Anyone with dietary restrictions knows the complications that come along with traveling. Since middle school I have adhered to a vegetarian diet, skip ahead 17 years and I have eating vegetarian while traveling down to a science. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may have a tougher time finding food in your travels. These quick tricks and tips will have you traveling like a pro.
By Plane: Generally, in my travels I am more of a roadtripper but when I was in college there were many (MANY) flights from LA to DC. Although, I frequently rode on budget airlines where meals weren’t given or there wasn’t a specific option for vegetarians. I was thrilled when I was on the “fancy” airlines– as a college student, they were luxurious don’t judge. Many airlines that have in flight meal service have vegetarian options that most of the time double as their vegan option. One really great thing is that your meal is generally delivered first and is a hot as airline food gets. When booking check with your airline to see what options you have available to you and make sure it is noted on your reservation. Check out these major airlines offerings: Virgin, American Airlines, JetBlue, United, Delta, Air Canada, Iceland Air, Lufthansa .Happy Cow has the most extensive list illustrating options as an herbivore that I’ve been able to find.
By Train: Many rail companies have started considering vegetarians but there offerings are slim and may require you to give advanced notice. Amtrak has several different menus for dining service and depending on which train you are taking you have no options to several options.
Amtrak states, “Special menu selections, such as kosher meals are available on most overnight trains with 72-hour advanced notice. Vegan meals are available on the regular menu for Long Distance trains and do not require advance notice. Both vegan and kosher meals are available with 24-hour advanced notice for Acela Express First Class service. Vegetarian meals do not require advance notice.”
Always plan ahead.
Roadtrip: Vending machines, gas stations, and fast food joints litter the side of any major interstate. It is hard to make a meal, let alone a healthful one, when you have dietary restrictions. I am a huge fan of packing a cooler and snack box. Things like nuts, dried fruit, fruit leathers, chopped veggies and dip, Larabars, hummus and pita, salads, etc. The options are endless. For a half hour worth of prep time, you can really improve morale on the trip. If it’s a last minute trip or you run out of time many gas stations now have cut fruit. Wawa is a gas station that is great at having these options. Additionally, if it’s your run of the mill gas station they may have things like nuts, dried fruit, vegan protein bars, etc. Chik-fil-A has fruit cups during breakfast and some fast food places have added veggie burgers to their menu ( although I have not done research on how they prepare them ). **TIP: Avoid messy foods including but not limited to juicy fruits like peaches. If you must have them pre-cut them and take a fork. Don’t forget napkins and wet wipes.**
At Your Destination: For long stays, I go grocery shopping once I’ve reached my destination. Not only does this cut down the cost of my trip overall but I have options to throw in my day pack for those times that I don’t have an itinerary planned or if I know that I’m going somewhere that doesn’t have an option for me. Just like the items that I pack for the road trip itself, these are similar to items that I pick up when I get there. Think portable and not temperature dependent. When eating out, I tend to stick to international foods or plant based cafes. Asian food is wonderful for vegetarians. I’m a huge fan of Japanese, Thai and Indian food. At Indian restaurants there is usually a Jain meal. Jainism doesn’t believe in eating animals or animal by products ( additionally they do not eat anything subterranean- garlic, beets, potatoes, etc.). If you are an herbivore, the Jain meal is the way to go. Additionally, I’ve been very successful with asking about ingredients and options for meals at these restaurants. If the curry that is in the Jain meal is pre-made, they may be able to heat up potatoes and garlic in your portion or add that curry to completely separate vegetables. Vegans beware of ghee at Indian establishments- it’s clarified butter and in almost everything. For Thai and Japanese, you must be careful of sauces. Many seemingly vegetarian meals have oyster or fish sauce in them. Generally, if the sauce on your dish is not prepared ahead of time, they can make the dish using a bit of vegetable broth or soy sauce instead. For Thai places, look for the word “Jae” which means vegetarian. Jamaican food is another great option! Rastas are vegan. Anything that is prepared for Rastas is suitable for vegans/vegetarians. Honorable mention: Kosher Israeli restaurants as well as Mediterranean restaurants may have suitable options.
When dining out in a new city, if I haven’t had a chance to look at the menu online, I ask to see one before being seated and generally can figure out if they have something that I can eat. In recent years, I’ve noticed it has been much easier to get meals made that aren’t on the menu as well. When all else fails ask someone.
Do you have any vegetarian/vegan travel tips? I’d love to hear them!
Thank you for wandering with me.