My wife and I just returned from a 4th of July getaway across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to Reno. Why Reno? Well, it’s close (three hours), and the drive is relaxing and filled with enjoyable scenery—mountaintops still speckled with snow, rivers cutting rapids through rock-strewn ravines, waterfalls and forests, historical bridges and quaint towns. We also like to lose ourselves with the lure of gambling, fine dining, diverse shopping, and the occasional show. It’s always an easy escape whenever we feel the need to escape from the everyday.
But, if you are like me and have certain special dietary needs, you need to plan ahead. Here are a few tips that will help make your next getaway smoother and more rewarding:
BRING YOUR OWN
I seldom leave on a trip—short jaunt or long trek—without my trusty Bodum travel tea kettle. It’s compact and light enough to fit in any carryon bag or suitcase. I suggest you also pack your tea (or coffee) cup and spoon—that way you don’t have to worry about finding one in the morning, and this also reduces exposure to germs (never use those glasses they put in hotel bathrooms!). I also bring along all of my favorite green teas (as well as rooibos and yerba matte) in a Ziploc bag. If traveling by automobile, I toss in a case of mountain spring water—you can stuff six bottles at a time into your carryon or on your person and bring them up to your room. This allows you to have safe water (not all bottled waters are created equal) to drink and make tea with, as well as saving you a bunch of money. I never drink tap water, even at home—I always bring along my own spring water while dining out. And I bring it along, whenever possible, while on vacation. I enjoy Crystal Geyser or Arrowhead. It makes a difference which type you drink. Always opt for mountain spring versus purified.
For longer trips, or if traveling by air, I will pack the Bodum travel tea kettle and my own tea, but then buy a case of mountain spring water at either a grocery store or Wal-Mart, if one is convenient. The difference in cost per bottle when you buy it by the case (around 21 cents per bottle) versus purchasing a bottle in the lobby of that fancy hotel (anywhere from $2.00-$4.00 per bottle) is staggering. Spend your hard-earned cash on some fun, not bottled water. Plus, there’s no guarantee that the lobby gift shop carries mountain spring water—most of the time you’re paying for bottled tap water that has just been purified.
If you have special dietary needs (and being a pretty strict vegetarian, I sure do!), then never assume that the restaurants at the resort or city or area you are visiting will offer the same dining fare you are accustom to. The good news: most restaurants these days do offer a few vegetarian menu items to choose from—but often they lack adequate protein or fiber, or are just salads or vegetable plates.
The solution: Bring your own, if you can. I never leave on a road trip or getaway without a Trader Joe’s bag filled with healthy snacks that satisfy my vegetarian needs (okay, and some fun stuff that just taste good—hey, you’re on vacation, after all, right?).
But the best solution:
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before leaving on any trip, go online and research the area you are visiting. Search for the restaurants or hotels that cater to your special needs (and not just vegetarian needs, but whatever your particular needs may be). Unless you’re vacationing in some obscure, faraway, remote island in the middle of nowhere, you should be able to find something that satisfies you.
Using the Internet (or magazines, newspaper articles, bolgs) for research before your trip is also invaluable for planning where to stay, what to do, how to get there, how much you should spend, and the best time to go.
Remember, you’re getting away from your routine, the everyday. If for some reason you can’t find exactly what you need to eat (I still have this challenge, at times, no matter how much planning I do), then just go with it. By that I don’t mean you should scarf down a cheeseburger if you’re a vegetarian. But if a burger joint is your only option, then ask if they can make you a veggie burger. If those aren’t on the menu, try asking them for something creative, like: a cheeseburger without the burger. Maybe a side salad instead of fries (oh, what the heck, have a few fries, Mike—you’re on vacation!). Or, do what I do when there is absolutely nothing that I can eat—order a salad, and then save room for dessert. I seldom eat dessert, but when I do I dive into it—banana split or slab of carrot cake. It is a getaway, after all, right?
I hope these tips help make your next getaway a happy and healthier one.
Oh, and one last thing. When gambling in Reno (or anywhere else), always set a high and a low. It’s simple: if you win a jackpot, don’t give it all back to the house (because the odds strongly favor this happening) by continuing to play. Set a high, and a low, dollar amount. When you hit either amount, cash in your winnings and live to gamble another day. Don’t let the house win when you have the opportunity to quit while you’re ahead.
On that note, think I will take my own advice.
Until next time…