Travel tips for stellar local vacations (that shrink your carbon footprint)

Love travel but want to minimize your emissions? Here are a few of our favorite ways to find adventures and leave your carbon footprint behind. 

Vacation! What a magical word. For many of us, planning a vacation starts with choosing an exciting destination — somewhere far, far away from our daily lives. That can often mean a long drive, a flight, or even a series of flights to get the adventure started. 

If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Pre-pandemic, more people were flying than ever before, and the global aviation industry predicts that number will just keep rising. All of that long-distance travel can leave a massive cloud of CO2e in our atmosphere: The international airline industry is responsible for an estimated 11.6% of global transport emissions. Long distance drives (especially with only a single passenger and in larger vehicles) are carbon intensive as well, pushing the emissions of your roadtrip right on up there.

While teams of engineers are working on cleaner ways to travel (fingers crossed for airships!), you don’t have to stay home and stare at the walls to be climate-friendly. You can plan an incredible vacation that combines adventure, the unexpected, and sustainability by focusing on what’s closer to home. Read on for our top tips for stellar local vacations. 

Sources: International Air Transport Association, Atmosfair, Science (Vol. 354).

Five ways you can plan a great local vacation with a lower carbon footprint

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Travel slow and see more: Even the most familiar destination can become a true adventure if you switch up how you get there. If you usually drive to the lake each weekend, consider taking a bike and camping along the way. Do you usually hike along the river? Rent a canoe and see the landscape from a different perspective. 

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Research where you live: There are secret adventures hidden all around us if you just know where to look. Some ideas for uncovering hidden gems: Google the name of your town or region plus terms like “unusual”, “secret” or “underground.” Websites like Atlas Obscura, and your local Reddit community can also be great resources for the unexpected. 

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Try a new taste: For many, food is a huge component of travel — and tasting something new is half the fun. Here’s how to find a food adventure closer to home. Say you live in Germany and want authentic Italian. Try Googling migliori pizzerie in Germania to find restaurant reviews from native Italian speakers who know their caprese from their capricciosa. Live in London and want to try currywurst? Try bestes deutsches Currywurst in Großbritannien. You’re likely to find some undiscovered and potentially more authentic gems worthy of planning a local trip around. 

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Get active and get outside: Backpacking and bikepacking can be great ways to take an active vacation and see the world in greater detail. For this type of travel, it’s often more about the journey than the destination, so choose routes that allow for diverse landscapes and viewpoints along the way. Apps like Komoot can help you research and discover trails and bike paths in your region. 

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Go electric: If you do need wheels to get to your local destination, consider renting an electric car or scooter to get around. Not only are electric vehicles more fun (they tend to be more responsive and have more torque than a fossil-fuel guzzler), they are also better for the environment. 

The big picture 

Travel is wonderful, and exploring the world around you is a great way to learn about different cultures, ecosystems, and yourself. That’s why we’d be the last to say you should skip your vacation. In fact, studies show that taking regular time off is good for your mental and physical health, and actually increases productivity. 

But at the end of the day, the farther you travel, the more energy you use, and the more carbon is released (unless of course you’re hiking or cycling the whole way). That’s why prioritizing vacations that are close to home can be an excellent way to shave down your carbon footprint, help boost the local economy, and have an adventure along the way. 

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