5 Sustainable (and Safe) Travel Tips for Your Summer Vacation
We’ve been hit by a lot in 2020, and we’re only halfway through the year. While many of us relish in the magic that is the summer vacation, we’re definitely in need of a vacay more this year than ever before.
While that may be the case, there are certainly far more precautions we need to take this year before we hit the “Book Now” button and start packing our bags. Fortunately, there are ways we can safely hit the road—and do so sustainably, to boot!
Here are a few of our top tips to make sure that Summer 2020 comes out on top—even amidst a global pandemic, an election year, and a tumultuous (and much needed) civil rights movement.
5 Sustainable (and Safe) Travel Tips for Your Summer Vacation
1. Avoid Flying
We all know that flying is pretty bad for our planet. A single long-haul flight produces the same amount of emissions as an average person in some areas of the world does over the span of an entire year.
But now, Mother Earth and our health are at risk when flying.
Virus-containing droplets can be spread to other people in the plane, and can also circulate around in areas like the terminal, bathrooms, and restaurants.
If you do choose to fly, book with an airline that’s leaving the middle seat free (it can cut the COVID risk in half!). Also, wear a mask the entire time, bring hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes with you, and avoid using the toilets. Essentially, try to socially distance as much as possible—even from 36,000 feet.
2. Road Trip Anyone?
If flying sounds scary, and let’s be honest, it kind of does, a road trip may be a fun and necessary component of any vacation this year. Unless you’re driving a huge SUV on a solo journey across the country, driving instead of flying will also emit fewer greenhouse gases.
Now that you know that you’re travelling in a way that’s better for you and the planet, you can download your road trip-ready playlist and do a few more things to stay safe:
Be careful in public bathrooms. Wear a mask, get in and get out as quickly as possible, and avoid touching things. (Sorta kinda what we should always be doing in public bathrooms). You should also use your foot to flush the toilet and wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
Drive with the windows down. If you’re on the highway this won’t help too much with your fuel efficiency (it creates additional drag) but it will help with germs. So, let your hair blow in the wind, belt out your favorite song, and let Mother Nature move air around so that virus particles don’t get trapped.
Be careful after touching gas pumps. If you have them, bring disposable gloves or use a paper towel to hold the gas pump. Always sanitize or wash your hands afterwards!
3. BYO Snacks
Wherever you’re going, snacks should be your best friend. The more you bring with you, the less you’ll have to go out to buy. Plus, when you prepare snacks before heading off on your summer adventure, you’re in control of how eco-friendly you can make your nibbles.
Eat seasonally. Some of our favorite foods are also the ones that grow the best in summer. Before you load up the car, pack some watermelon slices, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers with hummus, and some juicy peaches, nectarines, and cherries to munch on. Eating seasonally is healthier, more sustainable, and oh so delicious.
Use reusable packaging. With health concerns running through everyone’s mind, using reusable packaging is much more difficult these days—unless you’re in full control! This is another reason why you should pre-plan as much of your food as possible, so that you can minimize all of the packaging associated with it.
Always, always, always bring a reusable water bottle and use reusable containers for all of your snacks and any drinks (coffee, tea) you bring with you. These no-leak snack cups are perfect.
Make your own! Who doesn’t love a good granola bar in the morning? Or some crackers to have with hummus? Luckily, these are all suuuuper easy to make before a trip. Check out these recipes for: a 5-ingredient granola bar, homemade flatbread crackers, and the best hummus. They’ll all save some money, reduce waste, and taste delicious!
4. Explore the Great Outdoors
By now most of us know that if we’re going to leave our homes at all, it’s much better to be outside. With fresh air and more distance, the risk of contracting COVID-19 goes down.
Not only is being outside safer, but being outside is also great for our physical and mental health And for many of us, both of these can probably use some support right now. Being outside can reduce stress and anxiety, it can relieve feelings of depression, and it can boost our wellbeing overall.
Plus, our disconnect from nature has been associated with some of the ways we’re harming our environment. One study actually looked at society’s disconnection from nature as a “root cause of unsustainability.” So, check out a national park, head to an uncrowded beach, or spend some time in the forest for this year’s vacation.
5. Consider that the Coronavirus is a Much-Needed Lesson
I know that this is a half-glass-full kind of approach to what is undoubtedly bringing pain and suffering to many people around the globe, but there are some people that are viewing the pandemic as something teaching us to be more sustainable—especially when it comes to travel.
According to an interview in TravelAge West:
“We’ve been carrying on in our industry for the past decade with multiple elephants in the room. There’s overtourism, climate change, air travel and poor behavior of guests in destinations. Yet, our industry has never had the time to sit back, look around and have a think.”
Maybe this is a good time for us to reflect on what “vacation” normally means. Maybe disconnecting from the grind doesn’t necessarily mean travelling far, drinking and eating at the demise of our planet (and wallets), and spending time in a fancy hotel. Maybe a few weekend trips to a local campground or state park is just the reminder we need of how this entire planet is a great vacation spot—and one that definitely should be saved.
Safer travel during the current pandemic unfortunately means a few un-environmentally-friendly things (like using disinfecting wipes), but it also means that we can travel in new and different ways that also happen to be better for the planet.
Written by Heather S for Weighstead