Traveling is one of the best ways to get away from it all and experience new surroundings. However, traveling can also have a negative impact on the destination and the environment. Luckily for us adventure seekers, there are steps we can take to be more conscious when traveling in 2023! Here are 10 tips to help you enjoy your trip while still traveling more sustainably.
1. Think about how far you’ll need to travel
First, take a look at your travel plans and think about how far you will need to travel. Do you plan on flying or driving? How much time do you want to spend in each location? If you are taking a lot of flights, consider carbon offset programs. If you are taking a train or bus, look for hybrid options. If renting a car, look for hybrid options as well.
For example: Let’s say that my friend is going on vacation with his family this year and wants to visit Italy for two weeks total: one week in Rome and one week in Florence (both relatively close cities). This would be the perfect opportunity for him to ride the train instead of driving since trains are more efficient than cars when traveling long distances!
2. Use sustainable travel items
There are many ways to reduce your consumption and impact while traveling. Choosing to use good eco-friendly travel items will make a difference. Plus, they also make amazing gifts for your friends. Here are a few examples of what you can do:
- Bring a reusable water bottle
- Use eco-friendly toiletries
- Bring a reusable coffee cup
- Bring biodegradable or reusable silverware for eating on the go
- Keep a reusable drinking straw in your bag for when you are out exploring
- If buying clothes for vacation, try to avoid fast fashion if possible (sustainably mad swimsuits are great)
- Try swimming clothes with SPF to lower the amount of sunscreen lotion going into the water
- Consider bringing a portable water filter to eliminate purchasing single-use plastic
3. Be mindful of supporting locals
The next time you travel, make sure to support local businesses, community projects, and charities when possible. When you do, you’re not only helping the locals, but you are also setting a positive example for future travel lovers (like your kids!).
It’s never good to treat a travel destination like your personal playground. By supporting local communities and organizations in your destination area/city, you are being intentional and conscious of how your vacation impacts others. Your conscious actions can also bring awareness about sustainability to friends and family who otherwise might not think about it. Here are some small steps to be a more conscious traveler:
- Focus on eating the local cuisine and visiting locally run restaurants
- Try travel volunteering – help out in exchange for food and accommodation
- When possible, take public transport to help the environment and be immersed in local life
- Take tours with local guides, from locally run companies
- Consider alternative activities like visiting a local market or attending a local cooking class
4. Don’t try to fit everything in
If you are the type of person who is always trying to squeeze in as much of your itinerary as possible, this one might be a tough pill for you to swallow. But it is important that we take a step back and realize that some of the best travel experiences often happen when we take time out to relax and enjoy the moment.
When you are constantly rushing around, you will be spending more time in cars, buses, trains, etc. so you can accomplish more. This might allow you to see more but will be much worse for the environment.
Plus, trying to check every experience off of a bucket list can leave you burned out. Time off from work is supposed to rejuvenate, not make you more exhausted.
5. Respect local guidelines and rules
No matter where you travel, it is always the best practice to follow LNT (leave no trace) principles.
Usually, people follow LNT when they do outdoor activities to not leave an impact on the animals, and ecological system, and for preservation for future generations. Yet, LNT is beneficial anywhere, whether it is rural or urban.
Beyond Leave No Trace, many areas and destinations have more extensive rules in place to combat specific issues that plague those areas. Please adhere to these because they are there to protect the environment, but sometimes also you from danger.
As a general rule of thumb, try to always:
- Respect the local laws and travel guidelines
- Be aware of the needs of the local ecological environment, and act accordingly.
- Practice LNT – don’t litter, take only what you need and try to recycle or reuse when possible
- Don’t unnecessarily disturb wildlife or remove plants or trees from their natural habitats
6. Try house-sitting for alternative accommodation
House-sitting is a great way to save money and travel more sustainably. You can get free accommodation in exchange for looking after someone’s home, pets, and plants while they are on vacation. This will let you travel more sustainably by not staying at big resorts or hotels. Plus you will get live in the local area for an immersive experience and meet new people from all over the world.
There are lots of house-sitting sites where you can find house sitters or host houses in many countries around the world. They usually have a fee of around $30-$150 per year but it is worth it because you will save so much on accommodation. The great thing is that you can easily become a housesitter with no experience too. Housesits can be short or long-term. If you can find some time off work then this would be ideal but if not then you may want to look at house-sitting for just 1-2 weeks at a time.
7. Set aside time to appreciate the culture
When I’m traveling, I like to spend time getting involved with local culture by learning about the history, language, and customs of the host country. This not only allows me to connect with my surroundings more deeply but also helps me get a better understanding of what makes locals tick. This helps me to have more meaningful conversations with locals as the trip progresses.
I’d encourage you to try this as well because it can make a world of difference. When you make that cultural connection, it will be that much easier to have empathy. It can help you have an open mind towards things that might seem weird or strange, but are just different and not what you are used to.
Here are some things to try:
- Learn a few words in the local language
- Visit a local museum to appreciate the destination’s historical significance
- Try to eat or drink a local delicacy
8. Consider alternative destinations
Many popular travel destinations are being overwhelmed with more and more tourists. This takes a toll on the historical sites, the well-being of locals, and the local environment.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to give up your dream destination, but if you have some flexibility, it could be good to consider other options. It is worth thinking about lesser-known places. They won’t be as crowded and the area could probably use the tourism revenue.
Staying in your own country and region is also a great way to make your vacation more sustainable. You will be using fewer resources to travel to the destination, and you will be supporting your own local economy.
9. Consider a new form of transport
Most people don’t realize how big of an impact different types of transport are on your trip. You don’t always have to fly somewhere, in fact, the alternatives can be very fun.
Taking a ferry or a train or renting an RV can be an interesting way to switch up your travel style in a sustainable way. If you are into fitness adventure, you could do a walking, hiking, cycling trip, etc.
10. Purchase meaningful souvenirs
Prior to your trip, research the local crafts and artisans of your destination. If you want to purchase things that will remind you of your trip later, buy souvenirs that are made locally.
It’s more sustainable to support a local business than an international one because you’re keeping your money in-country.
Look for souvenirs that are handmade or unique, not mass-produced from factory-made parts or materials (e.g., pottery). This will ensure that no part of their production was outsourced to another country. If you can, try to buy products that are sustainably sourced and ethically manufactured (e.g., leather goods made from recycled materials).
It is important to remember that sustainability isn’t just about being eco-friendly; it’s also about respecting local cultures and traditions. The future of travel needs to be sustainable. By following some of these tips, you will be able to travel more sustainably in 2023. Even if it is just a few small changes, it can help!
Maria Perrett runs Map Trekking.