Holiday travel can leave you feeling like you need a vacation. From the eye-popping prices to the crush of travelers to the weather, whether you’re on the road or in the air, it’s a lot to grapple with. But getting home — or simply getting away — during the travel corridor between the middle of November and the beginning of January doesn’t have to be so challenging or aggravating. Better still, with a little planning and a few eco-friendly travel tips, you can travel sustainably while also reducing your stress along the way.
Travel on unpopular days and fly nonstop
If you want to avoid the crowds and save on airfare, travel on the holiday itself after everyone else has already gotten to their destination. Time of day also makes a difference. If you can manage to be up very early (or very late, depending on your point of view), it will save you time, money, and the hassle of a bustling airport. For example, in the U.S., three of the most hectic travel days of the year are the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving as well as the Sunday after. If you can, adjust your holiday travel schedule accordingly.
If you don’t need to fly, consider more sustainable modes of transportation. Trains and buses are more eco-friendly than airplanes, especially for shorter distances. For example, trains are found to produce 66-75% less CO2 than flying or driving. However, if flying is necessary, you can make things easier on yourself — and the planet — by avoiding connections and choosing non-stop flights. Takeoffs and landings are the most fuel-intensive parts of a journey, so the fewer of those you need to do, the better. Plus, you won’t risk being delayed or missing a connecting flight altogether.
Pack light and ship gifts
Heading home? Instead of bringing along gifts for your family, ship them. That way, they’ll get there ahead of you, and you won’t have to worry about them on the way there. Likewise, if you can pack efficiently, carry your bags with you and avoid checking them. Remember, every pound requires more fuel. Avoid overpacking by planning versatile outfits that can be mixed, matched, and layered.
Lastly, bring SaltyLama’s eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets along for the trip. The lightweight packaging will fit easily into a suitcase pocket, and you’ll be able to keep the clothes you bring with you clean and fresh in a sustainable way.
Be prepared — without plastic
If you’re ready for anything, you won’t feel as stressed-out when obstacles inevitably arise. So, pack snacks, bring chargers, research alternative routes, confirm reservations, and download travel apps. When you’re packing, avoid single-use plastics and bring reusable items like water bottles, coffee cups, tote bags, and utensils. While you’re at it, skip the travel-sized plastic bottles in favor of solid toiletries like shampoo bars and soap. Otherwise, purchase reusable travel-sized containers.
Reduce airport stress and your carbon footprint
By downloading your airline’s app, you can ensure your gate information is up to date. Registering for TSA precheck can also reduce the amount of time you’re waiting in security lines. And remember to arrive at the recommended time.
To reduce your environmental impact, consider investing in carbon offset programs. These initiatives fund projects that reduce or capture carbon dioxide, such as reforestation or renewable energy projects. Many airlines and environmental organizations offer carbon offset options for travelers. You might see the option to offset your emissions when confirming your booking with certain airlines or hotel booking sites, so keep your eye out. Otherwise, join a carbon offset program to make all your holiday travels net zero.
Stay with family sustainably
The most eco-friendly place to stay? With friends and family. Which is kind of perfect since the holidays are all about spending quality time with those most important to us, anyway. Just be sure to show your appreciation for the hospitality, perhaps by cooking or cleaning up for them.
If you’re not visiting family — or perhaps the entire clan is traveling together — seek out eco-friendly accommodations. Look for hotels, lodges, or vacation rentals that have implemented green practices. These may include energy-efficient lighting, water-saving measures, waste reduction programs, sustainably sourced furniture, and closed-loop approaches to food. You can find more sustainable properties on many online booking websites from Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable ratings and Ecobnb’s marketplace of eco-friendly properties around the world.
Remember to be conscious of your own energy and water use. For example, turn off lights and electronics when not in use, and use natural lighting whenever possible. To reduce water waste, reuse towels and linens, take shorter showers, and report leaks.
Draw up alternative plans
Sometimes things don’t go as intended. So, keep from getting too stressed-out by having a backup plan already prepared, whatever the circumstance. When outlining your itinerary, search for activities and excursions that align with sustainable principles.
No matter where you’re traveling, avoid activities that exploit wildlife or harm the environment. Instead, seek experiences that kindly promote conservation. When getting around, walk, bike, or take public transportation.
And don’t forget to disconnect from your devices. Instead, enjoy quality time with your loved ones and enjoy the natural world, wherever you are. Not only will this remind you to appreciate the environment, but it will help relieve whatever stress remains from your journey.
Remember, taking a more responsible approach to travel doesn’t mean adding to your stress levels — in fact, quite the opposite. By following these sustainable travel tips, you’ll be better prepared to simply enjoy a holiday season filled with memories while also knowing you minimized your environmental impact. Happy travels!