As a vegan, vacation travel can involve a small amount of additional preparation. Everyone has found themselves in the situation where they’re in an unfamiliar place and satisfying or appropriate food items are limited. It’s a terrible feeling, compounded by the fact that as vegans, we don’t always feel comfortable compromising our values and food habits just because we’re away from home. Whether you’re facing air or train travel, a long road trip, or an unfamiliar destination with limited or unknown vegan options, hunger can easily compound with stress and irritability (what, me?) to dispirit a trip.
For my next vacation, I’ve decided to take better advantage of apps that can make my food life easier when traveling. When I was initially browsing the app store, it seemed as though there were countless useful apps for food and travel. But on closer viewing, I found that many hadn’t been updated in over two years, have incomplete data, or are difficult to navigate.
What I was looking for were apps that would keep me from going hungry on vacation when I was out and about. I wasn’t interested in recipe libraries, or purely content-driven applications. I want to be standing on a corner, unsure of where I am, and be able to easily identify veg-friendly food options near me. Since I’m not traveling to a major city, a city-specific app wasn’t going to work. Although for those traveling somewhere like NYC, apps like the Vegan Guide to NYC can help you navigate the many options.
Here are three apps that are indispensable to vegan and vegetarian travel (as well as discovering great options in your home area):
1. I see a lot of promise in Locavore, one of the better designed options I researched, out of a group of 8 or 10 food apps. It’s a social application that allows you to find and ‘like’ local farms, farmers markets and CSAs, share your experience by adding photos, tags and comments, and interact with other ‘locavores.’ You can also follow other users and see the places they have visited. An ‘In Season’ feature shows you what’s in season in your area (or the region you’re visiting) based on GPS. For example, the app tells me that foods like rhubarb are in peak season in the New York area, and there’s two weeks left for garlic scapes. Cilantro and strawberries will be coming available in two weeks. Now that’s helpful! And when traveling, I like the idea of being able to find out what is locally available in that region. The app also provides seasonal recipes based on your location.
2. Vegetarious is like Foursquare but for vegan/vegetarian-friendly dining, displaying restaurants near you based on popularity, rating or distance. The application makes it easy to ‘check in,’ share status updates to your Facebook network, read and write reviews, and add to your ‘list.’ Anyone familiar with Foursquare will find it to be a straightforward experience that’s simple to navigate. I really appreciate the way you can immediately see a list of veg-friendly places in your area, rather than having to search, browse, or download countless menus in hopes of finding a veg-friendly option.
3. Happy Cow has the deepest and most reliable content of all the apps, a result of their established, active online community that’s been around since 1999. It is a resource I use online frequently, but only recently downloaded the app. Structured largely like the Restaurants & Stores section of their website, the Happy Cow app is an easy-to-navigate directory of vegan, vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants, stores and services. It’s global in scope and a must for any veg-loving traveler.
I’m planning to use all three of these apps both at home and on my upcoming vacation, and will share any tips I come across. What I like about these apps is that they build awareness of vegan and vegetarian cuisines, and enable users to form relationships around their love of eating and discovering food.
Do you use food-related apps when you travel? Which ones do you like? Please share your favorites in the comments below.