How to eat vegan while traveling

At this time of year, many people are looking to enjoy a summer vacation. Whether it’s a trip to a far-off land, or a road trip to another state, what you’ll be able to eat is not something you want to have to worry about. Fortunately, it’s getting easier and easier to find vegan food on your travels, especially if you do a bit of preparation beforehand.  

Let’s start with the airlines.  On long haul flights, at least one free meal is usually offered for free, with 2-3 options to choose from.  While one of the choices is likely to be vegetarian or vegan,  there’s no guarantee they will have that option available if you’re not one of the first to be served.  It’s best to order a special meal online ahead of time – preferably when booking the flight, but at least 24 hours before.  Most airlines allow you to specify that you’d like your food to be vegetarian or vegan, along with catering for allergies and other considerations. The benefit of doing this is that a special meal that meets your requirements will be delivered directly to your seat usually before they serve everyone else, and if they’re serving a 2nd meal, such as breakfast, they will cater for your needs for that meal too.  

On shorter flights, meals are not usually included unless you pay these days, so you can’t specify your requirements ahead of time.  A simple hummus platter is often one of the options to buy, but we recommend that you eat in the airport where you’ll likely have many more options to choose from, or bring your own food to eat.  You can check out the food options at the airports you’ll be traveling through, online ahead of time, so that you know which eateries to head for when you get there.

Once you arrive at your destination, you will likely be dependent on restaurants and grocery stores for your food.  In western countries, vegetarian and vegan options are becoming much more common in restaurants, and in big cities you may well find specifically vegan restaurants, but wherever you are, you are likely to need to do some research before choosing where to eat.  Look up restaurant options and study menus ahead of time to build up a list of places, with addresses and phone numbers, where you’d like to eat at each location.   

In other parts of the world, vegetarian options may be a standard part of the local cuisine, although you may have to ask for them to leave out the dairy, eggs, or fish sauce for example.  If you are in a place where there are limited options, it’s best to ask specifically for what you want, based on the ingredients you can see they have available.  A chef who understands your needs is often willing to make a special dish for you, so learn a few key phrases in the local language such as “no meat”, “no fish”, “no dairy or eggs” to help you communicate your needs.  

Another option is to be prepared to make your own simple meals, especially for breakfast and lunch, by packing lightweight bowls, plates and cups, plus sturdy plasticware. You may also consider bringing a small cool bag and an ice pack to put in the refrigerator in your hotel room. You can then buy food from a grocery store such as plant-based milk, oatmeal, hummus, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and other snacks, to make your own light meals. 

On a road trip, you may even pack a can opener and chopping board, a camping stove and pot, plus some canned foods such as vegan chili or baked beans, so that you can make your own meals. This will also save you money compared to eating in restaurants for every meal.  

For those who prefer organized tours, the travel industry is starting to recognize that people on a plant-based diet appreciate having all their food needs taken care of.  Look for tours and cruises that specifically cater for your food needs and you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation without having to think about where you’re going to find food you can eat.  

Whatever your travel plans, with some planning and forethought, you should be able to enjoy a wonderful and worry-free trip while keeping your commitment to eating healthy plant-based meals.