Q: I’d like to take an eco-friendly vacation with my family this year. Got any good ideas?

A: You came to the right place. All you need is a little creativity and a dash of resourcefulness and you’ll be able to plan the perfect green getaway. Lucky for you, I’ve got both.

First things first — it’s always important to factor in what mode of transportation you take to get to where you’re going. For instance, there may be a gorgeous eco-friendly resort in Tahiti, but taking two planes to get there — eh. Not so green. So the best thing to do is to find something close to home, preferably somewhere within a couple hundred miles driving distance to reduce your carbon footprint of getting there. Traveling by rail is also more efficient than flying, and is often loads more fun for kids. If you want, you can even dress up in 1920s attire and pretend you’re taking the train across the country to visit your great aunt Fannie who went West for the gold rush. OK, maybe I’m getting a little carried away (or maybe you’re thinking what a great idea that was), but traveling by train is definitely a great option.

My husband and I actually haven’t taken a vacation in two years. This may not seem very long to the average couple, but if you’ve moved twice, changed jobs, gotten pregnant, had a baby, then haven’t slept a decent night since he was born, it would seem like a very long time. We just can’t seem to agree on where to go. He’s all, “I want go to the beach and relax” and I’m all “Why can’t we go to Colonial Williamsburg” and, well, you know the rest. Not that this is really the place for me to air our dirty laundry, but seriously, why CAN’T we go to Colonial Williamsburg?!?


Another way to go green while on vacation is to not go anywhere at all. You scoff, but I’m totally serious. People who live in urban areas or big cities will be happy to find that there’s a lot to do right at their doorstep. Just check out your city’s online department of tourism for places to visit. If you and your spouse want a romantic getaway, there might be a B&B close by that you can get away to without actually traveling very far. The plus side to this is also the money you save by not flying anywhere.

Sites like Expedia and Orbitz have special resources for “green-minded” travelers, chock full of tips and ways to go green on your next vacation. Both sites even feature partnerships with nonprofit organizations that allow you to offset your CO2 emissions by giving money to support initiatives like renewable energy development.

If you have to stay in a hotel on your vacation (or you simply don’t want to bunk with a local exchange family), you can choose hotels that use green practices to conserve resources and reduce waste. And don’t worry, these hotels aren’t old farmhouses with stacks of hay for beds (although if you’re into that, I can recommend a place or two). These hotels do things like ask their patrons if they’d consider using their linens and towels more than once, and have recycling baskets in the guestrooms. AAA’s getting into the act too, and will actually now rate hotels based on their environmental consciousness.  

Got a question? Submit a question to Mother Nature and one of our many experts will track down the answer. Plus: Visit our advice archives to see if your question has already been tackled.

Photo: RUSSELLTATEdotCOM/iStockphoto 

How can I have a green family vacation?
To lessen your family vacation's impact on the environment, you can take the train, stay at a green hotel, or even not go anywhere at all.