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Green Kids On The Go: Eco-Vacationing For The Family This Summer

For many of us, the summer break means just one thing. It heralds the arrival of the long-awaited annual family vacation. Just you, your partner, the kids, your luggage and an exciting new place to explore. Couldn’t be simpler, right?

Wrong. At least it is if you plan to take your environmental responsibilities seriously when you are on the move. Airlines use up eye-watering amounts of precious fuel flying their planes across the world and back. Long-distance driving too is a major drain on non-sustainable fuel as Americans set off on summer road trips, often driving for days across multiple states. All this travelling adds up, not just in environmental terms, but also financial. Drivers must pay for gas, not to mention wear and tear on their vehicle. Then there are road taxes to account for, plus insurance. Many insurance companies are encouraging us to ‘think green’ in our vehicle choices by offering discounted quotes on ‘cleaner’ cars. However large families and workers on farms, or ranches often require the more powerful, bigger vehicles such as Landrover, and 4x4 car insurance costs can be crippling unless you find the right provider.

So can it be done? Can we really manage to juggle our well-earned family vacation with genuinely sustainable travel? As well as keeping the kids happy and mom and dad sane? Yes, we think so. Here are four top tips.

Consider other forms of transport

Do you have to go by car? Can you consider buses, trains or even a boat? Taking different forms of transport that your children are not familiar with can result in a much more exciting adventure for them and a journey that can be equally as effective as one taken in cars and planes if you plan ahead and work out your timings carefully.

Just make sure you and your kids approach the slightly slower journey time with the right attitude. Don’t focus on getting to your destination as fast as possible – make the journey a really fun part of the vacation and enjoy the new experiences you encounter along the way. Who knows, you or your children might even make some new friends or discover a great new place to stop off and explore.

Be prepared

Children like routine, often only express their needs at the very last minute and can become bored quickly. This can lead to unscheduled stop-offs, where impulsive purchases e.g. of fast food or unsustainable plastic toys can attack both the vacation budget and your eco-friendly intentions.

Pack some favourite snacks for the journey, perhaps stowing a second batch away for the return leg. Chose food that is easy to handle and slow to release its energy. Fruit, granola or packets of nuts are good options. Try to pick snacks that are wrapped in as little packaging as possible to reduce waste. Get the kids to choose and pack a small bag of their favorite toys, books and games to alleviate boredom and make up games to play on the way, such as I Spy.

Babies and toddlers seem to need endless stuff when they travel. From foldaway cots to baby wipes, the little darlings take over everyone’s luggage allowance before you can say ‘sustainability.’ Unless you are going somewhere truly remote, you should be able to buy most things you need at your destination so there is no need to go overboard when packing for the tiny ones.

Consider hiring cots, buggies and larger pieces of equipment and take cloth diapers and a box of environmentally friendly detergent with you instead of piles of disposables that will take up space and cause extra landfill waste.

A green home from home

When considering where to take the family on vacation, think about choosing a green location. Plenty of websites offer lists of environmentally friendly hotels, condos and family apartments. If you can’t find anywhere suitable, try asking your hotel to help you maintain your green lifestyle by refraining from changing your sheets every single day or telling you where the nearest recycling facilities are. This will show your kids that you are just as serious about your environmental responsibilities while you are away as you are back home.

If you are self-catering, this is an excellent opportunity to explore the local region, scouting for local and home-grown food to reduce your mealtime food miles. This will also be a great way to introduce your children to another region, country or even culture’s diet, food and mealtime choices.

Memories are made of this

Kids love to buy and accumulate stuff, which can cause havoc with a sustainable lifestyle Never is this more true than on vacation, where souvenirs leap out at them from every street corner. Try to discourage them from buying too much tat, and steer them clear of any controversial purchases, such as tortoiseshell, ivory or animal skins.

You could buy them a cheap camera and encourage them to take photos, or help them keep a holiday journal – a notebook where they can jot down what they did each day, their thoughts on the vacation so far and their drawings. They could stick photos in too, as well as receipts, tickets and other keepsakes.

If they do insist on buying a souvenir, good options include fridge magnets, postcards, pens and key rings.

We wish you a pleasant vacation, wherever you choose to go this summer.

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Jenny Redding is a freelance writer from England who writes primarily about sustainability and green living. As a mother of two she knows what how the pressure to have the latest toys and gadgets weighs on parents but wants to bring her kids up to respect the natural world.