I’ve been vegetarian all of my adult life, and all of that time I was sincerely convinced that it’s pretty challenging to travel as a vegetarian. That was before I decided to finally make one step further and follow plant based diet.
Now I see how easy it was before and I know what real challenges are.
Traveling as vegan becomes easier with every year, especially if you travel to bigger cities. There are vegan bars, bakeries and breakfast places popping up everywhere. There are still however vegan-unfriendly zones which you cannot escape while traveling. I’m talking about flying.
Somehow airports and most airlines remain few years behind in this area, not only forgetting about people with special dietary requirements, but also totally disregarding health concerns. Airports are a junk-food lovers paradise and vegans hell.
Fortunately there are some ways to survive this hell.
TIPS ON HOW TO SURVIVE FLYING AS VEGAN:
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CHECK IF YOUR AIRLINE PROVIDES VEGAN OPTIONS
Some airlines provide really decent options for various food requirements (decent in the air standards of course). I recommend that you check it out before your flight, better yet before buying your ticket. Vegan meal needs to be pre-ordered, usually at least 24 hours before the flight. Don’t count on your luck that they will have extra portion if you forget to order one – due to limited space on the plane they really have everything planned and counted.
Airlines flying to Asia, like Quatar or Emirates usually offer some pretty nice vegan meals including Indian curries with rice, dahls, mango chutney and so on. With most airlines though you will have to survive on boiled potatoes and some bland veggie stew. That’s still better than nothing.
Here’s a very handy list of airlines that provide vegan food options and additionally information how long in advance you need to order. I would still check with the airline directly before buying my ticket.
The thing is that those options are available only on long haul flights. During shorter flights you’ll usually find one or two vegetarian options, but not vegan. That’s when my second tip how to survive flying as vegan comes to the rescue.
BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
It seems to be the obvious option, but not everybody knows they can do that. Yes, we can bring our own food on-board, but there are some minor restrictions. It’s better not to take any liquid things – for example soy yogurt (if above 100ml) is risky as it may be treated as liquid (not to mention it can burst open inside your bag).
There are also some local restrictions, like not to bring meats or certain fruits to US. While meat obviously does not concern us, fruits can be a problem. Simple solution – just make sure you eat all the fruit you take on-board before you leave the plane.
So what are the best options for a vegan to take on-board?
– sandwiches with things that don’t go bad easily (hummus and cucumber, peanut butter, jam, vegan cheese and lettuce)
– bananas (my personal favorite – you can eat them without making your hands dirty) and apples
– protein bars (you can buy them or make your own)
– dried fruits like dates, apricots, figs..
– mix of nuts (make sure to choose unsalted mix)
– vegan instant oatmeal cup (they have hot water on every flight)
It’s a great idea to get a reusable plastic container with fork or spoon and use it to pack a salad, couscous or rice with veggies. Just make sure this lunch box is leak proof. Additionally, while journey, you can take it to restaurants or food markets to pack your to-go meals. That’s fantastic Eco-friendly solution.
You can check out this one:
or this one:
Did you already read my post WHAT TO PACK IN CARRY-ON LUGGAGE – MUST HAVE FOR FLIGHT AND AFTER ?
EAT HEARTY MEAL BEFORE YOU LEAVE
It’s always easy to deal with limited food options if you’re properly fed and rested, that’s why I try to get a proper breakfast after decent sleep before a flight. Nothing angers me like struggling to get something edible while I’m tired and hungry.
READ THE LABELS
Sometimes the food that you wouldn’t even consider can surprisingly prove to be plant based. Unfortunately it’s usually the case with processed food we would rather avoid in our everyday life.
I wasn’t really hungry on this flight to Cyprus, but I wanted some snack to accompany the wine I bought. When I read the label on the pack of Pringles I was quite surprise to find out they were vegan, I gave it a go. Something I would never choose to eat under normal circumstances, but hey we are a bit out of ordinary situation while flying, so I don’t judge very harsh my choices while on the way.
That’s how we arrive at my next tip.
DON’T DESPAIR AND DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF
In my everyday life I try to follow healthy whole food plant based diet (WFPB diet). I cook a lot and I make sure to get loads of fresh fruits and veggies. That’s very easy to do at home, but I’ve also been rather successful in following such diet in most places I travel to. Unfortunately “getting there” is the part where I usually fail. I used to feel bad that I ate some French fries or pack of oreos on the way, but lately I let it go and I’m no longer bothered.
If you’re not the stewardess, who flies few times per week you will be fine eating something less healthy on the airport or on-board. It is the habits that you practice everyday that matter.
In the end I’d rather eat some processed but plant based food than something considered healthier, but containing animal ingredients.
LOOK FOR PLACES WHERE VEGAN OPTIONS COULD BE MADE
That’s the trick I use in every place that obviously lacks vegan options.
Find a Starbucks-type bar where they are preparing sandwiches or salads from scratch instead of serving ready meals. Even if there are no vegan options displayed, look for the closest match (for example sandwich with veggies and cheese) and just ask for one ingredient to be removed from the recipe. I’m pretty sure there will be no problem with that. All you need to do is to state clearly what you want in your sandwich and what should be replaced. Don’t just say – “please make it vegan”. That’s how we reach my last tip how to survive flying as vegan.
LEARN HOW TO ASK FOR VEGAN FOOD IN RESTAURANTS
In the perfect world everyone if not being vegan themselves would at least know what it means. Needless to say the world is far from perfect and majority of people, yes even those working in gastronomy, has no clue what vegan means.
That’s why I always try to explain very clearly what I expect from my food. Make sure to mention that you don’t eat eggs and milk, as those are the ingredients that are quite often hidden in the dish. Give the examples of what you can eat and don’t be shy to ask questions. Clear and calm communication will always get you further than expecting people to guess what exactly do you need.
I have one more mini tip, which actually falls under ‘how to order vegan food’ category, but it may seem a bit controversial.
SAY YOU’RE ALLERGIC
‘Fortunately’ for vegans, milk, eggs and diary are rather common allergens. If you’re not sure you’ll be treated seriously and you might get some unwanted ingredient in your meal use the ‘allergic card’. My experience proves that in most cases your request will be treated much more seriously. No one will deny amending a meal if you have a medical condition.
I understand you may feel awkward saying something that isn’t entirely true, but this is something I call a white lie. Nobody gets hurt and your belly is happy. I’d rather be well-fed while traveling than be bothered by complete honesty with someone I’ll most likely never see again.
HOW TO SURVIVE FLYING AS VEGAN
I hope this post will help you survive your next flight. With proper preparation and knowledge what to expect traveling as a vegan is not that bad as it seems.
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