My family of four travels a lot. We’ve been to 30+ U.S. states and 7 countries. My kids are well versed in saying, “I’m a vegan,” and “Is there cheese in that?” in multiple languages. This, we’ve found, is very handy! In addition to copying down these types of phrases in other languages, just how does a vegan family stay satiated with healthy foods while on the road? Here are some quick tips:
- Plan ahead. Do you know exactly where you are going? Great! Look up vegan-friendly restaurants on Happy Cow. We’ve gone so far as to decide which towns to stay in based on how many vegan restaurants they had (these are a real treat for us)! If this isn’t an option for you, scope out the grocery stores (health food stores are even better). You are sure to find bananas, applesauce (although not necessarily w/o high fructose corn syrup), and other whole foods. Flying? Check out the PCRM guide for best airports (and where to get vegan food at them). Going to another country? Learn how to say “I’m a vegan?” etc. in that country’s language–write it down so that you can show it to waitstaff and cooks. Click here or here for examples.
- Take utensils, and maybe even a blender. On our last month-long trip, we took our Vita-Mix. I used it at least once daily, often twice–mostly for daily smoothies. If you have the room, take simple utensils (sporks if necessary for space). These, combined with a grocery store, can save you a lot of time hunting down food, not to mention money. Pocketknives are great for slicing fruit!
- Start your trip with as much food as you can take. We always pack our belongings very light, and carry our food as heavy as we can . We traveled around Europe for a month with only three backpacks, yet were thrilled we’d made room to start the trip with a couple dozen Clif bars–they were eaten within just a couple of days (grocery stores and restaurants don’t keep the same hours everywhere in the world)… On our last driving trip, we took canned and dried soups, pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, Clif bars, cereal, bread, peanut butter and jelly, water, and even almond milk in a cooler (although vegan milks can be purchased in packages that don’t need refrigeration until they are opened). If you have little kids, this is VITAL–they need food very frequently and should never be deprived (this is when extended breastfeeding can come in really handy!).
- Stay hydrated and seek out food well before you are starving! Buy bottled water if you need to. It is worth it for your health. Don’t let yourself get to the point that you are so hungry you are willing to eat anything you find (only eat the potato chips and vegan Skittles if you want them, not because they are the only thing you could find).
- Eat at parks and other unusual locations.
You don’t have to eat all your meals at restaurants and fast food joints. If you’ve discovered a great vegan restaurant, order too much and eat the leftovers for your next meal. Staying at a motel/hotel? Most have something for vegans in their free breakfast selection. We’re always happy to reload on bananas, apples, and oranges. We feel lucky when we get Cheerios, bagels, and peanut butter.
- Be a hunter and keep your eyes open everywhere for food! Even gas stations, fast food establishments, diners, and roadside stands can have vegan foods if you look for the right things. Go straight to the fruits, nuts, and juices. Sometimes you can even find crackers, bread, or local specialties (like boiled peanuts in Mississippi) that can really hit the spot. Many full meals can be veganized if you ask the right questions (animal products, egg, dairy, honey) and make your needs made clear (politely, of course).
7. Eat the “wrong meals” at the “wrong times”. If you have access to delicious and nutritious vegan burritos, eat them even if it is breakfast time. Ditto on cereal for supper. My daughter highly recommends spaghetti for breakfast and peaches for lunch. I’m not actually a big cereal fan, but it does make for easy and quick trip food.
8. Try ethnic cuisine and small restaurants (and be kind while ordering). We once went to a small town that had only one restaurant. We saw nothing on the menu we could eat. We calmly and politely explained our situation to the waitress and lamented at how hungry we were. She sent the cook out to talk with us. We found out that he used to be a chef at the White House and he made us one of the best pasta meals we’d ever had. They were quite happy to accommodate us. Most places are when you are kind and explain your situation. If they aren’t, well… that’s what the extra Clif bars are for. Quick note: Don’t forget to ask if there is lard in the beans, chicken (or other animal) stock in the rice, and butter on the bread.
9. Shop at “Super” stores. I know that many vegans prefer to shop at natural foods stores and other small businesses. This isn’t always possible while on the road. We’ve discovered that most large Wal-Marts, Targets, K-Marts, etc. have nicely stocked food sections. We’re often able to buy cereals, vegan milks, and even sometimes prepackaged frozen vegan meals (like Amy’s, Boca, or Morningstar).
10. Have fun and try new things! You just might find new favorites. We’ve discovered new foods on nearly every trip we’ve gone on. This is part of the fun of traveling!
11. Okay, so this is a “10 Tips”, but I have to include this last suggestion: Stock up your pantry and freezer before you leave on your trip. You’ll want to have lots of easy-to-eat-healthy foods on hand as you just might not feel like grocery shopping the day you get home…