Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Travel Tip Tuesday - Research.

Hey, hey! It's Travel Tip Tuesday ya'll!

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 Yes, sometimes places are missing or the information is out of date but it's our job as vegan travellers to fix that.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 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!

43 comments:

  1. Great tips! Food is my favorite way to get to know a city so I'm a huge fan of looking into traditional accidentally vegan foods.

    Love the idea for this series!

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  2. The vegetarian-vegan online search glitch has happened to me so many times, but it never occured to me that it might actually be google's fault. That would explain a lot :D

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  3. those are some great tips! in the first year after our transition to a plant based diet. travelling used to be the scariest thing:)

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  4. Gah - yes! Why does Google do that? So not helpful. Thank heaven for Happy Cow and Google Maps!

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  5. Great travel tips :) A definite +1 to people adding missing places to HappyCow. That website has made eating out so much easier for me as a vegan! I also always try and remember to review any place I go to, because it helps show that the place is still open/has vegan food/is worth visiting (or not).

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  6. Love your tips, Jojo, espesh as I now have the travel bug-a-lug! Pack your backpack and book a ticket to Sydney - stat!

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  7. AAAAH! I love love love love love that you are doing Travel Tips Tuesday. What a genius idea. You are I are very similar travellers! Right down to the printed out google maps covered in notes. I never thought of making an ingredients list to bring with me though - what a mastermind you are! I am totally going to do that next time I travel abroad. And now I desperately want a box of those Croatian cookies. xoxoxo

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    1. That's awesome, we'll have to travel together sometime Amey! I bet it'd be so much fun. And thank you, for some reason I felt super nervous about writing / publishing this post and it's great to hear that fellow vegan travellers enjoyed it!

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  8. Great tips. I use Happy Cow to death when traveling.

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  9. This is such a good theme idea! I love the ingredients list, and printing maps out is so simple but genius- I always forget and then find myself scrambling to find a Starbucks to sit outside and steal enough wifi to get a map loaded. Your way leaves more time for the eating part!

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    1. Haha, I know the feeling and it's totally the reason I started making the maps!

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  10. I loooove this idea! I'll be reading eagerly; I haven't done A LOT of travelling but I'm starting to, and I lovelovelove trip planning!

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    1. Oh yay, awesome. I lovelovelove planning too!!

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  11. This is fantastic and I can't wait to read more! I am going to Morocco in October. My first time traveling abroad as a vegan and I want to be well prepared. It's almost as if you posted this with me in mind. Looks forward to next weeks when you talk about snacks. That's a favorite on mine as well.

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  12. How much do I love your paper maps dude! Haha.
    SO MEAN of you to put a picture of the Napolitanke up when I just told you I ran out. I'm very sad.
    Great tips otherwise, meanface :)

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  13. These are some really great tips. I do a lot of these myself. I'm all for research. I never want to starve especially if i'm going somewhere I think might be vegan-unfriendly. HappyCow so far has served me really well in places like Puerto Rico, and Germany.

    I never thought to find local vegan bloggers and check their blogs or ask them questions, that's a good one.

    I also never thought of making a word list in other languages. I'm going to have to start doing that. When it comes to French, Spanish and German i'm pretty good at knowing what the basic food words are but things like whey or lactose I don't always get.

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  14. I wish I travelled more, but I'm still gonna use yr tips sitting at home in my room

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  15. This is incredibly useful! What great tips! Like you, I've been frustrated when Google thinks that vegetarian and vegan are the same thing, and so I always type in vegan with quotes around it. Maybe someday Google will catch up that there's a big difference!

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  16. Awesome travel tips! I always do my research but there's been a few times I've been lucky enough to stumble upon vegan food at unlikely places. Which is always nice but best to be prepared. :-)

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  17. Great post!

    What is the vegan passport? I was stuck once in Thailand at a restaurant where no one spoke English or could understand my "thai accent" for the word vegan... but I had printed out the word from the Internet and glued it on my travel book. The waiters understood immediately =)

    For the Google thing, I think if you put the word "vegan" between brackets, it solves the issue.

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    1. Good question, I've added a link in the post! And thanks for the tip about the brackets, I totally didn't know that and I'll be using it next time.

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  18. You're blog is one of the first things I check out when making travel plans! You're Barcelona write was great.

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  19. I do a lot of research before travelling, too. But I am not nearly half as organised as you. Great tips, Jojo. Those language templates are such a helpful thing.

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  20. Great suggestions! I am a super planner when I travel, hours are spent before I go scouring Happy Cow and websites and carefully crafting a Google map. LOL
    When you go to Japan, I can highly recommend Rentafone! I used them to hire a wi-fi device so I could use the wi-fi on my phone. The service was great and it was so reasonably priced, absolutely worth it as Japan does not have a lot of wi-fi.

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    1. Yes, that's totally what I've heard too. We'll definitely get the rentafone service.

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  21. Another way to get round Google thinking vegan and vegetarian are the same thing is to choose 'verbatim' as a search option, then it just looks for the words you're searching rather than trying to find what it erroneously thinks are synonyms!

    It's a bit of a pain because you have to click 'search tools' then there's an option that says 'all results' with a drop down, click the arrow then choose 'verbatim'. Knowing that has saved me a lot of frustration though!

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    1. Wow, such a rad tip. I'm gonna try that and I'll have to add it to a later post in the series!

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  22. Really good post. I love researching places before I go.

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  23. I love Happy Cow! I can't wait for their cookbook to come out next summer!

    Also, those accidentally vegan treats looks amazing. Not the best thing for me to be ogling at 8AM, but still....

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  24. Haha, I totally agree re: the vegan passport. I've had one for years and always been too embarrassed to show it to anyone!

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  25. Not the same, Google!! Your first bullet was invaluable; Portland bloggers were practically my travel agents when I visited in 2009, and you weren't too shabby when I came to England ;-)

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  26. Google drives me batty with that! It makes it such a pain in the ass to serch for things. I'm a total researcher, I always have to do a bit of planning before we go anywhere, it beats missing out on amazing places because you didn't know about them. Really great post Jojo!

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  27. I just read yesterday British Airways are going to have a direct London to Austin route starting in March and I immediately thought about you. I'm a big researcher too. I love guidebooks and I'm so worried that they are going to go away soon, the internet just isn't as good! I think the PPK is a great resource too.

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    1. Yes!! I read that yesterday too and we're already looking at flight prices and working out when we can come back. I see a 2014 visit happening for sure!

      I love the PPK for trip research too, it's awesome to get tips from people who live where you're headed.

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  28. Brilliant tips! I love Infinity Cafe and Iydea in Brighton! X

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  29. Your wallet-sized card idea is brilliant!! I've saved it to my Dropbox and am definitely using it on my next trip! I love finding vegan options in the supermarket (I love those chocolate-cherry Croatian biscuits!) but I've always just had to go by the English or Spanish ingredients list, and not buy the stuff that didn't have it translated to English. Awesome tips. Another resource I like is Couchsurfing - don't even have to use it as a place to stay, can just use it as a place to speak to other vegans.

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    1. Awesome, I'm glad opening a dropbox account and converting these into PDF's (not so easy for a non-techy person) so that I can share them has been totally worth it already!

      I haven't used Couchsurfing much yet but I've heard that both there and meetup.com are great for meeting up with people whilst you're travelling.

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  30. These are great travel tips! Thanks for sharing!

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  31. I'm such a dork, it would never have occurred to me to just show the phrases to *other people* - I practiced saying things in the languages I needed and kept it with me for reference. I'm sure my pronunciation was off nearly every time, but I feel like the effort was appreciated and I was understood - at least as far as figuring out food goes! Figuring out cold medicine...was another story.

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  32. Quick correction of the Swedish. Cream should be translated as grädde. Kräm is cream in the sense of a cream rather than the dairy product cream, so lots of it is vegan.

    Because of how composite words are made also look out for these within words. Eg, skummjölkspulver = skimmed milk powder, heläggspulver = powdered whole eggs.

    There are also E-numbers beeswax/bivax is E901, shellac/shellack is E904, carmine/karmin (sometimes named koschenill) is E120.

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