20 Ways You Can Travel Responsibly and Save Money

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Updated March, 2019

responsible  travel tips
As is the rest of the world.

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.

In fact, you can save a lot of money by choosing to travel responsibly.

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 [easyazon_link identifier=”B07CSY5HZS” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]Yuhme bottle[/easyazon_link] (See some other options here
  • A [easyazon_link identifier=”B001E7S5BO” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]spork[/easyazon_link]
  • A [easyazon_link identifier=”B00KKRGXGS” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]KeepCup[/easyazon_link] (check out prices in Australia here)
  • Reusable shopping bag
  • Cloth bags

Here’s a complete list of eco-friendly items you can take travelling.

responsible  travel tips
Think about what you’re going to take, before you pack it.

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 [easyazon_link identifier=”B004N59OFU” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]insect repellant[/easyazon_link]?

This will stop you from arriving in your destination and immediately smacking your forehead because you managed to leave your [easyazon_link identifier=”B009O3BCT2″ locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]toothbrush in your bathroom[/easyazon_link]. 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.

responsible  travel tips
I get most of my clothes secondhand and I love them.

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.

Craigslist or Freecycle are good options for those elsewhere.

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.

My go-to is my [easyazon_link identifier=”B01C6HAVVM” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]GRAYL water bottle[/easyazon_link] (see a full review here) and I use a [easyazon_link identifier=”B00M3SOJIG” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]SteriPen[/easyazon_link] as well.

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.

responsible  travel tips
Cleaning up a beach in England.

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.

responsible  travel tips
Noodles from a street market in Kyrgyzstan, which cost like 15 cents.

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.

responsible  travel tips
Don’t need to use the map again? Pass it on.

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 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0184NX5PG” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]Lunette Menstrual Cup[/easyazon_link] 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.

responsible  travel tips
A Scrubba is a good investment for doing laundry on the road.

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 use a [easyazon_link identifier=”B0721K2R6C” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]Scrubba[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link identifier=”B001DU4XPY” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]soap berries[/easyazon_link] to get my washing done when I’m travelling for awhile.

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.

Did you find yourself nodding along as you read this post? Please pin away! For more plastic-free tips and updates (for travel and life in general) give the Birdgehls Facebook page a good, solid like, or subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

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Ethical travel doesn't always have to be altruistic! You can save money and still be a responsible traveller. Here are twenty ways how. / #SustainableTravel / #EcoTravel / #ResponsibleTravel / #EthicalTravel / #GreenTravel /

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  1. I would add: find out if your holiday destination has local markets and shop there. They usually use less plastic and you’re buying local goods. Win win 🙂

  2. As far as Craig’s list goes in the UK I hear it’s as dodgy as gumtree, but with a much lower population. I’ve heard excellent things about freecycle though you don’t get to be quite so choosey as everything is free, but on the upside, everything is free!

  3. Great advice. It really is not hard to cut costs and be responsible if you really put your mind to it. Love that you cleaned up that beach, some people are so rude. It is hard to believe that in this day and age with all the education and knowledge you would like to think people have that there are still so many that litter. Is it really that difficult to pack out what you packed in? Especially when there are trash bins close by.
    Sorry it is a sore subect for me, I hate litter.
    Well thank you for the great advice, keep on posting great stuff.
    The Broke Dad

    1. No need to apologise! I love your enthusiasm on the matter. And obviously feel similarly – nothing makes me madder than litterbugs! It’s lazy, thoughtless and just generally rude to both the earth and all its other inhabitants, human or otherwise.

  4. We still do not understand why individuals think it is acceptable to litter, it makes us mad too. Simple social skills go a long way and this great post highlights this. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great tips Laura. Responsible and sustainable travel are need of the hour. It is quite remarkable how minor changes in the way we travel and pack can do a great deal when it comes to being responsible and sustainable.

  6. You so rightly said that responsible tourism is a way of life, nothing out of the league. It’s what you practice, small small things, that matter and bring the change. Some very useful advice you have given here. We also try to do the same on our travel

  7. These days it is so important you don’t leave any trace behind, like plastic bottles, rubbish etc. I love the idea of shopping second hand, you can get some real bargains there! Pinning this for future reference, thanks so much!

  8. Nice description of how to save money while traveling. Some of the great tips to note down. Really very impressive and very interesting. This is truly a useful article. Nowadays it is very important for us not to leave any trash behind, like plastic bottles, rubbish etc. Anyways, I Really Liked your blog. Thank you for sharing such a great post. Keep Posting

  9. Now, I got what I miss the most during my budget travel. Thanks, LC for the awesome actionable tips and indeed its help’s a lot.

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