Eco-Friendly Vacation Travel Options

The first question to consider when you decide you need a vacation is how far you need to travel. Local vacations are the greenest, but even a green vacation destination means travel propelled by fossil fuels, which mean increasing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which means causing harm to the planet. You can choose transportation that lessens the harm, and you can compensate for it; you just have to pay attention to how you travel.

Getting there and back in an earth-friendly way involves looking at alternative ways of traveling, including the train, which can open up new travel possibilities. Going away for longer than the typical vacation and choosing only one long-distance trip per year (instead of several trips) cuts down on carbon emissions no matter how you travel.

Flying isn’t eco-friendly

Air travel may be convenient, but it’s also one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And because many of those gases are released at high altitudes where they do the most damage, flying does significantly more damage than other forms of travel. Even long-haul flights, considered the most efficient in terms of emissions per mile, still emit more greenhouse gases per passenger per mile than a small car does.

If you do nothing else to get greener on vacation, think about how to cut down on the number of flights you take each year. If you have to get to the other side of the country or even the planet to see friends and family, doing so without flying may not be an option. But if you have the choice and can go somewhere closer to home or use alternative forms of transportation, think about your options before you book airline flights.

Modern planes built using the latest technology are cleaner, less noisy, and more environmentally friendly than their predecessors, but they still can’t counteract the effect of air travel’s growing popularity. Fuel economy may be increasing, but total fuel consumption is also increasing as more people choose to fly.

Boarding a train, boat, or bus rather than a plane

If there’s a choice between flying, driving, and taking a train or bus, go for the train or bus. When you let them take the strain, you can save three to seven times the greenhouse gas emissions compared to taking a plane, depending on the route you’re traveling. Of course, it’s difficult — even impossible — to avoid driving to some destinations that aren’t served by public transportation. In European countries, for example, the local train and bus networks are often very good, but in North America, the long distances make comprehensive networks much more challenging for transportation operators.

The train may take longer, but that can be the point. [Credit: Iconotec]
Credit: Iconotec
The train may take longer, but that can be the point.

In the United States, you can take wonderful vacations in which traveling by train, boat, or bus adds to the enjoyment, or even becomes the reason for the journey. Scenic train trips, such as through the Rocky Mountains or along the Pacific coast, give you a chance to relax, let someone else do the “driving,” and simply enjoy the scenery. You don’t have to worry about your bags getting lost, and you get to see a lot of your home country.

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