These days, most vegans know that they are not going to starve when they travel. Not only has the world become a lot more vegan-friendly, but there are so many tools to connect us to what we are looking for – hungry vegans and amazing vegan food.
As a couple who has traveled quite a lot in their 15 years as vegans, we can honestly say that we have never actually gone hungry and had to miss a meal. I know. It’s jaw-dropping news!
Have we always eaten the most amazing food every single time we travel?
Nope. We’ve had more than our fair share of vegetable fried rice twice a day for days at a time – memories of rural Vietnam are flooding back as I write this. But I am sure if I asked a nonvegan if they always eat amazingly well with a diverse range of dishes every time and everywhere they travel they would probably say no too.
Have we spent more time looking for food than a non-vegan might?
Yeah. Probably because a big part of what we love to do when traveling is to eat and Seb is rather fussy when it comes to food. We sometimes go far out of our way to try a special restaurant or to have something a bit interesting.
Over our fourteen years of vegan travel, we have developed these nine tips that we use not only when we do our personal travel, but also when we are researching and putting our amazing luxury vegan group trips together.
I have shared these tips a lot when I have been a guest on various different podcasts but it’s about time we put these nine trips in writing! So without further ado, let’s get on to the tips:
Tip one: adjust your mindset
Our mindset is one of the main factors that influence how we see the world. If we travel around thinking that there won’t be anything to eat, or that we will miss out on the culinary specialties that a place has to offer, then that will probably be our experience. If we have a mindset of curiosity and enjoy a challenge, then our travel experience will be richer.
If we are the type of person that “looks through a lens of lack rather than a lens of abundance.” (quote from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau) then it is not something that can usually change overnight, but it is something that can be practiced. Noticing our thinking, identifying it, and then changing the narrative when it happens will strengthen those neural pathways so that over time we will start to see through a lens of abundance more and more.
There is also a tendency to think that negative culinary experiences are only because we are vegan while forgetting that even before we were vegan we had bad meals. Or perhaps even forget that some of these bad meal experiences might have made us sick! The fact is that when we travel, we will often have some forgettable meals or limited options and it is not only vegans that will experience this, it’s just a fact of life!
Tip two: use apps/sites
If you have been vegan for more than a few weeks you will surely know Happy Cow. Heck, even non-vegans know about this one! Without a doubt, it is one of the best tools for vegan travelers, but just because it is so awesome, doesn’t mean it is the only one that covers everything.
Country Specific Apps:
Yes, Happy Cow has nearly every single restaurant that would be useful, but also you need to know that it is primarily popular for English speakers and that other countries might have their own sites or apps for restaurants. Vegoresto is a French version of Happy Cow and is popular amongst French vegans. It is so well designed that you don’t actually need to be a French speaker to use it. Perhaps there is a popular app or site which lists restaurants in the country where you are heading to.
It’s hard to describe abillion. As well as being able to review so many vegan products, you can also review restaurants and even dishes in restaurants. It has more of a social networking site than Happy Cow’s forum and for each review you do, $1 goes to an animal protection charity of your choice.
While Happy Cow also shows vegan or vegan-friendly accommodations, specifically hotels and bed and breakfasts, I do find Veggie Hotels easier to navigate, especially if I want to see all the hotels in a destination as a whole rather than ones in a certain area. This is the case especially if a vegan-friendly or vegan accommodation is more important to me than a specific destination. While the website feels like it could be updated, I do like how you can filter based on the whole country. Now, of course, it’s not like there are vegan hotels in every tourist destination, but most countries have one of two places. If you like the look of them, then you might find yourself off the beaten path and enjoying an amazing rural vegan experience. An excellent addition is Vegan Welcome. Vegan Welcome is the sister site to Veggie Hotels. It includes hotels that have been shown to (wait for it) make vegans welcome!
Veg Visits is the equivalent of Airbnb for vegans. When I look through Veg Visits it does seem to be like how Airbnb was 10 years ago. I don’t mean that website quality and user experience are dated. I mean that more people are sharing just a spare room in their house and places are not as highly polished with so many amenities which is how Airbnb feels like these days. Use Veg Visits if you want to support vegans rather than the Airbnb hosts (who are probably not vegan) and Airbnb (who are also not vegan). Some hosts will be able to offer some amazing local recommendations and the opportunities for local interactions are much more than with Airbnb.
The Vegan Stay
The new kid on the block The Vegan Stay launched in August 2022. This platform is connecting vegans with vegan accommodations, specifically bed and breakfasts but also sanctuaries. In recent years, many sanctuaries have offered some sort of accommodation on their grounds as a way to raise funds to look after the animals. It’s such a great idea, but it has always been difficult to know about them, especially the smaller ones, and let alone know if they happen to have accommodation for short stays. It’s hard enough in English, but in another language, it requires some internet sleuthing, especially when many small sanctuaries don’t even have much of a web presence. The Vegan Stay is looking to connect vegans and these sanctuaries and while they will take a small commission when users book bed and breakfasts, no commission is charged for sanctuary stays.
Tip three: consider packing supplies or tools
There are a few things that I love to carry with me when I am traveling and we do it when we are traveling internationally.
Tupperware can come in handy for carrying leftovers as well as transporting foods to keep them a bit fresher and a little more protected. We very often make ourselves sandwiches for train rides, lunch on the trail or picnics in the park. Being able to transport cheese slices and deli slices safe in the knowledge that they are not going to be a congealed mess at the bottom of a bag makes it worth the effort and we like to use collapsible containers. They are not quite as sturdy, but I appreciate that they save space when not in use.
Make sure you don’t put this in your carry-on, but if you are checking bags, this is a great thing to have. Again, it’s fantastic for sandwich making and cutting up fruit, getting into those plastic containers of cheese slices or cutting that fancy vegan swiss brie. We find ourselves using it every time we travel.
Again, this is helpful for picnics. Use it as a makeshift tablecloth when eating that train picnic and wrap up dirty cutlery when you are done and just throw it in the machine next time you are at the laundromat.
Cool bag with blue brick
This is also a great addition to the packing list. Not only does it help keep your picnic supplies cooler when traveling, but if you are like us and you like to bring home fun vegan cheeses from Europe as gifts for friends, then this is a great way to keep them cool and I put everything in the hotel refrigerator when I arrive. I usually ask the hotel to refreeze my blue brick for me overnight.
Shelf stable non-dairy milk
Some hotels have non-dairy milk at breakfast, but if you like to have a cup of tea or coffee in the room after a long day of sightseeing then you will want to have some shelf-stable milk with you. If I am staying in a hotel I will often ask for a small jug of non-dairy milk from the bar but rest assured I’ll always have shelf-stable milk on hand to crack open in case of an emergency. I’m English. I need tea with milk okay!?
No matter where I am if there are no restaurants around then there will probably be a grocery store. I like to have a little cutlery for vegan yogurts or some sort of ready-made salad if needed.
In our 15 years of being vegan, and traveling we have never actually had to miss a meal because of being vegan. However, there’s always a first time. Pack some long-life snacks like Clif Bars or dried fruit to break open in case hunger strikes.
These would be more for domestic road trips as carrying these kinds of appliances on a plane can be complicated and the voltage is not the same in every country. An Instant Pot can be very helpful if you are traveling with non-vegan family or friends (cook food for yourself in bulk) and while we have never tried it, in theory, you could use it in a hotel room and even camping if there’s a power hookup. The addition of a blender in the trunk of a car ensures you have a highly nutritious smoothie breakfast on the road.
Tip four: consume nutrient-rich foods a few times a day.
Traveling is often about holidays and indulging. Without meaning to, when I go to bed and think about what I ate that day, It dawns on me that refined carbs make up a large proportion of my daily calories. There is nothing wrong with that especially if it is just for a few days or so, but any longer than that, consider adding some nutrient-dense foods to your daily diet. There are a few things you can do each day to make sure that you are getting those nutrients in without feeling like you are missing out on all the yummy foods at your destination.
Carrying a greens powder and adding it to a small amount of water is a super way to get some micronutrients in your diet. It’s dried and very light and some companies sell these greens powders in single sachets perfect for traveling.
Freeze-dried vegetable snacks, kale chips or fruit leather
While they will probably crumble as you travel, freeze-fried broccoli and other nutrient vegetables are a super snack to have on hand.
It’s true that I am probably not going to be excited about an apple at my destination when there are potato chips around, but cherry tomatoes in southern Italy, cherries in season in France, or pineapple in Thailand will give those potato chips a run for the money. It’s a great day when you can eat tomatoes like popcorn. Keep your produce in your Tupperware from tip two so it stays in good shape when you are moving from place to place.
Fruit and veggies for breakfast
Unless you are staying in an incredible hotel with amazing vegan options, chances are breakfast will be okay but nothing to write a postcard home about. Make a deal with yourself to have a fruit and/or vegetable-based breakfast when you travel knowing that you are probably going to get plenty of bread and refined carbs throughout the rest of the day. Even the most basic hotel will have bananas and apples and perhaps some vegetables too. Load up on those and then know you have at least had a few servings of fruits and vegetables that day.
Vitamin supplement and B12
If you take a multivitamin and/or a B12 supplement, then make sure you pack it and find a way to remember to actually take it. Travel messes up our routines and it could easily stay at the bottom of our bag and not see the light of day during our trip.
Tip five: write a wishlist
This tip is for the vegan foodies amongst us, but those that don’t want to go miles out of their way for dinner. I know that is a large proportion of you. Get a list of places you want to hit at your destination or destinations in advance. Searching things on Google like the “vegan guide to Barcelona” will give you a long list of places and even if you only check the first few results, the Google algorithm has probably crawled the blog post and ranked a post highly that it is the most up-to-date and the most useful post.
There are more and more YouTubers who are creating vegan travel guides, so make sure you don’t dismiss video content as well in your research. Once you have identified the places that look awesome, then head on over to Google Maps, search for these places and then “star” them. When you are sightseeing in Mexico City you’ll be able to tell at a glance which restaurants you have already shortlisted and where they are located in relation to where you actually are.
This trick also is a great way to decide which area of a city you might like to stay in. If there are a lot of stars in a certain area, you should probably stay in that area. Most of the time, we want to have breakfast and dinner close to our hotel so this saves more time for sightseeing during the day.
Tip six: let your accommodation know ahead of time
If I am staying at a hotel in a city that happens to have a lot of vegan options, I probably would not bother with talking to the accommodation beforehand. However, if I am staying in a countryside hotel where they are not many options around or a resort where I have no choice but to have most of my meals in the resort, then I always reach out at the time of booking to ask if they have some vegan options and at the very least, have some non-dairy milk available. I sometimes ask to have a conversation with the food and beverage manager at check-in and build a bit of a rapport. Giving positive and constructive feedback throughout your stay can be helpful to allow them the opportunity to get things right if they have missed a beat.
If you feel uncomfortable about this, then please remember that most people get into hospitality because they care deeply about being hospitable and that means making their guests feel comfortable and welcomed. You are entitled to that too!
If at the end of your stay, you feel very short-changed despite the preparation time you gave them, please resist the urge to blast them on social media. Instead have a short meeting with the food and beverage manager and ask what happened.
Tip seven: learn (or have access to) a little of the language
Learn the language
You certainly don’t need to speak a language fluently to communicate your needs as a vegan however, a little bit is much appreciated and who knows, you might develop a passion for this language. There are a few ways you can do this.
Enter in a few important phrases and learn them so you can express yourself a little bit when at street stalls. Use the speaker and microphone function to check your pronunciation.
Have a few language lessons
I use Itaki, an online platform to find teachers of over 90 languages. Tell your teacher your goals and ask them to help you with pronunciation and perhaps a few little fun phrases that will endear you to your speaker.
Access the language
Download your target language
The app Google Translate comes in handy here. Download your target language so it is always available offline.
Star important phrases
You can also type in those important phrases that you will often need “Does this have fish sauce?” for example. Once you have your useful phrase, then “star” it. You’ll be able to access your starred phrases with just a touch of a button.
OCR (optical character recognition)
Did you know that Google Translate can translate phrases from the text that is found on an image or through the camera lens? Just click on the camera in Google Translate and you will have several options.
Instant: Point your camera at some text in your target language and see it translate in front of your eyes. Yes. It looks like something out of Harry Potter.
Scan: Use this for an existing image or if you want to keep the image
Import: Use things for images already on your camera roll.
Press that little microphone and you can speak into Google translate and it will transcribe and translate what you are trying to say and you can click on the speaker icon to have it spoken out loud. Of course, you can use this when someone is trying to speak to you and you just don’t understand. This is especially useful when you don’t have the script for the language downloaded onto your phone or a keyboard of that language.
Using the conversation mode, Google Translate will listen for both speakers and toggle between the two. There is even a little help page prompt in the target language so the person you are trying to communicate with understands what you are doing when you thrust a phone towards their mouth.
With all these Google Translate functions, it is worth spending a little bit of time before your trip playing around with them so that you know how it works and their limitations because it isn’t perfect.
Go old school and have a language sheet
Sometimes the old tech is the best. Consider just printing out some phrases and keeping them in your bag for when you need them. On the World Vegan Travel website, we have an editable PDF or you can get it right here. Download it and add the phrases you think you will need, print it out, keep it in your purse and whip it out every time you sit at a restaurant. We also have specific language guides already created We’ve tried to think of the most comprehensive list of commonly needed phrases including some for emergencies and zero waste.
From our sister site (Vegan Home and Travel)
Tip eight: leverage social media
This hashtag is often used by vegan foodies, especially by locals in a city, and is especially helpful on Instagram. You might find something really special that Happy Cow doesn’t even know about yet or some special events.
Facebook groups or other online communities
Each city or even a small town has a Facebook group you can join and ask questions. Try not to waste their time with something you could easily Google yourself, but I have often leveraged Facebook groups to get the lowdown on whether a sanctuary will meet a vegan’s standards or if there is something especially good to look out for. Meetups.com is great for finding out about local events or opportunities to do activism.
Tip nine: use vegan travel professionals
Now if all this sounds like a lot of work and you want to have someone else look after all this for you so you can enjoy your holiday or business trip.
Vegan travel agents
There are some travel agents out there who specialize in arranging travel for vegans and are full-service travel agents. They’ll know the most vegan-friendly resorts out there and will often create a list of resources for you to use when you get to your destination and most of the time this is of no extra cost to you (they work on commissions) or you’ll pay a small service fee.
Vegan tour operators
There are also some companies out there that arrange tours and even group tours which will include anything from general travel expenses (like accommodation and getting you from A to B) to 100% all-inclusive. You choose a style of travel that resonates with you, find an itinerary that you think looks good, and then pay your money and they take care of the rest. World Vegan Travel is a company that specializes in luxury vegan group travel to some amazing destinations in the world from places that are not very vegan friendly at all (they make it a vegan-friendly vacation – like the foie gras-loving southwest corner of France for example) to places that are good for vegans, but just take it to the next level – like Central Italy or Thailand. They work for months to make sure that the experience is just as you might like!
Did we miss any tips? Are there any fantastic tools that we should include? Make sure you let us know in the comments.