Top 5 Travel Tips to Veganise your Hotel Room

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Travelling the vegan road is sometimes fraught with challenges. While the ability to research cheap hotels has never been easier in this digital age, the ability for travellers to find a suitably vegan lodging may require more careful research. Here are five top travel tips to veganise your travel to a hotel room while at the same time spreading the word that there is a growing demand for vegan accommodation options.

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Firstly, search for that suitable hotel or accommodation to stay in

Naturally you can just type the word ‘vegan’ into a search engine and choose from the scrolling options available (Webjet.com.au for example will reveal the Loving Hut Paradise Island Vegan B&B in Taiwan) yet the choices may be on the skimpy side. If accommodation pickings are slim, then do further in-depth research about the lodgings you choose.

Ask for your room to be furnished in fabrics that are not animal derived

Many hotels pride themselves on the aesthetics, and may supply blankets and pillows that are made from animal parts like feathers or wool. It all comes down to branding and an image the hotel seeks to portray. Here is when a phone call to the hotel’s concierge will be time well spent. Talk to the concierge to determine the fibres used in the hotel room you wish to book and ask if particular fibres are present. If animal-derived fibres are used, ask if the hotel can supply your room with plant or synthetic alternatives. If the hotel can’t, then politely decline the hotel and state your reasons why, then find a hotel that can accommodate your needs.        

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Does the hotel feature vegan options on its food or room service menu?

Again, digital research can yield countless information when researching a hotel. Find your desired lodgings and read over the hotel’s own website, then feed through its pages to find the menus and room service items. Are there enough items to cater for you for the duration of your stay? If not, then it might be an adventurous opportunity to research the vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants or cafes in the area you’re travelling to. Think – you can always head out or order in.   

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And then there are the beauty products, mini bar and welcome snacks…

Again, hotel rooms can be accentuated by welcome snacks, mini bar, complimentary tea and coffee, and complimentary beauty products or toiletries. It can be a free-for-all at times, and this is the trap that vegan travellers can face. Again, contact the concierge to determine what items are in the room as part of the rack rate. Try to find out the brand names so you can research to ascertain whether these items are vegan and don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients. As a last resort, you may need to bring your own toiletry items. Catering-wise, you may find that some alcohols are fine to consume and there may even be fresh fruit available. It’s common, for example, to find a serve of cow’s milk in the fridge in Australian hotels. Recently, a friend of mine asked a hotel to replace the milk with a plant-based option. There was some resistance from the hotel, yet my friend was persistent and reasoned (with respect, of course) the point that she doesn’t consume dairy, so why should she miss out on a cup of tea without milk? The hotel listened, understood the case put forward and provided her room with a small pitcher of soy milk.

We need to reassure hotels that this is not about getting as many freebies we want. It’s a matter of being entitled to what’s included for the money you paid, while not feeling left out. As a vegan customer, this is extremely disheartening to feel left out and choices need to be respected. Vegan travellers deserve the normality that’s afforded to other hotel guests. Ultimately, it’s a common hospitable courtesy that should be respected. If you have the opportunity to leave feedback after your stay, highlight where the hotel has been able to help you, and where they may fall short for vegan guests. There’s a chance here for hotels to cater for all guests (including vegans), which can help increase their business and strengthen their reputation for above and beyond customer service.

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Does your chosen hotel have a sustainability or eco-friendly policy?

In recent years, hotel chains are becoming increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and local habitats. If you hotel has a policy that strives to reduce its impact on the environment, then said policy will be listed on their website including actionable goals and outcomes to achieve. More often than not, such policies embrace the hotel’s entire network – from management, staff, suppliers and guests. It’s only through enacting such a policy that a hotel can be truly committed to providing sustainable services that are minimising impact on its immediate environment. So, how does this affect you? Discover how you can play your part in the hotel’s sustainability policy to help minimise your own impact. Read the policy (there may even be prompts in the room itself) to understand what actions the hotel supports.

The easiest ways in which you can reduce your impact is minimising your laundry and resource consumption. Can you use your towel more than once? Do you really need your room cleaned and serviced every single day? If not, then pop a doorknob sign on your door that states you don’t need your room serviced. Minimise the time spent in the shower and the amount of showers you take each day to save on water resources. Get out and about beyond your hotel room, to minimise the time spent sucking up electricity, heating or cooling and water in your room. Explore the town you’re visiting, rather than ruminating in your room. Set aside any recyclable rubbish for the hotel to recycle, rather than tossing this trash away.       

So, what are some ways you aim to veganise your hotel room? Have you ever experienced some brick walls in your travels when you bring up the word vegan? I’d love to hear your travel tales and your safeguard tricks in the comments below.

Visiting Olivia Spring Vietnamese Café for Vegan Cơm tấm and Coffee

Part of my time growing up in Melbourne, I was living in Springvale South. The bordering suburb, Springvale, is known to many for its Vietnamese restaurants and fresh food markets. Before I could drive, my parents would take me out many a Friday night after school to feast on some of the most delicious Vietnamese food Melbourne holds host to. Staple Vietnamese favourites were regularly ordered, along with steaming pots of chrysanthemum tea. It’s these memories that pepper my childhood food travels.

Olivia Spring Cafe vegan Vietnamese food travel coffee

My food travels have taken a broader view and I’m travelling the vegan road to uncover the gluten free options. These types of food choices aren’t so well-known in Vietnamese cuisine (generally, relying heavily on meat-based ingredients and sometimes glutinous noodles or sauces) but it’s in Melbourne where Vietnamese food is pushing the boundaries of tradition for Vietnamese cuisine.

Melbourne Olivia Spring Cafe vegan food travel Vietnamese coffee

It’s only been two months, yet Olivia Spring Café is shaking up tradition with an all-vegan Vietnamese café in Moonee Ponds. To my knowledge, this is the second all-vegan Vietnamese locale in Melbourne, (the second being Fina’s 2) which suggests that there is a growing need for vegan Vietnamese food.      

Olivia Spring Cafe food vegan travel Vietnamese coffee

As you walk through the doors at Olivia Spring Café, the space is fresh, new and gorgeous, exuding the essence of a French-style coffee shop. Tables and chairs line the floor, looked over by colourfully painted murals along the walls. The space is flooded in natural light, as the espresso machine grinds and hums to the beat of this brand new establishment. A mezzanine level is one step up from the main floor, if you want to stretch out on the couch or take a Vietnamese meal traditionally – aside a large coffee table while sitting on cosy cushions on the floor. Today’s lunch is taken at a table with chairs and before there’s the opportunity to sit, our hospitable host is asking me what I’d like drink.

“Coffee?”

“Yes, please! A café latte with soy milk?”

He smiles, nods and hurries away to man the machine and churn out my order. Once I start perusing the menu, I can see the extent of the options for drinks – teas, coffees, even Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê đá)! (An option to try for next time).

Melbourne Olivia Spring Cafe vegan food travel Vietnamese coffee

One lunchtime option I decide on quickly, after weighing up the many mouth-watering options, is Cơm tấm, or Broken Rice. This was one of my favourites back in the day and the only way to describe it is that it’s like a platter for one. There’s a perfectly rounded mound of broken rice to anchor the plate, which is then surrounded by a bit of everything. Broken rice stems from the grains that become cracked during the processing part of rice, and it seems to feature predominantly in Vietnamese cuisine.

There’s fresh tomato slices and cucumber resting on a bed of lettuce, and Vietnamese style pickled carrot and cauliflower. For a spicy twist, there’s a portion of kimchi – Korean pickled cabbage. To crown the dish in its tasty glory are wedges of tofu cake speckled by black sesame seeds and, the tastiest protein on the plate, lemongrass tofu – strips of tofu rolled and marinated in lemongrass before being seared until lightly crispy. To finish off the dish, a vessel of vinegar with shredded pickled carrot and slices of fresh chilli is placed at the centre of the plate so I can drip spoonfuls over the dish with as little or as much as I like. It adds a zing to the dish, but with all the flavours steaming in front of me already it’s best to drip the vinegar sparingly to create a well-balanced flavoursome lunch. If you want that extra zing, I suggest grabbing your chopsticks and collect the soaking carrot to crunch on; my favourite moment when feasting on Cơm tấm.              

Melbourne Olivia Spring Cafe vegan food travel Vietnamese coffee

The fastness of Cơm tấm is deceiving, and lunch turns into a substantial meal to sustain me for the rest of the day. Just as I thought I couldn’t eat any more, I am beckoned by some raw cakes in the cake cabinet; supplied to Olivia Spring Café by local cake-maker RawJoy.

It’s tricky to choose which one when options like decadent Chocolate Peanut Butter with a slightly salty biscuit base and Lime Cheesecake flavours are available. So, the only option is to choose one of each! Not only do you have the freedom to choose both here, it’s the freedom to experience two polarising flavours together without the flavours colliding and conflicting with each other during the same serving.

Olivia Spring Cafe Melbourne vegan food travel Viertnamese coffee

I think this is the essence of Vietnamese cuisine and why it’s so popular in Melbourne – drawing together such unique flavours that do work so well together, and work just as well in a vegan setting. The combination of flavours found in Cơm tấm at Olivia Spring Café is thrilling, while still staying true to traditional methods. It can be done, and is done so beautifully and scrumptiously.      

Travel to Olivia Spring Café and try their vegan Vietnamese menu for yourself. 637 Mt Alexander Road Moonee Ponds Victoria Australia 3039. Phone 03 9077 5560. Hours: 7.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Saturday (closed Sundays)

Travel to Discover Australia’s Lovely Lighthouses

Australian singer-songwriter Josh Pyke was on to a good thing when he sang about moving into a lighthouse in his single The Lighthouse Song. Pyke had identified a traveller’s fantasy and plucked it beautifully from his guitar. It’s a fantasy drenched in wanderlust and sparks curiosity in any traveller’s mind. Who wouldn’t be lured by a white-washed beacon stemming from a craggy cliff as rambunctious waves barrel to the shore? And, who wouldn’t want to pack a bag, load the car and drive to the nearest coast soon after?

There are some lighthouses in Australia that could call out to any traveller wishing to pursue such a fantastical and nautical dream. While the ability to actually live in a lighthouse is out of reach for wayfarers, one can just as well journey to the nearest coastline and ponder the possibility.

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Head to Byron Bay for Cape Byron Lighthouse
Byron Bay is a beacon in itself; an escape for travellers seeking a healing travel experience. Located on the northern coast of New South Wales, Byron Bay’s relaxed atmosphere coaxes its visitors to pursue the town’s artisan and farmers markets, the world-class music festival Byron Bay Bluesfest, organic cuisine and laid back lifestyle. Those seeking refuge from the madness of their city life can indulge in a wellness or yoga retreat while absorbing ‘the good life’ vibes that only Byron Bay can offer. Head coast-side to take in breath-taking views of rugged headlands as you’re nestled by hinterland to your rear.

After a morning of taking in water adventures such as surfing, whale-watching and hang-gliding, brush off the sand and make a segway for Cape Byron. This headland is part of the world’s oldest caldera, or rim of an extinct volcano; a podium for Cape Byron Lighthouse. Cape Byron Lighthouse was completed in 1901 and marks Australia’s most easterly point. Salute the ocean and you may just be rewarded with a dolphin or hump-back whale pod spotting. Pretty walking tracks orbit the area and are a great opportunity to view Cape Byron Lighthouse from a new angle.

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Set sail for Rottnest Island and a day with Wadjemup Lighthouse
The inaccurate name Rottnest, or ‘rats’ nest’, bestowed on this island by Dutch explorers in the 17th Century doesn’t deter travellers in the present day to travel here. Those so-called rats are the island’s bespoke marsupials called quokkas and their cute faces intrigue anyone who visits here.  You can take the short ferry ride from mainland Western Australia to Rottnest Island, or ‘Rotto’ to the locals, and be met by outstretched walking trails, snorkelling in crystal-clear ocean and rich indigenous and colonial history. Part of that colonial history can be discovered at Wadjemup Lighthouse.

The original lighthouse was Western Australia’s first stone lighthouse, completed in 1849 and lit the way for ships to sail a safe passage into Fremantle. One replacement lighthouse was built on the same site 50 years later before it was replaced yet again in 1900 as a way of improving its communications and signals. Visitors to Rottnest Island can now climb Wadjemup Lighthouse to take in its all-encompassing views. Afterwards, embark on the 9.4-kilometre Rottnest Island Wadjemup Walk Trail to discover why Rottnest’s indigenous inhabitants deemed this spectacular island ‘place across the water’.   

Take the Great Ocean Road to Great Otway National Park and find Cape Otway Lighthouse
The Great Otway National Park, or ‘the Otways’, provide natural beauty from incredible ocean views to dense rainforest, all encased by rolling hinterland. Victoria’s undisclosed natural beauty can be discovered along this famous coastline. Exciting experiences can be found here, from kayaking to scenic drives, bushwalking and world-class surfing. What draws the interest of travellers to this location is the promise of Australia’s oldest mainland lighthouse – Cape Otway Lighthouse. You can climb to the top of this glorious lighthouse, and be rewarded with its panoramic views. Keep your height above ground and head for the Otway Fly tree-top walk to experience the views from another perspective.

The light of Cape Otway Lighthouse has been running continuously since 1848 and guided tours can be taken of the area where you’ll learn about this part of Victoria’s colonial and Koori history. Great Otway National Park is also known for its ancient paleontological history and you can also learn about the dinosaurs that inhabited the region millions of years ago. Opt to stay in nearby towns of Lorne or Apollo Bay to extend your explorations while taking in the local seaside village life.    

If you're travelling around Australia and checking out its sprawling coastlines, be sure to take a pit-stop in one of these lighthouses, or one you may uncover in your travels!

Plan a Winter-Warming City Trip to Melbourne

Melbourne is not only renowned for its lush parks and gardens, Victorian-era architecture and tree-lined boulevards; it’s a city that’s just as well-known for its rainy weather. It’s not uncommon that you can experience four seasons in one day. Though, with the onset of a Melbourne winter, those other three seasons seem to disappear. In the middle of a rainy winter, like we are in now, the temperatures plummet at speed.  

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Melbourne’s wet and wild winter weather shouldn’t put a dampener on any keen traveller’s plans to visit in the cooler months. There’s still plenty to do in Melbourne in winter, and there are many ways you can experience the city while still keeping warm and cosy. Why not plan a winter-warmer visit and experience an indoorsy jaunt through this sophisticated and most liveable city in Australia.

Head to the National Gallery of Victoria for art and culture
Melbourne hosts a vibrant art and culture scene, accentuated by the many galleries dotted around the city. The National Gallery of Victoria is Melbourne’s premier gallery located on St Kilda Road and is easily accessible by foot if you’re staying in the city. The National Gallery of Victoria is open each day; a warm and inviting destination to shade you from the winter elements. Works from many of the world’s most famous artists have been shown here and there are new and exciting exhibitions all year round. Lengthen your stay by taking in a free talk or tour or peruse the stunning gift shop after your artistic wander through the gallery’s majestic spaces.

Recharge the batteries at Supercharger or Raw Trader
After an energetic morning of gallery wandering, why not rest and refuel? Melbourne is famous for its multicultural foodie destinations like Chinatown on the city’s rim or Lygon Street, Melbourne’s ‘Little Italy’ in nearby Carlton. Yet, Melbourne is also a destination for healthy meals and the burgeoning raw food trade. Recharge the batteries while at Emporium Melbourne with a ‘fill your bowl’ meal at Supercharger. Grains, vegetable dishes, broths, sauces and ‘smashes’ like avocado are on hand so you can stack your bowl with body-nourishing and healthy options at cheap prices. Did I mention they're all vegan and gluten free?

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For a little ‘decadence without the guilt’ in the afternoon, visit Raw Trader in Sutherland Street off Elizabeth Street. Their café menu will soothe your sweet-tooth with a slice of cheesecake or tart and warm you from any winter chills over a café latte as cobblestoned Melbourne wanders by you outside.

Stay warm at Melbourne City Baths and keep fit at the same time
If you like to keep fit in your travels, then why not try some laps at the Melbourne City Baths? Melbourne City Baths on Swanston Street hosts a heated pool, spa, sauna and fully equipped gym for any traveller who’s keen to keep up with his or her exercise regime.

Melbourne City Baths first opened in 1860 as a location for the city’s residents to bathe. Melbourne City Baths has evolved over the years and is now a central fitness complex for visiting travellers and locals alike. Pay a guest price to swim, or purchase an all-encompassing pass that will provide you with a spa and sauna session after your swim. 

Rock out at any one of Melbourne’s live music venues
You may remember the iconic video clip to AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n Roll).” The band rode on a moving flatbed truck to belt out this rock anthem alongside bag-pipe players and onlookers along Swanston Street. Since then, Melbourne has only roared in its reputation for live venues around the city and you can head to many of the city’s bars and clubs to experience a well-known act from overseas or an upstart from the suburbs. Many bands come here to ‘make it’ and Melbourne is the city to do it. 

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Depending on the bill, most venues will charge either a door price or you’ll need to book your tickets in advance. However, there are still some great locations where you can see bands for free. Head to venues such as The Toff in Town on Swanston Street where you can also take in a late supper in the dining carriage; an actual train carriage! For nostalgia and riff-laden grit, Cherry Bar in the aptly named AC/DC Lane is a keen choice. Or, head underground to any one of Melbourne’s laneway, independent record stores for an off-chance, in-store set.

Do you have plans to travel to Melbourne? Why not consider a trip in winter with the aforementioned travel tips? Or, have you visited Melbourne in winter and what are some of your winter-warming travel tips? I’d love to hear about your experiences if you’ve visited.

Travelling (Almost) Waste Free at the Gluten Free Fest in Preston

What I love about The Food Truck Park in Preston is its themed food weekends. Food trucks and mobile food vendors travel across Melbourne to park their vehicles so travellers can feast away in confidence. The Food Truck Park’s Vegetarian and Vegan weekends are incredible, in the sense that local favourites and new makers on the block sell their culinary creations for those needing vegetarian and vegan options.

The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia

Earlier this month, the Preston Food Truck Park decided to host a Gluten Free Fest over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Gluten-intolerant and/or coeliac Melburnians could travel here and feast on favourite food truck foods without worrying about becoming sick. Another bonus of the Gluten Free Fest was that vegan vendors, and vendors with vegan options, featured on the day.  Savoury and sweet options were available for those wanting a bit – or a lot – of both.

When I travel for an eating trip to a food truck park or market now, I'm starting to cringe at the amount of single-use rubbish that ultimately accumulates. Thankfully, vegan food vendor Woking Amazing decided to take an initiative. They invited travellers to bring their own containers and cutlery to the Gluten Free Fest. It was a brilliant way to reduce my waste without compromising on serving size and taste.

The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia

When Woking Amazing is around, tasty and inventive 100% vegan, Asian-style street food is always prepared, though the gluten-free options are a little slim.  At the Gluten Free Fest, I wanted to try all their options – all gluten-free – and it was easy for the coeliac in me to do so when I packed multiple containers in different sizes into my bag.

The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia woking amazing
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia woking amazing
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia woking amazing

Just the simple joy of eating amazing meal choices without caution made my day – pulled ‘porkies’ pulled mushroom roll with crunchy slaw, a side order of smoky, zesty chunky chips, and crispy sweet ‘honee’ soy ‘chickn’ chicken-style morsels topped in spring onions and sesame seeds aside fluffy steamed rice. Even a sample of their mock fried ‘calamari’ dusted in zingy spices and dipped in a vegan mayo dressing, all with a wedged of lime squeezed throughout was enjoyed. At the same time, I was grateful for Woking Amazing to take the plunge and allow customers to use their own containers.

To put it into perspective, this small initiative saved me from using four single-use containers, biodegradable cutlery and serviettes. Woking Amazing use biodegradable packaging, yet to eliminate this waste in one day was ethically empowering for both vendor and customer. Imagine the power of all of us who attended the Gluten Free Fest if we were all invited to bring our own containers? It’s a rhetorical question, especially when I re-assessed the impact when it was time to purchase sweet treats.

The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia gnocchi

From the gnocchi doughnuts rolled in cinnamon sugar from The Gluten Free Gnocchi Bar to the scrumptious vegan chocolate crackles and chocolate cupcake drizzled in toffee syrup from Sweet Forbidden Journey. Using BYO containers at those moments wasn’t an option. Some vendors are reluctant to do so, as they can’t control potential cross-contamination or it might be tricky at busy times for example.

The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia sweet forbidden journey
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia sweet forbidden journey

Sure, they’re valid reasons. But there comes a time when travellers need to assess their impacts and start to minimise said impact they are exerting onto the world. Give travellers the option to BYO, create a conscious action in which travellers can minimise their impact, give customers the choice and our world will become a cleaner place through which to travel. Small scale events such as the Gluten Free Fest are the ultimate starting points. Start with small steps, to create a healthier habit that barracks for a better world. Ground level is where such change can thrive.

So, I ask you – have you been given the opportunity to bring your own containers to a festival so you can eliminate your waste? What are some of the barriers have you faced when you decided to BYO anyway? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

The Food Truck Park in Preston runs themed weekends as special events throughout the year. Entry is free and food/drink prices are as marked by each vendor.
518 High Street, Preston Victoria, Australia 3072.

Justine de Jonge at Fire & Tea paid for all food items herself and attended the Monday of the Gluten Free Fest long weekend in June with her own containers, cutlery and napkins.