How to travel sustainably with the family: Topline Tips, Ideas & Thoughts
You might be heading on a summer holiday, or holding off for now and dreaming about the next adventure. No matter when, you will travel again, but you want to do it better than before. This article on the topic is the first post where I want to address topline ideas. I will be deep-diving in more details over the coming months.
Fear not, I will not be recommending re-usable nappies and tons of hippy or inconvenient ideas. In this article, I would like to share practical tips, thoughts and ideas on how we can travel sustainably with children, from the planning phase to the unpacking time after coming back.
We can all travel better, let's do this!
What does it mean to travel sustainably?
Let's start at the beginning.
This buzz word we read and hear everywhere since the pandemic: sustainability.
To simplify this, we could change the title for something like: How to travel respectfully and mindfully with the family. Respectfully of people, nature and communities' livelihood.
Why is it important?
We need to preserve the world and ensure that future generations can keep travelling and discovering wonderful sceneries.
Communities all over the world need to continue living from tourism, directly and indirectly without compromise to their world and livelihood.
We need to minimise the negative effects of tourism on the destination and actually ensure we create a positive impact on local communities.
In recent years, tourism has become a consumer product, where travellers tend to take a lot, consume at a fast pace, but think very little about the impact they have. It now, more than ever, needs to be a balanced and fair exchange.
The first key to being able to travel sustainably is planning. You need to be organised and prepare upfront. I am not suggesting you need to have every day of your trip timed minute by minute. There is definitely a place for spontaneity. Yet, organising and planning ahead will actually make things much easier and relaxing during the trip.
Whether you are planning everything by yourself or working with a travel designer, the work ahead of the trip is crucial.
Where should you travel to?
Well, this is up to you of course. There are destinations that are more sustainable and green than others. If you do not have a particular destination idea, maybe start your selection from this TOP 100 list of sustainable destinations.
Importantly, try and avoid the obvious places where 'everyone' goes and the Instagram top places. Think of secondary cities and countryside, the less-visited places, where there is a real desire to welcome tourists.
How should you get there?
Another factor to find a destination is the mode of transport. Could you reach your holiday by car or train? Do you need to travel by plane to the other side of the world?
The most sustainable air journeys are direct ones. If you need to fly, avoid taking multiple connecting flights.
Could you make the journey part of the trip?
Part of the fun of a holiday should be how we get there. Children will love a railway adventure. You can pretty much cross the continent overland and stop in places you would have never discovered any other way.
Where should you stay?
If you can: plan this ahead.
You could stay in a large 5* accommodation, with a swimming pool, a kids club and 3 different restaurants, but know that this very rarely benefits the local community.
A way to contribute to the economy of the country or region you visit is to stay in accommodations that are managed by locals, where communities benefit directly from the money you spend.
Look at family-run B&B's and hotels (some of them are listed on the large online platforms) and book with them directly. This doesn't mean you will stay in a dark horrible bedroom. Family-run businesses are those hidden gems that are managed with care and love. Take your time to make your research and find those little secrets.
A bonus point is that they will often be extremely accommodating with your family's needs. They will be delighted to welcome another family and will enjoy caring for the kids.
Choose activities managed and run by locals. A good way to find those is to ask the people at your accommodation. They will always be able to recommend genuine activities. Ideally, you would like to discover something real, not only designed for tourists.
By creating a link, a friendly connection with your host, you will benefit by experiencing something more honest and real.
Great activities that involve locals and give back to the community can be cooking with the family, attending a morning fishing expedition, getting a tour of the area with a local...
If you are in a city, find a local guide with whom you can design a tailor-made tour that can accommodate children and your interests.
All of this can be arranged in advance by asking all the questions to your accommodation, by finding Facebook groups and pages, by reading travel blogs and most importantly by being curious and looking for those little gems. Locals will love your interest and will be able to recommend truly unique things for you and your family.
This is how my husband and I got invited to a rather amazing neighbourhood street party few years back in Barbuda. With Jerry our improvised guide, we got to meet great people, taste delicious lobster caught in the morning, and dance the night away with his family.
Your planning in hand, let's go on an adventure!
During the trip
Make sure you travel with all your necessities. They don't take up space, will save you money and avoid you to purchase single-use plastic.
reusable water bottle
a small box that can be used as a takeaway container
reusable face wipes
Don't fall in the trap of looking for the food of your country and favourite brands. If you travel, embrace the local culture and eat local.
When looking for a place to eat, avoid chains and tourist favourites. Head to the family restaurants. Once again, ask a local where they would eat and what they would recommend.
At the restaurant, do not order the drinks that have travelled halfway across the world, try local beers and delicious homemade juices.
If you don't fancy going to a restaurant, head to the food market and pick some delicious ingredients to make a perfect healthy picnic.
Are you wanting to bring souvenirs and gifts from your trip? Skip the cheesy magnet and find local artisans, arts and crafts markets and purchase from someone who put the effort to create something special. There will be a story attached to the product, one you will remember when you are back home.
After the return
Promote the fantastic businesses and people you encountered along your journey. They need business and genuine recommendations. A good way of doing this is leaving a review on their Facebook page.
There are many more tips and ideas I would like to share with you. My aim will be to show that it is possible to travel responsibly with a family. It should not be a compromise.
Do you have any questions about travelling with the family, integrating sustainability in your travels? Do not hesitate to reach out to discuss your next travel plans.
Until then, happy dreaming!