Planning your next vegan holiday? Here’s my top vegan travel tips
My first holiday as a vegan had me excited, but also wondering what are the vegan options over there – and how do I find them?
Tackling unfamiliar foods and a language barrier had me concerned, so even before going I was googling things like “vegan travel” and “vegan holiday” for ideas and advice. Some things I planned ahead for, others were figured out while I was there. In just ten days I discovered a lot.
This page is a compilation of my top vegan travel tips. Some discoveries I expected, others surprised me.
First things first, you’ve got to get to your destination. That means vegan food on route. Travel and food can be tricky even when you’re not vegan. Options at stations and airports may be limited – and they always reduce on the secure side of a customs border (expect to pay more too!). Add some tight connections times and you might be in for a rough ride.
I like keeping things simple, so a packed lunch is great for the travel portion of the holiday. Bringing it means you can just relax and eat wherever and whenever it suits you.
You can still check out the train buffet car or station cafe for vegan food – but having packed vegan food means these extras are a choice, not a necessity.
Once you get to your destination, you’ll need an evening meal. You’ll likely be tired and it may be late by the time you arrive, so it’s good to have a plan. Because we stayed self-catered in a caravan we packed some dry pasta and a packet of sauce for the first night. These items are robust and light enough for travel, and they’re easy to make.
If you’re not self catered – check out the local food places at your destination. Our next holiday has us arriving late at Zurich train station – which has a pizza restaurant in the station. And for easily veganising the menu, pizza is awesome – which leads on to the next tip…
You can veganise the menu!
You might be lucky and have completely vegan restaurants at your destination. Or at least ones with vegan options. You don’t have to wait until you’re there to find out though, because happycow.net list vegan and vegetarian restaurants all over the world. They also have an app which uses your location to show you what’s available nearby.
However, we were in a remote location in the South of France, so it wasn’t surprising to discover no vegan restaurants. That doesn’t matter though, because menus can be adapted. Crucially, if you remember just one thing from this article – it’s always good news when you see a pizzeria!
Pizza restaurants are everywhere, and nearly all of them can be easily veganised by asking for no cheese and extra vegetable toppings.
It’s not just pizza though. A huge variety of dishes can be adapted. Like this fresh salad at our campsite restaurant that just needed the boiled eggs replaced.
Rather than just removing non-vegan ingredients from a dish, ask your waiter if they’ll substitute with something vegan. Typically, I’ll keep it simple and ask to sub with more of an ingredient already in the dish. For example extra mushrooms on cheese-free pizza, or replace the bacon in a salad with extra avocado or nuts.
Translator apps are essential
I know very little French beyond the basics – so we used Google translate to fill in the gaps. There’s an online version, but it’s better to install the app to your phone before going. With the app installed you can also download any languages you might need for completely offline use.
Fortunately, packaged food is pretty simple to tackle with an app. There’s no grammar to deal with, just a list of ingredients, and typically each one will be clearly separated by a comma. I just had to type them in, and google translate worked flawlessly for this task.
I wouldn’t recommend entering the entire ingredients lists though. It’s faster to find vegan foods by an elimination process. At minimum learn the names for eggs and milk in the local language, which makes it easy to skim read packaging and narrow down to the foods that are most likely to be vegan, then translate any unknown ingredients to be sure.
Translator apps also have limitations
I was really excited to put google translate’s ‘instant camera’ feature to the test. The idea is just aim your smartphone camera at some text and it’s instantly translated on the screen – sort of turning your camera in to a language translating lens. I was excited, it sounds fast, seamless and easy.
However, we found this feature struggled with large amounts of text – like those found on many packages. It also gave some pretty random translations too. Low light levels caused problems, and so did shiny packaging and fancy fonts. Each real world situation seemed to be creating variables it didn’t like. We kept trying, but it just wasn’t working.
I’d highly recommend a translator app – but the more complex features may be less effective!
I’m sure there will be a time when we just wave our phones over a menu or packet to translate it, but that moment isn’t quite here yet. Still, it’s a great app for translating unknown words and short sentences, and it’s staying on my phone for our next holiday.
Whole foods are easy!
Simple, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits and nuts are the easiest vegan options to identify. Minimally processed foods like dried fruits and roasted nuts are a close second, since their brief ingredients lists won’t keep you too busy with that translator app.
We brought a lot of foods like these for snacking and packed lunches. Dried fruits and nuts made excellent, nutrient-dense additions to our packed lunches when going out for the day.
Our first breakfast (pictured above), all brought from the single – and extremely small – local shop contained a number of these items. They’re universal foods, and many will be available wherever you go.
Soy milk also made a surprise appearance. Some longer life vegan items are making the first steps in to small shops now, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them.
If you want to really dive in to the local food, bigger cities tend to be better
People go on holiday for many reasons, and being vegan is no limit to travel. Personally, we went to visit friends and explore the location. I loved everything we ate on holiday, but the South of France isn’t a hidden vegan paradise – it’s a place filled with delicious food that is sometimes incidentally vegan, and menus with dishes that can be veganised.
However, if food is high on your holiday wish list and you’re wanting to try more of the local specialities – or at least the vegan interpretations of them – bigger cities will typically offer you a lot more possibilities.
Big city or small village, wherever you end up and whatever you do, enjoy your holiday!
If you have any suggestions or questions about vegan holidays and travel, let us know in the comments?