Sustainable travel protects natural environments, communities, economies, and cultures, and our top tips can help you to maximize the benefits thereof.
Sustainable travel focuses on the steps we can take to navigate the world more responsibly, with a focus on protecting nature, allowing time for regenerative practices, having local experiences, and leaving a place better than when we arrived.
Our list demonstrates how exploration positively impacts our lives and how small changes we make can provide long-lasting benefits for communities, cultures, ecosystems, and more.
Slow travel is considered responsible and sustainable because it reduces the environmental and social impacts of the overall experience. Instead of constant transfers, slow travel focuses on immersing yourself in one place for longer to feel like a local.
More time spent in fewer places also results in fewer people and a more comfortable travel environment, especially when visiting during shoulder or low seasons, allowing you to leverage your time, interests, and the insights of a local travel specialist. When practicing slow travel, community visits can play a large part in your overall experience by connecting you with the people who benefit from your trip, whether by working in the travel industry or with the economic gains shared when welcoming visitors from around the world.
Activities such as cooking classes or meeting local artists and artisans also provide positive impacts within the community and your travel experience. These excursions create a bridge with the community and culture in a tangible way, allowing you to taste traditional flavors, learn customary recipes, or understand the importance of particular images and materials used in artwork. By taking your time, you make deeper connections and richer memories.
Local and eco-friendly accommodations maintain a luxury standard, while contributing to the well-being of their surrounding communities. A travel expert can use their experience and knowledge to find you the best eco-friendly options, while ensuring your experience positively impacts local communities. For example, we only work with safari specialists who point travelers towards luxury safari properties that focus on community support, as well as the preservation of the land and wildlife.
Eco-friendly and sustainable-friendly accommodations have a high standard of luxury because they are focused on every detail. Sustainable accommodations think about every level of guests’ comfort, while promoting a connection to the landscape by considering water usage, waste management, privacy, and food consumption. They also focus on community by hiring locals, offering responsible interactions with wildlife, or being mindful of the ethos of their suppliers.
These accommodations often do not use single-use paper or plastic products, and offer more luxurious toiletries by using locally-made soaps and shampoos. Not every region of the world can support bypassing single-use plastics such as water bottles, but in those without potable water sources, many accommodations encourage reusable bottles by providing accessible drinking water to guests in communal spaces, adding to the larger positive impact of avoiding these wherever and whenever possible.
Flights are the fastest way to travel between destinations, but are also the largest source of carbon emissions. So why not slow down with train or ferry travel when feasible? These options are incredibly scenic, giving you time to enjoy the surrounding views and comforts. They also save travelers from rushing to the airport hours before a flight. Experience Japan’s bullet train, the ferries of Greece’s Aegean sea, or Australia’s scenic railways.
When renting a car, alternative fuels may be available for your journey, giving you the added freedom to explore a destination at your pace. Where reasonable, you may find an electric vehicle works well as your rental, giving you the opportunity to weave through the Tuscan hills or explore New Zealand’s Otago region, travel to the castles of Ireland or tour the beaches of Phuket, Thailand.
Packing light is not just about avoiding airline fees, it represents the opportunity to contain many single-use products that can harm the areas we visit. It also creates a space for us to consider the items we take with us and why. The heavier your luggage, the more fuel is needed, inadvertently adding to the rising usage thereof on a flight or in vehicle transfers.
With drinking-water refill stations becoming more common, especially at eco-friendly accommodations, bringing a high-quality water bottle helps avoid the use of plastic water bottles throughout your trip. Simple items we may take for granted could also add to the waste at travel destinations, especially when they contain plastic or chemicals. Local products, typically offered at eco-friendly accommodations, are often better for the local economy and focus on ingredients that do not harm the environment.
Other considerations, such as carrying one book and participating in a book exchange once away, or bringing clothing that demonstrates respect for local customs and sensibilities, create a positive travel experience and ecosystem. By making slight changes, we can act with the intention of enjoying more local, authentic, and sustainable travel experiences.
You can commit to small changes that will have a big impact when you travel, but there are also countries dedicated to providing such travel opportunities. Many protect their natural resources, preserve local heritage, and highlight the lives of their communities, while also focusing on energy consumption.
Whether visiting a popular destination with many visitors each year or a lesser-known place off the beaten path, you can enjoy a more authentic experience that supports local life and culture. Find inspiration for your trip with our Top 7 Destinations for Sustainable Travel and Ecotourism Activities or explore new opportunities for richer experiences by learning Why a Custom Tour Is Best for Your Vacation.