By Zach Friedman, myPALeos
Have you ever wondered how the Paleo diet will affect your ability to travel, visit friends and family or go on a road trip? Do you wish there was a way to stay Paleo while doing all the things you want to do?
I have always loved to travel. I had planned my adult life around making the most of vacation time, always planning for the next place to go. So it was in some ways bitter sweet when I found that my health vastly improved following the Paleo diet. I knew that if I wanted this great new level of health I would have to figure out how to fit eating paleo into my lifestyle. I wondered if I would have to cut out travel altogether.
Luckily with careful planning I have found ways to make it work. In this article I will share my best tips and knowledge of what I have learned in the process.
So what does “Paleo Travel” look like? Depending on how strict you are following the diet, some or all of what I recommend may not be necessary for you, but they will hopefully give you a sense that staying Paleo and healthy is possible while on the road.
It is very easy to start making exceptions on travel days, eating one cheat food, then two, then three. But with some careful planning you can keep these exceptions to a minimum and stop the occasional cheat from snowballing into weeks off from the diet.
Where to Stay
One of the most important decisions you can make when planning out Paleo friendly travel is choosing where you will stay. This can make the difference between having a wonderful relaxing time with those you love or a stressful trip worrying where your next Paleo friendly meal will come from.
As a general rule of thumb, I feel the most important consideration is booking a place to stay that has full kitchen facilities. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have to cook all of your meals the whole time you are away from home, but it gives you the option.
Often I will make a big meal at the beginning of the trip once I reach my destination and then eat or pack leftovers for some of the subsequent meals so that I have flexibility and more free time to explore the destination or catch up with friends or family. Having a fully stocked kitchen nearby helps with peace of mind. At any point if there is a need to put together a healthy, Paleo friendly meal quickly you have everything at your fingertips.
Paleo Friendly Hotels
Although I would suggest staying away from traditional hotels if possible, there are a number of extended stay hotel chains that can be great options for travel on the Paleo diet. Although designed around those traveling for work, corporate apartment hotels or extended stay hotels are increasingly common throughout the US and even abroad.
Extended stay hotels are usually competitively priced with standard hotel rooms and you typically get a lot more for your money, including full kitchens and usually a separate living room and bedroom. Some of the popular extended stay brands from major hotel chains include Residence
Inn and TownePlace from Marriot, Homewood Suites from Hilton, Staybridge Suites and Candewood Suites from InterContinental, Hawthorn Suites from Wyndham and Extended Stay Stay America.
One thing to note is that facilities vary by location so always check the website or call the specific hotel location to confirm that rooms do in fact include full kitchens, rather than just a microwave. I have seen most of these brands offer some rooms without kitchen facilities in specific cities, so it is always safer to check with the particular location before booking.
One of my favorite options for traveling on the Paleo diet is taking advantage of vacation rentals. Vacation rentals allow you to stay in a real residential neighborhood and experience the true feeling of the place you are visiting.
This also often means you are staying near local health food stores, vegetable markets, butchers and fish markets all catering to residents rather than tourists. Another great selling point for vacation rentals is that they are often more reasonably priced than hotels, especially when you consider that you are getting a whole apartment, rather than a single hotel room.
There are many great websites listing vacation rentals. My personal favorite is Airbnb as I feel they make the process of booking and arranging vacation rentals as easy as possible, even when renting a place for just a day or two.
Some of their communication tools offered through Airbnb help cut down on the time figuring out the best way to get in touch with the owner, get access to the unit and pay for the rental, as communication and payment are built in to their website and app.
A couple of other great vacation rental services are Homeaway and Flipkey. Homeaway and Flipkey vacation rentals can often be a better bargain than Airbnb, especially for longer term stays, such as a full week, so it’s nice to be able to select the best option for the type of trip you are taking.
Many Hotels offer a Mini Fridge and Microwave on Demand
The final option I will mention as a backup choice for Paleo travel are ways to assemble basic kitchen facilities in traditional hotels. Many hotels offer the option of delivering a mini-fridge and in some cases a microwave to your room for those with allergies or special food needs.
In some cases they will charge an extra fee, often once per stay, while in other cases it is complimentary. If you are deciding between a couple of hotels, you might call ahead to each of them and see if any offer both a mini fridge and/or microwave to be requested and what the extra charge would be, if any.
Although this is not the same as a full kitchen for preparing food, it can allow you to bring some Paleo prepared food or leftovers from home, either refrigerated or frozen and heat the food up as needed using the in-room microwave.
Plan Out Your Food
If you do book a place with a kitchen or even a kitchenette and plan to cook, doing a little internet research in advance to find places to buy healthy Paleo friendly ingredients can also go a long way. I typically try to research a good health food store, coop or supermarket that is close to either where we are staying or will be passing on the way while driving to the destination and stock up on ingredients that first day.
If you stock up on supplies that first day and can have your grocery shopping mostly out of the way you will then have more time to cook without having to worry about shopping. For example, if it’s a one hour drive from the airport to your rental property or hotel there will likely be a big selection of stores you will pass on the way from the airport to your rental, even if the options in the neighborhood you are staying in are limited or you are staying somewhere fairly remote.
I will also typically check if there are good farmers markets close by and see if the market happens during one of the first days of the trip to stock up on additional local, fresh and unique produce and ingredients.
Snacks For The Road
For the days when you are in-transit, having great snacks on hand can make all of the difference. Given that you cannot just buy granola bars to stick in your bag or purchase snacks at most rest stops when you are on the Paleo diet, you have to think a bit more strategically. But there are a lot of snacks you can purchase that are Paleo compliant if you’re careful, that don’t need refrigeration.
Some portable non-granola “bar” equivalents for the Paleo diet are Lara Bars, which can be found in many health food and grocery stores. Although not all Lara Bars are Paleo, many of their bars are fully Paleo such as: their Cherry Pie (dates, almonds, unsweetened cherries), Apple Pie (dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, raisins, cinnamon), Banana Bread (dates, almonds, unsweetened bananas), Cashew Cookie (dates, cashews) and Pecan Pie (dates, pecans, almonds) bars for example. There are also snack bars designed specifically for the Paleo diet, such as Simple Squares Organic Nutrition bars and Paleo Treats Mustang Bars, as well as many other Paleo products that you can order online.
Some snacks I like to take with me for longer trips are canned tuna, canned sardines or other canned fish in olive oil. Although these can be difficult to eat in some circumstances, they tend to be a great meal replacement while you are on the go, as it is healthy, high in protein and fairly filling.
Another great filling option which are relatively light are nuts, such as packs of almonds, mixed nuts from a Paleo friendly brand or even small cans of Macadamia Nuts if you want to really treat yourself.
I often carry dried fruit or even freeze dried fruit with me as well (they have a great selection of freeze dried fruits at Trader Joe's) that end up being very light in your bag. Another Paleo friendly travel snack are dried meats, such as pemmican and Paleo friendly beef jerky products.
Semi-Perishable Paleo Snacks
In addition to the prepackaged Paleo snack foods which you can slip in your bag as insurance for the duration of your trip, there are many Paleo foods that you can pack for your initial day of travel that will stay fresh for at least that first day or often longer. Some suggestions here would be fruit with peels, such as oranges, bananas or apples.
In addition, avocados can be a great nutrient dense and filling snack as well. A couple of ways I like to prepare avocados on the road is to simply cut them in half and top them with homemade salad dressing or condiments like salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice and eat them with a spoon.
Make Ahead Paleo Snack Options
If you are the type that likes to plan ahead, there are some other great options for preparing foods that you can take with you on the day you travel. For example, you can prepare pasture raised hard boiled eggs the night before, which should keep for most of the next day, especially if you can carry a cooler bag with an ice pack.
Some other similar options are high quality cured meats, such as naturally raised Paleo prosciutto or even homemade cooked ground beef patties kept in a Tupperware. In addition, a number of Paleo slaw and cold salad recipes can be kept cool for part or even all of a day by packing them in a cooler bag.
Getting Paleo Foods Delivered to Your Destination
Another option I have used when traveling to destinations in the US and stayed for a week or longer has been to order some of the Paleo supplies online before leaving home. This way they are delivered to the hotel or vacation rental when you arrive.
This cuts down on a lot of what I have to pack and carry when I travel. This typically makes the most sense for heavy items like canned fish or possibly Paleo friendly cooking oils or other ingredients (coconut oils, sesame oils, almond butters) that might be harder to find at your destination that you will want or need.
A great service for doing this is Amazon. At this point Amazon carries just about any category of non-perishable food product you can think of.
With their prime 2 day shipping options, it’s even possible to try to time the delivery so that it arrives one of the first few days you are starting your vacation. Many hotels will also hold items at the front desk if you ask them in advance, if you’d like your order to arrive just prior to you arriving at your destination.
Meal Delivery Services
One other option you might consider for a stress free holiday if you are traveling within the US is pre-ordering a week of meals from a Paleo meal delivery service such as Trifecta. They will deliver the meals to the address you specify, so you can send the meals to your vacation rental or even hotel front desk (you will likely want to choose a delivery date that is after you arrive at your destination as the package with the meals will need to be picked up and placed in the refrigerator within a day).
With this option, you can simply heat up the meals as you need them. This avoids the hassle of finding places to buy high quality Paleo friendly ingredients and taking the time to prepare your own meals, allowing you to have more free time at your destination.
This can also be a great option when visiting family, as it cuts down on the need to use and take over the kitchen facilities of family members you might be staying with to prepare your food. For example you can mention that you are on a special diet and have had to order food to match your special dietary needs, to take the pressure off the host to prepare special meals.
Summing it all Up
I hope you have found some of the travel tips mentioned here useful. These are some of the techniques I have found helpful in staying strictly Paleo on the road.
These tips are mostly geared to travel within the US where I live. When traveling internationally, there are a slightly different set of Paleo travel techniques that can be useful for planes, international markets, etc but these are the main tips that I have used in most situations.
If you have other tips of things that have worked for you to keep Paleo during your travels, I would love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments below. Thank you!