Vegetarians are likely already familiar with all the best places to get a great meal in their own neighborhoods. However, sometimes challenges arise when vacationing somewhere new, particularly when you travel to small towns or to cultures where meat and other animal products dominate local cuisine. There is no reason to let these minor hurdles hold you back from your next adventure. Here is a list of tips that will assure you that there is nothing inconvenient about maintaining a vegetarian diet. You may even find that your destination caters to vegetarians even better than your own hometown.
1. Bring Your Own Healthy Snacks
You never know when you will get stuck in an airport or when the rest stops on your road trip will only have fast food hamburgers, so it is always a good idea to bring provisions.
For a filling snack that will keep up your energy, try Larabars and Clif Bars, which are vegetarian and most are even completely vegan. Also, whole, pre-washed fruit and bananas are easy to eat while on the go. For protein-dense options, pack a bag of raw almonds or hummus that you can eat with pita chips or veggie sticks.
2. Stay Somewhere with a Kitchen
If you are concerned that your travel destination will not have a lot of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, you can be preemptive and book a vacation rental that has a kitchen. This way you can be self-sufficient when it comes to meals and be able to eat something you enjoy. Having the option of cooking will not preclude you from dining out, but it is always nice to have the option for at least one meal per day.
3. Search for Health Food Stores Nearby
Not all neighborhood grocery stores will carry your favorite specialty foods like tofu or dairy-free butter, but most local health food stores do. This is the perfect place to stock up on snacks or pantry staples. One trip to a natural food store can keep you prepared for your entire trip, and will supplement a visit to the local supermarket.
4. Research Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants
It is helpful to research the area where you are going in advance, and the best tool for this is HappyCow.net. You can also download the app to your phone and have it easily accessible anywhere you travel. The website relies on user submissions to map out all the vegetarian and vegan restaurants in any given zip code. One of the best features is that it also lists “vegetarian-friendly” restaurants, which means even if a place does serve meat, you will know if they have substantial vegetarian options so you are not forced to order a side salad as your meal.
If you are traveling in a group of meat eaters and you do not have much say in picking the restaurant, Google is your friend. You will be surprised how many blog results will show up when you do a simple search for something like “vegan options at [insert restaurant name].” The online vegetarian community may have already vetted a restaurant for you, and will give their suggestions on what to order.
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5. Realize Not All Chain Restaurants Are Off-Limits
Image Credit: Jeffrey Deng
If you live in a foodie city that’s rife with independently owned eateries, you may not have high hopes for your food choices in a town that primarily has chain restaurants. Don’t count them out yet, though. More chain restaurants than you may realize have vegetarian options, or menu items that only require a small modification. Download the VeganXpress app and you will have at your fingertips a fairly complete list of vegan food options at all the most popular chain restaurants in the United States. The app will also suggest how to adjust an existing menu to make it fit your diet.
6. Learn Key Phrases in the Local Language
To make sure nothing gets lost in translation when you travel internationally, make sure to carry a “cheat sheet” that lists key phrases. When you are not fluent in the local language make sure you write down how to say things like “I’m vegetarian” and “I do not eat meat or dairy” so you can convey your needs at restaurants or local markets. Having these phrases at the ready is the best way to avoid having unwanted ingredients show up in your food.
This article was written by Paula Ashlee Berg.
Hero image: David Di Veroli