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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vegetarian Vacationing 5.21.11

Having to go through life with food restrictions can be a hard obstacle sometimes. Many establishments don’t cater specifically to vegans and vegetarians, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have food on their menu that you can enjoy, even on accident. Of course, most of those items are salads and the iffy garden burger. While I’m not a vegetarian myself, I can appreciate a good meat-free meal, but I don’t I don’t have to wonder if the cook is using stock without realizing it or cooking my food on the same surface as the one that cooks the burgers and steaks. If they do, then it’s not going to make too much of a difference to me, but it will to you, because it makes you food non-vegetarian at that point.

"luau" salad
Not every restaurant is as courteous to vegetarians as I am in my house where we grill our veggie friend’s foods on foil, so it doesn’t come in contact with the “meaty” grill or the meat itself, and use a totally different set of utensils to move them around and serve them. I just don’t think many restaurants realize this kind of care and concern is important in their establishments. I would think if you were being paid for the food you produce, you would pay more attention to those with certain dietary requests. That got me thinking about how if it’s so hard to explain your needs to people in your own country, what about when you travel and you may not speak the language? That’s got to be a million times harder and more frustrating.

I scoured the web and picked some brains about traveling as a vegan and vegetarian and came up with some fun, practical advice and I’m bringing back a “cool travel gadget” from a couple weeks ago that might just be something you want to purchase and take with you on your next trip.
chocolate mousse
Where can you go? While you can get vegetarian food pretty much everywhere, did you know that there are destinations where it is more easily obtained than others? I found the top 10 vegetarian destinations for you (in alphabetical order):
                                    Canada                    Taiwan
                                    Hong Kong              Thailand
                                    India                        United Kingdom
                                    Malaysia                 United States
                                    Singapore               Vietnam

Where can you stay?  Look for eco-lodgings that grow their own food. Most likely they will serve vegetarian and/or vegan food. In fact, we stayed in an eco-lodge when we traveled to Ecuador. While I wouldn’t stay there again, because they have no electricity in the cabins and the result was giant bugs hanging out with your overnight, the menu was vegetarian and everything we ate was delicious. We had a total of 6 meals there and each was different and all the food was grown on their land. It was impressive and the price for our lodging, food included, was very reasonable. The cabins themselves were large, comfortable and amazing, despite the crazy bugs that showed up at twilight.

If you plan to stay in a hotel, ask that you get a room with a fridge, so you can stock your room with foods you can eat. You may also be interested in booking a room with a kitchenette. This is useful for everyone, but even more so for the one that must eat only certain foods. It helps if you can make some of your own meals. Staying for a week or more? Get a vacation rental, with a full kitchen and more space, which will save you money (generally) over a hotel. 

If you don't really want to do the research yourself to figure out where to go and eat, check out VegVoyages. They are a vegetarian/vegan tour group that offer vacations worldwide. Travel anywhere and never worry about finding appropriate dining options on your entire trip.

I'm a big fan of VegNews magazine, even though I'm not a vegetarian. They have fabulously delicious and easy recipes and they feature a new travel destination each issue, which can be found online as well. Each article will tell you must-eat, must-stay, must-shop place and other info for the visiting Vegetarian. Check out the current article here and find past articles on the right side. (Aside from these helpful ideas, you can shop in their store for vegan candy bars, peanut butter cups, marshmallow and other tasty treats.)

Where to eat:
  • Ethnic restaurants are often your best bet for vegetarian and vegan options. Look for things like vegetable or tofu stir-fry, meat-free curries, vegetarian sushi (yes, that exists!) and bean burritos.
  • Opt for the buffet. Buffets have a wide variety of foods on them, generally, so you are more likely to find something that you will eat. If your traveling companions are meat eaters, you’re likely to all be happy with this choice, because you can choose from salads, veggies (cooked and raw), fruits, potatoes, breads and pasta.
  • Farmers markets are another good place to make a stop on your travels. Pick up some local fruits and veggies, breads, spreads and cheeses (or not if you’re a vegan). Chances are that you will find some new favorites this way and you’ll also save money by not dining in a sit-down restaurant.
  • Research your dining options by looking on HappyCow.Net. It has a guide to restaurants that offer vegan/vegetarian entrées, as well as any natural food stores in the area you can shop at.
  • You're always likely to be close to a chain restaurant, no matter where you are, even if that restaurant is the Hard Rock Cafe (on of my personal favorites). Check out PETA's list of menu items at popular chains that are vegan options for you.
  • Download the VeganXpress app. At $1.99, it's another great app to take with you on your travels. It has over 100 popular restaurants and their vegan menu items.
Don’t see anything vegetarian on the menu? Ask for it anyway. Seriously. You should not feel embarrassed to ask for something suitable to your food needs. If they say no, be pushy. They can adapt something they have for you and make it a special order. It should not cost more, because it’s meat-less.

Bring your own flashcards. SelectWisely has some great cards to take with you when you travel to show the wait staff at restaurants or just so you can keep up on translations. They have them for food allergies, people who need gluten-free foods and for vegetarians and vegans. They are bright and laminated and contain the phrase in your language and the language to where you will be traveling. They seem to be a pretty good deal for the price of just $7.50.

BreakAway has similar cards that you can print yourself if you feel like that’s the better way to go. They have a more limited selection of languages. They only have Vegetarian cards to print, so you won’t find vegan or food allergy ones for free here.

As I've said before, Veggie Passport is a wonderful app to travel with, as it translates important vegetarian and vegan phrases into other languages. Pick the phrase you wish to use and the language you need it translated into and then show your phone to your waiter or host. For just $1.99, is a fantastic bargain.

I know I already told you about this fancy insulated bag from PicnicTime, but it's so fantastic, I think it would be perfect for the traveling vegetarian. It's great for packing snacks on the go while you are traveling, both for adults and those traveling with vegetarian/vegan children. Children who eat meat are picky enough, but those with more dietary restrictions are liable to be harder to please. The Tourismo bag is a great addition to your travel bag, because it can keep items warm or cold, has room for a good amount of munchies, like fruit, veggies and sandwiches, along with juice boxes and other drinks.  With all the pockets they have, you will be able to bring along any other necessities as well: cell phone, money, sunglasses, lip balm, sunscreen and more! You'll love it. 

I'm all about free stuff! Well, with Swagbucks, you can earn "bucks" by just doing internet searches and then trade them in for prizes like travel and restaurant gift cards. Swagbucks is celebrating Memorial Day next week with a special Score Four and Twenty Swag Bucks promotion - they'll have 4 special Limited Edition collector's bills available, and if you can snag all four by the end of Thursday, you'll get a bonus 20 Swag Bucks. ALSO, this Thursday they're have a Swag Code Extravaganza, a day filled with fun, games and the opportunity to snag over 40 Swag Bucks worth of codes throughout the day. Be sure to visit Swagbucks all this week for opportunities to win big!

Not a member yet? Sign up through my referral link and enter the code MEMORIALDAY when prompted - it'll pad your account with an extra 50 Swag Bucks on top of the 30 that everyone starts with. Get started earning your reward points today

The Northwest is particularly vegetarian- and vegan-friendly to travel in and around. Dunhill Travel has teamed up with Travel Oregon to bring you one of ten Adventurecations. All you need to do to win is "like" the Travel Oregon Facebook page and fill out the short entry form. Whether you like hiking, biking, kayaking, golfing or other outdoor activities, you'll find an Adventurecation for you!

Seattle's HotelFIVE wants you to stay a night on them. Book 3 nights and only pay for 2 with Portland Perks. Click on the 3rd night free button and fill out the form there. Stay by September 30 for this great deal. The average nightly rate is $121, making your stay an average of $80/night. 

Join me on the awesome new Savvy Living Community sponsored by Ebates. Not only will you learn how to save money by better utilizing Ebates, but you will also be able to read Savvy blog posts and join in discussions and live chats with Savvy Leaders (like me!) to learn how to save money on all aspects of your life. With 21 bloggers who are experts on everything from travel to family life, you're sure to learn a lot of new information, find some great new blogs and even make some friends along the way. Join Ebates.

Got more to add to my tips above? Join my vegetarian traveler discussion in the Savvy Living Community or comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have you traveled somewhere and had amazing veggie food? Have your had good luck with traveling to foreign lands?

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