Traveling to a new location is like stepping outside your own little world and into someone else’s. There are so many new foods to try, places to see, and things to experience. It’s almost impossible to get bored—there’s always something to do!
But remember: your vacation destination is not your personal playground.
It’s a space you share with the locals and fellow tourists. Traveling responsibly should be a top priority—here are three simple ways to do it.
#1 Stay in Eco-Friendly Accommodations
Research your destination before you arrive to find sustainable modes of transportation, activities, and yes, places to stay. After all, you spend more time in your hotel or hostel than almost anywhere else.
Bookdifferent.com helps you find sustainable destinations and accommodations. Their “staygreencheck” is awarded to hotels and resorts that fulfill four basic requirements for responsible tourism:
- Management – Follows all national and regional laws, with structures of sustainability firmly in place.
- Fair & local – All employees and their families are protected from exploitation; accommodations offer equal rights and economic opportunities without discrimination.
- Culture friendly – Exhibits respect for local traditions and promotes community identity.
- Nature & environment – Emphasizes environmental initiatives that reduce their negative impact on the land, like relying on community solar power or banning single-use plastics.
Sometimes, the most luxurious destinations are not the most environmentally-conscious. Use Bookdifferent to ensure your travel plans check all the right boxes, so you can enjoy your vacation guilt-free.
#2 Pack Reusable Items
When you’re preparing for a big trip, the emphasis is usually on packing light. But if you pack too light, you’ll be forced to rely on single-use plastics for take-out meals and on-the-go snacks. These really add up over time.
If you want to travel more sustainably, sacrifice a tiny portion of luggage space for a few everyday essentials:
- Tumbler cup – Whether you’re brewing instant coffee at your hostel or dropping into the local Starbucks (or, better yet, an authentic Italian cafe), use a stainless steel tumbler instead of a disposable paper cup.
- Water bottle – Getting enough water is key when traveling. Stay hydrated without all of the unnecessary plastic waste by bringing along a durable water bottle.
- Cutlery – Stash this ultra-convenient bamboo cutlery set in your pack so you never have to ask for plastic utensils with your to-go order again.
If you do end up using the occasional plastic cup or set of chopsticks, be sure to dispose of them properly, whether that’s in the trash, recycling, or compost. Always defer to the locals when it comes to waste management.
#3 Choose Sustainable Transportation
In continents like Europe and Asia, the countries are very densely-packed (especially compared to the sprawling expanses of North America). You could drive from Rome, Italy to Munich, Germany in about nine hours. In contrast, you could drive the same distance in the United States and never make it out of Texas.
It’s easier than ever to travel more responsibly with so many amazing destinations within reach. Limit your carbon emissions by using more environmentally-friendly modes of transportation:
- Choose train over plane – When traveling to nearby countries, skip the massive commercial jet in favor of a high-speed passenger train. It may take a little longer, but it’ll save money and the environment.
- Longer, continuous flights – Taking off and landing expend much more energy than flying at altitude. Longer flights are therefore better for the environment than multiple short flights with layovers in-between (who likes layovers, anyway?).
- Walking, cycling, or public transportation – When you’re traveling short distances within the city, consider walking, renting bicycles, or taking a neighborhood bus route instead of a taxi cab. That way, you can enjoy the local experience while limiting your contribution to the city’s pollution.
Leave It Better Than You Found It
When you’re a guest in someone’s home, you don’t take your shoes off in the middle of the living room or toss your dirty napkin on the floor (and if you do, you probably aren’t invited back).
As a traveler, you’re a guest in someone else’s country or city—treat it with the same respect and they’ll be glad to have you.