Traveling was one of those things that worried me when I started pondering veganism, and it can certainly be a bit of a challenge in certain parts of the world. That being said, once you learn a few tricks you’ll be able to enjoy your trip and eat delicious food without a problem. If you read yesterday’s post, you know I was just in my hometown for a very special event (you can read that post here if you missed it), so I thought I’d write about the vegan side of things and give you some tips to help you on your next work trip or vacation.
– Reserve a vegan meal when booking your ticket and confirm it 48-24 hours before your departure date.
If you’re traveling by plane, most airlines offer a vegan meal and you can reserve it at no extra cost (it’s actually cheaper for the airline). You can find these meals under different names in different airlines, although some are called ‘vegan’, in most airlines they are called ‘strict vegetarian’, or sometimes ‘hindu non dairy’. If the airline only offers a simple ‘vegetarian’ meal, this might be your best bet due to the fact that usually the warm entree is vegan and you can skip the bread and dessert which might not be. However most airlines do offer the vegan options I mentioned above.
– Take some goodies with you in case the airline looses your reservation. Especially if it’s a long trip.
Thank God I was prepared in this latest trip of ours and made some yummy tofu deli slices and veggie sandwiches to bring on the plane with me because for some reason the airline lost my vegan meal petition, which shouldn’t usually be the case but can happen. My suggestion is you always bring a little something with you in case there’s a problem with your reservation. That being said, the flight attendant was unbelievably kind and accommodating and found out that the pasta entree had no meat or dairy in it, and on the way back, when all of the normal meals were some kind of meat, he went to the back and got us the yummiest vegan salads! People rock when you ask for things nicely, and in this case I didn’t even have to ask!
– Some ideas of food you can prepare and bring with you on the plane…
Here’s what I brought with me this time around: on the way to Venezuela, a tofu deli slice sandwich with veggies and hummus, chips, dates and walnuts for snacking. On my way back home I made a grilled veggie sandwich with portobellos, zucchini, peppers and eggplant, arugula, tomatoes, and again some chips and dried fruit. It was delicious and I wasn’t at all worried or stressed out when I saw that my reservation had been lost, which I’m sure made the flight attendant be even more helpful! The flight was 9 hours long, so taking some goodies with me was a great idea. People have the misconception that you can’t pass this kind of food past security when in fact, the only problem is anything liquid. If it isn’t liquid, feel free to take it with you and buy your water or drink of choice once you’re past security. Some other ideas: a falafel sandwich with fresh veggies, a sandwich with vegan sausage, sauces, relish and sauerkraut (hot dog style but in a baguette to avoid the mess), a veggie sub (you can even get it at Subway or any deli if you have no time or kitchen), a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a bagel with vegan cream cheese, any other kind of sandwich or wrap, vegan cookies, nuts, dried fruit, vegan energy bars, chips, popcorn, dark chocolate, apples, a banana, you can even take your favorite tea bags on board and simply ask for hot water. There are so many options it’s hard to name them all!
– Finding vegan options at non vegan restaurants
If you’re travelling and don’t have access to a kitchen, restaurants are your best bet and I’ve always found something at every single restaurant I’ve been to. Of course some places are better than others. As a general rule, ethnic restaurants usually have the most vegetarian options and are always open to making your dish without cheese or meat. During our trip we ate a lot of the amazing Chinese food we have in Caracas, and they were always totally happy in not adding pork or egg to our fried rice and making it completely vegan, but even if you don’t want to ask for this, there were tons of vegetable dishes, noodles and soups that were completely vegan. They are also great places where your non vegan friends and family can order the dish of their choice and you can all enjoy a meal together. Japanese restaurants are possibly the easiest places to get a vegan meal, just ask for their veggie roll (have as many as you want!), some edamame, miso soup, seaweed salad and you’ll have a feast! Most international cuisines offer great vegan choices, try Mexican restaurants, Middle Eastern restaurants, Thai, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, Venezuelan, and of course Japanese and Chinese as I mentioned above.
– Veganize it!
Some of my favorite meals in restaurants have been simply asking for one of their regular entrees without the meat, chicken or fish. A perfect example is a new salad they have at one of my favorite Spanish diners which has wild rice, pumpkin,garlic, arugula, pine nuts and chicken. I simply order it without the chicken and then I’m in heaven. Don’t knock ’em ’til you figure out a way to veganize them! My Godmother visited me recently and really wanted to go to a seafood restaurant and of course we went to the best one in town. I saw a roasted pepper and tuna salad on the menu, and those who know me are aware of the fact that I could have roasted peppers for breakfast lunch and dinner. I asked the waiter if they could make it without the tuna and at first he looked at me a little strange and said ‘but that’s the reason everyone orders this salad, are you sure?’ to which I kindly replied ‘I’m sure it’s wonderful but I’m a vegetarian’ after which he quickly said ‘oh of course! It’s actually the last thing added to the dish and we can simply not add it, that’s no problem at all!’. He came back a few minutes later with the absolute best salad I’ve ever had in my life. I was sure to tell him that after I quickly inhaled it and he was very surprised and smiled.
– Read up about the local food and how it’s prepared before you go
At first glance, if you look at Venezuelan cuisine which is what we were just immersed in, it looks like a lot of meat and especially soft cheeses. However, as any Venezuelan might tell you, the typical dishes also include tons of rice, beans, avocados, mangoes, a type of corn cake called an ‘arepa’, plantains, cassava cakes, another corn dish called a cachapa, an awesome avocado, tomato and hearts of palm salad, tropical fruits and their juices, yummy coffee, not to mention the hundreds of restaurants and cuisines from around the world. If you do a little research beforehand you might realize that the strange dish served in every single establishment is actually vegan or can be made vegan by making very simple adjustments. Since some of these are things you might not know about otherwise, a little digging is key.
– Hi reader, may I introduce Mr. Happy Cow? Happy cow… reader, reader…this is Mr. Happy Cow
Whoever created this app and website is simply a vegan genius. You simply cannot travel or even live in your city without it if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. It shows you all the vegan, vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants and stores in any city or town in the world, complete with price range, address, ratings, menu options and photos. This is your new best friend even if you’re staying put!
– If you’re staying at someone’s house or have a kitchen
I was lucky during this trip because I was visiting my hubby’s family and both his sister and dad are vegan, so there was always a pot of beans on the stove and the fridge was full of veggies for salads. That being said, I still did what I suggest you do if you’re travelling to see friends or family that aren’t vegan, go to the grocery store, get the yummy stuff you need to stay vegan and healthy during your trip (I’m not talking French Fries or chips every day), and make them some amazing vegan meals or at least side dishes for them to enjoy. I’m not saying you have to cook every day, you are on vacation after all, but always offer to help in the kitchen and do treat them to some of your favorites. During the week we stayed at my in laws I made them my Sunday Veggie Lasagna, a bulgur salad with hearts of palm, beans, tomatoes and corn. Some delicious dips for veggies, chips, bread or in our case cassava (more on this soon), including my hummus recipe, baba ganoush and Mouhamara. I also made my yummy tabbouleh salad, my Mexican seven layer dip and two vegan chocolate cakes because the first one was gone in about half an hour. It sounds like a lot of work but we did it together and had a blast! They were all huge hits and everyone, even my meat eating mother in law had a few 100% vegan meals with us and enjoyed every bite! When the food is good, everyone will eat it! Even if it is as a side dish for the non vegans.
– If you’re staying at a hotel with a kitchenette but it’s not very well equipped
Spend a little extra time at the grocery store and choose things that need very little preparation. Some ideas: whole grain cereal and your favorite plant based milk, some yummy teas or coffee, choose an awesome whole grain bread and some preserves and vegan butter, quick cooking oats, prepared vegan meals like Amy’s Organics if you’re in the US, fresh veggies for a salad, veggie dips and some cut up veggies, canned beans to toss in a salad, get some veggie sushi rolls, buy some tortillas or nori sheets to wrap leftovers in, befriend your local salad bar and your local restaurants, keep happycow.net in your phone or laptop at all times, walk, see the sights, lay in the grass, talk to some locals, relax, rest and enjoy!
“To travel is to live.”
Now you can do it while staying healthy and continuing on your vegan way.
What did you think of the awesome ‘Up in the Air’ style photos? I can’t take credit for them, all airplane shots were taken by Mr. hubby Carlos Marrero. Thanks Carlitos!