Traveling as a vegan needn’t be tough. On the contrary, it can actually add an exciting new dimension to your trip. In most cases you’ll discover some terrific new foods that aren’t available at home, and you’ll return from your journey with a broader appreciation of all that a vegan lifestyle has to offer.
Wherever you go, you can probably discover a wealth of vegan options if you spend a little time in advance researching your destination. Since travel is all about reaching beyond your comfort zone and stepping into a new world, why not bring this sense of adventure to how you eat during your journey? The fact that your usual favorites may not be available will give you the opportunity to discover all sorts of new and enticing foods. So don’t go looking for the same old foods from home, as if those were the only things you could possibly eat. Instead, actively search for unfamiliar vegan options. Nearly every single one of the world’s cuisines offers exciting vegan foods unlike anything you are accustomed to, which you only need to seek out in order to discover.
If you’re going to be gone for any length of time, remember to bring your supplements. Two supplements in particular that are favored by vegans—a cheap high-dose B-12, and vegan DHA/EPA capsules—are all but impossible to find in most countries, so be sure to pack enough to cover the length of your stay.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
If you traveling air, and your airline serves scheduled meals, you can usually select a vegan option when you’re booking your ticket. Increasingly, airlines are turning to paid snacks and meals that are ordered during the flight. Most of these airlines offer at least one vegan snack or meal option. Even if you can’t eat well on the plane, you may be able to grab a satisfying meal before boarding or during your layover. Many airports have good vegan food choices, and there’s even an app called GateGuru that displays your airport’s options.
Long-distance trains usually have good albeit unspectacular dining options. Amtrak offers a vegan burger and vegan entrée salad in its dining car. Their snack bar has decent offerings too, including a vegan burger and several other vegan choices.
For tips on eating vegan at non-vegetarian restaurants, some of which are relevant to international travel, check out our vegan dining guide.
Various organizations host special vegan cruises, typically featuring vegan health experts. If you do a web search for vegan cruises you’ll undoubtedly find a few upcoming possibilities. On these cruises, special provisions have been made to serve vegan food.
Researching Your Destination
When you’re planning your trip, a little advance research on vegan restaurants can pay off enormously. Try doing a Google search for vegan and the names of the cities you plan to visit. Also check out HappyCow.net, which can help you discover some of the world’s best vegan-friendly restaurants. There are also dozens of vegan bed and breakfasts worldwide, so if your budget permits keep your eyes open for those as well.
Sometimes, because of language barriers, it can be hard to find out if a menu item is vegan, or to communicate your wishes to the waitstaff. If you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language, consider taking along some free V-cards on your trip (they’re currently available in 106 languages!) Just find the page containing the language you want, print it out, cut up your cards, and keep them in your wallet. These cards can help you get a fantastic vegan meal in situations where making your wishes clear would be difficult and unreliable.
Depending on where you’re going, the vegan options at your destination may be plentiful or they may seem nonexistent. But even the worst-case scenarios are rarely unworkable since almost every place you could possibly visit will offer ready access to fruits, vegetables, nuts, and breads. The more vegan-unfriendly your destination, the more you’ll need to rely on preparing your own food rather than dining out. How can you determine which places are least accommodating to vegans? If your research reveals a lack of vegan or vegetarian-friendly restaurants, that can be a clear sign that the limited options may extend to your food shopping as well.
If it’s clear that your destination is unduly challenging for vegans, it’s wise to book a place with a kitchen so that you can do your own cooking. No matter how limited a location’s vegan options may be, it’s usually easy to find vegetables to cook, along with beans, rice, or pasta.
For shorter visits, you can avoid having to cook (and the added expense of renting a place with a kitchen), by eating things like fruit, nuts, sandwiches, and wraps. If your destination is especially inhospitable to vegans, and you won’t be staying long, consider bringing some food with you. Choose calorically dense items such as energy bars, protein powder, and nuts—with the goal of packing the most calories into the smallest space.
As recently as 2010, there was not a single book published on vegan travel. Today there are a bunch of good ones. What’s more, they cover a nice diversity of topics. There’s a general guide to vegan travel, another on Mexican and Central American travel, and several others devoted to specific countries or cities:
Not everyone has it in them to travel to the four corners of the earth. If living vicariously through other people’s journeys is more your thing, there are a couple vegan travel memoirs worth your time. Bestselling cookbook author Lindsay S. Nixon has written The Happy Herbivore Abroad, in which she recounts details of her travel while offering up her recipes for 135 foods she sampled while eating internationally. On the opposite end of the travel spectrum, Kristin Lajeunesse wrote a vegan memoir covering her two years on the road—39,000 miles spent living out of a van while traveling through eighteen U.S. states.
Sticking to a vegan diet while traveling isn’t something to be dreaded. Rather, it will be one more aspect of your trip that will deliver memorable experiences.