When traveling for leisure, you’re able to eat what you want, where you want, when you want. But traveling for work is a horse of a different color.
It can be especially tricky when you throw the V-word into the mix. You’ve got to do a lot of pre-travel prep and once you’re there, it’s a lot of investigating and creativity.
Here are some ideas that I tried on my most recent work trip that helped me stay satiated.
Tell people you’re vegan
A very important first step when traveling for work is to contact the event coordinator (if there is one) and let that person know that you are vegan. That way, if there are any coordinated meals (like buffet or a pre-determined menu) you will have a better chance of having something to eat. Be sure to clearly define what “vegan” means so they don’t get it mixed up with vegetarian.
After contacting the person in charge of the meals, I was told, “I have to warn you that I’m not sure how well the hotel will be able to accommodate a vegan diet but we’ll do our best.” It was at this time that I also found out that, out of 180 people, I was the vegan.
Thankfully, at one of the two coordinated dinners, I had a full and satisfying meal that even the non-vegans wanted. The second dinner was a buffet and nothing was labeled so I didn’t want to risk it. Thankfully there was a fruit platter so I loaded my plate with that.
Scour the menus
If you know ahead of time which restaurants you will be going to, check out the menu online. If you don’t see any sufficient vegan options, call the restaurant and let them know you are coming. Ask them if any of the items on the menu could be made vegan or if there is anything off the menu that the kitchen could whip up.
I did exactly that. The only option they gave me was farro (a grain) and veggies in olive oil. After seeing their menu with such flavorful sounding dishes, I felt
frustrated that they would serve something so boring. It made me feel like an inconvenience.
When I got to the restaurant, I spoke with our waitress and again felt like they weren’t willing to put the effort in to create a dish they were proud of. I ended up with the farro and veggies. Not being fully satisfied, I went back to my hotel and had a couple Clif bars.
Bring the good stuff
Also before you leave, go grocery shopping for food to take with you on the plane and food that will hold you over if you’re not able to eat what’s served. This is one of the most important steps because it will ensure that you always have something to eat.
I chose to bring dried apricots, dried peaches, Clif bars, dates and bananas. Dried fruit and Clif bars travel very well. They don’t get smushed or ruined if you shove them in your carry-on. And the dates we’re protected in my suitcase because they were in a plastic container.
The bananas on the other hand got pretty beat up. I would still recommend bringing them, though. Packing not-quite-ripe bananas allows them to ripen on the way there and throughout your trip. If I bought some at the grocery store once I got to my destination, they never would have ripened in time. I would just recommend packing them in something that protects them.
Have blender, will travel
Something we may not think about is bringing our beloved appliances with us. Just because we’re traveling doesn’t mean we have to leave them behind and only eat what’s there. I got this idea from Mr. and Mrs. Vegan. If you have any small appliances that make food prep easier, pack them in your suitcase!
I brought my Bullet blender with me to make smoothies. I scoped out the nearest grocery store and walked over the day I arrived and bought fresh fruit to make smoothies each morning (along with the dates and bananas I brought with me). If I owned a rice cooker, I probably would have brought that with me to make lunches or dinners.
What’s plan B?
When on your work trip, always remember to never rely on someone else to feed you. It’s great if you’re able to eat something from the buffet or if something special is prepared for you but what if that doesn’t happen? What if there is nothing for you to eat?
This is where the creativity I mentioned earlier comes into play. Investigate which restaurants and grocery stores are nearby where you could pick up a quick meal if needed.
This came in handy for me during lunch time in particular. Lunches were always buffet-style and the only vegan options were carrots or potatoes, which were both drowning in oil. Rather than torment my body with all that oil, for lunch on day 1 I ran down to the hotel restaurant and ordered pasta with marinara and veggies. This is always a fantastic go-to meal wherever you’re at because most restaurants have the ingredients to make it.
I mentioned earlier that I went to the closest grocery store to pick up fresh fruit for morning smoothies. I went back to that same grocery store for lunch on days 2 and 3. They had a section where I could order fresh food to go. So one day I ordered a burrito with rice and beans and the next day I shared a vegan pizza with a curious coworker.
Take charge of the food you eat so that work travel doesn’t derail the hard work you put in at home. Share your vegan travel tips in the comments!