Sustainable travel is on the rise…and for good reason! As we become more and more connected to each other on a global scale, the bubbles we tend to live in expand and no longer just include our neighbourhood, our city, or even the country we live in. As a nod to Earth Day, we’re taking a look at the things to consider when booking sustainable travel.

So, you want to start travelling with a little more mindfulness, but don’t know where to start? Sustainable travel doesn’t mean ditching your fancy hotel digs and living with no running water in a yurt in the desert for a week. In fact, small, actionable steps add up. Here’s what you can do to start reducing the impact your travel has on the environment and on local communities.

Mom and son smiling on the beach in Cabo san Lucas

Flytographer Fernanda in Cabo San Lucas

Where should you go?

Sure, you can choose your destination based simply on where you’d like to go and then plan the rest of your trip details to be as sustainable as possible, but where you go does matter. First, choose a destination with a proven track record of responsible practices, including human rights and environmental protection. Check out Ethical Traveller for more detailed info on destinations, and check out their 10 best ethical destinations of 2018, including Colombia and Costa Rica. The biggest question to ask when booking sustainable travel is, “Where does the money go?” Try to keep your money as local as possible in all aspects of your travel and you’ll be well on your way to a green vacation!

Two girlfriends smiling at each other in Las Vegas

Flytographer Talia in Las Vegas

Where should you stay?

Whether your accommodation of choice is a guest house or a fancy hotel, ask questions before you book. Is the accommodation LEED certified? Even if your destination of choice isn’t so eco-friendly — think the Las Vegas strip — you can still reduce your impact by choosing a hotel committed to reducing its impact on the environment. The Palazzo in Las Vegas has been LEED certified since 2008, which means it meets global criteria to be considered a green building. Sustainable accommodations are far more varied than luxury hotels. If you’re more of an Airbnb traveller, be sure to stay at locally-owned accommodations because keeping your money local is key to travelling sustainably.

A man and woman walk hand in hand in Palm Springs

Flytographer Melissa in Palm Springs

What should you pack?

Packing light is always the best option. Waste disposal systems in developing countries where tourism is on the rise are often not up to the task of dealing with increased waste from travellers. Reduce the waste you produce by bringing a reusable water bottle and either filling up at your hotel or boiling water before drinking it. Hoorah! Think about all the plastic bottles you aren’t using! The same goes for plastic drinking straws. Kick those to the curb. You don’t need them, we promise. If you just can’t kick that straw habit, pick up a reusable straw to take with you wherever you go. We’re partial to the bamboo straws from Bambaw (bonus: they come with zero-waste packaging) or the stainless steel straws from Senhai (both come with their own cleaning brushes).

Two men laugh and hug on a canal in Amsterdam

Flytographer Louise in Amsterdam

How should you get around?

How you get to your destination is important, but often there’s little wiggle room — you can’t exactly cycle to Bali. Once you’ve arrived, however, you can make choices which impact the sustainability of your stay. Choosing to cycle or walk instead of hiring a driver or hailing a cab is a great way to stay green and get some exercise in while you’re at it. Even better, rent bicycles from locals and their businesses, rather than from large, non-local rental companies or tour groups. When you can’t walk or cycle, take public transportation! It’s a great way to get to know a city from a local perspective and you’ll likely discover some hidden gems along the way that you wouldn’t find inside a guide book.

A couple looks at fruit in a market in Cartagena

A couple walks down a street in Cartagena as a produce vendor walks by

Flytographer Juan Felipe in Cartagena

What should you eat?

Travelling is all about new experiences and what you eat should be no exception. Sticking to your usual culinary routine isn’t good for your vacation memories or for the environment. Plain and simple, eat local and you will reduce carbon emissions from transported goods, plus you’ll support local farmers and producers. Shop at local markets, purchase from street vendors, and most importantly, chat with the locals to ask for their recommendations for local specialties!

A mom, dad, and their young daughter pose with an elephant wearing a flower crown

Flytographers Bayu & Ivony in Bali

What should you do?

How you spend your time during your vacation is important. Book tours led by locals, rather than by global travel companies. Besides supporting the local economy, you’ll have a richer experience thanks to the unique perspective only a local will have. If you want to experience any animal-related excursions, say swimming with dolphins or riding elephants, be very careful about where you spend your money and who you support. Asking questions is the first step to making informed decisions, but online reviews can be a good resource, too. Remember, just because a business touts itself as a “sanctuary” doesn’t mean that it really is. Do some pre-trip research and support only those businesses who really are providing sanctuaries for rescued animals and you’ll go home with a guilt-free conscience and amazing vacation memories.

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