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How to travel sustainably: Book differently, go direct and holiday out of season

Travel Helpdesk: Sustainable travel isn’t just about choosing the train over a flight (but that also helps)

Re-consider how you get to where you are going

The most sustainable way to travel is to go short distances either on foot or on a bike, but that advice is entirely unhelpful if you fancy a holiday far from home or a new experience overseas. Flying produces around 13 per cent of all greenhouse gases generated by EU transport, and the cumulative impact of cars is worse again. So, where possible, consider trains – they are the most eco-friendly mechanical mode of transport – and fun too if you approach them in the right spirit. If you must drive at home or rent overseas, do it less and in the most eco-friendly vehicle you can find and afford. Use public transport in your destination and if you must fly, consider carbon offsets to fund projects that sequester carbon dioxide or develop environmentally friendly projects, but do your research as not all carbon offsetting schemes are equal.

Fewer and longer is better

Planes are at their most polluting when taking off and landing, which means short haul flights and journeys with connecting flights are worse for the environment per passenger mile than long haul journeys, so when travelling go as direct as possible. And a three-week holiday in one destination is better than three one-week holidays in different destinations.

Travel out of season

By avoiding the masses in tourist hotspots at the height of season you will be putting less pressure on your destination’s environment while contributing to the local economy when it needs it more.

Book differently

We’re all creatures of habit and use well worn accommodation websites and booking platforms, but there are alternate avenues to explore. There is bookdifferent.com for example, which has the tagline “feel good, stay green”. It works out the carbon footprint of your accommodation based on how long you’re staying, and points to eco-friendly options. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council has a certification programme for hotels and tour operators, with participating members displaying its logo on their sites. And no matter how you book, look for accommodation that invests money first and foremost into local economies.

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Actively seek out the best activities. We don’t mean the most popular activities necessarily, but the ones which actively benefit the local community. Do your best to find local guides, family-run shops and restaurants and activities that benefit local people more than they benefit large multinational corporations. Locally sourced bike and walking tours are great options – withlocals.com is as good a place as any to start. And make sure to tip well. A fiver might not make a huge difference to you but it could feed another family for a day – or even longer depending on where you are.

At the risk of stating the obvious, leave no trace

That doesn’t just apply when you are wild camping in the middle of nowhere. It applies everywhere, from the busiest street in Rome to the quietest ledge on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor