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Green Travel - Budget Vacations

Updated on September 12, 2019

What is Green Travel?

Green travel encompasses a variety of sustainable actions and responsible travel practices to minimize the environmental, social, and economic impact of your trip. From methods of transportation, to forms of lodging, to activities and meals while on location, green travel comes in many forms. Depending on how green ones goes, green travel can also save money. Every little bit helps, so find the level of green travel with which you feel comfortable, and go!


Have you already selected a destination? If not, consider locations with the following features:

  • ease of traveling to and from
  • ease of getting around the city (public transportation, walking areas, bike paths/lanes)
  • proximity of attractions

Another option is a volunteer vacation, where you can assist a local community with eco-friendly or sustainable development projects.


The greenest vacation is likely a staycation, where you remain local. But if getting away is important, consider the various options for getting you there. While flying may be the fastest mode, it is less environmentally friendly (cruise ships are reported to be even worse from a fossil fuel standpoint). Are there other forms of transportation? Can you get there by train or bus?

If flying is a necessity, you can purchase carbon emission offset credits, which typically invest in clean energy projects or plant trees. You can purchase these carbon offset credits for any portion of your trip and/or daily life (car trips, home appliance use, etc.)

Once you reach your destination, how will you get around? If you are at an all-inclusive resort, you will likely not need additional transportation. If you are visiting a city with excellent public transportation service (i.e. New York, Chicago, London, Toronto), use it! If the weather is nice, consider walking, renting a bicycle, or renting an electric scooter. And if you must rent a car, request a hybrid, electric, or one with good gas mileage.

Don't forget your luggage. The less you bring, the more you may save (especially if the airline charges checked baggage fees). Lessening the load may also reduce your fuel expenses if traveling by car.


Green travel doesn't have to stop with transportation. Green lodging can include environmentally friendly hotels, local bed-and-breakfasts, renting a place, staying with friends or family, or something in between.

Environmentally friendly hotels, which may be LEED certified, are those that are committed to sustainability. This can include:

  • organic cotton sheets, bedding, linens, towels
  • reduced-flow shower heads
  • high-efficiency toilets
  • non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products
  • proximity to local attractions and/or public transportation
  • recycling program
  • ability to re-use towels and linens

If staying at a hotel, try to bring your own toiletries and drinking cup, to reduce your environmental footprint. Taking shorter showers and turning off the water while you brush your teeth also help (and you can continue these habits when you return home).

Or support local businesses by staying at an area bed-and-breakfast. Check if they support local farmers and/or sustainability by sourcing local and/or organic produce, dairy, food. You can also ask about their linens, washrooms, cleaning products, and recycling program.

Another option is to rent a condo, apartment, or home. Staying in a place with a kitchen may reduce meal expenses during your stay, and if there are local farmer's markets nearby, you can also support local businesses and buy organic food.

If the weather is nice, consider camping. For an even lower cost option, stay with friends and family. Not only will it save you money on lodging and possibly meals, but also you will have an opportunity to renew and strengthen relationships.

Do your part wherever you stay. Unplug appliances that are not in use, turn off lights and the television when not in the room, and lower the thermostat/turn off the heat or air conditioning before departing. Don't forget to do this at home before leaving for your trip.


Meal expenses can quickly add up when traveling. If you are staying in a hotel with a refrigerator or a place with a kitchen, then you may save money by picking up breakfast items, lunch and/or sandwich ingredients, and snacks at a local grocery store and eating those throughout your trip. Not only will your wallet thank you, but your waistline may too. By cooking your own meals, you'll be able to control the amounts of salt, butter, oil, etc. you consume.

If you aren't sure you'll have access to a grocery store but do have room in your luggage, then you may want to pack breakfast or granola bars and bring snacks with you. Be careful: if you are leaving the country, you may not be permitted to bring certain items (i.e. fresh fruits) into your destination country.

If you trust your destination's drinking water, bring an empty bottle with you to fill and re-fill throughout your trip. My favorite is the Kleen Kanteen water bottle; I have two different sizes and the coffee mug. Speaking of coffee mugs, use the one in your hotel room (or kitchen/kitchenette)--brewing coffee is less expensive than purchasing it, as it is already included in your room rate. And you don't waste paper cups.

When eating out, consider supporting local restaurants and businesses. Check online, with friends or family, or with a hotel concierge for local eating options, especially within walking distance or near public transportation. Look for farm-to-table restaurants or those who use organic ingredients.


There are many sustainable activities to do during your green travels. While volunteer vacations may be focused specifically on an environmentally friendly or sustainable development project, even doing one or two activities can be beneficial.

Your mode of transportation, such as biking, can also be an activity. If you are walking to a destination, bring along a garbage bag and picker upper tool and clean along the way.

And your lodging venue may also contain activities. All-inclusive resorts typically have pools, exercise rooms, and classes/excursions for which you can register. If you are renting a home or staying with family/friends, there may be board games to play or books to read.

Whether you are on a staycation or traveling, visiting and supporting local venues, such as public parks, planetariums, museums, and art galleries, can be educational as well as environmentally friendly.


While taking photographs is a great budget and eco-friendly way to capture memories from your trip, if you want physical souvenirs, try to buy items that were produced locally (not mass produced far away and shipped overseas).

To keep expenses low, pick small items that won't take up much space or weight in your luggage. If you prefer more professional photos, buy a few postcards from your various destinations. Items that can be consumed (i.e. candy, nuts) or are made from recyclable materials are also great souvenir options.

Don't forget to bring your own bag when shopping!

Green Travel: Enjoy Nature!

Visiting a park, taking a hike, or walking around the neighborhood in which you are staying are all fun, affordable, environmentally friendly activities.
Visiting a park, taking a hike, or walking around the neighborhood in which you are staying are all fun, affordable, environmentally friendly activities. | Source

How to Travel Green

Copyright 2011, 2019. All rights reserved.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Delia Egan Schaffner


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