following (more on each step in a minute):
- Step 1: Do a little advance planning (more below).
- Step 2: Book a place to stay that has cooking facilities, or which is near veggie restaurants if you don’t want to travel far.
- Step 3: Bring a backup supply of snacks and knowledge of hotel room cooking hacks.
- Step 4: Be aware of some typical “accidentally” vegan dishes in different cuisines.
In my book, The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, I talk in depth about how to go about doing all of these. The book is not your typical travel guidebook; it’s a DIY book that shows you how to plan your vegan travels, no matter where your destination is.
Step 1: Plan ahead: Find restaurants in your destination
The first step to a successful vegan trip is researching your destination. Use Happycow to find vegan, vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in your destination. You can also try VegDining, another vegetarian and vegan restaurant listings site. Happycow also have an app for your phone so if you’re in a new destination or on the road you can always find nearby restaurants using GPS.
Check for bloggers who’ve gone there previously and written about destination. You can find my vegan travel guides here. Here’s a great list of vegan travel bloggers to check out too, or check out my vegan traveler interview series, where I interview vegan travelers about a huge variety of destinations (so far I’ve interviewed over 20 vegan travelers!).
Social media is also great for finding vegan travel advice. Check out vegan travel groups on Facebook (such as Vegan Travel), search by destination and hashtag on Instagram, or post your questions on Twitter. I’ve got a section in my book covering how to use social media, as well as other resources online, to meet other vegans and get advice about your destination (and even to make friends in your destination!).
Step 2: Choose a vegan-friendly place to stay
When booking your place to stay, try to find a hotel or apartment close to vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Instead of choosing a hotel and then seeing what’s around it, have a look at the hotel on Google maps and then search “vegan restaurants” nearby to see them on the map. You can also search by street address on Happycow and look up hotels to see what restaurants are nearby.
If you can, book an apartment or place to stay with cooking facilities. If you’re staying somewhere without a lot of vegan restaurant options, this could be a lifesaver. Even if your destination is chock-ful of vegan restaurants, sometimes it’s nice to have the option of a homemade meal.
And it’s always good to be able to make breakfast where you’re staying, because often vegan restaurants aren’t open for breakfast. Even if you just have a fridge for plant-based milk so you can make oatmeal or cereal, that’s great.
Airbnbs, hostels (with shared kitchens) and other holiday rental apartments will usually have a fridge and some basic kitchen equipment.
If you want a guaranteed vegan kitchen and/or want to make sure you have access to specific equipment like a juicer, check out VegVisits, the vegan airbnb, which allows you to look up apartments by diet and kitchen equipment.
It also now has an option to rent kitchens, so even if you’re staying in a hotel without cooking facilities, you can look for a vegan kitchen near you to cook in.
Step 3: Bring backup food and ingredients
No matter what, you should always bring backup food. Even when I’m not traveling, I always have an emergency bar or nuts in my bag, just in case I get hungry while I’m out. This is even more important when travelling, though, in case you’re out walking/hiking and not near anywhere that sells food, or you’re stuck in a flying tin tube in the sky without food. If you’re planning a road trip, I recommend bringing these vegan road trip snacks with you (most of which also make great vegan plane snacks!)
Far too often, airlines forget to bring your vegan meal onboard (even though you ordered the VGML months in advance), and once you’re up in the air there’s little they can do about it. If you’re wondering what portable vegan food you can take on a plane, Oh She Glows has you covered.
By the way, don’t forget to request your vegan meal for the plane at least 72 hours in advance. The international code is usually VGML.
If you’re going to be going somewhere with kitchen, I recommend bringing some food with you. For example, I bring a ‘starter’ non-dairy milk in case it takes me awhile to find somewhere to buy more cartons, spice mix(es), and chocolate, among other things (see: packing your vegan suitcase).
If you’re not staying in a place with a kitchen, then it’s helpful to know some hotel room hacks like how to cook oatmeal in a coffeemaker (recipe in my book, The Essential Vegan Travel Guide) or how to make ice cream using a hotel room ice bucket (yes, really!).
Step 4: Know some “accidentally” vegan dishes, plus bring a handy list of phrases
If you’re heading somewhere that you don’t speak the language, then it’s useful to write down a list of phrases in advance, explaining that you’re vegan (and what that means!).
You can do this yourself (when you buy my book you’ll get a free template), download an app that translates vegan phrases or buy the Vegan Passport, which has vegan phrases translated into 79 languages (the Vegan Passport is now also available as an app).
It’s also a good idea to acquaint yourself with some local foods that are naturally vegan or easy to make vegan. Have a look at my guide to vegan options in over 25 different cuisines.
Know some specific questions you should ask depending on the cuisine. For example, fish sauce is heavily prevalent in Thai cuisine so when eating Thai, ask if they’ve used fish sauce or if they can leave it out (whereas asking about fish sauce would be useless in an Italian restaurant, but it would be a good idea to ask about anchovies).