Ten Simple Ways to Travel Responsibly

Emily BernardPlacePass Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer

Trying to travel responsibly? No matter where you’re headed, your trip has an impact. Carbon emissions may be the most well-known offender, but the truth is, travelers also affect local environments, economies, and communities in a variety of ways.

Fortunately, there are many simple steps you can take to travel more responsibly and sustainably. Follow our suggestions to be aware of your impact and help make a difference on your next trip.

1. Respect local customs.

Do your homework before departure to ensure your behavior doesn’t offend local sensibilities and customs. Depending on your destination, this may mean dressing appropriately for religious sites, avoiding eating with your left hand, or being sensitive to rude gestures. It’s worth learning a few local phrases, too – you’ll have a more pleasant, authentic experience and find it easier to build rapport with locals.

2. Fly direct.

Did you know carbon emissions peak during takeoff and landing? Reduce your footprint by booking direct flights when possible. Check out the footprint of your itinerary on the UN/ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator or on your airline’s website. Many airlines also enable travelers to buy carbon offsets with their tickets.

3. Think before you snap.

In pursuit of the perfect selfie? Make sure your photo-op isn’t disruptive to the local environment. Don’t step outside designated visitor areas at monuments or historic ruins, you can damage sensitive sites. Never approach wild animals; you can endanger them and yourself. And it’s best to ask permission before taking photos of locals. Unsure what’s appropriate? Just put the phone down and savor the moment without the lens! Chances are, that Instagram celeb has a better photo anyway.

4. Ditch the one-use water bottles.

It requires an incredible amount of fossil fuels to make plastic water bottles, and most of them end up in landfills or in the ocean. Ditch your plastic bottle in favor of a reusable option made by socially-conscious companies such as S’well, Platypus, or Klean Kanteen. Worried about water safety? Bring a portable purifier or filter.

5. Support local businesses.

Make sure your money stays in-destination as much as possible. Shop in local boutiques, consume locally-produced food and drink, stay in locally-managed hotels, and choose tour activities run or managed by local operators. In many destinations, you can now buy souvenirs and crafts from socially responsible companies that utilize profits to support underserved populations. Some of our favorites include Artisans d’Angkor in Cambodia, Tribal Textiles in Zambia, and Fabindia in New Delhi. Bring home something that will make you proud!

6. Hang up your towel.

Save water at your hotel by opting to hang up your towel, rather than having it laundered and replaced daily. Most leading hotel brands offer this option now, and many will reward you for your eco-conscious choice with extra loyalty points or a discount at the bar.

7. Avoid endangered or illegal products.

We know you’re not planning to smuggle ivory – just make sure you don’t inadvertently contribute to the problem. Ask a local guide or research before you go to identify at-risk or illegal products to avoid.

8. Give or volunteer responsibly.

Looking to give back? Find a reputable charity through a source such as Charity Navigator or Guidestar rather than giving handouts on the street. If you’re planning to volunteer in-destination, make sure you are working with an ethical, well-run organization that has taken steps to harness the benefits and mitigate the impact of short-term voluntourism.

9. Leave No Trace.

The classic camping maxim applies on the road, too. Leave what you find, travel on durable or well-marked surfaces, dispose of waste properly, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.

10. Get your home squared away while you’re away.

Did you turn off the lights? Turn down the heat? Freeze any food that might spoil? Responsible habits start at home.

Have additional ideas for how to travel responsibly? Share your comments here or email support@placepass.com.

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Comments 14

  1. I am pleased to see these common sense, but often overlooked suggestions on how to lighten our travel impact.

    Another good way to lighten travel impact is to stay longer in one place and get to know it in more intimately rather than jet between destinations just to say you have been there. I think PlacePass can be a fantastic tool for gaining fascinating, first-hand insights that will give you a deeper appreciation of a particular place.

    Gerry H

  2. I’m always trying to find ways to minimize my footprint. I’m starting to plan several international vacations. This list is super helpful in figuring out how to travel without causing too much disruption. I LOVE the idea of supporting local businesses. I always try to do that when I travel. No chains for me if I can help it!

  3. I’m Peter. I’m continually attempting to discover approaches to minimize my impression. I’m beginning to arrange a few worldwide vacations. Another great approach to help reduce your impact is to remain longer in one place and become more acquainted with it in more personally instead of flying around just to state you have been there.

  4. Good, solid, common sense ideas that most of us forget. Would appreciate even more detail and ideas. I don’t see why one wouldn’t buy local and support local businesses. To me, it’s why you travel. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Respect other people´s country and culture as well as you want them to respect your own home. The behavior you are talking about in this list should be natural. But it´s a great reminder. Sometimes we forget that we are harming mother earth or others with our bad behaviour!

    1. Post

      Agree with you, Marion, that it should be natural! But I think we all have some stories of seeing others who are oblivious or not keeping this in mind.

  6. I agree that it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and not offend the local sensibilities and customs. I recently visited Greece and Turkey with a group of students that wanted to take a group picture of an outdoor monument. There were other tourists that were offended by their playing around and were told that it was a religious site and they were being disrespectful. They really didn’t mean any disrespect and felt bad about the situation. It could have been avoided by a little more advance planning and education about the history of the area.
    Thanks for the interesting post. I look forward to reading more of your articles.

  7. I hardly take most of the issues raised above into consideration when I travel. Looks like there’s room to be more conscious of my behaviour and activities when I travel.

  8. Loved these tips on conscientious traveling. I always try to go for direct flights anyways, because changing is such a pain…now I have added incentive even if it’s a bit more pricey. And YES to respecting the culture and learning a couple words. I always try to know “hello, thank you goodbye” — and it seriously makes such a difference. No idea why some people don’t bother with these simple phrases.

  9. I appreciate how “Respect Local Customs” is listed at number one. This is super important, it would be so rude that the people would adjust to you just because you’re the traveler. Some people just don’t understand this! I’m kind of guilty on the one use bottles though! Lol. It’s true that I’m worrying about the safety of the water, I’ll consider investing in a good water purifier sometime soon..

  10. Hey there, thanks for this nice share. To travel responsibly I believe these 10 simple ways will be highly effective for travelers to make their travel responsible.

  11. I love that you included things like respecting local customs and thinking before you take pictures. So many people that travel do not consider these things and I have seen it first hand! I watch a lot of vloggers on Youtube that travel and some of them have been quite disrespectful of the places they went to and the people they were around. Very good list in general I agree with it completely.

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