With Covid restrictions loosening up, a lot of us are traveling again after nearly two years on hiatus. So, maybe our gadabout practices — from packing to planning — are a little rusty. And, whether new to the vegan scene (our most recent VegWeek first-time pledgers!) or a seasoned vegan, perhaps we’re feeling a little stressed at the thought of how we’ll keep up our vegan ways when we’re away from our home kitchen and neighborhood go-to’s. On my recent trip to Greece, I was reminded that it’s actually pretty easy (and fun!), even when travelling internationally, using these simple tips:
1. Thinking Ahead
Try some initial reconnaissance by using the tried and true Happy Cow database. Type in a location for local options and then check out their web sites, menus and reviews. You can filter by vegan, vegetarian, and veg-options. I’ll follow this up with a quick Google “vegan” search to see if any other interesting options pop up. For weekend nights, make those reservations. (Google Maps can become your best friend once at your destination, exploring and looking for something nearby; but getting the basic lay of the land ahead of time and reserving your tables for the busier weekend nights will make traveling a lot less stressful.)
2. Don’t Forget the Flight
Flying to your destination? Don’t forget to request your vegan/nondairy vegetarian meal ahead of time. Airlines usually are very accommodating if given notice. If there is not a vegan selection readily available – for example, my Delta flight to Athens was only offering a four-cheese tortellini as a veg dinner option on their app – make a phone call. I called about a week in advance, and the representative made sure I had a delicious vegan meal for my flight. (Note: Three others right around me asked our flight attendant if they could have the same when they saw what was on my plate. Because dairy is inflammatory, many non-vegans jump at the chance for a nondairy option.)
3. Introduce Others
Traveling with Non-Vegans? While you can do your due diligence to find places with veg options, ask your fellow travelers if they’re open to trying at least one or two of the all-vegan restaurants at your vacation destination. Not only will it enrich your own experience, but it also could be a fun way of introducing family and friends to some delicious vegan dishes.
4. Bring Food For Your Stay
If you’re staying at an Air BnB, stock up on vegan goodies just as you would in your own pantry. If you’re at a hotel, don’t hesitate to let them know you need oat milk for your morning cereal or almond milk for your coffee — and that you’ll be needing those things at the breakfast buffet or for your mini-fridge for the length of your stay.
5. Be Grateful
Be grateful, say thank you. While many of us have had years of experience in figuring out easy substitutes or practicing plant-based creative cooking, we need to remember we’re sometimes asking others to venture into what’s new territory for them. And they deserve to be recognized for their efforts. So, please do yourself and animals a great service by being generous and genuine in expressing gratitude whenever someone goes out of their way to accommodate. If they’ve come up with something tasty for you, not only compliment them, but also encourage them to add it to their regular menu.
Two final points:
First, vegan eating doesn’t mean having to forego exploring local food culture. Vegan restaurants can be a great place to try veganized versions of traditional delectables. In Athens, I found myself a mouth-watering Moussaka at the local vegan hotspot Veganaki – and I also spied a Vegan Moussaka on the menu of a non-vegan restaurant at the foot of the Acropolis. Even here in the U.S., I’ve had my share of veganized traditional dishes, thanks to a little searching at the get-go. In New Orleans, I got an insanely delicious plate of jambalaya and collard greens at Sweet Soulfood; on a trip with a girlfriend to visit her son studying at Vanderbilt University, the three of us ventured to The Southern V, where we savored some of Nashville’s famous hot chick’n!
Second, if you happen to have something not vegan – whether inadvertently or deliberately, please don’t fall into the “all or nothing” pothole on what I hope is a lifelong road for you. One meal or one spoonful needn’t send you into a tailspin. If you realized halfway into that gelato that it wasn’t dairy-free after all, or even if you just couldn’t say no to that pasteis de nata in Portugal, just let that moment go without letting it define or completely derail you. Every meal is a new opportunity to make a difference for animals, the environment, and your own health. Wishing everyone safe, healthy and happy travels!
Sharon Discorfano, Chief Operating Officer