I don’t want to say I’m a pro (but I am) as a travelling Vegan. In all seriousness, there is a lot to learn and I do feel like I am very from knowing it all.
I have travelled on my own, I have travelled for Gymnastics on a plant-based diet, and each bring their own set of challenges - which can turn into a very positive aspect to everyones trip!
Here are my tips as a Travelling Vegan -
1. Don’t be obnoxious
If you are Vegan, or Plant-Based, or just dabbling, you know that Vegans get a bad rap. The joke is always “they died doing what they loved… telling people they are vegan”. There is an absolute difference between being proud and being too much. I have yet to find a city or country that couldn’t accommodate me in some way, and I attribute a lot of that to the Canadian kindness.
I have travelled with other Plant-Based folks, and the number thing NOT TO DO is bitch and complain that they don’t have vegan options. 1) They probably do have something, 2) it’s on you to check ahead of time - you are in their country, city, place of work - the world isn’t catered to you.
I have been to restaurants, checked the menu, and had to leave because there are no options - that’s the way she goes sometimes - no big. The key is to lead with kindness - they work in customer service and want to help you - go in with the attitude you would like to receive in return.
2. BYOS: Bring Your Own Snacks
This is the most crucial piece, especially if you are strict, strict, strict. Depending on where you are headed, you might not know the language or the terminology to read the labels.
You don’t know what grocery stores will carry, especially if you are in a culturally different country than your own.
My recommendation would be bring protein sources - it’s easy to find fruits and vegetables, carbs, etc. I like bringing
crunchy little lentils
roasted chickpeas (pre-packaged)
faux beef jerky
protein bars, granola bars with higher protein content
meal replacement shakes (I like the Arbonne ones a lot lately, but have travelled a ton with the little Vega packages)
Fill up the remainder of your suitcase with snacks, and as the trip progresses, you have room for souvenirs! Make sure whatever snacks you bring will get through customs. Most snacks, if they are pre-packaged, are good to go. It’s mostly fresh products - which beans can often count as - are not permitted.
3. Look up places (grocery stores, specialty stores, restaurants) in your area ahead of time
The best part of planning a trip is figuring out all the exciting things to do, see and eat! You will likely know where you are going ahead of time, or at least the area, so try to find some resources, save the address and directions, and you’re ready to hit the ground running.
I find HappyCow (an app and website) to be incredibly helpful at recommending places - although since Covid, I would double-check on Google that the places you’re going are still open. Covid seems to have hit Vegan places extra hard. HappyCow is a great resource to find completely Vegan restaurants, Vegetarian and Veg-Option places. You will just need to figure out where the restaurants are actually located within the city you’re visiting.
I always Google something along the lines of “Paris Vegan”, “Vegan places in Paris”, “plant-based Paris” to see what comes up. Often times you’ll find speciality places - bakeries, coffee shops, stores, vegan supermarkets. It’s super cool to visit specialty places in other countries to see what products they offer, and even take some home! If you live a full vegan lifestyle, it’s a great way to find places beyond just restaurants.
4. Ask Locals!
This is just a normal travel tip, but asking the locals - especially if you find a good restaurant, coffee shop or store - will lead you to even better places. Vegans usually know the other vegan hotspots, so ask your waiter or waitress, barista, or whoever at an already vegan place for recommendations.
5. Always have a back up plan
Know where the nearest fast food place is that has a vegan options - and yes, sometimes it might be a salad or fries. You can have the best plans, have done the most research and things might still not pan out. Many of times, the meal at the end of a day of walking is two large french fries. Restaurants close early, places have siestas, or areas just aren’t open in the off-season - there are a ton of reasons why things may not work out and you won’t have the same options as a non-vegan.
6. Call ahead of time - like before you leave for your trip
Every time we travel for gym, we are on a meal plan through the host. We always let them know that I am vegan and almost every time, they have great options - of course, some better than others. I always come armed with my own protein because most places have plain rice or potatoes, salad, fruit, etc.
If you are not travelling with a group or an organized trip, call your hotel ahead of time and ask if they have options at their restaurant, or in the area. If you are travelling on an organized trip, let the organizers know about your preferences and how strict you are (kindly!).
7. Bring a Translated Card
About 15 years ago on my first big international Gym trip, there was a teammate who had severe allergies to some pretty niche things, so she brought a laminated sheet with all of her allergies, explaining that it was a deadly allergy in several languages. Genius!
If you are super strict, make your list of things you can’t eat - the usual suspects - meat, fish, dairy, etc. and have it professionally translated. When the language barrier is too tough, this is a perfect way to ensure you are going to be able to eat something or for them to let you know that they don’t have any options for you.
If you have travelled on a plant-based diet, what are your tips?
I will be creating another guide for travelling as a vegan athlete because that brings a certain amount of challenges to it as well.