Being Vegan, I like to tell my family and friends, is not all that difficult nowadays. (That’s a Missouri word for present tense.) And I do think that’s mostly true…except when you’re on the road. And I’ve done a fair share of traveling over the year so I thought I’d give you my Top Tips for a Traveling Vegan. So buckle your belts, sit back, and enjoy the ride!
I began my travels for the year with a trip to Phoenix. We enjoyed the sun, the scenery, and a trip to my favorite vegan comfort food joint, Green Restaurant. If you find yourself in (or around) Phoenix, I highly recommend it!
My second trip of the year was the 13-hour (one-way) roadtrip variety. When you’re in the heart of the city on an every-day basis it’s easy to believe you can always find a place that will serve something vegan. However, when you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of nowhere (aka, the bottom half of South Dakota), you quickly learn otherwise.
That 13-hour road trip I mentioned above? That landed me in the heart of Bismarck, North Dakota. Why would anyone want to drive that long to go to Bismarck? We have two very important reasons we go there each year. Bruce and Diane. Otherwise known as Shawn’s parents. Trust me, if they were your in-laws, you would look forward to the drive each year too. That’s how fun they are!
From Bismarck to Los Angeles! Ok. It wasn’t a direct trip. There were a few days (or months) in between, but it was still a dramatic difference in scenery. In Los Angeles we had to take a quick trip to see the Pier at Newport Beach. These sea birds decided to welcome me there. Or maybe it wasn’t all about me and they were just there searching for food like they do every day. Hmm, I think I prefer to imagine them as members of the “Welcome Marly” committee…
What’s a trip to Los Angeles without a little time spent in Anaheim? And you know what you have to do in Anaheim? That’s right, a little time at Disney Land was top on my list. Oh, how I love standing in line! Of course the thrills of Space Mountain at the end of said line is definitely worth it, but just barely.
From Disney to Canal Street in a day. Seriously. One night I was at Disney Land and the next night I was cruising down Canal Street in New Orleans. Talk about culture shock! Eating a vegan meal in New Orleans is not the easiest thing to do, but it is possible.
My next trip took me to the Miracle Mile. I like to say that just like Oprah does at the end of her show, with an emphasis on the first syllable of each word, letting the sound roll off the tongue. If you throw your hands in the air while saying Miracle Mile it adds even more flair. I just don’t recommend doing that while you’re actually walking down the Miracle Mile. Trust me on that on that one – people will look at your like you’re from Missouri.
Sometimes it’s disappointing as a vegan to miss out on some of the local cuisine that happens to be meat or cheese-based. However, you can sometimes find a vegetarian or vegan alternative if you plan ahead.
My next trip of the year? Florida! There I got to hang out with some new flighty kind of friends.
When in Orlando, Universal Studios is a must-see destination…especially when you get to hang out with the Minions from the movie, Despicable Me. I think I forgot to brush my teeth or something because Jerry the Minion kept looking at me like that.
I wasn’t too worried about finding food while standing in line for the Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster. I was more worried about keeping down what I’d already eaten! I love roller coasters, but I also have recurring nightmares of driving on a road that goes straight up. I decided to look at Rockit as therapy. It was an opportunity to face my fears!
The therapy worked because it was a blast!
After the bumpy, crazy, and completely fantastic rides of Universal Studios, it was time to head to the other side of the state. We spent some time in Sarasota and enjoyed a more laid-back end of our travels. Although there were a few too many alligators for my taste (they’re not quite as disgusting as squirrels, but close), the scenery was much more alluring.
Top 10 Tips for a Traveling Vegan
- Think like a a Happy Cow. No, I don’t mean to eat like a cow while you’re traveling, but just check out the Happy Cow site. While you’re at it, download the app so you’ll have it handy when you’re on the go. Happy Cow will give you lots of resources on vegetarian and vegan eats and shopping while you’re traveling. Even if you’re not vegetarian, every now and then you might just want to check out a healthy option for dining out. Happy Cow is the resource for you!
- Always Pack a Snack. You never know when you’re going to find yourself feeling hungry with nothing but things you can’t…or won’t…eat around. We usually bring granola bars, fruit, some crackers, things like that. My favorite mid-day snack is popcorn. Ooh la la!
- Know Where You’re Going. Take some time to figure out where you’re going to be staying at your destination. Is it a hotel? If so, do they provide free breakfast? Does that breakfast include something you can eat? You can call ahead and ask a few friendly questions that can help you feel at ease before you hit the road. If you’re staying with friends or family, ask them if they mind if you cook a meal or if you can bring some of your own food along and store it in their fridge.
- Take an Emergency Pit Stop. Know which fast food joints can accommodate a traveling vegan. For example, Taco Bell will serve their 7-Layer Burrito in 5-Layer format (without the cheese and sour cream). You can also get a veggie sandwich at Subway. These kinds of fast-food emergency plans can be a life-saver from time-to-time.
- Just Add Water! Most hotels provide coffee makers in the room. That means if you remember to bring along a packet of instant soup, or my favorite, oatmeal, you’ll be just fine. Just add some hot water and a small serving of oatmeal can hold you over until it’s time for something more substantial.
- Learn to Love Those Greens! Whether I’m traveling for business or pleasure, I don’t always get to choose the restaurant. That being the case, it’s important to be prepared when dining out that some restaurants are not going to accommodate vegans. They usually offer soup, but they come with a chicken stock. Why is that? I find BBQ restaurants to be the worst because they put meat in the strangest of dishes, like corn. Can someone please explain that one? Even most salads come with some kind of meat on top. However, most restaurants offer a side salad or they will serve a main salad sin carne (without meat). Ask your server if that’s possible. And while you’re at it, ask if you can get a side of veggies and/or a baked potato while you’re at it. With these options I can usually be satisfied for quite awhile.
- Learn to Love the Chef! If you’re at a nice sit-down restaurant, don’t hesitate to see if the chef is willing to throw something together for you. I’ve been served dishes like grilled veggies with roasted potatoes, olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes. Most everyone at the table was eyeing my food like they wished they had it too. I did have this backfire on me once. I was at a steak restaurant for a business meeting where the server told me the chef would prepare something with tofu for me. When we were served our meals, my plate had a slab of white tofu that had been seared on the grill. If you know anything about tofu, it’s fairly flavorless as is. It needs to be marinated or served with some kind of sauce to add some flavor. This big chunk of tofu felt to me like a protest from the chef – don’t come to a steak restaurant and order tofu! I got the message. I took a couple of bites and took the rest home with me where I fixed it up just right!
- La Cocina. When choosing your hotel, try to find one that offers a kitchen. At least that way you can cook a few simple meals for yourself. One of our favorite on-the-go meals is instant brown rice, black beans, and corn. Throw that together with some salsa in a tortilla and you’ve got a decent meal to keep you going. Just don’t forget to pack along a can opener!
- Vegan on the Go. Bring along with you travel pack versions of some of your favorite foods. For example, Wild Garden Hummus Packets are perfect for the road. Throw in a box of crackers and you’re good to go. There’s also travel packs for peanut butter, coffee, and more.
- Travel in Veggie Style. Consider a trip that is catered to vegetarians. Didn’t know there was such a thing? Well, they’re out there! Vegetarian Bed and Breakfast locations? Vegan Cruises? Below are some veggie-friendly resources to make your next trip a 5-Star Veggie Paradise!
- Happy Cow - A global, searchable, dining guide and directory of natural health food stores…and more!
- Vegetarian Vacations - A guide to “healthy eco-friendly holidays with vegetarian or vegan food!”
- Veg Voyages - An adventure tour company founded by vegetarians and vegans!
- Veg Guide - a Community-maintained, world-wide guide to vegetarian and vegan restaurants and shopping.
- VegKC - If you find yourself in KC, don’t despair about the lack of veggie options. This VegKC guide will keep you informed of the latest and greatest options for veggie dining (and there are many) in the KC area!
So, to all you vegans and vegan wanna-be’s…you are free to move around the country.