Travel Tips

#1 – Plan Ahead!


In my opinion, there is nothing worse than arriving, hungry, in a great new place with a lot of terrific restaurants but, because you’re a vegetarian, you’re not sure where you can go and get a filling meal.  So, you wander into a steakhouse and end up paying a lot of money for pasta primavera and a Caesar salad (hold the dressing) or, even worse, you succumb to the nearest pizza place or Subway sandwich shop, where you end up with processed cheese on stale bread.  Yuck.

To avoid these scenarios (and missed opportunities for experiencing your destination), you must RESEARCH BEFORE YOU TRAVEL.  This is especially important if you’re going to a place that likely will have limited vegetarian options.  As I mentioned in my post about Birmingham, Alabama, I invested as much time researching restaurants as I did museums and other sites before embarking on a civil rights history tour of the American South.

Most research can be done online.  My favorite resources are listed on the right side of this page.  OpenTable, Urbanspoon, CityEats, All Menus, and Menu Pages are best for travel within the United States, especially if you’re going to a major metropolitan area.  If you’re going to New York City, I also recommend the restaurant section of New York MagazineTrip Advisor and the New York Times Travel Section are great for international travel.  On these websites, as well as on Yelp, you can search for restaurants using filters like “neighborhood” or “cuisine.”


OpenTable is one of my favorite resources for researching restaurants before traveling to a new destination.

 
Although you might find some vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants using the “vegetarian” filter,” I don’t recommend limiting your search this way.  In my experience, many first-class restaurants offer excellent vegetarian options, even if they don’t self-identify as vegetarian or vegetarian friendly.  Instead, look up restaurants based on their reputation, location, or your cuisine preference.  On the other hand, using the term “vegetarian” to search user reviews might lead you to places where other vegetarians have had luck at excellent non-vegetarian restaurants. 

If you find a restaurant that looks good, but you don’t see anything on the menu that you can eat, don’t give up!  Again, for whatever reason (and I hope my website will help change this), many restaurants don’t advertise all of the ways in which they accommodate vegetarians.  Indeed, Oyamel, one of my favorite restaurants in Washington, DC, offers a separate vegetarian menu to customers upon request, but for some reason does not display the vegetarian menu on its website.  The bottom line is that online research might not be enough, and you might need to call or stop by a restaurant to determine whether it’s a place where you can eat. 

If you’re unable to find sufficient information before you leave, set aside time the first time day of your trip to figure out your options.  If you’re staying in a resort or nice hotel, the concierge will likely have a book of menus from local restaurants that you can peruse.  Again, if you don’t see anything that you can eat, don’t give up!  Call the restaurants or, if you don’t speak the language, ask the concierge to call for you, and ask what they can do to accommodate you. 

 

#2 – Don’t Settle


If you haven’t planned ahead (I admit that you won’t be able to do this for every meal), and you find yourself in a place that does not appear to have anything that you can eat, don’t be shy!  Nothing irks me more than watching a fellow vegetarian settle for bread and salad because the person feels too ashamed to speak up.  First, there is no reason to be ashamed.  Vegetarianism is a healthy lifestyle, and we should proudly embrace it.  Second, it’s important to let restaurants know that they have an important customer base that they should not ignore.  Finally, you might be surprised! 

Last summer, for example, I found myself in a small, sleepy town on a Caribbean island.  It was the middle of the afternoon, and everything was closed except for a small bar, which had nothing but burgers and fried fish on the menu.  I told the bartender that I was a vegetarian, and his face lit up.  The bar’s chef also was a vegetarian (for health reasons) and was more than happy to accommodate me.  He quickly prepared this snack of mini arepas, and they hit the spot.


These delicious mini arepas were made especially for me in a place that had no vegetarian options on the menu.

Similarly, some of my best meals have been in New Orleans at restaurants that had no vegetarian options on their menus. The best chefs (and there are many in New Orleans) will happily accommodate you. 


#3 – Eat a Big Breakfast


As previously mentioned on this website, I am a vegetarian, not a vegan, so I have no problem eating eggs.  In my view, the most important thing you can do when you are traveling, especially if you are in a place where it might be difficult to find good vegetarian food, is to fill up on a big, protein-rich breakfast.  I love hotel breakfast buffets, where you can get made-to-order omelets, potatoes, and fresh fruit.  In fact, before booking a hotel, I often check the hotel restaurant’s menu and reviews to make sure they serve a good breakfast, and then book the room with breakfast included to save money.  If you eat a big breakfast, it will be easier to make it through the rest of the day, even if you're stuck with salad and bread for dinner.

Filling up on a big breakfast will help you get through the day if you're
visiting a place with limited vegetarian options.