7 Tips for Traveling Green and Saving Money

by Guest Contributor · 3 comments

With all of the news lately about global warming, oil spills, and depleted natural resources, it really got me thinking about the environment and how we affect it every day by the life decisions we make. It’s easy to come up with ways to help our environment at home, but what about when we’re away from home?

Go local

For some reason, even the biggest tree huggers forget about their environmentally-friendly habits when traveling for business or vacation. For example, hopping on a plane, driving long distance in a car, or staying in a hotel makes some people forget about their green habits which ultimately leads to negative consequences for the environment. We often think about “going green” as requiring us to spend more money, but that’s not always the case. Here are seven tips for traveling green and saving money at the same time.

1. Before leaving the house, turn down/up the thermostat, turn off the water, and unplug the appliances.
There’s a lot of savings and eco-friendly things you can do before you even leave the house. If leaving during the summer, turn the thermostat to a point where you can maintain just enough coolness to take the moisture out of the air while not going overboard. Usually 79 or 80 degrees works best to straddle the line between too cool and too hot. Turning off the water will help save money on your water bill and it could also prevent a major water damage disaster if a pipe were to burst while you are gone. Unplugging the appliances and electronics is also a great way to save money on electricity and doing so will protect your stuff against any surges during a lightning storm.

2. Pack light.
Most airlines now charge you for checking baggage and will charge EXTRA if the bag is over 50 pounds. You can avoid those charges by fitting your stuff into a carry-on bag and keeping your bags as light as possible. This also helps the environment because if every passenger did this on a flight, it would drastically reduce the weight of the load and the airplane would use its fuel more efficiently. It’s really a lot easier than you might think to create an essential wardrobe on a budget.

If driving on a road trip, packing light will keep your car lighter and use less gas. Choose pieces of clothing that can be easily mixed and matched and bring only the shoes that you need. Also, download e-books or audio books instead of bringing heavy paper books.

3. Stop acting like a NASCAR driver.
Not only will it keep you safer, but you’ll conserve gas. Speeding up quickly and stopping abruptly will drastically decrease your fuel efficiency. Keep a steady pace while you’re on a road trip. You also run less risk of doing damage to that rental car.

4. Refuse maid service while in your hotel.
Refusing maid service will reduce the amount of resources, electricity, chemicals, and water used by the hotel. It can also now save you some money! A lot of hotels are picking up on the fact that they are reaping all of the financial benefits of going green, so they’re trying to encourage their guests to skip housekeeping. For example, Starwood Hotels offers $5 off vouchers to their Sheraton and Westin hotel restaurants for each night you skip housekeeping (or 500 Starwood reward points).

5. Carry a reusable water bottle with you.
The benefits here are obvious, because if you’re like me, you buy a lot of drinks while traveling. Bringing an aluminum water bottle with you allows you to fill it up whenever you need to, and it will probably discourage you from buying a lot of drinks full of sugar like soda and sports drinks. Of course this is better for your health as well.

6. Let hotel managers know that you chose their hotel because of their green amenities.
The more people that encourage the management and staff of hotels that do their part in making environmentally friendly changes to their property, the more mainstream it will become to choose hotels that offer these green amenities. If demand goes up, I believe that it will offset some of the initial costs that it takes to make a property more energy efficient, less wasteful, and harmful to the environment. If demand goes up, more hotels will jump on the bandwagon and the ones already doing it will continue to do it because they’ll see an increase in reservations. This will ultimately benefit the consumer. Some sites offer Earth Day travel deals specifically for green travel, but hopefully this can turn into something that’s done all year around. In addition to saving money by finding cheap hotels and inexpensive lodging, see if you can “go green” at the same time.

7. Go local. While on vacation, dine at local restaurants and purchase souvenirs from local vendors, not chains.
We all know that getting stuck in the middle of touristy areas means higher prices for food and souvenirs/gifts. I live in Orlando and it’s pretty crazy how much chain restaurants mark up their prices the closer you get to Disney World. Cancun was the same way. We went into the city to get better prices than on “hotel row.” You’ll get such a better experience if you ask some of the local people where to eat and where to shop than if you go with what’s convenient.

So, do you still think it’s expensive to be green? Living a life of making eco-friendly choices builds good habits that help us to be good stewards of this Earth. I love the outdoors, and I am always blown away by how beautiful this planet is. That should be motivation enough to be environmentally friendly, but there are also some great financial incentives.

Do you have any other tips for traveling green and saving money?

This article is written by Erik Folgate, lead blogger of the Money Crashers personal finance blog.

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  • Greg McFarlane says:

    If driving on a road trip, packing light will keep your car lighter and use less gas. Choose pieces of clothing that can be easily mixed and matched…

    This is the kind of infinitesimally small gesture that socially conscious people use to feel good about themselves, without bothering to quantify it.
    A Toyota Prius weighs 3042 pounds. (I picked the most ecologically heroic car I could think of.) Add two 150-pound passengers and an extremely conservative 30 pounds of baggage, that’s 3372 pounds. Now say you cut your clothing allowance from two changes of clothes (that’s about 11 pounds) to one change (6 pounds). Congratulations, you’ve reduced the gross weight of your vehicle all the way down to 99.9% of its previous weight. The fuel savings are barely calculable. If you’re going to make the “every little bit helps argument”, you might as well argue that you should shave your head and clip your toenails before embarking on that road trip.

  • Jenna says:

    Consider offsetting your travel. There’s a lot of debates about this, but helping the local economy and supporting sustainability is a great thing.

  • Cd Phi says:

    Love these tips. In regards to packing light baggage, it’s also much easier to do that during the summer time than during winter time because summer clothing is much thinner than thick winter coats. Do different airlines have different policies regarding baggage? It’d be a good idea just to check and make sure about your airline’s baggage policy.

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