20 Ways You Can Travel Responsibly and Save Money
Updated March, 2019
Responsible travel is not just a trend – it’s a way of life. Yet it can be outright confusing to know where to start.
Should you only stay in eco-friendly lodgings? Is flying no longer an option? Should you worry about whether what you’re eating is considerable to be sustainable? Is it right to boycott countries that don’t have adequate responsible tourism policies?
Beyond that, it can seem like eco-travel is an off shot of luxury travel and way beyond the price range of what you can afford. While you would love to stay in that tree-house in a remote Costa Rican jungle, your bank balance says you will be choosing otherwise.
Responsible travel doesn’t have to blow your budget.
It’s a matter of taking conscience steps towards doing the right thing.
Responsible Travel Tips
Here are some responsible travel tips that will help you look after the planet… as you save some dough.
Tip 1: Invest in quality travel items that are going to last
The key thing I have been doing since I started living a more sustainable lifestyle is investing in good quality items that will stand the test of time, rather than crappy junk that’s going to break.
Many of these items save me from having to rely on disposable utensils when travelling as well.
At the very least, I am sure to bring:
- A water bottle – I love my Yuhme bottle (See some other options here
- A spork
- A KeepCup (check out prices in Australia here)
- Reusable shopping bag
- Cloth bags
Here’s a complete list of eco-friendly items you can take travelling.
Tips 2: Be organised in your packing
Similarly, don’t leave your packing until the last minute. Think carefully about what you’re going to need on your trip.
Make a list. Do as Santa does and check it twice. Pack everything carefully, at least a day before you leave. Ask yourself – do you have all your toiletries? Have you packed the right sort of clothes? Did you remember to bring your insect repellant?
This will stop you from arriving in your destination and immediately smacking your forehead because you managed to leave your toothbrush in your bathroom. You won’t have to spend the time or money having to hunt down a new one.
Here’s my eco-friendly packing list, if you fancy checking it out for yourself.
Tip 3: Read up ahead on what kind of clothes you’ll need
In travelling in different parts of the world, you’re going to need particular types of clothing.
Do some research before you leave. Is the place windy or rainy? You’ll know now and be able to pack your raincoat, umbrella or scarf.
Are there certain religious rules you’ll need to respect? Good to know and you’ll have long-skirts or trousers and a shawl handy for the occasion.
I’ve been writing and illustrating what to wear posts for certain destinations – you can check them out here.
Tip 4: Make use of what you already have
I used to treat any trip I took abroad as an excuse to go shopping for new threads.
This was just silly and pointless. I already had plenty of clothes lying around my wardrobe, some of which had barely seen the light of day.
When you’re packing for travel, don’t be afraid to take the outfits that you’d wear on any other given day. You’ll be far more comfortable in them, anyway.
Tip 5: Borrow what you don’t have
Is there a certain item you need, but you don’t think you’ll get much use out of?
Don’t worry about buying it – borrow it, instead!
Ring around some family members, text friends, put a plea out on Facebook. Most people are kind and will lend you what you need (granted you take care of it and they’re not needing to use it themselves!).
Although borrowing something means you are getting it for free, I would always advise spending a few quid on a box of chocolates or a nice bottle of vino in return, to thank the person for their help.
Tip 6: Shop secondhand for what you need
If there is something in particular you do need for your travels, chances are, someone else is trying to get rid of the exact same thing.
Going on a camping trip and need a tent? Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are my go to for scouting secondhand items in Australia.
Do make sure you either met the person in a public area, bring someone with you or let someone know where you’re going. Safety first.
Don’t discount op/charity shops either. I’ve found some gems while scouting my local St Vincent de Pauls. I swear sometimes the exact thing I’m after manifests right in front of me.
Markets are also a good bet for sourcing goods, alongside car boot sales – and keep your eye out for garage sales, too!
One (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure, after all.
Tip 7: Bring your own filtered water bottle
In some cases, you can drink water straight from the tap, with a little assistance from a filtration device.
Tip 8: Say NO to straws
This is an easy way to save on plastic, without it costing you a cent.
Next time you order a drink, ask for no straws. I’ve had the most success where I’ve outright asked people if they put straws in their drinks – they have to think about it and answer and then usually seem to remember that I don’t want one when they place the order.
This post has some tips on navigating how to avoid straws if you don’t speak the language.
Tip 9: Take nothing and leave nothing behind – revised
I agree with the sentiment that you should enjoy a place just as it is and be sure to leave nothing behind.
As for taking nothing – well, I have a bit of an issue with that.
There is because there is something you should always take with you when you see it.
I’m talking about rubbish. Trash. Litter. Whatever you want to call it, it’s gross and damaging.
If you’re somewhere that has a bit of litter lying around, you can help out by collecting it to throw in the next bin you find.
I particularly like to do this whenever I’m near a beach. Beaches are beautiful and should be kept this way and better to pick it up than have it wash out into the already polluted ocean.
Tip 10: Organise your own clean ups while exploring areas
In fact, one of my favourite activities when travelling now is to spend a bit of time picking up litter.
I use a reusable cloth bag, or if I’ve accidentally been saddled with a plastic bag at some point (or find one drifting around), it’s where I put the rubbish.
It’s a nice way of saying thanks to a destination, giving back something in return.
Tip 11: Explore your own backyard
Who says you have to go overseas to travel? Sometimes exploring your own backyard can be the most rewarding thing to do.
I live in Australia and spend a lot of time travelling around my own country, my state of Victoria or even just exploring parts of Melbourne, where I live.
I enjoy it just as much, if not more than travelling overseas. And it costs a lot less, especially if I’m just heading somewhere for the day, or travelling to another city where friends live.
Tip 12: Shop locally
I don’t think there’s any harm in buying souvenirs – they’re a fun way of remembering your travels.
It doesn’t hurt to be a little bit discerning of where you buy them from. Do they look like they’re made locally (jewellery can often be good for this)? Or are they cheap junk from China.
Markets are a good place for this, where you can support local businesses and spread the tourist dollar around to where it’s needed.
If haggling is part of the practice there, don’t be afraid to get in and give it a go! Make sure you walk away with a price that’s fair on both parties.
Tip 13: Eat locally
Likewise, look for small hole-in-the-wall places to eat your food (although be careful if you have a sensitive stomach – you don’t want to get sick!).
The popular restaurants can be fun, but the food I tend to dream of from my travels are often off the street, or in markets and the low prices of some of these dishes is utterly staggering.
Tip 14: Travel slowly
This was admittedly a bit of a hard lesson to learn, being someone who is used to rushing around and trying to fit everything in.
Don’t try to do too much when you travel. Plan activities yes, but give yourself lazy days where you can just walk around, chill in cafés, heck, even read in your hotel if that’s what you need.
You’ll end up spending less money, but enjoying the things you do end up doing a whole lot more.
Tip 15: Don’t accept maps at attractions if you don’t need them
Lots of places have maps ready for visitors to utilise, which are handy, but not always necessary. Don’t just thoughtlessly accept it, have a good think about whether you really need it.
If it is something you reckon you’ll need, you could just use your phone! Snap a picture of it and refer to when necessary.
Tip 16: Or give them a second life for someone else to use them
If you have used a map that’s been given to you at a hostel, hotel or attraction, pop it back at the front desk when you’re done, so long as it’s in good condition.
Tip 17: Research public transport rather than using taxis and ride shares
Public transport is ridiculously cheap in some countries and it’s worth researching whether it’s an option you can use.
As always, safety first. In some countries, I watch to see if the local women are taking the public transport. If they’re not – I don’t either.
Tip 18: If you menstruate, use a cup or reusable cloths
This is a simple tip that can save you hundreds of dollars.
I’ve had a Lunette Menstrual Cup for four years now and absolutely adore it. I estimate it’s saved me $720 AUD over this period of time. Not an amount to scoff at.
I use the cup in conjunction with Gladrags reusable cloth pads, which are easily washable and come in a range of colours and sizes.
You can read more about keeping your period eco-friendly here.
Tip 19: Do your own laundry, rather than going to laundrettes
If you’re on the road for awhile, you could really go through the dollars as you try to keep your clothes clean.
I also tend to stay with friends and stretch my laundry so that I can utilise their washing machine.
Tip 20: Housesit
House-sitting is an easy way to prolong your travels and save on money in the same instance, as you don’t have to pay for accommodation.
Many places ask that you look after their pets while they’re away, which means you have a bonus of a furry companion to while away lazy hours with.
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