When I picture typical hotel breakfast buffets, three things immediately come to mind: bacon, eggs, and butter-laden pastries. In other words, nothing even remotely vegan-friendly. As a result of five days of eating at the breakfast buffet at Santa Barbara's Fess Parker Resort, I have devised some truly genius ways to make your breakfasts just as nutritious, mouthwatering, and Instagram-worthy as they are at home. 

1. Supplement with your own vegan essentials.

Wherever you are, whether it be on either of the coasts or smack dab in the middle of the United States, there will be a grocery store, or at least a corner liquor store or a gas station with the essentials. 

By essentials, I’m referring to certain necessary condiments (at least in my eyes) as well as some additional fruit and snack-type items. My own vegan essentials include:

- Peanut butter (because peanut butter is my spirit animal) or any other nut butter such as almond, sunflower, soy nut, or cashew

- Ripe fruit such as bananas, apples, and whatever else is in season

- Nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pecans) and dried fruit (figs, apricots, apples, peaches, dates). These healthy options are great to add to oatmeal or cereal, and also serve as snacks for those mid-afternoon stomach grumbles. 

 - Bottled juices or smoothies — these are great in a pinch, especially if your hotel buffet doesn’t offer fresh fruit. 

- Bakery items such as small loaves of bread or vegan muffins (my favorites include Ezekiel bread and bran muffins) 

2. Load up on fruit (and sneak some for later).

Arianna Kotlier

The moment I enter a buffet, my first instinct is to grab a plate and head towards the cut fruit. Depending on the hotel, the cut fruit selection may not be all that reliable, especially in the winter months. However, most hotels will have the typical fruit bowl consisting of the infamous trifecta: bananas, apples, and oranges.

pear, juice, lemon, pasture, vegetable, banana, apple
Arianna Kotlier

#SpoonTip: Grab some green bananas and let them ripen in your room, and bring them to breakfast the upcoming days when they are ripe, or eat them as snacks throughout the day or slathered in your favorite nut butter for dessert. 

And of course, as any vegan would know, preparation is essential. Having back-up snacks such as pieces of fruit on hand is critical for those long days of sightseeing. I don't know about you guys, but walking makes me absolutely starve so I like to be prepared and save my family from experiencing my hangry side. 

3. Carbs, baby, carbs!

Let's begin with one of my favorite starches: oatmeal. Pretty much ANY hotel breakfast buffet will offer oatmeal, so don’t fear! I loved having oatmeal every morning at the buffet as a nourishing post-workout meal, especially on chilly mornings. Just make sure to double check that your oats are cooked in water and you're good to go. 

Also, just to dispel a myth here— oatmeal is not boring. In fact, oatmeal is totally customizable. To bulk up your oatmeal, you can also add chopped apple or banana from the fruit bowl and nut butter for extra healthy fats and protein. Whenever I’m traveling, I make sure to bring pick up a jar of nut butter or even single serving almond butter packets. 

Speaking of customizable, the hotel I stayed at recently in Santa Barbara even had a legit and very vegan-friendly oatmeal topping bar, consisting of slivered almonds, raisins, housemade granola, cranberries, deglet noor dates, walnuts, dried apricots, banana chips, and brown sugar. 

coffee, cereal
Arianna Kotlier

In addition to oatmeal, most hotels will offer bagels, English muffins, and sliced bread for toast. Brownie points if they offer whole grain or whole wheat.

All of these options make great vehicles for any type of nut butter and jelly or jam; my favorite thing to do is make peanut butter, banana, and jelly toast for a hearty and delicious breakfast. 

Arianna Kotlier

4. Always ask!

In other words, I'm saying that if you need almond milk for your cereal and you don’t see it in front of you, grab a hotel staff member! As veganism is becoming increasingly popular, hotels are definitely willing to accommodate special dietary needs and often have non-dairy milks in the back kitchen upon request. 

In my experience, at the last hotel I stayed at, I had to ask several staff members until one of them said they could go to the café adjacent to the dining room and bring me back a cup of almond milk for my cereal. Lesson learned: don't take no for an answer until you've really exhausted all your options. 

Whether you're on a family vacation or a weekend trip with friends, it can be daunting to be away from the comforts of your own kitchen. Next time you go on a trip, try out these tips to make your potentially sad hotel breakfast buffet food 10x more interesting. In all seriousness though, I really do bring a jar of peanut butter with me everywhere I go. #priorities