For the next nine weeks, we'll be doing various road trips to (and from) in-person work events and family outings. Just thinking about it makes me simultaneously excited and exhausted. Especially as a vegan, there's just more to think about when it comes to extensive traveling. Where will we find something to eat when we get there? Or on the way there? What if we're stuck in the middle of nowhere with only a McDonald's in sight?
Luckily, we've had a lot of experience with this, after being vegan for many years and driving all sorts of highways. Here's what helped us on our long and winding road trips.
KEEP A LIST OF RESOURCES
There are lists of vegan options at many, if not all, major chain restaurants, whether fast food or not. Brush up beforehand on a few places you're most likely to stop at, or copy the full thing onto your phone. Similarly, check out lists of common vegan foods you might find at a gas station. In the most dire scenario, most places at least have fresh fruit, but hopefully it won't come to that if you prepare with the rest of our tips!
KNOW HOW TO TALK TO RESTAURANT WORKERS
Always be positive, forgiving, and nice to the people serving you food. When asking questions about how the food is prepared, a good one to start with is "does this have dairy in it?" or "I eat a strict diet, do you have an ingredients list I could see?" - usually the places we've gone have been very accomodating. We try to eat during slow times in the day, and not during rush hours, and go to places that already might cater to vegans or vegetarians, like burrito places or Indian restaurants. Going to a Southern-style restaurant on a Saturday night and being rude to the staff is probably the worst possible way to get good vegan food - and it makes vegans look like jerks, too. Set yourself up for success by being kind, and going to the right places at the right times.
RESEARCH YOUR ROUTE
If you know you'll be stopping every few hours for gas or a bathroom break, see what places are available - maybe there's a Chipotle or a grocery store nearby to grab a meal from. You don't need to know every rest stop, but noting a few could be helpful.
MAP OUT VEGAN DESTINATIONS
This is mostly useful for your actual destination. This weekend we're heading to Brooklyn so it's really easy to find vegan places on Yelp, and in a few weekends we're going to Maine so we need to be a little more careful and plan ahead. We just favorite or star places that look good on Google Maps or on Yelp and it makes it really easy to find them when we get there.
BRING YOUR OWN SNACKS
This is crucial! Before you leave, always pack a bag of snacks. It could be a trail mix, or granola bars, or clementines, or chips, or any other little item that can sustain you during a long trip. This reduces the amount of gas station snacks you'll have to get later - most of which are not healthy or cheap or easily vegan. Normally we don't care that much about health, but travel can really take it out of you - it's really easy for me to feel the effects of drinking lots of soda and eating candy after a 12 hour car ride. Light snacks just feel better after lots of driving!
BRING YOUR OWN MEALS
Likewise, if you're taking a particularly long trip, packing whole meals can be a huge help. It can get super expensive to eat fast food day after day. We always pack sandwiches, vegan mac n cheese, carrots & hummus, and some homemade cookies to reduce the amount of restaurant bills we accumulate after a week of work traveling.
Along with snacks, it's so so important to keep a big bottle of water with you. It may mean a couple more bathroom stops, but it's crucial to stay hydrated on a long car ride. Or on a long train or plane ride. You could even bring a bottle of iced tea, for flavor - just keep hydrated! See all of our tips on getting more water here.
There are a few things I always keep in my bag when I go on trips - a pack of tissues, headache medicine, extra deodorant, dry shampoo, lip balm, and a body/face mist. These keep me feeling fresh and clean even during a hot summer trip.