How I Plan Vegan Vacations
One of my most frequently asked questions is "isn't it hard to be vegan when you travel?" Honestly, some places are easier to be vegan than others, but with proper planning, it's super easy to be vegan when on vacay! I plan my trips around food, and if that's something that's of interest to you, then you'll enjoy these travel tips. It's actually quite time consuming, but I'm naturally a planner, so I enjoy it. I usually plan a week before a trip and spend a day or two on each step to break it into more digestible pieces.
Note: These tips are after all flights/accommodations are booked!
Whenever I am visiting a new city, I cast my net wide in terms of what to see/eat/do. Using my expert Millennial skills, I search Google ("Top Things to do at xxx city," "Best vegan restaurants in xxx city"), I browse TripAdvisor, and ask my friends what I should see/do. I also search for local hashtags and bloggers/Instagrammers to see what may be worth visiting and eating. It's easy to be overwhelmed with an abundance of sites to see and meals to eat, but at this stage, I just try to gather everyone's recommendations.
When I travel internationally, I also make an effort to learn local dishes and try to see what can easily be made vegan or is already vegan. It also helps to learn of local vegetarian religions or phrases to help communicate with a group of people who may not be as familiar with the vegan diet.
2) Google Docs (Prioritization!)
Once I realize which art sculptures I need to take a selfie in front of, I begin prioritizing my list. I write down the details of my trip including the length of the trip, when I arrive, when I leave, and when I have to check-in/check-out in order to optimize my time. I then create a skeleton for an itinerary that includes the date, meals available, activities, and rough times. I use Google Docs for this step because it makes it easy to collaborate with other travelers!
At the same time, I begin prioritizing what I want to see/eat/do. For sites and what to do, I would browse reviews of these sites on other review sites like TripAdvisor/Yelp (some international countries use their own "Yelp" like app)/Foursquare (better for International locations) and look at Instagram geo-location tags to see how it looks in photos (shameless, I know). For eats, I browse Happy Cow, Yelp, Instagram, and Google Reviews to see what's worth eating (this also includes specific dishes!). From there, I allocate estimated time spent at each destination to get an understanding of how long it would take to do a certain activity (includes commuting!)
Pro Tip! I pay special attention to the restaurant's hours (nothing is worse than going to a restaurant to see it be closed) and follow them on instagram to know if they have any specials when I go day of!
3) Google Maps
At this point, I usually have more on my list than I can actually do, so I create a personalized Google Map page to pin every place I want to visit. On Google Maps, you can have layers and color code items! First, I create a layer for "Vegan Restaurants," a layer for what other people want to see/eat (we all have non-vegan travel buddies!), and a layer for sites. I assign each layer a color, pin my housing location and airport, and begin mapping all the locations. Once I get an understanding of the geography of the city, I'm able to see where I should go and when.
Here's what a finished map looks like from my SF Trip! It's shareable, and you can also view it on Mobile! :)
Blue food Icons = Food Places on my list
Purple Markers = Food Places recommended to me
Yellow Stars = Places to See
4) Itinerary Planning
Once the map is settled and list is prioritized, I go back to the Google Doc and fill out the details. Now that I have the Google Map, I usually try to allocate full days or half days to one geographical area to avoid commuting too much. I try to map out most meals/snacks and activities, but I always leave some wiggle room for spontaneous activity! Honestly, I probably stuff too many restaurants in my trip and always over-order, so I often end up super full every vacation, but that's what vacation is for!
This is all guidance on how to plan for a vegan trip, but it's always good to just explore without being tied to any plan. Just know what's best for you and your group's travel style. Have fun! And eat, always eat ;)