From slow travel tips to ecotour companies, we’ve got helpful advice for choosing more sustainable and eco-friendly itineraries for your family. We gain so much from exploring this amazing planet with our children. We broaden our horizons with a deeper understanding of other cultures and have unforgettable experiences in beautiful places. As climate change and overtourism affect more destinations, we can also find ways to minimize the environmental impact of our trips and make them more sustainable!
Book With Ecotour Experts
If you count yourself among the 72% of travelers who want to make more sustainable choices, plan your next adventure with a tour company dedicated to ecotourism and sustainable business practices.
Whale watching in Puerto Madryn, Argentina: Marianne Perez de Fransius
Whether gliding beneath the Northern Lights in a hybrid-electric ship, or zip lining through a pristine national park in Costa Rica, your family will not only be inspired by nature, but protect it, too. There are many excellent ecotour companies. These offer bookings for kids and families specifically:
- Our Whole Village creates customized itineraries for transformational adventures in Costa Rica, one of the world’s leaders in sustainability and nature preservation. On their tours, families can witness firsthand how local communities practice conservation.
- Lindblad Expeditions began carbon offsetting 100% of emissions from their iconic fleet of expedition ships in 2019. They are now carbon neutral. Lindblad Expeditions partners with National Geographic Explorers to provide adventures for families in locations as far-flung as the Galapagos Islands.
- Brim Explorer Embark on Arctic cruises throughout Norway on Brim’s silent, hybrid-electric ships that leave the country’s majestic fjords, beaches, and wildlife undisturbed.
- See the Wild connects travelers to family wildlife tours around the world that adhere to strict conservation guidelines.
Take The Road Less Traveled
Hiking in Fossarrétt, Iceland: Ash Eames
Certain destinations have become so popular that the eager throngs of tourists visiting them have completely overwhelmed their resources. For example, Amsterdam recently removed the iconic “I amsterdam” sign in front of the Rijksmuseum after the square became overcrowded with selfie-takers.
This fantastic blog post by Wanderlust Crew explains how to swap out overtouristed destinations in 50 places around the world. For example, instead of competing with crowds for views of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada, go to Yoho National Park in nearby British Columbia. “Yoho has stunning natural scenery, just like Banff and Jasper,” including “jewel-hued alpine lakes.” Or swap out the well-trodden tourist sites in London for York, where charming medieval lanes surround the stunning York Minster Cathedral.
Embrace Slow Travel
“Slow travel” prioritizes quality over quantity, encouraging a leisurely pace of exploration that can actually be more compatible with your children’s schedules. It replaces a packed itinerary with fewer, more meaningful experiences to be savored fully.
- Stay in one place for your entire trip. If you can, book an apartment, AirBNB or homestay where you can experience a more authentic slice of life as a local. Spending more time in one place gives you the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of its environment, culture, and history, You’ll be better able to appreciate the issues faced there, and how you might be able to make a positive impact.
- Eat local. It provides a more authentic encounter with the region’s cuisine and reduces your carbon footprint by eliminating the emissions associated with buying food produced elsewhere.
- Travel by public transportation or bike, instead of gas-guzzling cars or planes.
- Thoughtfully choose a few meaningful experiences that will truly immerse you in your destination. Travel writer and photographer Ashley Daley says that slow travel “can be a great way to get to know the local culture. When we spent 3 weeks in the south of France, we booked 2 AirBNBs (one in the Languedoc region and one in Avignon) and enjoyed exploring the nearby areas. This gave us a chance to not only see the touristy spots (we loved Carcassonne!), but to also experience the local bakery and playgrounds close by. It also gave our kids some much needed downtime during the trip as well. At ages 3 and 1.5 years old, it was nice having days where we didn’t go anywhere at all, except for walks around the villages where our accommodations were. It’s a really great way to explore an area and to really get to know the culture.”
Daley Family Travels in the south of France
Give back to the community through volunteering or donating to a local charitable organization during your stay. If you’re visiting a small mountain town, for example, Pledge for the Wild, encourages visitors to donate $1 for every hour spent in wild places.
Eat Your Veggies
Bryanston Organic Market, Johannesburg: Jessica Randi Murray
Try swapping out meat at dinner one night for cacio e pepe in Italy or a vegetable coconut curry in southeast Asia. Or stroll through the nearest farmer’s market to find local produce to try. Of course it’s not always possible to adopt a strict dietary approach to anything with kids! Animal agriculture pours carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It also contributes to global deforestation. Around the world, it’s possible to experience delicious local flavors through meatless options.
Spend As Much Time Outside As Possible
Children are natural explorers. Giving them ample time to play outside, wherever you go, allows them to develop a relationship with the world around them. “To protect anything, you first have to love it,” says Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children & Nature Network. “To love anything, you first must get to know it.” When kids play outside regularly, they become more confident, creative, and imaginative, according to The Child Mind Institute.
Let’s create as many opportunities as possible for our kids to have these positive experiences, for their own benefit and for the planet.
Coauthored by Adrienne Shepard and Amy Orzel. Adrienne is a teacher, mother, environmental enthusiast and traveler based in South Lake Tahoe, California. Amy, Bébé Voyage Editor in Chief, lives in Chicago. She loves exploring the world with her two energetic little boys.
Many thanks to Leo Barragán for contributing the feature image for this post. See more of his photography on Instagram @_leobarragan_.