I love/hate traveling. It’s one of my absolute super-duper most all-time favorite things to do, but it comes with ups and downs, pros and cons.
Pro: There’s nothing like getting on a plane to go somewhere new. Heck, I even love to get on a plane to go somewhere not-new for work, knowing that I’ll get to try a written up restaurant or find a crafty cocktail place that'll give me a few ideas to squirrel away for the home bar. Burrowing into the hustle (or lack thereof) of a destination, and weaving stories with new people, through new languages is, in my opinion, life’s greatest luxury and joy.
Con: How I feel when I get home. After the stories are told, the wine is drunk, the deals are made, I’m often left feeling like I’ve had too many copies made of myself—I’m blurry at the edges, wobbly and inconsistent, faded colors and missing details. It’s a hangover of the highest order that reaches far beyond alcohol and right down to my body’s operations center. In the past, this has ranged from feeling large and not-so-in-charge (you go to Thailand, you come home with a Buddha belly—it’s a souvenir!), to sick enough to head to the hospital (who doesn’t love going to Urgent Care on their honeymoon, amiright?!). It got to a point a few years ago that I started to pack my own mini suitcase of food, just so I knew that I had back-up if I got in a pinch and couldn’t find the foods that work for me. Also, I got really sick of eating the inside of sandwiches every time I landed in NYC for all-day meetings.
So below are some ideas if you’re in the same boat (or plane, or car). Whether you’re looking for something to keep up your habits on the road, or you’re like me and you struggle to find any viable options, these are some of my tried-and-truest road warriors.
Usually this isn’t too tough for most people. Almost any hotel worth its room rate will make you a veggie omelet with some fruit or tasty meats on the side. The problem is when you can’t eat eggs. Or dairy. Or gluten. And oh yeah, you also have an allergy to soy which directly causes a reaction that can only be described as “disaster pants.” (TMI? Probably. Sorry.) So what do you do?
Bring granola. Most bodegas carry almond milk or a little bottle of milk you can stash in your fridge at the hotel. If not, check your bag and bring it with you. Remember to pick up plastic spoons at the airport or at said bodega. Check out my recipe for Maple Goldenberry Granola. It saves you loads of money and travels really well.
Little instant oat mixes. These were my salvation for a long time. They don’t require hot water, and they come with a spoon. They actually taste good, and were born to travel.
Bake muffins or a quickbread before you leave. Just make sure they’re in a smush-free zone of your bag. There’s something particularly demoralizing about shoveling muffin crumbs by the palmful into your face while getting dressed in the fluorescence of a hotel room.
Shake up a smoothie. Get some of the aforementioned milk/nutmilk. Bring along a Blender Bottle. Pack a few baggies with protein powder, peanut butter powder, and powdered greens. Get some ice from hotel vending, and you’re in business.
Get a 16-ounce latte from a coffee joint and bring along a few goodies to make it bulletproof. It’ll hold you over until you can get to something good. And most coffee places have bananas. Lucky you!
Don’t eat breakfast. Thinking of breakfast foods as just eggs, bacon, breads and cereals is pretty limiting. Bring along some nice sardines or tinned fish, avocado or olives, and some crackers. Pretend you’re in Spain. If you’re actually in Spain, just go eat this.
I can usually find something, but just in case, I carry small shampoo bottles of condiments to doctor up restaurant fare if I get stuck with no good options. For me, olive oil and coconut aminos, a soy sauce substitute, are my go-tos (clients always want to grab sushi, and there’s nothing sadder than dry sushi), but you can carry on whatever you want to dash or drizzle. Beyoncé awards bonus points for hot sauce in your bag (swag!). You might get weird looks at first, but over time you’ll embrace the most liberating mantra of them all: IDGAF.
I also make sure I have a few bars, some kind of veggie or seaweed chip, and dried fruit with me. Larabars and the like are great, but I typically need something more substantial to hold me over. So, I use protein bars in their truest form: meat.
You can make your own jerky pretty easily and inexpensively. Or you can buy jerky and/or bars from a brand like Epic or Wild Zora. I don’t love fruit in my meat (and you end up eating a ton of dried fruit when you travel anyway), so I gravitate to savory flavors.
If all else fails, you can always eat the inside of a sandwich. Sigh.
A lot of times, snacks become my meals. Especially if I’m on a road trip. Gas stations aren’t exactly known for their health-supportive options. Or to take it a step further, food that’s made from food. Since I’ve had to make this work every which way, this is my sweet spot. Packing a cooler for a trip is a whole different post, but for starters, some of my favorite no-cold-required stuff would have to be:
Crispy Kale Caesar. This is essentially kale chips on crack. Instead of dehydrating just greens, you make a salad and dry the whole thing out. It’s great to have something crunchy that’s not just nuts. And it’s full of vegetables, which for some reason don’t even exist when you’re traveling. Recipe to come in a few posts!
Nori brittle. This sounds super weird, but it’s delicious. Think of it as sesame seed brittle that rocks the balance between salty and sweet. It’s another way to get more greens away from home, so naturally, I’m obsessed with it.
DIY GORP. Take whatever nuts you like. Add some crystalized ginger, chocolate chips, and some raisins if you're a masochist. Super awesome in the mid-afternoon when you want to eat all the dessert, but don’t want to eat all the dessert. Know what I mean?
Fresh fruit and nut butter packets. It requires pretty much no planning, so it’s a favorite.
If you’re not able to find what you want at a dinner spot, you’re having a shitty trip and I’m sorry. You can always go back to the trusty lunch strategies, but I would suggest commandeering the task of choosing a restaurant. Find somewhere that definitely works for you, and won't cause a riot among your travel buddies.
On The Plane
I can tell you where to eat in nearly every airport across the U.S. Instead of listing all of those places off, here’s what I do: I look ahead for a place where I can grab a good quality salad that’s not made of iceberg lettuce (Concourse C at DIA is your best bet). If I know that won’t happen, I bring along a meal. I typically opt to make something veggie that I know won’t spoil. Or I swing by the grocery store on the way out of town and grab something from the hot bar or salad bar. Spend the money you saved by not buying food at the airport on a glass of wine, which is equally expensive no matter where you are.
Despite all of this, you still want to have a good time. If you're stressed about what you're going to eat, you're going to feel that much more miserable. Don't nosh on stuff that you know is going to make you sick, but if you're relaxed and feeling good, don't be too hard on yourself if you fall face first into a pretty plate of burrata.