We celebrated this spring break with a great family vacation!
We traveled from Fort Lauderdale, FL to St. Augustine, FL (spent one night there). Then we went to Savannah, GA (spent two nights there) and Gainesville, FL (spent one night there) before returning home. This was our first family vacation since Lydia was born. As much as I normally consider every detail when planning a vacation, I really thought things through this time, particularly when it came to the idea of traveling 'green' and on a budget.
So here are two areas where I had to compromise my 'green' desires:
1. I drive an SUV. It's a 2008 Honda CR-V. One of the features that attracted me to this particular model is that it gets great gas mileage for an SUV. We got about 25 miles to the gallon on our trip.
2. I just didn't think I could manage cloth-diapering while traveling, so instead we opted for some chlorine-free diapers. This was convenient, but did cause Lydia to get more diaper rash than she'd normally get using our GroBaby diapers.
Okay, here's the good stuff...my list of ten 'green,' budget travel suggestions!
1. Try to plan roadtrips where you can park your car somewhere and leave it there. Most of our trip was spent walking around. Some highlights were Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine and Forsyth Park in Savannah. The Savannah tourism website even has a "Go Green" section with lists of accommodations and activities. If walking isn't really an option, try trolleys, buses, or even horse-drawn carriages as these are still more eco-friendly than driving your car around.
2. Stay at a bed & breakfast. This supports independently owned businesses. Since your stay will also include breakfast, it is generally a good choice financially as well. In addition, they tend to avoid using disposable dishes, silverware, napkins, etc. so it can be earth-friendly, too.
3. If we're staying at a place for just 2 - 3 nights, we place the "Do Not Disturb" sign on our door. It's not that we want our privacy; but we want to be eco-friendly. By placing the sign on your door, the maid will not clean your room. This saves gas/electricity/water because your bedding and towels are not being replaced. Unnecessary cleaners aren't being wasted either. And, honestly, who changes their sheets daily in their own home??
4. Either bring your own toiletries or feel free to take any partially-used bottles of shampoo, lotion, and conditioner home with you (the small bottles they place in your room). Wasting so many little bottles of soaps and such is just that - wasteful. One thing I do is collect sample shampoo and toothpaste packages that I receive in the mail sometimes, and I bring those on vacation with me. If I am going to use them anyway, I might as well use them instead of what the hotel is providing to me.
5. Bring snacks in reusable containers. This is an easy one. If you're on the road for any extended period of time, instead of stopping at a rest stop and getting small bags of chips, nuts, or candy, just bring your own from home. It's a great 'green' choice that will also save you money, as those rest stops tend to charge big bucks for small portions.
6. This is the first time I brought my own earth-friendly water bottles along on a road trip. Usually I get bottles of water and recycle them, but it's even easier to bring my own bottle along and refill at water fountains and water coolers. Plus, the metal bottles act as great ice packs (when filled with ice) to chill snacks in a cooler.
7. Another easy one - Bring your own reusable shopping bags.
8. Avoid fast food restaurants. Between the gas wasted traveling pre-packaged low-quality food across the country and all of the disposable silverware/dishes, it's just wasteful. Food is one area where I don't mind splurging a bit. We ate at a few amazing restaurants, including breakfast at 700 Drayton and dinner at the Olde Pink House, both in Savannah. You may spend a little extra, but it is so worth it. If you are going to opt for more casual dining, consider places that still use real dishes/silverware. We got dessert at Maude's Classic Cafe in Gainesville, and even though it's just a small coffee shop with an outdoor eating area, they use reusable dishes/silverware, and you just clean up after yourself when you are finished.
9. Buy local! If you are buying souvenirs for yourself or as gifts for others, buy the items that are created in that area. Avoid items like shot glasses, metal spoons, souvenir books (which you can make yourself - personalized), and snow globes. We visited some great places on our trip, including the Savannah Bee Company where I purchased a small jar of honey for my sister and some handmade soap for my mom. They let you sample all of their honey so you know exactly what you are purchasing. We also tasted 7 different types of wine at the Shannon Vineyards store in town. All the wines are made from muscadine grapes, grown about 50 miles outside of Savannah. We also tried some delicious pecan pralines. Yum! It's great to support the local, independently-run companies who are either doing some innovative things or keeping traditions alive. You're also avoiding all of the costs involved in shipping items form other areas to that particular city, just to sell to you as a tourist.
10. One other suggestion for eco-friendly budget travel is to find free souvenirs. If you are going to the beach, take shells. The forest, find some nice pine cones. One of my favorite ideas that I did on a trip to Friday Harbor, WA in 2008 was to pick some of the beautiful wildflowers and press them. I did this by laying them flat between paper (mostly all of those brochures and coupon books you're handed when you check into a hotel) and placing them under something heavy (I actually used my laptop and a copy of the bible, which is pretty much found in almost every hotel room). The flowers looked beautiful and made great gifts, such as decorated bookmarks.
What does your family do to save money and our planet while still enjoying an amazing family vacation?