This is Part 1 in a three-part series about plant based traveling.
Part 1 - Getting There
I only travel once a year or once every other year to visit my dad and his wife and I only go for three days and two nights so I am not a travel expert but I do think I have the whole traveling plant based lifestyle thing down pretty good.
The most important thing to remember is planning!
One thing I always do is send myself a package at my destination (if I'm visiting family or friends). The package will contain things like travel sizes of my skin care routine, my traveling makeup bag (it has duplicates of the things I use most often and then I pack up a second bag with things I want to use the morning I get ready to go) and things I'd rather not carry with me like gifts or things like that. I'd also send a container of nutritional yeast and a spray bottle of Bragg's Amino Acids (they sell those) because I'm not certain I can always find those at every grocery store and those are important for my trip. (more on that in Part 2)
My experience detailed here will be for a short flight. If you are going to be on a longer flight you may need more planning and more food. You'll need to think ahead and plan your attack a bit more.
I live near Chicago so I fly out of O'Hare airport and I really like O'Hare. It's huge so there is a lot of walking but hey.. it's exercise! Getting there is a journey in itself tho. I prefer to take the earliest flight I can get. The airport seems less crowded and I like getting to my destination by mid-morning. For a 7am flight, I get up at 2 am to leave the house at 3:30 am in order to catch a 4 am bus to the airport. The bus ride is an hour and a half. I try and get to the airport about one and a half hours before my flight leaves. My flight is just under 2 hours so by the time I've reached my destination in Oklahoma, I've been up about 7 hours.
Now, at home I like to eat every 2 to 3 hours so in theory I should only want to eat a couple times between leaving the house and getting to my destination but that is not the case! I usually want to eat every hour when I'm traveling. It might be because I'm moving a lot or it might be stress, who knows? All I know is that I get very cranky and irritated and a little sick if I don't eat on a regular basis.
I try and eat something before I leave but eating at 3am isn't always very appetizing. I will do my best to have a bowl of oatmeal or a whole grain cereal like Grape Nuts, because that is filling and not something I can make easily on the road.
I will not check a bag so I take my carry-on suitcase and a large carry-on tote bag.
In my tote bag I will pack:
- a reusable container of homemade granola (or you can buy a bag) that will have enough for both flights.
- a banana
- an unopened bottle of water (you can't take an open bottle thru security)
- a reusable container with stir fried veggies and brown rice (because I have no problem eating this at room temp) or something like spaghetti marinara. (you can choose whatever food you like, this is just what I do) .. you could also do fresh fruit.
- a plastic fork
- an energy bar like a Luna bar or Clif Bar (bringing two is better or toss a few in your suitcase)
Since I ate before I left the house, I am usually ok on the bus and I try to relax, listen to my iPod, close my eyes and rest.
At the airport I go straight to security and get that over with and I locate my gate so I know where it is. At this point I will usually want something to eat so I decide if I want the banana or the fried rice. I will eat one now and the other on the plane if I get hungry. I fly the cheapest way possible and since my flights are rarely over 2 hours, they don't feed me. The most I get on a flight is a beverage (always water!) and once in awhile I may be given a bag of pretzels. If you are going somewhere that has a longer flight and a meal is offered, order the vegan meal.
Keep your reusable containers and plastic fork because you will need those for the return home.
The granola is there as a back up should you need more food and the energy bar is what you should have on you at your destination at all times in case of a food emergency! An energy bar has saved me on countless occasions when I've been stuck in a car with no meal in sight! If you use your energy bar, replace it immediately. Luna bars and Clif bars can be found in almost any regular grocery store.
Now.. for those you that don't want to pack food... you can find suitable food at the airport but I don't like to take chances and I'd rather eat wholesome food than fast food or overpay for a piece of fruit at the airport.
If you intend on eating at the airport then you MUST take the time to find out what food places are available at each of the airports you will be in. You can do an online search and locate the food vendors ahead of time. You will then know if your choices are McDonald's and Starbucks or Burger King and Cinnabon. (let me just let out a groan here) .. let me just say again how important it is to know ahead of time what will be available!
What you can find at the airport .. just check those labels!
- breakfast foods like pancakes and waffles but they are probably made with cow milk. it's up to you if you're willing to consume it.
- you may be able to get some sauteed or steamed veggies and rice or pasta.
- most airports have a few chain places so you can research that for suitable menu choices
- nuts and trail mixes
- chips (stick with things like plain potato chips, pretzels (some have milk) or plain corn chips
- cookies (Oreos are vegan but certainly not healthy)
- bottled water
Non-chain food kiosks:
- fresh fruit
- pre-packaged salads and sandwiches (almost never plant based)
I really don't recommend eating at any sort of chain but I know people still do. Always do research to find out what chains have plant based foods available and type up a list because you won't remember. Check things like condiments and sauces, as well as individual ingredients like buns and bread. The key to successfully eating at a chain is RESEARCH before you get there.
- Starbucks has a pre-packed meal that is vegan and they offer oatmeal.
- McDonald's has something resembling oatmeal. (Starbucks is a better choice for oatmeal.)
- Taco Bell has bean tacos and burritos and chips. Ask for no cheese or sour cream, obviously.
- most pizza kiosks can make you a cheese less pizza
- if you find an Asian chain they might have rice or noodles and stir fried veggies
- Subway has a veggie sub but get the Italian bread. The wheat one isn't whole wheat, it has HFCS and the other breads all have milk and/or cheese. Stick with mustard as a condiment.
- Quiznos has the means to make you a veggie sandwich but their red wine vinegar isn't vegan.
- Burger King offers a veggie burger but it's vegetarian, not vegan. they use the Morningstar Farms veggie patty.
- you may also find plain baked potatoes (ask for salsa and steamed veggies to top it)
Note: I will be talking more about eating out in Part 3 so that might be helpful with chain places in airports as well!
The rest of the series: