Follow These Easy Tips on How to Eat Vegan While on Vacation!
At the beginning of October, I left for a 10-day trip to Croatia and, although I did manage, I wish someone would have given me a few hints on how to eat vegan while on vacation. It’s not rocket science, but it does require some creativity and a bit of preparation.
Download the best app to eat vegan while on vacation: Happy Cow!
Before you leave, whatever your destination, I strongly recommend you download the Happy Cow app. A companion to the Happy Cow website, the app is much more useful when trying to find the location of a restaurant or food store. The app lets you search for nearby options, either exclusively vegan, vegetarian, or places that have vegan or vegetarian options on the menu.
During my trip to Croatia, I found three vegan restaurants using Happy Cow: one in Split, one in Zadar, and one in Zagreb. I never ended up eating at the restaurant in Zadar, as it was closed because of weather (it’s an outside patio facing the sea, and closed on rainy days). However the meals I had at the other two were wonderful.
You have to pay to download the app, but the map feature is worth the price in itself. In Split, the restaurant was hidden in a back alley and I would have never found it if not for the map. I had to trust that I was going in the right direction as I stepped away from the busy center and found myself in tiny pedestrian streets.
If you use the app and visit some of the restaurants, do write reviews, because as more people do so, the information will become more accurate and more helpful for other vegan travelers.
After using Happy Cow during my vacation, I also started using it for out-of-town trips, with the same great results. I get to discover and test vegan restaurants everywhere I go!
Bring fall-back protein options to eat vegan while traveling
I had anticipated not always having enough protein options while eating out during my trip in Croatia, so I had packed a few bags of almonds. They ended up being very practical, I ate the entire bag, but I wish I would have thought about bringing a few more protein options for the sake of diversity.
In addition to bringing a variety of nuts, pack other food items that will not require refrigeration: vegan jerky, vegan protein bars, vegan nutritional shake powder, and even peanut butter! This last option makes me smile as I write this, because as much as peanut butter is a staple in North America, the darn thing is impossible to find in Europe. They have all kinds of tasty spreads (jams, butter, caramel, chocolate) but no peanut butter. So if like me you are used to starting the day with a few P&J toasts, bringing a small peanut butter jar is a great idea.
Eating Vegan on Vacation is Easier with Your Own Kitchen!
When I first arrived in Dubrovnik, in the South of Croatia, I had rented a small studio with a basic kitchen and, what I would discover upon arriving, a patio with a stunning view of the mountains. I know that a lot of people, when they travel, want to take a break from their work and daily routine, which includes cooking, but I really enjoy making my own food, or at least having the option to make my own food when I feel like it. I usually ended up having breakfast at the studio, and ate there as well on a few evenings. You can use the Happy Cow app to locate grocery stores near by (or ask the owner of the place where you are staying).
All you need in a rental with kitchen is a fridge, a small stove top, basic utensil and cooking tools, as well as some dishes. It’s really a bonus if the place also happens to provide essentials such as oil, salt & pepper, but most place won’t, so plan to either buy in small quantities, or bring from home.
If you are traveling on a budget, hostels will most likely have a communal kitchen. This is a great way to save on meals, make sure you eat vegan while on vacation, and who knows… You might end up crossing paths with fellow traveling vegans! Another option would be to rent a room in an existing house through Airbnb, it would be cheaper than renting the entire place and most people will give you access to their kitchen.
If you are worried about preparing your vegan meals in a kitchen where meat is still being cooked, check out the site Vegvisits where you can rent places to stay and kitchens to use with local vegetarians and vegans. I heard about this site earlier this year, and I’ve never used the service so I’m not sure how easy it is to finds hosts anywhere around the world, but it’s definitely worth a looking into.
How to Eat Vegan in Non-Vegan Restaurants Abroad
The strategies when dealing with non-vegan restaurants while traveling will be the same you’d apply at home, with two exceptions:
- You will be presented with local dishes you might not recognize
- Menus might not be available in English, so non-vegan ingredients will be difficult to identify
No panic, this is quite normal, we travel to experience new cultures and customs! First, take a deep breath. Second, look for dishes that will most likely be plant-based, like side-dishes (rice, veggies, etc.). Although you are not guaranteed that these were, for example, cooked using oil and not butter, they at least start with key ingredients that fit with a vegan diet.
Before you leave, it is always a good idea to write down a few words and their translation to make it easier to navigate foreign menus. Also, you might be able to find tools that will help you explain your dietary restrictions to the staff at the restaurant in the local language. Attempts to express yourself in the local language are usually well perceived, and most people will want to help you (especially in Croatia, the folks I met all over the country were some of the nicest people).
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that traveling will require us to step out of our comfort zone but in the end, we should always try to make it fun and memorable. Happy travels!