I traveled to northern Germany in May 2015. When I planned my study abroad trip, I felt a little nervous about what my food choices would be. While we planned to travel to a few more touristy areas (such as Berlin), I knew that in the smaller towns we were going to, it would definitely be a possibility that people would not be as used to the concept of vegetarianism as we are in the States, and my German skills were of the 10 words or less variety.

But if you are a vegetarian or vegan planning a trip overseas, have no fear! Going to Europe is a beautiful, life-changing experience, and with a little planning, eating as a vegetarian in Europe will be as sweet as all that gelato.

1. Do your homework.

Natalie Gambrell

When planning your culinary adventure, the first step is researching the basics. Are the places you are traveling big cities? Touristy areas typically are a little easier as they will have a lot of options for restaurants and are more used to catering to traveler's dietary needs or preferences. 

While small towns are still definitely doable, they require more planning depending on what country you're traveling to, because depending on the area you're traveling to, people may be less used to the idea of vegetarian or vegan diets.

You can also look up some local specialties that surprisingly  *happen* to be vegetarian or vegan that you can make sure to fit in on your trip. Some examples include Ukrainian/ Russian borscht, Turkish falafel, and of course, the simple German pommes frites.

While I definitely ate well in Europe, I still do wish that I had put that plan in action and sampled some more authentic German food!

While sausages and schnitzel would obviously be off the table, my biggest regret in my travels is that I didn't get to sample the notorious German beer. I did, however, sample soft buttery pretzels and those tasty pommes-frites covered in the traditional mayo.

2. Make a plan.

Natalie Gambrell

If you are traveling abroad in a way that gives you a lot of free space to plan meals and day trips by yourself or with a small group of friends, you have a big advantage.

If you are a big planner, you can make a list of places to eat divided up by day and meal time and have it built into your itinerary far ahead of time. If you are more of a go with the flow person, just a simple Google search in the morning before you leave for the day for a few food options can be just as helpful.

This is another tip I wish I had been able to take advantage of, but our meals were a little more planned out than some other study abroad situations, as we were a large group. 

The time we did get to choose our own dinner in a smaller group was the time that I thought this would be a good idea, as we all had different dietary preferences and wandered aimlessly for a 30 minutes trying to read restaurant menus in a foreign language. Never underestimate the importance of planning when you're in a foreign country!

#SpoonTip: Simplify that Google search and use the website  Happy Cow. You can filter by vegetarian or vegan and search the area you'll be traveling in to find verified vegetarian and vegan options that work for you.

3. Fill up at breakfast.

Natalie Gambrell

Before my study abroad trip, I personally always thought free breakfast included in the price of your hotel room was an American thing—but apparently not. In many countries, especially Europe, breakfast is very cheap or free at your hotel or hostel.  

And don't think this means those stale bagels and dry cereal you ate last time you went to Holiday Inn. Hotel breakfast typically included cold cuts, cheese, veggies and fruit as well as strong coffee (or an espresso machine for fancier places like the one pictured above).

We had long days of sightseeing starting at 7 am, and lunch was hit or miss, so this was a tip I definitely took advantage of. During my trip, breakfast was free at every hotel or hostel we visited, and I was always sure to fill up on fresh fruit, bread and coffee to hold me over when I wasn't sure what my next meal would be. 

4. Eat lunch on the go.

tuna, salad
Natalie Gambrell

Another thing I learned in Europe was that the museums and popular attractions had a surprisingly good amount of healthy vegetarian options at their cafeterias, which makes sense because of the large amounts of tourists who eat there.

While it may not be the *best* food you eat on your trip, if you choose to grab lunch at a museum, it will most likely be one of the simplest and healthiest meal choices on your trip. 

My picture above was a yummy veggie-filled meal I had at the cafeteria of a computer museum in Paderborn, Germany. It was a great way to get a healthy meal in and not take too much time away from our other adventures. 

4. If you don't see anything, just ask.

salad, corn, chicken
Natalie Gambrell

Because most likely you will be in the situation of going to at least one restaurant where you either see very little or nothing at all on the menu, don't be afraid to ask if it's possible for them to put together something unique for you, or substitute veggies for meat in a dish. 

One of the most delicious meals that I ate while in Europe was at a restaurant that had no vegetarian or vegan options on the menu. With the help of a friend (who had far superior German skills than me), I let them know I didn't eat meat and they whipped me up the beautiful dish above with roasted veggies and fried potato cakes. 

#SpoonTip: Learn a few phrases in the language of the country that you are traveling to that let people know what you can't eat. For example if you're vegan, learn how to say "no meat, fish, eggs or dairy," because different countries can have different definitions of vegetarian or vegan. 

6. Worst case scenario—there's always fast food.

chocolate, cream, mocha, espresso, milk, cappuccino, coffee
Natalie Gambrell

While it may feel like kind of a bummer to not always eat exciting local specialties, if you're starving and in a bind, American fast food can be a safe option to get you through the day. 

Starbucks was a chain that I noticed in Germany almost as much as the U.S and can be a great option if you absolutely cannot find anything in your area, as they have salads, sandwiches and lunch boxes that are clearly marked vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free.  

Another great option that has great animal product-free options is Subway, which actually has the most locations worldwide of any fast food chain.  

I definitely had my fill of Starbucks in Germany, which surprised me as I was expecting to wander the streets popping in at local cafes. And I definitely did my share of that. However, if you're looking for a quick healthy meal, Starbucks is as reliable overseas as it is in the states. And when you're 4000 miles away, occasionally you yearn for the comforts of home. 

While as a foodie, not eating sausage in Germany or cheese in France may give you some culinary FOMO, a little bit of planning will guarantee that you stay happy and healthy to enjoy all the benefits of traveling and create experiences that you'll remember long after you come home.