Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vegan Traveling

The Topic: Traveling vegan on a budget with Associate Editor Jennifer Chen

The Dish: As I write this, VN Publisher Joseph Connelly and VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland are traversing thorough Thailand with 20 VegNews readers on VegNews first-ever Food Lover's Tour of Thailand. Now this may sound like bragging—I swear I'm not trying to make you feel bad—but I recently went to Kauai, Hawaii, for vacation with my hubby. It was my first real vacation in a long time, and while it was a celebration of our wedding anniversary, I still hate being too extravagant. A real splurge to me is the vacation itself and seeing as much of the beautiful island as possible. There are times to splurge (massages on the beach!) and times to save, so here are my tips for enjoying your vacation on a budget.

Peanut butter. I always like to carry a jar with peanut butter with me. This is leftover from my college days when I backpacked through Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. I usually pick up a jar wherever I am and paired with a loaf of bread, I have an emergency meal handy. A box of crackers or pretzels also works well. 

Airport eats. If you ever get to travel to San Francisco International's Terminal 2, consider yourself very lucky. It's a vegan haven. You can get a fresh green juice from The Plant Café. There's a whole section of vegan and raw snacks at Napa Farms Market. And if you bring your own water bottle, you can fill up at the filtered water stations. But since most of us aren't traveling through SFO Terminal 2 (darn!), here's what I do when stuck at an airport. Search for the nearest Starbucks. Not every airport will have vegan-friendly eats, but every airport will have a Starbucks. Now, I love supporting my local coffee shops, but I can count on Starbucks to have vegan meals like fruit salad, oatmeal with dried fruits, and bagels. For more travel-friendly eats, check out our web article on that very topic.

Free travel advice. I usually peruse through Lonely Planet guides before I end up at my destination and I love the in-depth information, but I found two great free resources: friends and travel brochures! Before I left, I asked friends on Facebook what I should do while I'm in Kauai and I got a lot of great tips on places my guide book never even pointed out. And the airport was teeming with tons of free travel brochures. While most of them are advertisements, I grabbed a few dining and activity guides and was able to find several health food stores and places that specifically listed that they were "vegan friendly." I found Island Tacos though an ad, and tried cilanto-lime tofu tacos that still haunt my dreams. 

Local health food stores. Like I mentioned, the travel brochures led me to several health food stores on the island. While not everything there is cheap, I was able to pick up dinner for two nights. The great thing about Hawaii is how culturally diverse it is—you can find Korean, Filipino, Japanese, and traditional Hawaiian foods. Health food stores are always guaranteed to have some vegan food. I sampled Korean scallion pancakes, chocolate silk tofu pie, and Vietnamese summer rolls from Papaya's Natural Foods. Compared to a fancy dinner out, my to-go meal was inexpensive.

Farmers' markets. I was surprised to find that Kauai has daily farmers' markets all around the island, so I made sure to hit one. I love fresh fruit and since Hawaii has so many fruits I can't have on the mainland, I went a little nuts. I got starfruit (three for $1), papaya ($1.50), pineapple ($4), Tahitian limes (four for $1), and a giant avocado ($1.50). I sampled a vegan coconut tapioca pudding made from a local bakery ($3) and a dark chocolate-covered banana topped with coconut shreds and nuts ($3.50). One thing I learned from a local farmer is that agricultural theft is a big problem for farmers, so when hitting a farmers' market she cautioned me to steer clear of anyone who doesn't have signage. The vendor may have stolen the fruits and veggies from a hard-working farmer for re-sell at the market.

The Final Word: If I've made you green with envy by now, my sincere apologies. But what I can offer is that you deserve to travel to awesome destinations (like the VegNews Vegan Yoga Retreat to Mexico). Create a savings account just for vacations and then travel to those must-hit countries and states on your bucket list. And when you do fly to a fancy destination that is a paradise through and through, it doesn't have to mean throwing frugality out the window.


  1. Please stop promoting the unaffordable VegNews Vacations on this blog. The readers are here to get tips on SAVING money, and travelling with an overpriced tour group doesn't exactly quantify that!