I’m on my way to Germany… to take in the sights, visit an old friend, and, of course, to report on vegan eats! I spent weeks filling my Moleskine with a ton of delicious-sounding vegan options around the land of Bratwurst and Weiner Schnitzel. I can’t wait to share my findings!
As a vegan food enthusiast and traveler, research and preparation is a pretty darn important. As I am amidst this right now, I compiled this list of pre-trip to-do’s! Who doesn’t love a to-do list?! Ok, probably a lot of people, but I love ’em. Though I admit that spontaneity has its value, planning maximizes time. And it’s my modus operandi. (I can’t not think of Gordon Cole when I even think this phrase.)
Vegan Travel to-do (part 1)
Order a vegan meal for flights. This really only applies to international travel, as the days of free domestic flight meals are gone. Be careful to select the correct type of vegetarianism. My flight had options for “non-dairy” or “lacto-ovo” vegetarianism–which is a bit confusing. I guess I would just prefer they termed it “vegan” or “pure vegetarian”… or “non-dairy/non-ovo” since egg is not dairy. It seems terminology is different for each airline.
Where are you going to eat? The all-important question. There are many guiding questions for your research: Are you hoping to find food options around a specific landmark? Or looking for a place on the way? Are you finding landmarks around a specific food option? It’s better to have an idea about these things. When you are super-hungry, irritable and irrational is not the time to think about where you’re going to find a vegan meal. I like to throughly research sights and eats to have some options when I am out and about.
What are you going to eat? The other all-important question. “The best researchers use a variety of sources,” I tell my students when we are doing research projects. And it is true for vegan travel, too. In this day and age there are endless means of gaging which vegan options are worth the trip. With menus, reviews, photos, blogs, and facebook pages available publicly on the world wide web, it’s super-easy to know a place will be up your alley. However, there are many eateries abroad who don’t have an web presence, especially in less developed or rural areas. I’ve had success with guidebooks geared towards young-ish travelers, like Lonely Planet–who uses a carrot icon next to a dining listing that has veggie eats. Then there’s those veggie directories we all know and love–Though I prefer VegGuide in the States, Happy Cow has such an extensive compilation of veg-friendly eats in Europe. It is truly a great tool. There are also many smartphone apps that locate vegan eats in specific regions or cities. But be sure to use them prior to travel to not incur sky-high data charges. Once you get to your veg-destination, thee best thing you can do is ask staff or other diners (if they’re friendly) where to get other vegan options!
Global Veg-ish Cuisines. There’s nothing better than trying the local cuisine, as long as it’s able to be veganized. If there is a dirth of veg-friendly options at your destination, there is always those reliably veggie-ish cuisines. Greek, Turkish, Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai are always reliable for a veggie option, or at least an option made vegan with a couple of omittances. Then there are the cuisines specific to religious observance that are often vegan or easily veganizable–Hare Krishna, Rastafari/Ital, 7th Day Adventist among the most vegan. In a bind these options provide sustanence, for sure, but vegan versions of local cuisine is why you’re there, right?
Bring a to-go container filled with snacks. This really serves two functions. Pack a to-go container with some snacks. When packing your snacks, keep it mind what’s available (or not available) in the country you’re traveling to. For example, if I was to pack some stuff for a trip to Thailand, I know sweet vegan-friendly treats are everywhere but crusty, rustic breads are nowhere. So definitely pack to supplement or complement what’s available. When you get to your destination, empty your container and carry just a few snacks to bust out if needed. But bring your airtight and leakproof to-go container along so you can box up leftovers to enjoy later. Or even get something to go. A great vegan eat is often far and few between so it helps to have a container, especially if you know they’ll be slim pickings later on.
Know how to ask for vegan food. If you’re traveling internationally, make sure you know how to ask for vegan eats in the country’s language… or write your dietary requests on a little sheet of paper and keep it handy. There are also many smartphone apps with audio bytes you can play if all else fails. Remember that in some cultures (or to some people) veganism seems, well, strange. The goal is to get a meal you can eat with being a huge pain in the butt. Though it is helpful to drop the v-bomb so the eateries can begin to understand the level of demand for vegan options, but be humble, be respectful and, above all, be grateful. Let the eat staff have a pleasant experience with veganism and they’ll offer more flexibility or maybe even new options in the future!