Traveling with young children can be both exciting and challenging. As parents, we’re always trying to create unforgettable experiences for our families, while also being realistic about the energy some of these big ideas require. Fortunately, with a little planning and conscious decision-making, you can have green getaways without compromising on the values you keep at home. Eco-friendly adventures leave a positive mark on the planet, your pocketbook, and in your memories. Let’s explore some sustainable travel tips specifically tailored for busy families who want to travel with their littles while embracing eco-conscious practices.
Accommodations & Lodging
When booking your accommodations, opt for eco-friendly hotels or vacation rentals that prioritize sustainable practices. If you’re staying in a US hotel, look for a LEED Certified location. This means the hotel has been evaluated by the US Green Building Council and has taken significant measures to improve their overall sustainability with regards to energy efficiency, material selection/sourcing, water savings, recycling programs, and more. If you’re traveling overseas, many other countries have similar rating systems for hotels too including EarthCheck (Australia), GreenGlobe, and Rainforest Alliance. These establishments often provide amenities and services that align with your eco-friendly goals.
Leaning into reusables and thinking outside the box is key here. Traveling light not only reduces the stress of carrying heavy bags but also lessens the likelihood of leaving anything behind when you’re ready to head home. Pack only the essentials and bring things that serve multiple purposes - such as:
Reusable water bottles - make overnight oats for breakfast on the go, make protein shakes, bring it into coffee shops or restaurants to refill before you're on your way again.
Washable snack bags - refill snacks, portion out family servings while eating on the road, organize toiletries, make an easy ice pack, etc. These are great for coolers too!
Reusable paper towels - napkins, wiping hands, lay on a restaurant table to give baby a clean spot to eat without risking plates becoming frisbees, play scarf for peek-a-boo
Wet bags - use for soiled napkins, dirty clothes, muddy shoes, leaky toiletries, or anything you want to keep separated from other materials.
Extra tote bags - they fold up nicely and don't take up much room in a suitcase, but provide a little more space beyond a purse for any shopping or carrying items day to day when exploring.
Choose destinations that offer opportunities for eco-friendly activities and attractions. National parks, nature reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries provide educational experiences for children while fostering an appreciation for the environment. Be sure to research any tours or locations involving animals prior to booking to ensure their practices and philosophies line up with your values. Hiking, picnics, and exploring new parks is fun for the whole family. You can even bring a tote bag with you to collect litter or trash along your journey to help leave the space in even better condition than when you arrived.
Tablets may feel like the easiest route, but they can be bulky and you have to keep up with chargers, headphones, downloading shows or apps ahead of time, troubleshooting tech issues, and finding wifi. If your kids are like mine, they easily get carsick when using a tablet in the car or on a plane anyway.
Busy books - eliminate the need to bring multiple coloring books and keep up with boxes of half broken crayons. Busy books come with 6 dry erase cards, 4 markers, and an eraser to keep the fun going and going. Endless options for games and activities. Great for siblings because one set is easily used across multiple age groups.
Play classic car games like: the license plate game, 20 questions, I spy, or the alphabet game.
You an also print a few roadtrip bingo cards (a quick pinterest search yields a bunch of results) and remember to recycle the pages when you’re done.
Select eco-friendly transportation options whenever possible. Choose trains or buses instead of flights for shorter distances. Involve your kids in searching for options and planning the routes.
Use public transportation when you can - or explore a new city on foot. This can be a great opportunity to teach kids how to read a map (old school or google maps), notice landmarks, and find hidden gems you may not otherwise notice. Renting bikes can be another fun way to get around a new town and may come with options for seats or pull along trailers for younger family members who may not be able to ride a bike yet.
Look for recycling bins before disposing of anything. If you don’t see one nearby you can ask if there’s a place to recycle in one of the shops or businesses. You can also tuck your recycling into your bag (another great use for tote bags or wet bags) or backpack until you do see an appropriate recycling bin.
Practice Responsible Tourism
Respect the local culture, customs, and environment of your chosen destination. Educate your children about responsible tourism practices, such as not disturbing wildlife, adhering to trail etiquettes, and minimizing plastic waste. Encourage them to ask questions and learn about new traditions and ways of life.
Sustainable Souvenirs and Gifts
When purchasing souvenirs or gifts, choose locally made products that support the local economy and reflect the culture of the destination. Avoid items made from endangered species or products that exploit natural resources. Consider buying experiences instead, such as cooking classes or eco-friendly workshops that your family can enjoy together while learning a new skill. Make sure to bring along your reusable tote bag to use when shopping too!
By incorporating eco-friendly practices into your family travels, you can create meaningful experiences while nurturing a love for the planet in your young children. I hope these sustainable travel tips demonstrate that it is possible to embark on eco-friendly adventures without compromising on the joy and excitement of exploration. Together, let's make a difference and pave the way for a greener future, one travel experience at a time.
Remember, every eco-conscious decision you make counts.