Spain, France, Italy, Croatia. I took my first trip to Europe last fall. I’d traveled in Andean South America years ago, feasting on quinoa, massive avocados, and delicious produce, but I had no idea what to expect from Europe. Cured meats and cheeses are the kings and queens over there, right?
Throughout the trip, I ate a wide variety of plant foods. It took 13 whole days to get a dud of a meal. I found beautiful vegan food from the hip alleys and cobblestoned streets of Barcelona to the seaside shops in a tiny Croatian village. I indulged in fresh-pressed juices, couscous salads, pizzas, baguettes, chocolates, and the best grapes I’ve tasted in my entire life. I was definitely not deprived!
Below, I’ve compiled some of my most helpful travel tips. With some forethought, you can set all of your food worries aside and be fully present in your adventures!
Look up your destination on Happy Cow (www.HappyCow.net) for a list of vegan-friendly restaurants, and to better understand your general options, research the local cuisine, too. Learn useful phrases in their language like, “I am vegan” and “no eggs/dairy/fish sauce.” Once you’re there, be gracious to those who help you. Please and thank you go a long way.
In addition to researching options, pack travel-friendly snacks like fruit, trail mix, a grain salad, or food bars for the plane (even if you’ve requested a vegan meal) and in case of unexpected events like missing a connection or arriving after everything has closed.
Book accommodations with kitchen access.
Because I had ethical and health considerations, I booked places that had full kitchen access. Best decision ever. Even a fridge or hot plate would be helpful, though. Buy the basics, cook at your place, and store the leftovers for another time. Lentils and grains are super cheap, nutritious, filling, and easy to cook in bulk.
Take advantage of farmer’s markets and produce stands.
Nothing beats portable snacks that come ripe and ready to eat. Nuts and seeds are satiating protein powerhouses, while fruits and veggies are hydrating, full of fiber, and nutrient-rich to keep you energetic and also, ahem, regular while you travel.
Get recommendations from locals
My Airbnb host in Spain raved about his favorite tapas bar but didn’t think it was vegan-friendly. When we stumbled upon it days later, my non-vegan travel buddy wanted to eat there. It turns out they did have vegan food — — most of it vegan already without the need for creative ordering — and it was one of the best meals of my trip. Happy accidents! Even if you don’t ask for advice, look out for where locals eat. Don’t follow the tourist droves. The locals know what’s up.
When you’re out of luck, make a beeline for the Chinese food.
How many times have you searched for decent vegan options somewhere in the U.S. and found solace in a Chinese restaurant? If you really can’t find anything suitable around, seek out the Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern restaurants and the like for some grub.
Be a flexible foodie (with your preferences; not your morals)
At home, I eat a certain way for health and healing, but these habits aren’t hard and fast restrictions. I don’t feel like a million bucks when I eat gluten, but I don’t have Celiac either. I wasn’t gorging on gluten, but I ate it here and there without anything major resulting. It was first and foremost in importance for me to make sure my food was vegan. I didn’t fret over some gluten, sugar, or processed ingredients here and there. On that note…
This flexibility does not extend to my ethical choice to abstain from animal foods. People often feel they’ll miss the experience of local cuisine if they stay vegan during international travels, but that’s just not true. Take France for example. You won’t be nibbling on madeleines or ordering quiche Lorraine, but you can still enjoy plenty of regional specialties (hello, beautiful baguette, bright red currants, and dark chocolate orangettes!).
From feasting on figs (you guys: those figs, I die!) straight off the tree in Croatia to munching on incredible vegan pizza in Rome, if you’re looking for the authentic experience, being vegan won’t hold you back. Happy traveling!
Marissa Podany, VLCE, is the founder of Vegan and Beyond Lifestyle Coaching where she guides veg-curious and health-conscious individuals along their paths to cruelty-free living. Some of her specialties include plant-based diets, budget vegan, raw foods, vegan with food allergies, and nontoxic living. In addition to her passion for veganism, she is a doting dog mama, shinrin-yoku enthusiast, meditation devotee, and a punk at heart who’s always down to dance. Find out more at www.VeganandBeyondCoaching.com and connect on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.