For me, travel is still one of the biggest joys in life. It's the chance to see new places, experience new cultures, and expand my worldview that really lights me up, and getting to try healthy vegan food from different parts of the world is the icing on the cake!
These days, I travel smarter by choosing sustainable vegan hotels, buying carbon offsets when I fly, and supporting local businesses instead of multinational chains wherever I go. (FYI, the upcoming VegNews Food Lover's Tour of Thailand and VegNews Christmas in Thailand are great opportunities for testing out sustainable vegan travel!) And I always pack smart so that I don't end up having to buy more stuff wherever I land.
Whether you’re heading out for a long weekend in the country, stepping on a plane for your first-ever VegNews Vacation, or simply plotting your next globetrotting adventure, my tried-and-true packing tips will help take the stress out of your travels and leave you energized for the fun to come. Grab your (vegan) bag and let’s go!
Hydration, hydration, hydration is my #1 travel mantra! I literally never leave home without an insulated water bottle, even when “traveling” to the grocery store. Carrying my own liquid refreshment means not only never feeling thirsty, but also never paying a small fortune for a tiny, single-use plastic bottle at the airport. I always fill up at home, polish off the bottle while standing in line at TSA, and then fill up again once I’ve gone through security. When I’m offered a glass of water in a plastic cup on the plane, I always feel good telling the flight attendant I came prepared!
Since the pandemic began, airlines have scaled back on their special meal offerings, which means the hot vegan meals you used to order in advance might not be available on your flight. That doesn’t mean you’re resigned to stuffing yourself with tiny packets of pretzels; packing your own selection of travel-friendly treats ensures you’ll arrive at your destination ready to hit the ground running. My go-to snacks include raw almonds, baked whole sweet potatoes—sounds weird, but so nourishing and satisfying!—steamed broccoli, and firm, crisp apples. I’m never without an OHI, SKOUT, and GoMacro energy bars, and I also like to tuck little packets of instant miso soup into my bag; just ask the flight attendant for hot water and voila!
Phone and computer cords
I often use my time in the sky to catch up on work, so my laptop and other electronic devices always travel in my carry-on. I have a separate small zippered pouch that I use to hold all of my electronic accoutrements, including cords, chargers, and adapters. Thankfully, most newer aircraft are equipped with seat outlets, so it’s become an automatic habit to plug in my phone as soon as I’m settled into my seat. Having a dedicated travel bag for all of these electronic extras saves so much time and frustration trying to remember what pocket of what bag you stuffed them into as you dashed out the door. Also, choosing a colorful bag or pouch with an interesting texture makes it extra-easy to find in your carry-on!
During take-off and landing, when electronic devices are verboten, I pull out my secret weapon for beating any travel anxiety and boredom in one fell swoop: a magazine! While I always tote at least a couple of issues of VegNews to share with people I meet (and tuck into the seatback pockets for others to enjoy), I usually hit the airport newsstand and treat myself to something special that I wouldn’t normally have the time to indulge in. Sometimes it’s a magazine focused on interior design, with lots of beautiful photos to spark inspiration for my own home, or something dedicated to yoga or wellness to ease me into the vacation mindset.
Even with high-tech HEPA filtration systems on planes, I take the extra step of having the air switched on and pointing directly at me, just to be safe. But even before the pandemic, I tended to get chilly on flights, so packing a cotton shoulder wrap or wide scarf and a thick, comfy pair of socks is a must. As soon as I sit down, out come these cozy accessories, sending a signal to my brain that it’s time to relax. Pro tip: traveling in a pair of easy-on, easy-off shoes makes getting up to stretch your legs or use the bathroom fuss-free.
Mini beauty bag
Before disembarking, I like to zip into the bathroom to brush my teeth, splash some water on my face, apply a soothing face serum, and smooth some lipstick over my lips so I feel less like a zombie and more like a human being when I arrive at a new destination. Packing travel-size products—which sometimes just means squeezing some of my favorite products into smaller containers—makes it easy to look and feel lively again. Plus, if my luggage is rerouted to Kuala Lumpur instead of Puerto Vallarta, I’ll at least have the essentials to tide me over until we’re reunited!
Earbuds and eye masks
Ear buds aren’t just for in-flight entertainment; they also double as noise blockers and signal to your neighbor that you are not available for a chat (sorry, fellow travelers). Remembering to bring your own is also an eco-conscious act, since it means you won’t be taking the throwaway headsets they distribute on long flights. Besides my DIY noise reduction devices, I also like to pack a reusable eye mask in case my seat mate wants to spend the entire flight reading with the overhead light on or looking out the window as we glide across time zones.
Eco-friendly sanitizing wipes
Meticulously cleaning shared surfaces and spaces is the new normal, and that includes the surfaces on and around your airplane seat. I pack at least a half-dozen packets of sanitizing wipes when I travel, because you just never know when you’ll need to do some on-the-fly disinfecting. BCorp certified Dr. Brite makes vegan, cruelty-free wipes infused with essential oils that are perfect for cleaning your hands, your tray table, your arm-rests, and your in-flight entertainment’s touch screen. And while single-use packaging isn’t ideal, the fact that it’s recyclable gives me peace of mind.
Turbulence is one of the inevitables of frequent flying, and while deep down I know that air travel is one of the safest modes of transport out there (far surpassing that of cars), I still find myself feeling anxious if the plane shakes, dips, or jerks while we’re in flight. When the captain’s voice calmly instructs us to fasten our seatbelts, I not-so-calmly reach for the cure that was made for nervous flyers called Rescue Remedy. A spritz or two under the tongue, and this all-natural, totally vegan Bach flower essence works its magic. I don’t know how it works, but it works.
Small gifts for airline staff
A friend who works for an airline clued me into this tip for not just brightening someone’s day, but possibly paving the way for instant karma in the form of seat upgrades and other perks. Before heading off to the airport, I’ll pick up individually wrapped vegan chocolates or Starbucks gift cards to share with the plane’s hard-working cabin crew. Sometimes, the reward is a heartfelt thank you, and sometimes it's free-flowing champagne delivered straight from the first-class cabin. These are challenging times for anyone working in the travel and hospitality industries, and these little gestures can do so much to boost morale and spread good vibes.