As regular readers of the blog will know I love to travel, if it was feasible right now I'd pack a backpack and be off around the world in a split second. Whilst I don't profess to be the worlds most experienced traveller I do travel pretty regularly and I've done the majority of my travelling as a vegan.
This first instalment of Travel Tip Tuesday is all about research. I'm sure that many of you are fly by the seat of your pants kinda travellers but I travel best when I have some vague semblance of a plan. I'm not talking about an hour by hour itinerary or anything just a few pre-trip ideas so that I don't end up missing out on the best a place has to offer. I thought it might be helpful to people planning their vegan adventures to get an insight into how I research my trips so I've put together these tips for ya.
- Find local bloggers, or bloggers who've visited your trip location recently, and read their posts. Get a feel for what's available in your planned travel location. You can also contact local bloggers for super up to date info or to get an answer to a specific question. I get plenty of e-mails asking about where my favourite breakfast's at (Infinity Cafe) or where to get a filling meal for under £5 (Planet India) and I love to help people out.
- Find out what the traditional accidentally vegan or almost-vegan dishes are in the country you're travelling to. Whether this is Spain's Paella or Moroccan Bessara it helps to know what dishes to look out for on the menus of non-vegan restaurants. I've found vegan paella all over Spain just by learning how to ask whether the dish is made with meat or vegetable stock.
Paella from Los Zarzales in Mallorca.
- Google is your friend! Often a quick search for Vegan + the name of the place you want to visit will reveal enough to keep you going for the duration of your trip. Of course this very much depends on where you're going "vegan + Portland" is gonna throw up more info than "vegan + La Palma". Google also has an obnoxious habit of searching for vegetarian instead of vegan, not the same Google, not the same!
- Use Happy Cow. Yes, sometimes places are missing or the information is out of date but it's our job as vegan travellers to fix that. You can always cross reference places on Happy Cow with a Yelp search to make sure the opening hours are correct. I love the Happy Cow app too, the location search function is great if you're in the middle of Ohio and want more than a Clif bar for breakfast - In that situation I used it to find a wonderful health food store where I picked myself up a delicious TLT. Score! One of my favourite things about Happy Cow is having real reviews to rely on when I'm working out what to order at a place I'll probably only get to visit once. This was super helpful when I was recently in Olympia for one meal, thanks to Happy Cow reviewers mentioning their favourite dishes I ended up ordering something amazing.
Vegetarian Almond Chicken from Saigon Rendezvous in Olympia.
- The Vegan Passport. Honestly, I am not the hugest fan of the vegan passport. It will only get you so far and it's quite rude to point a book at someone without attempting to converse in the language of the country you're visiting, another common language or at least frantic hand gestures. I'd say it's an acceptable last resort.
- Another area where the vegan passport falls short is when you're trying to read labels. I've been making these little wallet sized lists of common non-vegan words and their translations for a while now and they're super useful. I love discovering fun treats like accidentally vegan cookies or chocolate when I'm travelling and it's definitely been very handy when sorting the vegan sausages from the egg filled veggie versions in Western Europe.
Exciting treats from Croatia and Spain.
Here's my vegan words template, you just need to use google translate to translate the words into whichever language you need. Here are the ones I've done so far in Swedish, Croatian, German and Spanish.
- Remember that your phone may not work abroad. I know this sounds super basic but the ability to look up a restaurant or health food store's location on your phone's map service is so ingrained that it can be easy to forget that it wont be an option abroad. I always print a google map of my location and mark the vegan dining options, stores and non-touristy places I'm interested in visiting. Make sure to include an actual address (cab drivers don't wanna see your scribbled on map!) and opening hours.
Maps from Zagreb and Seattle.
- There are options to access the internet abroad from your smart phone. For the US I have a T-Mobile pay by the day sim for my iPhone which costs $2 a day if I use it and nothing on the days I don't (It does need topping up every 90 days, or every 365 days if you top up by more than $100) This might not be practical if you're travelling on a super tight budget but it's really great if you'll be visiting somewhere repeatedly. We're looking into getting a mobile phone rental service for our trip to Japan next spring.
When it comes down to deciding where to travel, well, that's totally up to you! I'm sometimes a total food driven traveller, I decided to visit Austin specifically because of their food scene and I ended up loving the city so much that I now want to live there. On other trips I was interested in the city first and the food scene second. Neither of these styles is right or wrong and I've had pretty much equal success when it's come to feeding myself with both approaches - sure, sometimes the food's a little more exciting but I've never starved!
Next time we'll be covering packing and preparing which will include one of my favourite topics, snacks!