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Staying Vegan While Traveling for Work

Today, we’re talking about traveling for business.  To some, the prospect of business travel brings excitement; to others, it inspires dread.  And, if you’re a person who is trying out or already practices a plant-based lifestyle, you might be panicking: whatever will I eat?!

I see you waiting patiently in the security line, scoping the fast-food joint across the way, and I’m here to tell you there’s a better way!  You see, while I was transitioning to a veg lifestyle, I was also a consultant, traveling almost 60% of the time (yipes!).  So, in addition to picking up some tips and tricks along the way, I can also show you how to fashion a scarf into both a pillow and a blanket.  But, that’s for another post…

The good news: No matter where your work takes you, there are so many ways to make business travel bearable and even joyful.  Here are some of my favorite strategies for surviving life as a plant-based nomad:

A real snapshot of my unpacked food (and an easy-to-prepare spicy miso soup) in a hotel room. So glam.

To Pack:

For the Plane, Train, or Automobile:

  1. Water-dense fare in your carry-on to keep you hydrated, such as fruit (citrus is a big winner here, because it can also help ward off airborne illness) and veggie sticks (a melange of celery, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and peppers are tasty and pretty to look at when you’re sitting in coach staring at the snoring guy next to you)
  2. Protein- and fiber-rich foods like hummus, seaweed snacks, kale chips, raw nuts, and whole-grain crackers
  3. A refillable water bottle.  Many airports now provide free filtered water stations with cold H20.  Money in your pocket and plenty to drink.  Holla!

For the Room:

  1. Easy-to-prepare meals and snacks, like vegan protein bars, soup and oatmeal packets, nuts, smoothie mixes, nut butters, and any other easy to travel with, non-liquid fare (our last guest poster, Our Hen House’s Jasmin Singer, travels with nutritional yeast in a Ziplock baggie, and we heart her for that), and any implements you may need.  Fun fact: You can fashion a spoon from a coffee stirrer, but why do that when you can just bring a spoon?  Yeah, take it from me – bring a spoon. Better yet, score extra green cred for carrying a whole set of lightweight and darling sustainable utensils.
  2. Things that make you feel relaxed and comfortable.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but for me, bath salts, my favorite PJs, and a yoga mat are essential work travel take-alongs.  For you, it might be a scented candle, your favorite tea, a beloved pillow case, or pics of your family.  Feeling connected to home will help you to emotionally stay-the-course with a healthy lifestyle.
  3. Gear that helps you stay active. Traveling takes it out of you.  To ensure you’re feeling balanced, pack your athletic shoes or comfy clothes for stretching.  There are many awesome ways to stay active on the road – Check out MapMyRun or ask the concierge for safe, tested run/walk routes, bring DVDs from home, or see if the hotel offers classes or has ExerciseTV via FitforBusiness.  I also love doing workouts in my room via YogaGlo on my computer, or finding a nearby studio to try out.

To Ask or Research in Advance:

  1. Research the airport or your route.  Many airports now offer great veg fare like this beauty I picked up from Tortas Frontera in the Terminal 1 at Chicago O’Hare.  Also, many find that Subway is a formidable option when traveling by car.  Nearly every “Oasis” boasts one, and you can get subs loaded with veggies – or at select restaurants - these.  Mmmmm.
  2. Call the hotel where you’re staying and inquire about: (a) The proximity to a grocery store or farmer’s market and the possibility of getting a mini-fridge.  This is especially valuable for longer trips. (b) The complementary breakfast (if they have one) and what items are offered.  You may be able to stock up on fruit, bagels, peanut butter, and skillet potatoes.  Heck, I’ve had veggie sausage at a Holiday Inn before.  Miracles do happen, people.
  3. Download the HappyCow app now for your smartphone, and use it before and during your stay.  It connects you to all of the vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants, shops, and cafes in the area, complete with directions.
  4. Get to know your destination.  Even a few extra hours in New York City or DC can make for an amazing vegan culinary and shopping adventure if you know where to go.  Unexpected places like Louisville, Tuscaloosa, and Nashville boast thriving veg communities with great restaurants, food trucks, farmer’s markets, and cafes.  You just need to do a little homework and get some solid word-of-mouth.  I love the blog Will Travel for Vegan Food for honest food reviews on destinations all over the country.
  5. Connect with vegan buddies. Asking your Facebook and Twitter networks is also a great way to connect to veg-friendly dining options and potentially meet more people.  And, of course, there’s always our fantastic Vegucated Schoolhouse Vegan Buddy Locator Map and the brand new Geography Class section of the forum to ask questions, get local advice, and meet folks near where you’re traveling.
  6. Make it a vacation. If you have a spare day or two, see if there’s a Sanctuary or a veg-friendly festival going on nearby.  If you’re going to go somewhere, you may as well enjoy the destination, right?

Do you have any favorite business travel survival tips?  Share them in our Vegucated Schoolhouse Community forum!

Ashlee Piper Ashlee Piper is the Community Manager at Get Vegucated. She is also a social worker, AADP-certified Holistic Health Counselor, and owner of All Is Wellness, a boutique yoga and holistic health consultancy, where she shepherds people toward a more compassionate, cruelty-free, and joyful lifestyle. Her no-nonsense tips and insights for a happy veg life can also be found via her blog, The Little Foxes.