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Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Traveling Vegetarian 1.8.11

While I’m not a vegetarian, I am friends with many of them and learn a lot of useful things about food substitutes and using vegetarian and vegan ingredients when cooking and baking. Also, I don’t always want to eat meat for every meal, but that doesn’t mean I want to have a boring salad. There are so many meat-free options now and it’s probably one of the easiest times ever to travel and get your dietary needs met, even if you don’t speak the language. You can go out to eat and explain your dining choice everywhere you go and not be forced to find lodging with a kitchen and make your own meals every day. That’s not so much of a vacation as just a change of scenery, since you’d have to go back to your room every time you wanted to eat. There are vegans and vegetarians the world over, so why should you have to miss on some amazing travel opportunities just because you can’t speak the language (or can and just aren’t totally fluent)? The same is true for those with food allergies. If you’re too afraid you might accidentally ingest a peanut or a shrimp, taking a trip won’t be that much fun for you.

So, how do you even find a vegetarian or vegan option when you travel? My favorite word: research. Of course, since I’m writing this blog for you, I’ve done that part for you, too, so you just have to go look at the list and then pick conveniently located options for you. Here is a list of some wonderful websites that offer you listings that suit your needs:
  • My favorite website to find health food stores and veggie-centric restaurants and dining options is HappyCow. They list worldwide options for dining, shopping and sleeping. Yes, they even give you listings of vegetarian-friendly accommodations. If you plan to travel a lot or just like to keep your options open, download the HappyCow app for your smart phone and look up places wherever you happen to be.
  • Vegetarian Travel Guides has a nice state-by-state or city listing for veggie dining, lodging, shopping and more for U.S. travel. Like HappyCow, the information is totally free and the site is easy to use.  
  • VegetarianGuides are great if you’d like a book of information for certain regions that you can take around with you. They have Vegetarian London, Vegetarian Britain, Vegetarian France and in the process of Vegetarian Europe. Purchase online and check out their site.
  • Another website that offers articles and travel books for sale is Vegetarian World Guides. Their most intriguing book is a Vegetarian guide to Disney.
  • VegNews is pretty cool to me and I’m not a vegetarian. It is a magazine and a website that offers different aspects of life to those who’ve chosen to not eat meat. There are plenty of recipes and articles on a lot of different things. In their store you can order vegan candy bars that taste just like a Snickers, Three Musketeers, and other bars which I currently don’t eat for animal testing reasons, but now I can eat these versions (almost) guilt-free. They still have candy bar calories. Up for sale are also vegan marshmallows, peanut butter cups and several other yummy things. VegNews has an awesome travel section that tells you about different destinations and where you should eat and what you should do.

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Sometimes you travel with meat-eaters and need to find a common ground. That works well if you compromise and also if you go to a country where you can convey your eating habits to others who take your order or make your food. It’s not always so easy when you are in a foreign country with a foreign language that you don’t speak all that well or not at all. There are many translating apps for your smart phone, or even better, use an app specifically for your needs:

  • Veggie Passport is a great app that costs $.99 on iTunes. It allows you to convey your food needs via your phone. Choose the message you want to show to your waiter, host or chef, choose the language it needs to be in and you can show them the translation right on your phone screen. The translations have been done by native-language speakers in each language, so you won’t get some weird message that makes no sense when converted. (iTunes also has an app called Allergy Passport that does the same thing for those folks with food allergies.)
  • On The Menu app. Also available through iTunes, for $1.99, this app features over 1,400 commonly used words on menus around the world, so you should never be surprised by an ingredient listed again! Don’t be like my husband and I who went to France, ordered a pizza based on what we could decipher and had this conversation: “Ham sounds good, and artichoke, and cheese. Yeah, we’ll order this one. (the pizza shows up) WTH? Why is there a raw egg in the middle of it?!” I suppose it could have been worse, but this is probably one of our food moments we laugh about most. Who does that? We would definitely have benefited from this app!
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Need some provisions before you start your Vegetarian Vacation Planning? Try baking some of these delicious cookies (picture and recipe from VegNews.com). They also make fun snacks to take with you on your travels:
Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Makes 5 to 7 dozen

What You Need:
1-1/2 cups non-hydrogenated margarine
1 cup unbleached cane sugar
10 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla
4-1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder

What You Do:
1. In a large bowl, beat together the margarine, sugar, water, and vanilla until light and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to form a smooth dough. Cover and chill for 1 hour or until firm. Divide the dough in half, work with one half at a time, and keep the remaining dough covered.

2. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to desired thickness (1/8-inch for crispy cookies or 1/4-inch for soft), cut into shapes with a knife or cookie cutters, and carefully transfer the cookies with a spatula to ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Allow cookies to cool slightly before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.

*For an extra-festive twist, cover the tops of the cookies with melted chocolate and crushed candy canes!

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So, now you know where to eat when you get to wherever you’re going, so maybe you’d like help finding a destination. Here are some of the best deals I found over the course of the week. (Now, I'm off to Seattle to see some sights and check out that Harry Potter Exhibition!)
  • If destinations in Europe are on your must-visit list then American Airlines wants to help you check them off your list with their Europe airfare sale. Purchase tickets by the end of Tuesday, January 11 and book travel between April 3 and June 3 for as little as $199 each way. This is a great deal and one of the best I've seen in a while for flights to Europe. (Speaking of AA, due to commercial disputes, pricing and flights on American have been removed from both Orbitz and Expedia search engines. You can still find them on other booking sites and on the AA website.)
  • Reserve your hotel room on CheapTickets by January 23 and get up to 50% off participating hotels worldwide.
  • Daytona Beach. Have you been to this sprawl of white sandy beaches? Take advantage of these great deals on BookIt, starting at just $36/night for Winter travel, and get freebies like daily breakfast, waterpark passes, room upgrades and more. Save even bigger by adding airfare and making it a package deal. Choose from a long list of flights in all price ranges.

    Why not check out some of these other budget travel articles I've written for the following websites. Please also take a look around once you get there and finish reading, because they are truly helpful and pretty awesome. I hope there will be more added to the list soon, too.

    My Itchy Travel Feet

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