My brother and sister-in-law lived in Hong Kong as expatriates in the 1990’s. They made use of its location to travel throughout Asia, including to Vietnam and Cambodia, Thailand, India from the Taj to Rajasthan, and China from Shanghai to Shangri La. Among their many travel stories, Lisa recounts how an 8-day horse-trekking trip in Outer Mongolia had her eating nothing but chocolate bars for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Why? She’s vegetarian, and the alternative was mutton; every meal, every day. And to drink? Tea that was brewed in the same kettle used to cook the mutton.
To know my sister-in-law is to know that she is resourceful and good-humored, so she made do. But at Classic Journeys, we wondered why travelers should have to “make do” when with some advance planning, good systems and clear communication we can make a guest’s experience totally satisfying, in spite of any dietary requirements.
We are now in our 16th tour season, and we saw a demand from year one from guests who were vegan, vegetarian and kosher. More recently, the number of guests who are gluten-free has increased dramatically. And we understand that those special diets are a crucial part of planning a trip. Ensuring that you can enjoy everything from al fresco picnics to gourmet regional cuisine is far more important than what to pack.
Well-known expert and cookbook author Elizabeth Kaplan, founder and CEO of The Pure Pantry, offers her advice on satisfying the needs of gluten-free travelers, “For most people who are gluten-intolerant, including children, traveling with a group often means feeling left out at mealtimes,” Elizabeth observes. “Knowing that restaurants have been advised in advance and being able to enjoy the same caliber cuisine that a region is known for is a huge plus for gluten-free travelers on tour.”
In response to these needs, Classic Journeys developed a pre-trip questionnaire that sets the wheels in motion by inviting guests to identify and explain any dietary restrictions, limitations or preferences. Our attention to this need is a revelation to many travelers looking for gluten-free, kosher or vegan vacations. Many tell us that they’ve never had a company offer to help them with their dietary specifics.
This information is relayed by our Guest Services Coordinators to our local guides on the ground. The guides personally contact each restaurant on their itineraries, giving owners and chefs advance notice of who will be arriving and what their needs will be.
A recent guest with allergies to shellfish and fish was concerned about how she would fare on our Amalfi Coast walking tour, a region known for fresh-caught delicacies. Happily, her fears were unfounded. “Not once did I have to say anything when we sat down at a restaurant,” she told us on her return home. “At every meal, non-seafood items were specially prepared for me and brought out plate-by-plate wherever we ate.”
Another guest, Susan, offers additional insight into how the process works. She’s the point person for a group of 12-16 couples that were section mates at Harvard Business School almost 40 years ago, and who have traveled together on a major international trip for each of the last 12 years. Destinations have included Russia, Croatia, Israel, and this year the French Riviera with Classic Journeys. Among their group of traveling friends are, “…several vegetarians, two kosher, one kosher vegetarian and lots of quirky preferences, such as no lamb, no fish, etc.”
She offers that she only picks travel providers who understand and can accommodate dietary restrictions. When asked what she considers the most common misconception people have about traveling with dietary restrictions, she offers, “You might think that you should avoid a place because of restrictions. In fact, if you are clear and flexible, and you are working with a travel partner of the caliber of Classic Journeys, anything can be solved and solved well.”
Thanks, Sue. If you want to learn more about how Classic Journeys can cater to your kosher, vegan or gluten-free travel needs, or any other dietary preferences, send me an email at email@example.com or contact our Guest Services team directly at (800) 200-3887. And for more information on any of our cultural walking adventures, family vacations and culinary tours in 68 regions in 31 countries on 5 continents, including day-by-day itineraries and pricing, visit www.classicjourneys.com.