Warm weather or the holidays are travel time, and you may be wondering how you can see all those longed-for vacation spots (or your far-away family) and still stick to your plant-based diet. We all know how challenging it can be to eat cleanly at home, at work, and with friends, and “hitting the road,” as they say, whether you’re heading around the corner or the globe, raises some concerns.
However, as you’ll see in this article, plant-based traveling can be done well. You can pull this off with a bit of resourcefulness, ingenuity, flexibility, and creativity! And the double rewards of travel and eating healthfully are well worth it a little extra effort and planning. Why not make your travel a win-win for your body and mind?
Check out my article, “Dining Out on a Plant-Based Diet,” for more great tips.
Here are your five tips for traveling on a plant-based diet.
Choose Your Destinations Carefully
Planning and preparation are key to your successfully-executed plant-based game plan. Know what to expect where you’re going before you get there. You can even let the availability of plant-based dining options determine, at least in part, where you head.
In the United States, for instance, major metropolitan areas such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, and Seattle are likely to have many more vegan-friendly dining options, typically, than small towns and smaller cities.
Certain regions of this country, such as southern California and the Pacific Northwest, have well-earned reputations for their health-conscious locals. And if you’re heading abroad, India and some other Asian nations have vegetarian cuisines that you can happily adapt to your plant-based vegan lifestyle.
If you have a say in where you’re going, why not start on the right foot, so to speak, and head somewhere where your dining options are more plentiful and easier to access?
If you have plant-based vegan friends who travel, talk to them for suggestions and advice. They’ll be happy to help out their kindred plant-based spirits. Let yourself learn from their hard-won experience.
A quick google search along the lines of “best locations for vegans” yields tons of articles and listicles for today’s top vegan travel destinations. You find articles such as “The Best Cities for Vegans Around the World” from CNN Travel and “The World’s Best Cities for Vegan and Vegetarian Travelers” from the travel experts at Frommer’s. And check out this great list of the best and worst countries for vegans on the “Vegans vs. Travel” website.
Online Plant-Based Dining Resources
Happy Cow, an online directory of vegetarian and vegan dining options around the world, is a great place to launch your search for vegan-friendly eateries and grocery stores. You can also search for “vegan + your destination” and “plant-based + your destination” on Yelp, Google, Trip Advisor, Thrillist, and other travel, food, and cultural sites and search engines. It’s good to do at least a few separate searches to make sure that you’ve covered your bases as thoroughly as possible. After all, who wants to risk missing the best plant-based vegan place in town?
Planes and Trains
As soon as you book transportation, find out what vegan options might be available while in transit. Most airlines, for instance, have the option to select a vegan meal on the flights where meals are included.
Choose Your Accommodations Carefully
Depending on where you’re traveling and for long, you may want to arrange for accommodations that include kitchen facilities or, at the very least, a refrigerator for keeping whole plant-based foods fresh. Short-term cottage, house or apartment rentals, AirBnB, VRBO, and even youth hostels with their communal kitchens can be great options for this.
DIY or “Brown Bagging” It
If you’re traveling somewhere where there’s not a ton of healthy plant-based options, you’ll want to bring as much food as possible or stock up at a local grocery store once you arrive. If you have access to your own or a rented vehicle, that will make life easier when transporting food.
Some great options for portable healthy snacks – which you can and should keep with you at all times to avoid low blood sugar-induced binging on unhealthy foods are tree nuts, peanuts, seeds, dried fruits, fruit leathers, prepackaged individually-portioned nut butter, vegan “cheese” chunks or slices, plant-based “jerky,” and whole food plant-based energy bars and drinks.
Hummus, baked tofu, vegan “deli slices” or “sausages,” and canned beans are all valuable items for travelers with refrigerators. Of course, these modern plant-based options won’t be accessible in all parts of the country or the world, so once again, do your homework.
If you have access to a conventional or microwave oven and a sink, you can easily prepare a quick breakfast or even your own whole meals. If you bring along quick-cooking oats or even old-fashioned, all you need to do is add water and microwave for a minute. Then use the available fruit from the breakfast bar.
Wherever you find yourself, be creative and think outside the box with what is available locally. Do your research on the cuisines of the places you’ll be visiting and plan in advance how to make the best use of these cultural offerings.
Keep in mind that, while traveling, you may need to rely temporarily on prepackaged or even lightly-processed foods, depending on the details of your situation. These foods are still preferable to veering off your plant-based diet. At least in industrialized nations, there are many options when it comes to these as well, everything from prepackaged vegan Asian noodle dishes or whole grain ramen to dehydrated bean soups that only require boiling water to prepare. Ethnic food shops or the ethnic foods aisle of natural grocery stores are good places to hunt for these “healthier” prepared, portable foods that truly run the gamut of possibilities.
Have the Time of Your Life
As you can see, there’s no good reason for a vegan with wanderlust to stay stuck at home! With a little research and planning, you should be able to travel the globe with only the most minimal of limitations.
It may not be perfect, you may have to compromise a bit at times, depending on where you are, on taste, on health, or cost. But travel is a brief moment of your life. The trade-offs are worth it. And as long as you see them coming, you should be well on the way to making the utmost of your grand adventures!