sustainable travel
Slow Travel,  Travel

15 Sustainable Travel Tips (That Will Transform Your Next Trip)

Do you want more sustainable travel and less tourist crowds? Here are the best sustainable travel tips to make your next trip unforgettable.

You dream about your trip for months. You read all the travel guides and watch all the YouTube documentaries.

But when you finally arrive at your dream destination, it’s not as you imagined.

Thousands of other travelers from all over the world also had that same dream. And now you’re all gathered in the same market square dodging pushy souvenir vendors.

Have you ever felt that disappointment?

More people are travelling now than ever before. And those tourist crowds have a disastrous impact on local communities and natural habitats.

In cities like Barcelona, unregulated holiday rentals force out local residents and replace neighborhood shops with souvenir emporiums.

sustainable travel

Natural wonders like the Andes are overcrowded with hikers rushing to scale all Seven Summits.

Overtourism is so dire that the WTO recommends that popular countries restrict visitor numbers and promote lesser-known destinations.

And many places are already cracking down on tourist numbers.

Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands limit the size of cruise ships allowed in their waters. At the Taj Mahal, officials hiked up ticket prices to lower visitor numbers.

A greener solution

Nobody wants a claustrophobic experience pushing through those sightseeing crowds.

So how do you avoid overtourism – and make your travels less hurried and more enjoyable?

Sustainable travel is the answer.

It makes your trip an unforgettable experience – and empowers local communities while combating global warming.

What is sustainable travel?

sustainable travel

Sustainable travel aims to reduce the negative impact of tourism on local communities and the environment.

It’s mindful travel that doesn’t harm delicate landscapes or local cultures.

Sustainable travel means:

  • safeguarding fragile eco-systems and protecting nature
  • reducing travel’s carbon footprint and combating global warming
  • empowering local communities, their culture and livelihood
  • reducing waste and pollution

Why is sustainable travel important?

sustainable travel

With global temperatures on the rise and record-breaking summers, sustainable travel is more important than ever to protect endangered landscapes and cultures.

If overtourism remains unchecked, it will further damage nature, people and animals. And because we’re all interconnected in today’s globalized world, those disasters will hit us all.

So how can you turn the concept of sustainable travel into actionable tips for your next trip?

Here are the best ways to travel sustainably:

1. Travel in the off-season

sustainable travel

Travel in the off-season to avoid the crowds at the world’s most popular tourist destinations.

You’ll make your trip far more manageable – and avoid the stress, overcrowding and long lines of the high tourist season.

Prices are lower, the locals are more relaxed and museums are less congested in the off-season. And you’ll be reducing the impact of overtourism on your choice destination.

If you’re visiting a touristy city like Venice, you’ll be amazed at the difference in the off-season. Visit in the spring or autumn and you’ll have the ultra-popular city nearly all to yourself.

2. Eat vegetarian

travel sustainably

Opt for vegetarian or vegan meals during your travels for healthier and more environmentally friendly choices.

Meat has an enormous impact on global warming and livestock accounts for a huge chunk of the world’s greenhouse gases. Though it’s not often talked about (thanks to the meat lobby), going veggie is one of the best ways to combat global warming.

And these days, plant-based meals are just as tempting and innovative as their meaty alternatives.

In many parts of the world where locals can’t afford to eat meat everyday, vegetarian dishes are a crucial part of the culture and national cuisines. And that means you don’t have to sacrifice local foodie experiences when you’re going veggie.

Eating vegetarian also leaves you feeling lighter and more energized on your travels. And that’s a great feeling when you’re pushing through a packed itinerary.

3. Travel off the beaten path

sustainable travel

Get off the beaten path to lesser-visited hidden gems and you’ll be rewarded with stunning experiences and fewer crowds.

The top attractions aren’t necessarily the most incredible. Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is world-famous. But visitors to this Nordic island say there are other dipping spots that are just as majestic – without the crowds.

Research the world’s best hidden gems to add some intrigue and a sense of discovery to your next trip. Getting off the beaten path means more authentic experiences and travel beyond the postcard views.

It also means you’re reducing the tourist load on the country’s most popular destinations – and getting innovative in your travels.

Locals are often friendlier and more helpful when they see enterprising travelers interested in their underrated regions. When tourists are rare, they’re often treated all the more special.

Here’s my list of must-see hidden gems that will get you off the beaten path.

4. Spend locally

sustainable travel

Buy locally-made products to ensure that local communities benefit from tourism and the destination remains authentic.

Shop locally and get your groceries from the corner shop instead of the mega-chain supermarket. It cuts down on transportation and packaging and creates more local jobs.

Find local activities that give back to residents and avoid corporate tourist traps. Hire local tour guides – they often know their neighborhoods best.

Buy handicrafts instead of cheap Chinese souvenirs to help support the local artisans and keep their art alive.

5. Take public transportation

sustainable travel

Take the local bus or metro whenever possible to reduce air pollution and ease traffic congestion. Hop on a train for short distances and avoid car rentals.

Use public transport to slow down your itinerary and get a chance to unwind, mix with the locals and take in the views.

Trains are your best option to reduce greenhouse gases. They’re also great for slower and more romantic travel that lets you absorb the landscape, read – and arrive at your next stop refreshed.

Here are some ways to travel lighter:

  • Sign up for bike and walking tours to slow down and take in your destination.
  • Opt for a sailboat instead of motor for a more relaxed and sustainable experience.
  • Rent an electric car or the smallest vehicle that meets your needs.

6. Respect local cultures

sustainable travel

Don’t litter or make noise late at night, dress appropriately at temples and be courteous to both locals and other tourists.

Remember that you’re a guest in someone else’s home. Don’t take liberties or make demands that you wouldn’t normally make in your own country.

Don’t take photos of others without their permission. And don’t make condescending jokes about others’ poverty, mentality or conservatism.

Respect and kindness fosters a good relationship between visitors and locals. And that makes people more likely to support and improve their local tourism in the future.

7. Stay in eco-friendly accommodation

sustainable travel

Opt for an eco-friendly hotel that works to preserve the environment.

A good sustainable accommodation serves local food, has easy access to public transportation, uses eco cleaning products, recycles, uses energy saving lights and manages its water use.

Use a site like Book Different, which uses third parties to check sustainability and avoid greenwashing.

Or book your stay with FairBnB, which makes a positive impact on your destination by funding a local community project.

If you want a real break from technology, stay at an eco-lodge and support sustainability with your booking dollars.

8. Avoid single-use plastics

sustainable travel

Single-use plastics create pollution, release carbon dioxide and contribute to global warming. Tons of plastic waste ends up in oceans where it endangers precious marine life.

Opt for reusable water bottles and utensils, reusable straws and a thermos to keep your coffee and tea hot when you’re on the go. Carry small containers for leftovers and snacks.

Use biodegradable shampoo and laundry detergent and reef-safe sunscreen.

Take a tote bag along for the day to minimize the plastic bags you’ll pick up along the way.

Pack snacks like nuts and fruit to munch on instead of buying packaged goods from street stalls.

9. Eat local food

sustainable travel

Choose restaurants with regional specialties and shop at local markets for the best fresh food.

Eating locally benefits the local community and reduces the transport and costs that come with imported goods and exotic restaurants.

Eating locally also supports the economy and lets you experience the local culture.

Local food is an incredible way to get a taste of the destination’s daily life and traditions.

10. Travel close to home

sustainable travel

There’s nothing like a red-eye flight to an unknown land.

But there are often plenty of hidden gems to explore right on your doorstep. And we often take them for granted.

You don’t have to travel far to break up your daily routine and experience something new.

Sign up for a kayaking class, get out into nature or visit an obscure museum in your city. You’ll cut your carbon footprint while still getting away from it all.

11. Go where you’re needed

puerto rico

Travel to destinations that have just rebuilt after natural disasters and are struggling to recover their tourism numbers.

Head to Puerto Rico (above), which experienced a devastating hurricane in 2017 and is eager to rebuild its tourism sector. You’ll get an incredible adventure at a destination that appreciates its visitors.

Recovering destinations are often rebuilding their infrastructure – and your support makes a real difference to their economies.

A trip to a recovering country is also a great way to experience the destination before the tourist crowds come flooding back.

12. Support local initiatives

beach clean up

Get involved in a local activity that benefits the environment, like a beach clean-up or rooftop gardening initiative.

This gives you a chance to meet locals and get an insider’s look at the issues impacting their lives.

It’s also a great way to connect with other like-minded travelers and see first-hand how global warming impacts the entire planet.

Beach clean-ups and environmental initiatives offset the damage caused by overtourism – and teach you about caring for the planet.

13. Avoid animal entertainment

ethical tourism

Wild animals that are coerced into giving rides and performing tricks for tourists are often tortured or drugged into submission – or kept in tiny cages and mistreated.

Some 75% of animal entertainment has a negative impact on animals, whether that’s orcas kept hungry at Sea World or elephants prodded with hooks to give rides.

Even seemingly innocent activities like petting zoos and camel rides mean trading in an animal’s entire life for the sake of a few minutes of entertainment. It’s unethical and out of harmony with nature.

If you want to see some real wildlife in all its majesty, visit a national park or go on an ethical safari.

The experience is unforgettable – and you’ll never want to visit a zoo again.

14. Save energy

clean energy

Continue your good energy practices while travelling and unplug items when they’re not in use and turn off the lights and a/c when leaving your room.

Hang the “do not disturb” sign so housekeeping doesn’t wash your sheets and towels every day.

Hand wash small items to save them from the hotel’s water-guzzling laundromats.

Pack light and take a good selection of clothes you can layer in any weather.

15. Go camping or stay in an eco lodge


Go camping to reduce your carbon footprint and get in touch with nature – and get some valuable offline time with your loved ones.

Or stay at an eco lodge that lets you camp under the stars and enjoy the rugged landscape in all its unpackaged glory.

You’ll be saving energy and creating some unforgettable experiences.

A trek into the outdoors is all the more immersive when you don’t have to return to a corporate hotel at night.


Avoid the tourist traps and escape the crowds – and make your next trip more sustainable.

You’ll be creating an incredible experience while protecting local cultures and reducing global warming.

In the era of massively polluting corporations, such small changes might not always feel significant. But they do add up – and local landscapes and communities will feel the difference.

I would love to hear from you. What are your favorite ways to travel more sustainably?  


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  • Tracey Bacic

    I am giving up on ‘sights’. I never enjoy it when I get there. And there are so many places to go, so many beautiful spots that never make it into any guide books. I’d rather visit those. Now in Cornwall, England, I’ve avoided Lands End, the Eden Project etc and spent my time walking on the coast path – stupendous scenery and wildlife and only a handful of people.

    • Dee

      Cornwall is just incredible. Enjoy your time there!

      When it comes to the big sights, the key for me is research. I’ll read reviews and blogs to make sure those sights are really worth seeing – and it’s great that you can easily find many honest reviews nowadays and lists of alternative places to visit that are just as incredible as the well-known destinations.

  • Notta Holiday

    Thanks Dee, it is a definite problem. Off season travel was far more satisfactory and better for our sanity. Once the summer months hit we were off to further flung destinations for some peace and authenticity.

    • Dee

      I agree.. I don’t really like to do much sightseeing in those hot and humid months anyways. It’s always so draining and difficult to focus on what you’re seeing.

  • Nicola

    This is such an important topic, Dee! My husband and I went to Venice in January a few years back and it was absolutely heaving; I can’t imagine what it would be like in July! And, of course, everyone was walking through town on narrow platforms because it was winter so everything kept flooding (and people stopped on said narrow platforms to take selfies ?).

    And having lived for over five years in a popular tourist city (Edinburgh) I know first-hand how AirBnBs push locals out of the city centre, how the crowds literally stop traffic when you’re trying to get about your day, and how tourism begins to make life in the city unaffordable for the people whose livelihood relies on it the most (many of the sectors that benefit most from tourism pay minimum wage, in a city where rent on a 350 sq ft one-bedroom apartment is more than half the monthly gross pay for a minimum wage worker.)

    I think the problem with overtourism is complicated somewhat by the fact that travel being more accessible is a GOOD thing (it’s the same with conversations about the effects of flying on the environment). We don’t want to return to the days when only the upper classes had the privilege of travel and tourism. Instead, we need to make it more sustainable for everyone: the locals, tourists from all backgrounds, and the planet.

    Fortunately, some of the best ways to start at an individual level are all things that make travel easier and more comfortable for ourselves, as you’ve mentioned in your post. Travelling in the off-season and visiting lesser-known spots means we don’t have to deal with the crowds as much AND we’re helping contribute to the economy of an area when it’s needed (a lot of rural areas of Scotland where tourism plays a big role in the economy struggle in the winter when no one wants to brave the wind and rain and dark; personally I don’t see why as there’s plenty of wind and rain and cold to go round in the summer, too).

    And besides, if we move off the beaten track we’ll get more interesting Instagram shots 😉

    • Dee

      Thanks so much, Nicola! I’ve visited Venice in the summertime only once, in the mid 90s, though from what I’ve heard it’s much more crowded in the high season these days. I don’t do well sightseeing in very hot weather, so that’s one to avoid for sure unless it’s a very minimal itinerary.

      It’s definitely great how more people are travelling these days, especially in this political climate when there’s so much racism and xenophobia going around. Exposure to different cultures can be a powerful learning experience that gets people to broaden their mindset. But, like you said, if we don’t make more of an effort to combat overtourism then certain places just won’t be around in a few years – and we see that now with cities sinking and beaches having to close down because of pollution.

      It’s funny that you mention Scotland in the wintertime, because I suppose it’s all relative and it depends on what you’d consider exotic.. After more than six years of living in Cairo as an expat, where it seems the summers just keep getting hotter every year, I’d actually love to visit Edinburgh or Glasgow, or take a hike through the rural country, with the cool rain beating down on me, then a nice espresso in a cozy cafe. Now that would be a refreshing change ?

      • Nicola

        Well, if you want to take a hike in the countryside I *would* recommend avoiding the winter ?. The weather can be pretty treacherous and there’s only about six hours of daylight! But that’s really only a few months of the year (we visited the Isle of Skye in late-October/early-November and it was perfect), and the cities are lovely any season – though I recommend avoiding Edinburgh in August unless you specifically want to go to the festival, as that’s definitely the city’s busiest month!

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