Popular vacation spots like the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu and...

Popular vacation spots like the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu and many National Parks have begun taking steps to protect their destinations from the effects of overcrowding. Credit: TNS/Dreamstime

As temperatures rise, hurricanes whirl and glaciers melt, the conversation about climate change and our role in it is intensifying. And, with increased documentation about the environmental, economic and social impact of travel, families may be wondering how best to be a responsible traveler.

Here are some ideas to consider:

Choose wisely

Popular vacation spots like the Galápagos Islands, Machu Picchu and many National Parks have begun taking steps to protect their destinations from the effects of overcrowding by managing access, establishing visitor fees and sharing information about responsible practices. If you still plan to visit tourism hot spots, consider a shoulder or offseason trip when the impact may be less. When researching your next family adventure, review second-tier cities, parks with fewer visitors, uncrowded beaches or other locations not currently experiencing a high profile, as your holiday possibilities. Consider visiting a location that is rebuilding after a natural disaster. Companies like G Adventures — a small group adventure firm that helps develop rural tourism projects — Country Walkers and Lindblad Expeditions are among those striving to find a healthy balance in the travel equation.

INFO GAdventures.com; Expeditions.com; CountryWalkers.com; NPS.gov

Opt outside

A young person’s experiences in the natural world can strongly influence their view of the wider world and instill a desire to preserve and protect it. As you hike, bike and paddle,

explain how small changes can have a big impact when enough people are in the mix. For example, using proper sunscreen can help protect important coral reefs around the world.

How will you roll?

Consider exploring close to home or plan trips that don’t require air travel. If you fly, limit emissions by taking direct flights. Travel by train, a boat or other forms of public or human-powered transportation. You might also research buying carbon offsets. In doing so, you would effectively pay others to plant or not cut trees or to embark on other projects that reduce greenhouse gases.

INFO cooleffect.org; GoldStandard.org; volunteeringsolutions.com; beaches.com

Conserve to preserve

Just as you might at home, keep water usage low, avoid unnecessary packaging, plastics and shopping bags. Recycle and turn the lights out when departing your hotel room or vacation rental. Reuse towels and other linens. Encourage each member of the family to bring their own reusable water bottle and refill from large containers if the local water is not safe to use. Hop on board local transportation, use bikes or walk whenever possible. Follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact.


Support locals

Before your trip, research the destination and discuss the importance of spending your travel dollars in ways that can support sustainable tourism. Hire a resident guide to introduce your family to the local ways and when possible, explore on two wheels or on foot. Buy indigenous crafts, pull up chairs in neighborhood restaurants to sample fare from the region and peruse what’s possible at a farmers market. Be respectful and ask permission to take photos of people and private spaces.

Latest Videos