This was our first official vegan vacation. My first tip: Over-prepare before the trip, then let the good times roll. With most restaurants, even steakhouses, you can put together vegan meals that are terrific. We vacationed in Seaside and Cannon Beach, Ore., for three days. This was our first real vacation since 2007. Yep, we were homebound during the Great Recession and the various illnesses that struck our house during those years. We mainly focused on day trips (that’s where all the hiking comes in, lucky for us Washington has plenty of places to hike and feel you’ve really traveled someplace different). We also had two aging cats, and our oldest needed daily medication twice a day that only my husband could give her. So when we actually had to go someplace of any distance, it would be one of us going and the other staying behind.
Anyway, we planned this trip as a celebration of health and my birthday. The photo at the start of this blog was my meal our first night, which was in Seaside. The meal was a plate full of vegetables with oil and vinegar dressing on the side (yes, I indulged in a little oil on vacation) and I ordered a plain baked potato to go with it. The staff was savvy about the finer points of veganism, even steering us away from a Chipotle dressing because it had mayonnaise, and a noodle dish because it used egg noodles.
My second dinner, this time in Cannon Beach, was marked vegan. It was a grilled portobello mushroom topped with vegetables and roasted red potatoes, and it was huge! It tasted fantastic.
Our third and final dinner, in Cannon Beach, was at Fishes sushi restaurant. There were plenty of options for us there non-fish related! We had the spicy tofu with a cabbage salad and rice. We forgot to ask for brown rice (newbie vacation vegan mistake) but the meal was great. We also had miso soup and cucumber avocado rolls with sesame seeds.
What we learned on vacation:
Scan the overall menu, including the side dishes. You may find a main course marked “vegan,” as a few places we went to did on some of their meals. If you don’t, even a steakhouse can give you a salad and baked potato without butter or sour cream. They may even have beans you can serve on top of the potato if you don’t want it plain.
The wait service probably knows more about veganism than you do: I was “vegucated” on a few menu items I questioned. I didn’t feel put off at all, and it gave me new insight to be careful when it comes to sauces and dressings that may have hidden dairy products in them.
Don’t be afraid to ask for vegan options: Some people recommend you call ahead and announce you are vegan, particularly in finer-dining restaurants, so that maybe the chef will come up with a new creation for you. Otherwise, I found it was perfectly OK to ask once I got there what was good for a vegan to choose from. The wait service was great about showing me some good options hiding in plain sight on the menu. Granted, I was in coastal Oregon and I got the sense we were in an area where more people were asking for food that fit their particular diets, so I think I lucked into the trail blazed before me by the vegan pioneers on the Oregon trail 😉
The food was great, but watch the condiments: Every meal was delicious and I didn’t feel tired and wiped out after eating like I used to after polishing off a steak and huge dessert. HOWEVER, outside of the first night meal of plain veggies, the next two places were heavy on the fried or oily aspects of making vegetables taste great. I allowed myself these meals as a deviation from my stricter plant-based lifestyle, but if this is something you need to be super-careful about because of heart disease, remember to ask how the food is prepared and see whether you can get the food oil-free, maybe just pan-seared or plain. Chances are, the restaurant will work something out for you.
Anyway, the vegan vacation was easier than I thought it would be! We ate dinners out and had breakfast and lunch in our room. This is where the over-preparation comes in. Before our trip, I bought McDougall dehydrated soups and Asian entrees, which we could microwave in our room. We served these with multi-grain crackers and an assortment of raw cut vegetables. It worked out well! For breakfast I had baked an egg-free blueberry cake and vegan lemon biscuits — both Happy Herbivore recipes. Both kept us full and satisfied until our next meal. We would serve these baked goods with plain oatmeal and blueberries (n0t to go all Martha Stewart on this, but those were hand-picked blueberries from this season). Better than room service food!
Also, by eating in, we spent a total of $140 for the three days on dinners out going with vegan options and avoiding alcohol. In the past, we have spent that on one meal for the two of us. Anything else we needed, the market in Cannon Beach was able to provide.
Anyway, the trip was a success. I found that doing this inspired me to try menu options that, in the past, I would have completely ignored. I feel like I am eating a much wider range of food now and my meals are way more interesting than just locking into meat and potatoes with every meal.
Good luck with your own vacation. It’s never too late to try something new!