Travel tips

Readers’ tips: How to travel more sustainably

Last updated 27th January 2020

With sustainability top of the public’s agenda, Family Traveller readers are on hand to provide their top tips for greener travel in 2020 and beyond

Set aside time on holiday to educate your kids on the environment

Winning tip

My tip is to teach kids about the importance of sustainable travel by taking a moment early in the trip to admire the holiday location. Wherever you find yourself on holiday – whether it’s Dorset or Dubrovnik – setting aside some time to explain to them that we all have a responsibility to ensure that the beautiful surroundings remain the way they are is invaluable.

I find that it makes the little ones eager to take small steps to be more eco-friendly, such as walking rather than getting a taxi, taking shorter showers, turning off the lights and air con when going out, and cleaning up after themselves after a picnic on the beach. It doesn’t have to be preachy – rather let it be a gentle reminder of how they can have a positive impact on future generations by being responsible and they will most likely carry it with them for life.

Julie Nash from Northern Ireland wins a £50 Amazon voucher for her wonderful tip

More great tips

Train travel allows more appreciation of the landscape

I recently took the kids to Amsterdam via Eurostar and they loved every minute of it. The experience of travelling from London to France, before proceeding through Brussels and various stations in the Netherlands where they could watch the landscape change was far more memorable than soaring past 30,000 ft in the air. During the journey we downloaded Eurostar Odyssey, a free smartphone app that allows you to imagine your train carriage underwater using virtual reality. It’s lots of fun and offers a great way to pass the time as you whizz along beneath the Channel.

Anushka Cross, London

Even if flying can’t be avoided, there are still ways to reduce plastic use

I try to avoid travelling by plane (I never fly domestically) and only fly once a year most years. The flights are one of my favourite things about going on holiday, and I do love the experience of flying long haul. It can, however, be tiring and people often forget about their everyday concerns in regards to plastic.

There is a lot of plastic involved in a long haul flight. On a plane, some people take baby wipes or face wipes to ‘freshen up’. I always take a muslin cloth or flannel (dry) which you can then soak in the bathroom sink, use and keep in a reusable sealing bag (ideally non-plastic). I take my own reusable cup for inflight coffee/tea, and often bring my own lunch/snacks rather than opt for a paid meal (cheaper and less plastic use), and I have a cutlery set that I take with me to use instead of using the provided plastic set (that are also then wrapped in plastic!). If flying can’t be avoided, there are many ways you can make your flight more sustainable.

Rebecca Smith, Essex allows users to plan their travels entirely by train

As someone who works to go on holiday, pledging to go flight free in 2020 was a daunting prospect. That was until I discovered The Man in Seat 61, a website that allows users to plan their travels entirely by train. Following this breakthrough I immediately began plotting a trip to Finland, before my sensible husband suggested we keep it simple first time and settled on Carcassonne in the south of France (Eurostar to Paris and TGV onwards).

We considered stopping in Paris for a few days on the way back but then decided to go to EuroDisney instead and get the Eurostar back from there. All the information we needed was on The Man in Seat 61 and the tickets were easy to book online. While it will inevitably take longer and work out slightly more expensive, we get to see more of France, recline in our seats and travel happily in the knowledge that we will be emitting significantly less CO2 than had we gone by plane. 

Jane Snell, Wirral

The UK is blessed with glorious countryside

The UK has such a wonderful variety of beautiful villages, towns and countryside to visit that a staycation can be just as much of an adventure as a trip abroad – especially if the weather is sunny! You can travel by bus or train so your carbon footprint will be a lot lower than by aeroplane. It can also be a lot less stressful if you have young kids as you can avoid all the palaver of getting to the airport on time, navigating your way around a hectic terminal and having to worry about luggage weight restrictions. A lot of places now also offer quirky eco-friendly accommodation such as log cabins, yurts and safari style tents too, making for a unique and interesting holiday.

Julie McCaughan, Northern Ireland

Decant full size products into reusable containers to reduce plastic use

Instead of buying and using travel sized toiletries or beauty products, I have decided to decant some from my full size products into reusable travel containers that can be purchased cheaply from stores such as Boots and Superdrug. If you want to take this a step further, you could even make your own homemade beauty products and store them in reusable glass bottles or jars found at home. This is a simple way of reducing plastic use, as well as saving you money – who wants to pay over the odds for a miniature bottle of a product they already have in abundance?

Eliza Hemphill, London

Reusable water bottles are a staple for many families on holiday

My top tips for sustainable travel is to always carry a spork (knife, fork and spoon in one) and a collapsible water bottle and reusable straw. Both save on having to use lots of ‘one time’ use disposable plastic items which just end up in landfill or worse – the ocean. It’s also great because it means you and your family can eat on the go anywhere – in the car, at the beach, or have an impromptu picnic in the woods.

After watching David Attenborough’s documentary on climate change, we became very conscious of the amount of bottles of water we would get through, so decided to purchase reusable bottles and straws. Items like this now come everywhere with us the gym, work or when I’m out and about with the family. We also make our own wax wraps to wrap and store food which again saves on using lots of plastic bags. We have great fun making them too!

Stephanie Gadd, Somerset

Renting bikes is a good way to get about on holiday

Probably everyone has heard about it – flying is bad for the environment. Clearly, it’s not always easy to avoid long-distance flights, but if you go to a closer destination, travelling by train is definitely a better choice and saves a lot of CO2. In case you cannot avoid flying, climate protection projects, such as atmosfair, help you compensate the emissions you caused.

In many regions, the public transportation and bike rental offers are well established, and in some mountain regions, coaches take you to central starting points for hikes, essentially rendering your own car redundant. Some hotels also support arriving by train and offer shuttle services such as the Leitlhof in South Tyrol and the eco-village Sagna Rotonda in Piedmont. And, in the age of digitisation, you don’t need to print your ticket – use the electronic one.

Alana Hebenton, Hampshire 

Opt for self-catering over all-inclusive where possible

If you are travelling abroad, opt for a self-catering package rather than all-inclusive. That way you are benefiting the local economy, creating more opportunities for local folk and teaching your kids about the importance of cooking up their own nutritious meals.

Obviously the best break environmentally is a staycation and it’s a great way to demonstrate your commitment by example. Actually, your children will probably love the opportunity to make new friends and run a little wild on a camping holiday where the usual rules and bedtimes are relaxed. 

Madelaine McLaughlin, Gloucestershire

Thank you to all those who submitted tips! Next up, we’d like to hear about what inspired you to travel as a child. This could be a thrilling novel, magical film, captivating documentary or even a wonderful stage performance. The winning tip will receive a £50 Amazon voucher.