I do a lot of travelling, especially internationally, which is the nature of being an American expat in the UK. Since going vegan about 5 years ago, I’ve noticed the vegan options at airports have improved immensely, but there is still some way to go – particularly at small, regional airports. I’ve learned a few tips and tricks during my travels as a vegan, and thought I would share them with you.
Order a vegan meal
for the flight
If you have a long flight that offers a complimentary meal
service, make sure you order a vegan meal in advance. If you have a frequent
flier number (which I would advise you do for any airline you fly with), you
can put it in your personal settings so that they always arrange a vegan meal
for you by default.
If you want to know what type of food different airlines
serve – just do a quick search of the airline and add “vegan” and you’re bound
to come up with plenty of photos and reviews. One thing I found interesting is
that there is often more than one vegan option, but they’re labelled
differently. So for example, if you want an Indian meal you can often order the
a Jain meal which does not have animal products (but it also won’t contain root
veg). If you want to play it safe though, go for the strict vegan meal.
Also – once your meal arrives, double check that everything is vegan. There have been a couple times on one airline in particular (*cough*United*cough*) where the meal was vegan, but then they gave me real butter to go with the bread roll.
Have a backup meal ready
Sometimes airlines forget to put your vegan meal on the
flight (it’s happened to me more than once), or don’t mark you down for a
special meal. Because of this, I suggest asking when you check in to make sure
they have the meal for you. I would also recommend buying a couple sandwiches
for the flight to put in your bag as a backup. On my recent Virgin Atlantic
flight they remembered my vegan meal but the food was terrible, so I ended up
eating the Pret A Manger sandwiches I purchased at the airport which were a
Pack your own food
This one is pretty obvious – if you have the time and
inclination, pack your own food! I admit this is one I struggle with, as my
main priority is getting out the door on time with all my bags and travel
documents in tow, not what I’m going to eat. That said, there have been times
where I’ve been very organised and made some pre-packed lunches. I find wraps,
sandwiches and even salad boxes in plastic Tupperware work well. If you fancy
some porridge, bring some instant oats and ask a coffee shop for a cup of hot
water (which should be available for free), or purchase a cup of non-dairy
milk. Just remember not to pack any liquids like soup or salad dressings!
I also always pack snacks, because you never know when that
hunger will strike and it’s a good idea to have something on hand that will
last your entire trip. For me, I like to pack nuts, crackers and granola bars –
anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
If you are unable to get food before your flight for some
reason (eg if you have a really tight connecting flight), and there isn’t a
vegan meal on the plane, ask the flight attendants if you can pick some of the
vegan items off of the extra trays. They will often have bread, fruit, crisps
and other snacks suitable for vegans. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than
Check out restaurants
in your terminal
I always look at the restaurants in my terminal before we
fly, to see what options are available. You can usually see the menu right on
the airport’s website, and also see which vegan friendly chains are around; if there’s
a Yo! Sushi or Wagamama for example, I know I’ll be fine for vegan food. I do
like to try new places though – so for example when I flew out of terminal 2 at
Heathrow recently there was a restaurant that served vegan jackfruit burgers
that were to die for!
If there are no vegan-friendly restaurants, you can always
check if they have a Pret, Boots, WH Smith or M&S – all of which do an
array of vegan wraps and sandwiches to go. If you are flying from continental
Europe, my advice is to always bring your own food to the airport. I have been
stranded in small regional airports more than once where the only thing I could
eat was a bag of crisps!
One last thing – don’t bother looking at restaurants in other
terminals unless you have a really long layover. It can take a long time to get
from one terminal to another, so would advise against this unless you have time
What are your tips for flying as a vegan? What has been your worst experience? I’d love to hear from you – please comment below!