Good Eats On The Road; Vacation Eating
Ah the joy of eating out. You don’t have any dishes to clean, someone preps and cooks your food for you and there are so many options out there. (Insert screeching halt noise) Ok, so I’ve mentioned here and there that I’m vegan and I can make a safe assumption that a lot of people are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or have diet concerns when it comes to dining somewhere that they have no control over the preparation and ingredients. This can be a big concern when traveling.
My first plan on any trip - whether a day or an extended trip- is to hit up the grocery store. I pack up snacks that work for me (Costco snack size bags of cashews and I are best friends). There are so many options for different dietary needs and I find that I don’t need to go to the natural foods store to find lots of good vegan snacks, although it’s always helpful. I mean, there are two kinds of vegan gummy candy at Sprouts! You can find shelf stable food and drink, or bring a cooler for the refrigerated items.
Now on to the planning. I don’t know that I’ve ever had an issue finding vegan food on any trip. Even Burger King has an Impossible Whopper. Is it the most unique item for this trip? No, but it is a welcome change from years ago when I wasn’t vegan and knew friends that were and how much they would struggle on their vacations. That being said, I still try to get a feel for what the location offers. Are there restaurants that are only vegan? Even Jake enjoys a lot of vegan options so those work fabulously. So many other restaurants have vegan options or dishes that can be vegan with modifications. Like how I get the really weird look at any Italian place when I tell them I don’t want any cheese on my pasta. With the advent of the internet and apps like Yelp! it is so much easier to find places that can accomodate almost any dietary need.
I have to give a special mention to Disney, because I did warn you that there would be a lot of that going on here. Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World designate allergy friendly and plant based menu items on their app. It’s quite literally magical. (This is my story and you can’t stop me from making bad puns). Friends and also Jake will let you know I spend a bit too much time researching and planning how many of the plant based items I can stuff down on any given trip. I end up eating about half the plan. It’s just such a welcome change from my first trip, in a land where burgers and french fries were the standard. Ok, I still go for the Impossible Burger and fries at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe because I absolutely love the atmosphere and music, and sometimes you just need a burger. From what I have seen, Disney is also great at noting allergies or special dietary needs on their app as well.
So if you have a specific dietary need, traveling seems to be so much easier these days. Ok, just like me you probably won’t be able to find something at every single restaurant, and that’s ok. I didn’t eat a ton of fast food before I went vegan, and now I tend to wish more of those places had options for me. But there are lots of great restaurants out there who will be amazing to you, help create meals that make your trip memorable in a good way, not in the way that you remember NOT to visit that place again. We have all been there. It does help to call sometimes and check in, and that will help the kitchen give you more accurate information if you don’t see it posted online. Like when I found out my local pizzeria started carrying vegan pepperoni in addition to the vegan cheese already offered, I only knew from picking up my veggie pizza that night. You don’t have to sit out, just do a little extra planning and find something that works for you!
Until next time, tell me one of the restaurants you love that created that special experience for your dietary needs! (Seriously, I love collecting restaurant ideas!)
Williams Weekend - Our Big Reset
This was the most unplanned trip I had ever taken. Ever is a strong word, but it’s up there. It had been almost a year since the pandemic started and things shut down. It was January, the long weekend with Martin Luther King Jr Day. Jake and I were becoming exceedingly frustrated and short-tempered. We had a lot of challenges that year; I’m a teacher and for a time we were full time parents for Jake’s two sons.
Things were starting to let up and we were able to have more weekends to ourselves again. A dear friend suggested that we take a trip to connect with each other and leave all responsibility behind. But there still wasn’t a lot to do, so many things were still closed or at least very limited.
Jake and I talked about taking this weekend and he definitely agreed. I asked him, since he’s lived here much longer, where should we go or where could we go that wasn’t super expensive and that had some fun things we could enjoy. He suggested Williams, Arizona. First we found a hotel, just a basic Quality Inn and booked it for three nights. I scoured the internet for restaurant ideas, especially because I’m vegan and I wanted to make sure I had options and I sure did! With restaurants checked and hotel booked, we remembered this wasn’t going to be a go wild and do all the things trip. We wanted to really spend intentional time with each other, relax and reconnect.
Packing was super easy for this trip; basic clothes and toiletries, cozy pajamas because it was actually going to be cold up there. We had a mini fridge in our room so we went to the store to get some snacks and drinks to bring up. I even found some new wine to try - Flybird Margarita Wine. We were super excited and I couldn’t wait to not look at things to clean and unpack (we had bought and moved into our house four months earlier so there was still a lot to do). Sure I cleaned up a little, but I decided to leave the big things until we got home. We hopped in the car Saturday morning and headed out.
While I don’t remember everything specific from this trip (a big reason for working on this blog, by the way) I do remember that we took a lot of naps. We probably even took one after we arrived because - best thing ever - our room was ready early. I’m sure this is one of those holy grail things on vacations. Plus Williams is a three hour drive from our house, so rest was very welcome. I remember going to the Pine Country Restaurant that had an amazing veggie burger. My belly was super happy about that, and my heart was happy when we got back to the car and Jake had a surprise for me. He had picked up this super cute mini plush dragon for me at one of the gas stations. Surprises are so much his forte and this was my favorite part of the trip.
Sunday we actually woke up reasonably early and had a basic breakfast from the hotel. Don’t get me wrong - nothing beats unlimited Froot Loops at a hotel. I just bring my own almond milk. The one thing Jake decided I needed to experience was Bearizona. It’s a drive through wildlife preserve and if you happen to go there, go early. For one, it gets busy. But the best (and one part of the trip I will never forget) was driving by the wolves who were just waking up. They were letting out that low melancholy-style howl and it was music to my ears. Of course I had to quote Dracula in the car “Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”. The whole drive through and walk through experience were wonderful, and I was even able to convince Jake to have lunch at the Canyonlands Restaurant inside Bearizona (Jake is not a big fan of themed restaurants at tourist stops). Even he agreed that the food was good and the scenery inside was worth it.
Monday was our drive home. We had actually rested that weekend. We didn’t go nuts driving all over, but we did walk around Route 66 a bit. Bonus - I highly recommend the Bayou by You. So good, and it felt like that little hidden gem I would never expect in a small town. We loved sleeping in two out of the three mornings, and napping whenever we felt like it. The only must-do was Bearizona, and also enjoy eating out and not having to clean up any dishes for the whole weekend. That was glorious I tell you. Special mention for the Grand Canyon Brewing and Distillery - also some super yum food, felt so relaxed and the tables were so inspiring! Yes tables can be inspiring if they are carved wood with resin pours.
So would I call this trip a success on intention? For one of my first intentional trips, yup!
We planned to NOT do a lot - spend more time resting in the room or making sure we had meals. Was it difficult? Oh heck yes, especially for me. Jake has this wonderful ability to let himself rest and relax, but I do not. Working on that, however. I loved the places we chose to visit, how much time we just spent with each other and enjoying time to just be. The food was excellent and I really want to try again this weekend. Bonus; the hotel was pretty close to everything and we could have walked to a lot of places but the goal was to relax. And I even got to experience cold weather again and play in the snow.
So until next time, any suggestions for really good three-day-weekend trips for relaxation and spending time with loved ones?
I’m going to take a safe bet that you’ve been there too. You know the one, the trip you take to ‘really get away from it all’. Pick a spot, any spot. Picture that vacation in your head. You went on the road, and maybe answered some texts or did that one last email back to work (even though they knew you were off for the week). You kept answering the calls on your cell phone, because now it seems we are available almost everywhere. Then the calls and emails crept into your actual vacation. Here you are, relaxing away from home and answering work emails or checking social media for the tenth time during your relaxing morning coffee.
Somehow this practice doesn’t end. It spirals right into your vacation. I’ve done it too. Most every vacation I am guilty, but it’s something I am actively working on. How often will I check work email because I might miss something even if there’s a holiday, or get back to messages because I feel bad for leaving my friends hanging. I say I’m going to do it once, or maybe even once a day check everything and get it out of my system. Ask me how many times I ended up on social media or calling and texting people all week long.
So how do we set those boundaries on the vacations we use to get away from our routines? How do we really move into the space of getting away and really taking that well-earned break? My first and seems simple enough (to me anyways) tip is to send a work email to whoever might need to contact you. Let work know you are away and even set up an auto-reply email. I’m fortunate to work somewhere that respects time off and really only calls if it’s a true emergency during a vacation. Just like calling in to check as things were shutting down last year as the pandemic hit and letting us know not to report to the building the Monday after break.
How about our friends? I for one hate being left hanging for days on end, but I don’t remember a time that my close friends didn’t return a text within a day or so. I also tend to notice on social media if they are out of town and usually figure it can wait until they return (hey friends reading this - I write these things down a lot because I know my brain won’t remember after a few hours). My friends usually know well in advance about trips because I’m so dang excited about them I can’t stop talking about it anyways. If I failed to mention it, I try to bring it up so that they know I won’t catch all the messages or maybe take extra time to respond.
My final tip to really get away from it all? Go off the grid! Bear with me on this, because being disconnected and not being able to use my phone or all my apps used to be so foreign to me. I wasn’t connected to it all the time, but not being able to use it was, well, weird. Then I started taking some trips with friends up to Mendocino, or going camping with Jake near Payson, Arizona. There is no signal to be had. Sometimes we would travel into town and get a very basic signal but it’s a whole different world. You sleep well because your alerts don’t go off, and no waking up to check apps and emails. You just….relax. Don’t knock it til’ you try it! Bonus tip - take a group of friends and you will have some amazing fun!
Until next time, what was your biggest snafu on a “getting away” trip and how are you going to do that differently?
When I was faced with the cancellation of a minimum of three trips this past year, it hit hard. I realized how much I would miss going to Walt Disney World, a planned camping trip with friends to California and also the return to the Craftcation conference. There was a specific ‘why’ for each trip; I was taking my mom on a vacation, the camping trip is an annual thing with close friends, and I had not been to a Craftcation since 2013. I had built so much intention into each trip, and they were all gone (well, postponed anyways).
I realized that there wasn’t anything I could do to make these trips happen. I could still plan, and I did. There were amazing online experiences that helped me connect, even if I didn’t see everyone in person. I was still able to muse over the idea of returning to Disney. But the fact remained that I wasn’t making any journeys that year. Or so I thought.
Enter my amazing boyfriend Jake. He knew I was upset and also had a solution. One of my big deals each summer is getting into the woods and going off the grid. This ‘why’ was a challenge the first time in 2016 but now it is necessary. A time to reset, to really get away from it all and the much needed social media and phone break. Jake reminded me that he had an RV. It needed some work, but he was willing to make it happen for a couple family camping trips and he knew a spot that was both in the woods and off the grid. So while the other trips were postponed, I was able to refresh my brain and relax in the great outdoors.
So what does this random tale of a boyfriend with an RV have to do with the why’s of travel? It helped me realize that yes, I love the trips I plan. That I’m always planning my next excursion to Disney. Now I realized that the why, the intention, of the trip is also sacred to me. Intention sets the tone of the trip. Like the weekend Jake and I spent in Williams, AZ. There will be another post with more on that, but Williams was our weekend to re-connect with each other after a particularly crazy year of family events plus COVID. Everything had hit us at once and we needed some intentional time together to just be. And we did just that.
The intention of any trip can and should be quite magical. It can help you decide where to go and what you want to prioritize. Will it be a big family or friend get-together, a solo trip or a weekend with your beloved? Is there something special you want to see, experience or even a restaurant you have longed to try? Once I made a stop in Worcester, completely out of the way as I headed to visit family in the Boston area, just to try a restaurant I heard about. And yes it was completely worth it. That small intention led me to try out more of the locations in other states that have different menu options.
A special mention goes out to the Disney parks - both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. So many people wonder how I can keep going back to the same place with the same excitement each time. Simply put, I find a reason for each trip. Walt Disney World is a special meeting place to spend time with my friend Adriana, who still resides back in New York. There are still experiences and restaurants on my to-do list for all parks. Add on the theming and special events throughout the year, and it’s magical each and every time. Having a reason why has become central to any trips that I plan for myself, family and friends.
Until next time, what intentions will you incorporate into your next trip?
Jenn; Writer, Disney Enthusiast and Artist.