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Top 10 Eco Travel Tips for Family Vacation Planners
by Irene Lane

Travel Tips

The statistics are promising! According to TripAdvisorís 2011 Travel Trends survey, 47 % of vacation planners take eco-friendly factors, such as their own carbon footprint or green hotel policies into consideration when deciding on a vacation destination or activity, and 20 % are expected to be more environmentally conscious in their travelchoices overall.

Promising statistics, but not very helpful if you want some concrete or practical understanding as to how to actually accomplish sustainable, responsible or green travel without being swept up into greenwashing schemes.

Rather than agonizing over reviews, guide books and definitions of sustainability; instead use these tenplanning tips that will help quickly evaluate the green merits of your family vacation:

  1. Look for legitimate eco-certification labels: As you search through a tourism providerís website, look for its responsible tourism policies. If management holds a third-party certification, they will proudly mention it. Eco-certification provides knowledge and transparency because award criteria as well as independent assessment and reauthorization processes not only help educate consumers about the various social, economic, cultural and environmental issues of a specific region, but also provide you with a basis of comparison against other travel suppliers.
  2. Use public transportation: Hybrid car rentals are wonderful if they are available, but try taking a train or boat to your destination instead. No matter what continent you are traveling through, there are unique and environmentally-friendly travel options to almost any destination on your itinerary. In addition, when finalizing your family destination, select one region where all vacation activities are within a maximum 1 hour driving or public transportation radius; otherwise, the only vacation activity the kids will remember is being in transit.
  3. Search green accommodation sites: The Rainforest Alliance as well as Itís a Green Green World sites list beautiful, eco-friendly accommodations that fit all budgets and that have been verified as responsible eco-lodgings. If there are no eco-lodgings available at your destination, review the list of eco-hotel criteria against the available options and ask the hotelís management if you have questions or concerns.
  4. Consider renting a home: Use Home-Away Holiday Rentals to find suitable accommodations such as an apartment, cottage, house or villa on the beach, in the mountains, right in the city or anything else in between. You can also ask the property manager to help secure tickets for activities or additional services during your stay. Not only will you be more comfortable, but since many homes overseas utilize renewable energy resources and you wonít be needing lights, fans, TVs or air conditioners on all the time, youíll be greener.
  5. Eat locally produced foods: Aside from the fact that one can truly immerse themselves in the travel experience when sampling local foods and delicacies, the practice of eating locally can also help the environment. A great resource is WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which lists organic farms as well as organic farm volunteering opportunities around the world. To find sustainable food restaurants in the United States and Canada, two great resources are Eat Well Guide and Local Harvest, which provides a comprehensive U.S. directory of farmers markets, farm stands and other sources of locally grown food.
  6. Use solar-powered travel gadgets: Travel items, such as backpacks and laptop bags that help power up smartphones, music players, e-book readersand other necessities arebecoming more powerful, dependable, cost effective and portable. Best of all, you wonít need to shop for batteries anymore!
  7. Choose activities that emphasize environmental awareness versus outdoor adventure: Hereís a hint. If you are being taken by a gas-guzzling double coach bus to experience your unique ďecoĒ activity, itís not about green travel. True green activities, which can include kayaking, hiking and sailing, are led by certified naturalists, who guide small groups of no more than 12 to allow for first-hand interpretation and education of local flora and fauna.Devoted eco-tourism organizations not only teach tourists about the plants, birds, insects and animals of the region, but also how wildlife is crucial to the surrounding ecosystems. Learning about the fragility and sensitivity of ecosystems becomes much more important than just a great photo opportunity.
  8. Respect local cultural traditions: Part of the joy of traveling is sampling local delicacies, learning a few words in new language and maybe even discovering a new way to interact with people. If you are isolated within an oasis of exotic plants, dinner shows, swimming lagoons and wait staff, it may be difficult to also absorb the local heritage Ė and frankly isnít that why you go on vacation?
  9. 10. Consider a voluntour: Voluntourism is different from a volunteer vacation in that there is a balance struck between the tourist offering a volunteer service during the trip on a conservation project and the tourist enjoying the natural surroundings and wildlife habitats through ecotourism activities such as kayaking and hiking.

About the Author: Irene Lane

Irene Lane is the founder & president of Greenloons, which is a company dedicated to providing nature enthusiasts and wildlife conservationists worldwide with trusted information about responsible, sustainable, and certified ecotourism travel vacations and volunteer conservation efforts both in the U.S. and internationally.

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