Ellie Bullen of Elsa’s Wholesome Life shares her top ten vegan travel hacks for her fellow globetrotters.
I love sharing my experiences and teaching others how to live a healthy plant-based life through my blog, Elsa’s Wholesome Life, and my vegan cookbooks. But alongside food and wellness, my other big passion is travel! Living overseas has brought me many new experiences and helped me appreciate my home back in Australia. Living immersed in another culture has given me a greater respect for different ways of living, allowing me to be more open-minded about alternative food beliefs.
I’ve visited more than 20 countries across South East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the South Pacific and North America. I am incredibly grateful to have been able to see and explore so many places. However, following a plant-based diet can sometimes be difficult when travelling and I’ve learnt to be more patient, respectful and accepting of other cultures and lifestyles. There were definitely times along the way where my diet wasn’t the most wholesome due to plant-based options being so limited, but I’m pleased to see how plant-based eating has gained popularity around the world. Following are my top ten vegan travel hacks to help you travel the globe while maintaining a healthy plant-based lifestyle.
Top 10 vegan travel hacks
1. Plane meals
When booking your flights, be sure to select your dietary requirements (VGML – vegan) and then double-check it in the airline’s booking system. If you buy flights via a third-party booking platform, your meal selections often won’t transfer across, so make the selection directly with the airline. Also, be aware that you can’t change your dietary requirements within 24 hours of travel.
2. Eat up
I like to have a decent-sized healthy meal before flying, whether at home, somewhere in the city you’re in, or even at the airport. I research what cafes are at the airport or in the city I am departing from to make sure I can get a good plant-based meal. You never know what they’re going to serve you on the flight, and if it’s long haul, it may be your last healthy meal for 24 hours.
3. Pack snacks
Pack some healthy snacks for the flight. I have packed my fair share of whole avocados in my hand luggage! This is my absolute favourite plane-travel hack. I eat them straight up with a spoon, or even better, I pack a mini container of salt, pepper and hemp seeds plus some rice cakes to make the perfect snack. I also love to pack bliss balls, popcorn, and health food bars that contain nuts, dates, seeds and coconut.
4. Drink water
Remember to stay hydrated! During long haul flights, it’s easy to become dehydrated due to the dry air conditioners. I pack my own reusable water bottle and while it needs to be empty before flying, you can have them refill it for you on board. When you are well hydrated, you’ll probably need to get up and use the toilet more often, which is a great chance to stretch your legs out during the flight.
5. City research
Always research the location you are travelling to for handy vegan food options. How easy it is to find these really depends on where you are travelling to. Some countries will have plenty of vegan dishes while others may take some navigating. For example, in Vietnam I found plenty of delicious food as long as I could communicate that I didn’t want fish sauce.
6. Local language
Learn a few key local words, including vegan, vegetarian, no meat, no dairy, and no eggs. Save them in your phone as this may help you to communicate your requirements better when ordering food.
If you are travelling to a country where it’s more difficult to eat out, then you may consider booking yourself an apartment or Airbnb with a kitchen, so you can prepare your own meals. During long trips, I like to break up all the restaurant food with some of my own cooking. Eating out for weeks on end can lose its enjoyment when you are just craving something healthy and homemade.
8. Market fresh
Research local markets so you can check out and buy some local ingredients! It’s always a fun way to try new ingredients plus experience some of the local culture. I’ve enjoyed this in South East Asia in particular!
9. Ethical activities
Another aspect of travelling more mindfully is researching the tourist activities you want to book. I look for eco-tourism certified companies and I avoid businesses that involve animal cruelty. Check other travellers’ bad reviews on Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor to spot companies that aren’t as ethical as they portray themselves to be. For example, I will not support any company that allows elephant rides.
10. Cooking class
My absolute favourite tourist activity when travelling is to take a local cooking class. I book most of mine through Cookly, where you can filter for vegetarian or vegan-friendly classes. That way you know they can cater for plant-based takes on classic local dishes. These classes often come with some kind of market or farm tour, so it’s a great way to explore these as well as learn about local ingredients and how to prepare them. The cooking classes I’ve taken in various countries have been some of my favourite travel experiences. In Vietnam I learned about the aromatic herbs and spices used in their cuisine, and visited local farms by bicycle to pick organic greens. I’ve enjoyed wandering through the markets in South Korea and learning about the traditional Chinese medicines used there. In Mexico, I was inspired by the freshness of the ingredients and the flavour of the dishes. With so many amazing vegan-friendly foodie experiences around the world, I hope I’ve inspired you to explore all the beautiful and exotic countries out there!