How to Travel Responsibly Without Blowing Your Money

responsible travel tips

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 cabin in the remote wilderness of Australia, 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.

Related: Seven benefits of a plastic-free lifestyle.

Keen to travel responsibly without blowing your money? Here are some tips to get you started.

Use as Little Plastic as Possible

I believe this is one big way you can limit your impact on the planet, without blowing your finances.

There’s a good chance you have everything you need for plastic-free travel lying around your house. Water bottles, napkins, tupperware containers, chopsticks from the Japanese takeaway down the road…

It’s a matter of preparing yourself for situations where you’ll be tempted to use plastic. And being brave enough to challenge the status quo when it comes to disposable items.

So speak up and tell the waiter that you don’t want a straw in your drink. Hand over your tupperware container when buying snacks on the go.

Related: My seven-odd favourite eco-friendly travel items.

Then, celebrate the small successes.

responsible travel tips

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.

I was lucky enough to grow up in Australia and didn’t realise that the cleanliness of our beaches was something I shouldn’t be taking for granted. This was until I moved abroad.

Recently, I journeyed to Dorset and spent some time wandering around the very pretty Man of War Bay.

responsible travel tips

Despite the gigantic bins located at the top of the bay, there was a tonne of rubbish floating around the beach. Left by people who had flouted the rules by holding BBQs on the shorefront and then failed to take the scraps with them.

We picked up beer bottles, glasses, mugs, socks, empty packets of food and the remnants of disposable BBQs, filling three plastic bags. The bags were also left at the beach. We used them to our advantage.

responsible travel tips

If you’re like me, you’ll never understand the mentality behind littering. I’m sorry that we have to clean up after these grubs, but unfortunately we’re all in this together.

So next time you’re travelling, don’t be afraid to pick up after these sorry excuses for human beings. It’s just one way you can give back to the planet, without spending a cent.

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 clothes that you’d wear on any other given day. You’ll be far more comfortable in them, anyway.

Shop Secondhand

responsible travel tips

My favourite leather jacket is secondhand.

Is there something you’re coveting for your travels?

Chances are, someone else has already rid themselves of it.

Going on a camping trip and need a tent? Gumtree is my go to for scouting secondhand items in Australia. I’ve heard horror stories from people using it in the UK, so you’d probably be better off with Craigslist, or Freecycle.

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.

Borrow What You Don’t Have

Another option is to borrow what you don’t have.

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 red in return.

It doesn’t take much to travel responsibly without blowing your money. With a few conscience efforts and a change of habit here and there, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a green traveller.

I gave up plastic for twelve months in 2016. This is what happened.

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Posted by LC
June 22, 2016

LC can often be found nursing a cup of green tea, with her head in a book. She is a writer, video editor and professional cheese eater. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats.

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Cate - June 23, 2016

A am a big fan of Eco friend,y travel, as you couldn’t travel without a sustainable planet!

Hope - June 23, 2016

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 🙂

    LC - June 23, 2016

    Absolute win win!

Simon - June 23, 2016

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!

    LC - June 26, 2016

    I forgot about Freecycle actually, thanks for the tip. Will add it in.

The Broke Dad - November 8, 2016

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

    LC - November 8, 2016

    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.

Paul and Carole - December 5, 2016

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.

    LC - December 5, 2016

    Oh, it makes me see red! Thanks for commenting.

Sindhu - December 7, 2016

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.

    LC - December 7, 2016

    Thanks Sindhu. I agree, it doesn’t take much to make a difference!

neha - December 8, 2016

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

Krista - December 31, 2016

These are such great tips! Definitely going to keep these in mind for my future travels!

    LC - January 2, 2017

    Thanks, hope they helped.

luxurybackpacking | Emma - January 6, 2017

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!

    LC - January 6, 2017

    No worries, glad it was helpful.

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David - June 28, 2018

This is truly a useful article. Great tips on responsible traveling. Have always disliked leaving litter behind.

    LC - July 7, 2018

    Thanks David. There really is no need to, so much of the time, as well!

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