Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Vegetarian Goes on the Road, Part I: Airport Dining

Those of you who know me in real life know I travel quite a bit in my capacity as an association executive. I go to conferences, visit members, staff events, etc.  As a result, I spend quite a bit of time in airports and exploring new places, large and small. Over the second and third weeks of August, I will have been/be on the road quite a bit.

So, as a special edition of this blog, the next several entries will be specifically focused on how to be a vegetarian on the road - navigating the airport food court, figuring out breakfast options, grab and go options off the highway, veg options at catered events and spotlights on veg friendly restaurants in various parts of the country.

This first blog will focus specifically on Airport Tricks.

Delicious Vegan Friendly Salad From Potbelly!

This particular trip had me flying from Baltimore to St. Louis by way of Chicago, and then looping back St. Louis -> Chicago -> Newark for the second leg of my trip.  Last Saturday, I departed out of BWI.  I wasn't sure what my food options would be.  In my opinion, of the three DC metro area aiports, BWI ranks at the bottom in terms of food options, so I was skeptical that I'd be able find a something veg friendly.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a good vegan option at Potbelly.  If you omit the cheese and egg on their Chickpea Veggie Salad,  you get a filling, vegan salad - chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion and lettuce.
Black Bean Burrito Bowl from Burrito Beach

Usually, any layover in Chicago involves a massive sprint between terminals and inhaling trail mix. On my way to Newark, flight delays gave me the opportunity to sit down for a less rushed dinner at O'Hare.  The Food Court at Terminal 3, near Gate H has a variety of options (click here to see all the food available at O'Hare).  I elected to go with a bowl from Burrito Beach - lettuce, black beans, fajita veg and a tiny bit of cheese. 

As someone who spends a ton of time in airports, allow me to share a few tricks to make your air travel veg friendly:

  • Plan ahead! A number of airports have dining guides, like this one from National Airport in DC.  The catch is knowing in which terminal your gate is.  I take this for granted given how often I fly, but you'll probably be able to tell from a terminal map.  You can consult the website and see what eateries will be available to you on your trip.  Also, get to the airport a little earlier so you have time to explore.  You'll thank me when you aren't rushing around at the last minute with no time to grab a sandwich or salad for your six hour flight!
  • Pack What You Can.  Yes, the liquid restrictions are still in effect, so don't plan on bringing soup or a bottle of kombucha through security.  I wouldn't try and bring anything with refreezable ice packs either.You can, however, bring hardy items, like a nut butter sandwich, that you plan to eat that day, as well as non-perishable snacks you can plan to eat throughout the week.  For this trip, I packed Barbara's Bakery whole grain fruit bars and Annie's Cheddar Bunnies.
  • You'll Find Something - You Just Have to Look.   Don't despair if it only looks like burger joints at every gate.  In my experience, you can get a fruit cup at almost every airport eatery, trail mix at the news stands and granola bars at kiosks.  Most airports also have Au Bon Pain, Subway, Great American Bagel Co., or another sandwich shop that will be happy to make you a veg friendly treat. If you luck into a full service Starbucks, look for the protein power pack or the fruit & cheese tray.  And if your only choice is a plain garden salad, you can punch it up a bit by buying nuts at a news stand and mixing them in.
  • Bonus Tip: International Flights.  Most of you are aware by now that meals are no longer served on domestic flights.  However, if you're traveling internationally, or are fortunate enough to be bumped up to first class, you do get a free meal.  The three times (oh yes, I've counted!) I've been bumped to first on American Airlines, I was pleased to find that vegetarian options (fresh salads, yummy pasta, fruit) were easily available.  I will suggest when you are flying internationally, you contact the airline ahead of time to request a vegetarian meal in advance.  If you have flexibility in international travel, go with British Airways.  They have more than one vegetarian meal - my options on my last trip to and from Germany were lacto-ovo, Jain, vegan . . . and the list goes on!  When you book your international flight, you can request a special meal at that time.
Readers, what are your tips and secrets?  Or, do you have any questions about particular airports or train stations?

No comments:

Post a Comment