Family Getaways With an Eco-Friendly Mindset

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This post originally appeared on Best Western’s YouMustBeTrippin.com’s blog, where I regularly contribute stories. I was compensated for this post but the opinions are mine.

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My first experience with eco-friendly tourism was in 2008, when my children and I visited Costa Rica for a two-week family vacation featuring rain forests, river rapids, colorful insects, coffee plantations and volcanoes.

The Costa Ricans (or Ticos, for short) are so passionate about preserving their nation’s natural wonders, it’s safe to say they wrote the book on what eco-friendly travel is like. Since that impactful, full-scale look at eco-travel, my family and are much more mindful of how to leave a smaller footprint in the way we travel.

Here are some general tips that you can use to be more environmentally conscious in your trips:

  • Walk, bike or take a train. It’s not always possible or practical to do this when you travel, but when you actively ponder if you really need to rent your own car, you would be surprised with the number of times you don’t really need one. The last time my family and I went to NYC, we did the majority of our travel through subways and, yes, we even got some terrific exercise while we were at it.
  • Even on vacation, shop green. When we head out on road trips, my wife will often bring along our own set of reusable grocery bags. With four kids and two adults on the road we shop a lot, so simply reducing the number of plastic bags we use is a positive step in minimizing.
  • Shop at a farmers market. When you shop local, you support community movements to do things that are cleaner and healthier. We love visiting farmers markets whenever we can and some places such as Austin, Sedona and LA can make for surprisingly cool, local-flavored experiences.

No matter where you may travel, the most common and easily accessible place you can practice eco-friendly travel is at the hotels you visit. Here are a few hotel-related tips:

  • Reuse towels. This is one of the most common no-no’s that families encounter and it’s also one of the biggest contributors to hotels using more detergents. I have to admit it’s also extremely hard to enforce with a family of six that includes young girls, but we’re getting smarter about reusing our towels. At Best Western hotels you can let the housekeeping staff know you want to reuse your towels by hanging them up. Any towels left on the floor will be replaced with a clean one.
  • Turn off the A/C when you leave the room. At more and more Best Western hotels we’ve started to notice air conditioners turn off automatically if a room doesn’t have a key inserted inside a special key slot. This is a great way to conserve energy and doesn’t take any effort on your part!
  • Turn the lights off regularly. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I, too, have had the vacation habit of leaving bathroom and room lights on because I’m not paying for the electricity bill. But this is the wrong mentality to have, so I’ve committed to not doing it anymore. That said, fortunately, many hotel rooms are becoming more energy efficient by detecting when someone is in a room and turning the lights off when the room is empty.
  • Attempt to leave the bed linens clean. This may seem impossible for some of us, like me, who travel with two or more small (and many times messy) children, but it is possible, and some habits can help. For example, try not to eat in your hotel room and be extra careful about dirtying bed linens. Whenever my family and I stay at a hotel more than two nights, we often try to skip room cleanings for at least one of the days. It all adds up. Some Best Western hotels provide a sign you can place on your bed stating you would like to participate in the linen reuse program.

If you’re like my generation, thinking “green” was something you thought was for hippies. Fortunately, it really isn’t like that anymore. Next time you travel, make it eco-friendly!

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