Four tips for sustainable international travel

Traveling sustainably can mean something different depending on your worldview. Here’s the definition I use, just so we’re all on the same page.

“Sustainable travel is traveling to new places with a focus on cultural, economical, and environmental sustainability,”

Sammy Sees

All travel has an impact – economically, environmentally, culturally. Follow these four sustainability tips to lessen your impact.

1. Book lodging directly

The balcony of Casa Leone Hotel, Crete, Greece 🇬🇷 | July 2022

We all love getting airline miles or points toward our Expedia account, and I get it, I love that too. When you travel internationally, it’s more important than ever to book direct. You’re putting your money directly into a small local business, and they often give you extra perks because you communicate with them directly.

I like to research places on Expedia and cross-check Google reviews, then contact hotels and hostels directly for booking. And pro-tip: most of time the price is lower because you aren’t paying third-party processing fees.

2. Hire local guides

Again, we all love Viator or TripAdvisor. They give us all the deets on the best things to do in a new area. They also add processing fees making the cost of excursions substantially higher.

Alex from Paragliding Tirol and Sammy paragliding in Tirol, Austria 🇦🇹 | February 2022

I like to use those sites for reviews and to find the guide companies that operate in the area. And then, you guessed it – I contact them directly. Not only are you meeting a guide that actually lives in the place you’re visiting, but often they are stoked to give you amazing food and other activity recommendations at the end of your excursion.

Sammy tip: don’t forget to tip your guides!

3. Eat local!

Okay, I know I have burger and fries fans out there (I am on of them 🙋🏼‍♀️)! But, international travel is the time to hop out of your comfort zone and try new things. Hit up a local restaurant or taverna. Try local cuisine made by local people.

Keep in mind that foods that you’re used to eating at home might have to be imported to wherever you’re visiting. That’s not sustainable for the environment or keeping along with local cultures and customs.

On a recent trip to Greece, my husband and I decided to only eat Greek food for 10 days – gyros, goat, octopus, potatoes, shrimp, cheese, olives, I mean I could go on and on. We ate in hole-in-the-wall tavernas and a fancy restaurant or two, too. Let me tell you, the local food was the highlight of our trip. We still talk about the Cretan salad (and have tried to replicate it a few times at home.) Food is a key to the soul of a place, so let locals show you theirs.

4. Use public transit

Husband on the Underground on London’s hottest recorded day | July 2022

I honestly cannot stress this enough, the U.S. public transit system is a disaster. And I know, getting on a bus 😱 can feel like a very scary thing if you’ve always had access to your own vehicle. But, in Europe, public transit is supreme.

Not only are trains, busses, light-rails, etc. more environmentally sustainable, they are often a more cost-effective option. And, most trains on the London Underground arrive every five minutes or so, talk about convenience.

Public transit is also a great way to experience the culture of a place. You will see people from all walks of life, and that is pretty damn cool. Do yourself a favor, step out of your air-conditioned sedan, and try some different public transit on your next trip. You’ll help the environment and your wallet.

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