Vegas, Baby! City of excess shopping, excess gambling, excess construction… excess, period. This applies to the strip; I do know that there is a real city beyond these glittery signs, in which people live real lives. Some of them are good friends! But when one is in town for just a few days in a fancy hotel in the strip, what’s one to do?
If you gamble and enjoy rich foods and alcohol, you’re in luck, and I hope you have a great time! Alas, I am a holdout from the prohibition era and my background in statistics precludes the magical thinking that goes with gambling. And rich foods… by all means, enjoy them if you like, but what if, like me, you’re on a health and fitness kick and wouldn’t want this business trip to stand in the way of your energy and vitality? So if you are like me, you take a lot of joy in the incredible Cirque du Soleil shows that are playing in town (discount tickets can be found online). And what else does one do?
Crazy but doable solution: fly with a blender.
I kid you not. You can do it.
For my everyday blending, I use my trusty Vitamix. Their standard 5200 model is not cheap, but it’s a true powerhouse and very much worth the investment for home cooking. But it’s a fairly hefty device, and so for trips I take the Nutribullet Pro 900 with me. It’s a terrific little machine that does not take up too much room in your luggage and will improve your quality of life fairly significantly when on the road.
It may seem a bit crazy to fly out with a blender, but it’s such a good, low-effort way to start the day with something familiar that is good for you. The more I age, the more my exacting travel schedule wears me down, and it’s good to at least know that a good breakfast will be forthcoming. Conference food is not exactly a paragon of health, between the greasy hotel restaurants and the starchy Starbucks in the corner, and you’ll be happy to have a green smoothie in the morning.
It really is not crazy. It’s doable. Here are some tricks of the trade.
You want a small blender that can easily fit in a carry-on with your clothes. The base of the NutriBullet will take about 1/6 of your luggage space, and you can wrap it in clothes to keep it safe. Unfortunately, even the carry-on bag needs to be checked in, as there are tiny knives at the bottom of the blending base. The cup that you use for blending can go in your purse so you can sip water on the plane.
In addition to the blender, you should plan on packing the following in your check-in bag:
(1) cutting board. I go with a very thin, light, flexible plastic one that you won’t miss if you forget to pack it on the way back.
(2) small but sharp knife with a sheath (so it doesn’t shred your belongings on the way.)
(3) bento or Tupperware box for your food, filled with vegetables, fruit, and nuts.
(4) If you know that buffet options where you’re going will be sad for vegans protein-wise, pack a can opener.
(5) Reusable cutlery (I have a little bamboo set with a fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks that I always travel with.)
As to your actual food, you have a few choices. One of them is to fly with your produce. This is a good idea if you have slightly bigger luggage or if you know you’re going to a place where a produce market will be difficult to find. In that case, you can pack your vegetables and fruit in the Tupperware box. Another option, which is more realistic if you need your luggage space for clothes etc., is to research a produce source before you leave home, and upon checking in at your destination, to hop out and get supplies for a few days.
You can get anything you want, but my recommendation is to try and rely on fruit and nuts that do not require refrigeration, and to improvise to refrigerate your vegetables and greens.
My shopping list for four days:
2 bunches of kale (one dino, one curly)
1 long cucumber
1 bunch cilantro
2 cups raw cashews
1 container cherry tomatoes
about 10 tangerines
about 8 apples, or a box of strawberries
2 small cans of chick peas and/or a package of ready-made edamame
small ginger root and/or turmeric root, for tea
If you have a little refrigerator, you’re in luck! If you are fridge-less, or are staying in one of those places where the fridge is jam-packed with booze, use your ice bucket. Most business hotels have one, and there’s typically an ice machine in every floor. Drape the little plastic bag over the bucket, fill it about half way with ice, and “plant” your greens and your cucumber in it. Now you have a little edible “potted plant” in your hotel. If the bottom of the leaves freeze a bit, no matter–it’s all going in the blender anyway–and it’ll cheer you up to see some greenery. Don’t forget to change the ice at least once a day to keep your greens happy.
If you are a coffee drinker, usually you’re all set with the coffee machine in the room. But I find that not everyone knows that you can make yourself herbal tea in the coffeemaker. Leave the coffee pod compartment empty, fill the water compartment as you would for coffee, and place your cup in the machine with a few small pieces of ginger and turmeric in it. As the water brews, it’ll drip on your roots, making you a nice and spicy cup of morning tea.
Your green bounty allows you to have a nice morning shake in your hotel room, made from about a cup of kale, a bit of cucumber, a handful of cilantro, a spoonful of cashews, a tangerine, and an apple or a few strawberries. For your daily excursions, I’d pack some tomatoes, cucumber sticks, chick peas, nuts, and fruit in the little bento box, which offer you healthy snacking options in lieu of the danishes and muffins that might be coming your way. And if you’re worried that people might think you’re a freak, I say–so what? You’re humming with energy, happy that you planned to take good care of yourself during a busy business trip, and you’ll also find that people care much less about what you eat than you think.
Incidentally, one thing that has always puzzled me at professional events is the strong peer pressure to drink at the evening events. I think this behavior is on the decline, because so many friends and colleagues are in recovery and thus not drinking, and so it’s become less polite to ask or nag. If you’re a drinker, all the power to you (so long as you’re in control of yourself and feel okay). But if you’re not, you don’t need to apologize for choosing not to partake. If you prefer to just circumvent the situation, one way to divert social pressure is to order a glass of plain water or club soda with a lemon or lime wedge in it. It gives you something to hold and sip that resembles vodka and eliminates questions.