7 Eco-Travel Tips for Earth Day—and Every Day!
You already know that the best vacations aren't just about you, right? Seeing the world brings a new appreciation for that world, and a natural desire to leave it a better place. And it's never been easier to be good to yourself and the planet at the same time. Here, our top trip tips for an environmentally friendly—and totally brag-worthy—vacation.
1. PACK FOR THE PLANET
Between disposable snacks, Ziplocs, water bottles, batteries for electronic gear, and wrapping paper for gifts, just one carry-on can contribute an awful lot of junk to airport trash bins. Multiply that by the nearly 2 million people who pass through security in the U.S. each day and you've got tons of garbage headed straight to landfills. Instead, opt for reusable options such as sandwich bags from ReUseIt.com, clear Tupperware containers for toiletries and souvenirs, re-chargeable batteries, and BPA-free plastic or metal water bottles. And in place of gift paper, wrap presents in light fabric that can be used (either by you or the giftee) again.
2. STAY AT AN ECOLODGE
The notion of a resort that does no environmental harm—or even gives back to the Earth with sustainable practices—would have sounded a bit like science fiction a few decades ago. Now, stylish lodges across the globe offer luxury, adventure, and sustainability all at the same time, and many will set you back less than $200 per night. Some of the highlights of an eco-stay can include imaginative architecture that often relies solely on local materials, solar power, innovative water filtration systems, environmental education programs like guided tours and nature walks, employment of local residents and native peoples, and restaurants whose kitchens rely on locally sourced produce—often grown right on the lodge's grounds.
3. TAKE A VOLUNTEER VACATION
There's no better way to say thank-you to America's phenomenal parks and trails than by volunteering your time to build or repair a trail. Right now, there are ample opportunities to volunteer to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastating hurricanes last fall. And right here in the lower 48, the American Hiking Society offers weeklong stints that can include backpacking or day hikes with a group of up to 15 volunteers and a group leader. Lodgings are simple: cabins, bunkhouses, or just campsites. The work? Trail maintenance and construction, bridge and shelter renovation, and native species reestablishment in national parks and forests, state parks, wildlife preserves, and other unique environments across the U.S.
4. GET TO KNOW THE LOCALS
It doesn't matter whether you're in the heart of the Amazon or on a crowded boulevard in Paris—reaching out to the people who actually live year-round in your travel destination is the easiest and most reliable way to deepen your experience. It can be as simple as asking locals to recommend a public park or a favorite hike. Over the years, Budget Travel has highlighted readers' True Stories, often demonstrating how a smile, nod of the head, or a politely asked question can turn a tourist into an honorary local, privy to sights, tastes, and feelings unavailable to those who simply pass through.
5. SEE THE U.S.
We're not suggesting you pass up the opportunity to see every corner of the world—we're all about stretching and crossing boundaries—but the simple fact is you'll be responsible for fewer carbon emissions (and save more than a few bucks) if you explore closer to home. And you don't have to go coast-to-coast to savor homegrown delights. This weekend, visit the nearest state park, historical society, or winery. Next time you've got a few days on your hands, we've got budget destinations across America you'll love.
6. SHOP AT A FARMERS MARKET
Here in the U.S., we tend to think of farmers markets as a groundbreaking component of the local food movement—and no doubt the explosion of markets in recent years has helped bring home cooks back in touch with the folks who actually grow their food. But, of course, green markets have been a staple of civilization for centuries and can be found just about anywhere in the world you might be visiting. Dive in to local markets, try fresh fruits and vegetables you've never eaten before, ask farmers and locals for recipes, and if you have access to a kitchen, bring home a bagful of homegrown produce, fresh flowers, and the satisfaction of having contributed to the livelihood of a farmer.
7. WALK, RIDE A BIKE, OR TAKE A TRAIN
Being on vacation shouldn't be an excuse to put more car and bus fumes into the air. No matter where you're staying, opt for walking tours over buses, rent bikes, and get to know the public transportation system.
Why You Should Drink Tomato Juice When You Fly
The Twitter backlash against United Airlines earlier this month quickly escalated to fever pitch, and it had nothing to do with aggressive passengers or legroom or malfunctioning seatback screens. After the airline announced a plan to scrap tomato juice from its drink repertoire, it nearly caused mutiny—people threatened to ban the carrier, some posted humorous memes, and some contemplated why they were obsessed with the salty red beverage when they fly. If you’re among the significant proportion of passengers who find themselves overcome with a hankering for a disposable cup filled with room-temperature crimson canned tomato juice, you understand the outrage at the thought of it suffering the same fate as SkyMall, which went to the great shopping catalog graveyard in the sky in 2015. The digital uprising caused a quick reversal, and United tweeted “You say tomato. We say, we hear you. Tomato juice is here to stay. #letscallthewholethingoff” on May 10. TOMATO JUICE: BETTER THAN BEER? But the viral hullabaloo wasn’t just a game by a few bored trolls. Science is involved. Tomato juice, while rarely ordered at sea level, is an appealing choice at 30,000 feet because of the effect that altitude has on our tastebuds. Perhaps the most solid research came from a 2010 study by the Fraunhofer Society, a German research institute that was hired by Lufthansa when the German airline realized they were going through 53,000 gallons of tomato juice in a year. Compare that to 59,000 gallons of beer. The thought of tomato juice giving beer that kind of competition seems ludicrous, so it’s easy to understand why executives were confounded. FLYING AFFECTS YOUR SENSE OF TASTE Fraunhofer's experiments involved replicating cabin conditions, including the 10 to 15 percent humidity level that’s standard on airplanes. Those levels dry out your nose and mouth, diminishing your sense of taste. Add to that the low pressure, which decreases oxygen levels in your blood, thus dulling odor and taste receptors, and the appeal of a strongly flavored beverage like tomato juice starts to make more sense. "We learned that tomato juice being on ground level is rather... I'm not saying moldy, but it tastes earthy, it tastes not overly fresh," Lufthansa catering executive Ernst Derenthal told NBC New York when the findings were released. "However, as soon as you have it at 30,000 feet, tomato juice shows, let's say, its better side. It shows more acidity, it has some mineralic taste with it, and it's very refreshing." There’s actually another factor: sound. A 2015 study by Cornell University points out that we hear 85 decibels while soaring through the sky in a metal tube at 575 miles per hour. According to a release, Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science at the university, said the study confirmed that taste is compromised when exposed to extremely high noise levels, but only specific tastes. Sweet receptors are deadened, but sense of umami, the Japanese term for that elusive balance of sweet and salty flavor, is enhanced. Tomato juice is strong in umami. EVERYBODY'S DOING IT But wait—there’s more! There’s one more factor at play here: the power of suggestion. Picture it: you’re out to dinner with friends and you’re debating on what entree to order. Your friend tells the waiter he’ll have the sea bass. Suddenly, your decision is made. So next time you’re flying and the guy next to you orders tomato juice and the flight attendant cracks open a can and you start to salivate, go on and ask for one too. And if you want to add vodka to transform that sad little can of tomato juice into an iconic mile-high Bloody Mary, we won't tell.
BT on the Weather Channel: Hurricane Season Travel Tips
Hurricane season officially arrives in June, and sticks around like an unwanted house guest till November. To minimize the impact of storms in your vacation, especially to the Caribbean and southern coastal regions, Budget Travel Editor in Chief Robert Firpo-Cappiello shares common sense safety tips on the Weather Channel’s morning show, AMHQ, on Saturday June 2 at 7:40 and 9:40 Eastern. Here's what you need to know before you go: DOUBLE CHECK YOUR RESERVATIONS First, double-check the cancellation and refund policies of the airlines, hotels and car rental companies you are booking for your trip. UNDERSTAND TRAVEL INSURANCE Make sure your travel insurance policy covers delayed flights and weather-related trip disruptions and cancellations. BE PROACTIVE If the hurricane happens before your trip, you'll want to make sure that your travel insurance plan includes trip cancellation for hurricanes and natural disasters and that it will refund you any pre-paid non-refundable trip expenses if you have to cancel before your scheduled departure due to a hurricane. READ THE FINE PRINT Read the fine print. The policy has to be purchased pre-hurricane in order to cover for the hurricane. CONSIDER ‘CANCEL FOR ANY REASON’ OPTIONS You can purchase “cancel-for-any-reason” insurance, which lets you decide whether you want to risk travel when a storm is being predicted. PACK FOR SAFETY AND COMFORT If you do head off to the Caribbean in the midst of a hurricane warning, pack an emergency kit: cash, a radio and batteries, a flashlight and batteries, non-perishable food and water for three days, rain gear, bug repellant, sunscreen, and any prescription meds you need. (Yes, this will all take up space in your luggage, but you’ll appreciate it if/when the time comes that you need it.) WATCH THE WEATHER CHANNEL And, of course, always keep your eye on the experts at The Weather Channel (weather.com) for up-to-the-minute forecasts and breaking news.
Though we often talk about the importance of staying fit, eating well, and monitoring our sleep when we travel, we don't always give as much attention to our largest organ: our skin. "Skin is the house that you live in. You need to protect it and keep it healthy because healthy skin is gonna be beautiful skin," says Allison Tray, founder of Tres Belle Spa in Brooklyn. We checked in with a few experts to learn the do's and don'ts of skincare when you're on the go. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. AND DRINK. With fresh air often pumped in to maintain oxygen levels, not to mention recycled air and high altitudes, cabin air can be a recipe for dehydration. When moisture is depleted, your skin's barrier function is impaired, making it feel dry, look sallow, and become red and irritated. The simplest solution isn’t to slather on moisturizer, but to feed your skin from the inside—all the fancy beauty products in the world can’t come close to the importance of water. (Pro tip: Bringing an empty water bottle through security and filling it before you board your flight makes it easier to stay hydrated than looking for a flight attendant for each four-ounce pour. In a perfect world, you’d drink a liter of water for every four hours in the air.) There are a few basic things you can do—or not do—to prevent your skin from losing too much moister at 35,000 feet. First: don’t drink alcohol on the plane. Do pack fruits or vegetables, Allison suggests, because they naturally contain water. Also, take a break from makeup. It'll help your skin breathe. And when you're on the ground, don't forget to keep sipping. “Be sure to drink lots of water throughout your trip, whether embarking on day-long tourist adventures, hiking through woods or relaxing poolside,” says Donna Regii, a beauty expert who’s worked with brands like Stila and Bliss Spa. “It’s the best way to help your skin behave, and look its radiant, glowing best.” MOISTURIZING: IT GOES DEEPER THAN YOU THINK But the skin cannot hydrate by water alone. Just remember these three words: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Even when it doesn't seem necessary. “A lot times when skin feels oily, it’s that it’s dehydrated underneath,” Allison explains. “Glands that produce oils work overtime to protect and hydrate. A lot of times your skin feels oily, and you break out because there’s not enough hydration to balance everything out.” Donna recommends looking for a face moisturizer with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate, which help bind moisture to your skin. Water-based moisturizers feel lighter and more refreshing on the skin during the summer and in warm or humid climates. Ingredients like shea butter are ideal for dry skin types and during cooler weather, she says. Whatever you do, though, don't use the moisturizer in your hotel room on your face. It's typically body lotion. Before any moisturizer can work its magic, though, it has to have a clean canvas. The day before you fly, exfoliate with a gentle facial scrub, then apply a hydrating mask. The exfoliation gets rid of the dead cells, which allows the moisturizing ingredients from the mask to penetrate deeper in the skin. BEAUTY SLEEP Just like our bodies, our skin needs sleep to rejuvenate. “During the night, your skin undergoes repair, renewal, and detoxification, but if you don’t get proper sleep, these processes aren’t rescheduled. That’s why you get dark circles and sallow, dehydrated skin when you’re sleep deprived," says Donna. From crossing time zones to sleeping in unfamiliar surrounds to perhaps a little more eating and drinking than we’re used to, travel can mess with sleep in big ways, wreaking havoc on our skin performance. Donna turns to aromatherapy to help her sleep. A lavender-infused pillow spray is a natural fix for falling asleep faster. Brands like This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray come in 2.5 fluid ounce bottles so you can take it in your carry-on. Just a spritz can help ease you into slumber. PACK IT IN As any seasoned traveler knows, less is more when it comes to packing—how else to ensure you have room for everything you buy? Your own moisturizer should be as necessary as your passport and phone charger. “It’s best not to change up your usual regimen too much when you're on the road, because your skin may get stressed out from travel and not respond well to unfamiliar products,” Donna says. But there’s one major exception: Add sun protection if it’s not already part of your daily routine. When Allison travels, she packs products that do double-duty to minimize her load. Many brands make moisturizers with sunscreen, and if you opt for a tinted product, it multitasks three-fold as a light foundation. She recommends sunscreen by SkinCeuticals, which has a universal tint. An exfoliating cleanser is also on her list of necessities. A hydrating skin serum with hyaluronic acid helps hold onto water, and you can also dab it under your eyes and onto your lips as a light moisturizer.
What’s an afternoon at the beach without the right supplies? We found the gear to make the most of the summer's sun, sand, and waves, including the must-pack essentials and fun add-ons that’ll make your day more dynamic—all for $80 or less. The Bag (Courtesy L.L. Bean) First things first: You need a proper beach bag, and L.L. Bean’s classic Boat and Tote is a sturdy option that won’t go out of style. It’s practically indestructible, and that’s no exaggeration—my family has one that’s almost 30 years old, and it’s still going strong. The large version is roomy enough to hold a blanket and a day’s worth of towels, toys, and provisions without being too unwieldy, with long handles that make it easy to throw on your shoulder and go. It’s a bit cavernous, so for more organization, take a tip from my super-smart mom and hit the hardware store for a small canvas waist apron to tie to the handles. For just a few bucks, it’ll provide a couple of internal pockets for those things (sunscreen, lip balm, tissues, phone) you want to keep within reach at all times. Large open-top Boat and Tote with long handles in dark green, $35; llbean.com. The Towel (Courtesy Dock & Bay/Emma Sailah) Banish thoughts of thick, fluffy terry cloth. This microfiber number from Dock & Bay may not have the same cushy feel as a regular cotton towel, but its powers of absorption are remarkable—it’ll get you dry in no time and won’t stay damp for long. And even though it’s plenty big, clocking in at 63 by 31 inches, it folds away to practically nothing. Stash it in the 10-by-6-inch pouch that comes with it, or toss it in your bag on its own; either way, you’ll hardly know it’s there. Plus, the company donates 10 percent of all Rainbow towel sales to Twenty10 (twenty10.org.au), an Australian organization that supports the LGBTIQA+ community, so you can show some pride all summer long. Rainbow Skies microfiber towel, $25; dockandbay.com. The Blanket (Courtesy Slowtide/Willie Kessel) Sure, this one is a little on the pricey side, but between the Instagram-bait pattern, the extremely plush cotton-velour fabric, and the fun fringed edging, it’s worth the splurge. At five feet in diameter, it works well as a personal beach blanket, though it'll accommodate two people too, especially if they’re exceptionally friendly and/or pint-sized. It not only looks good and feels good, it’s also pampering in the best way: Its materials have been independently tested to meet the guidelines set by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100, so you're free to lounge around and towel off without apprehensions about harmful ingredients. Radiant Round towel, $80; slowtide.co. The Cooler (Courtesy AO Coolers) As far as soft coolers go, Yeti’s Hopper line is hyped as the gold standard, but with a starting price of $200 for the smallest model, it comes with some serious sticker shock. For those who don’t want to spend that much to transport snacks and frosty beverages, this one from AO Coolers is an excellent option. Thanks to a thick layer of foam insulation and a water-resistant exterior, it’ll keep a case of beer and 14 pounds of ice cold, without leaking, for 24 hours. If you really load it up, though, it gets pretty heavy, and its short, non-padded strap doesn't lend itself to comfortable carrying, so you’ll want to make sure someone with strong shoulders is hauling it, especially if you have a long way to go. (And if you happen to have a nicely cushioned backpack strap lying around, swapping it in here would be a smart move.) AO Coolers 24 Pack Canvas Cooler in navy, $70; amazon.com. The Music (Courtesy Polaroid) When you're hanging out on a crowded beach, your fellow sunbathers might not appreciate your loud tunes, so this inexpensive little speaker is ideal: Its sound is great if you’re nearby, but it doesn’t really travel far, so you can put on your Mexican death metal or favorite ‘90s boy band without worrying about who’s going to hear it. Bonus: Its design is super-cute, too. Polaroid PBT530 Wireless Bluetooth Portable Retro Speaker in blue, $20; amazon.com. The Entertainment (Courtesy Into the Wind) Forget building sandcastles—the best seaside activities take to the skies. Thanks to the constant winds coming off the water, the beach is an ideal environment for kite-flying: You’ll barely have to work to get airborne, and the steady breezes give you more room to play, particularly on an empty, open stretch of sand. Traditional Delta or glider-style kites are as low-maintenance as they come (once they catch the right draft, you can even tie them to your chair and let ‘em coast on their own), but stunt kites are much more fun. This colorful little ripstop-nylon number from Into the Wind is easy to maneuver and awesome for beginners, with a light frame and Kevlar enforcing at the nose and tail in case of crashes. Strap on the wrist bands, and you’ll be doing combination turns and backflips in no time. Prism Jazz Stunt Kite in Rainbow, $55; intothewind.com. The Insurance Policy (Courtesy PunkCase) When you drop your phone as often as I do, certain situations are fraught with danger. Giant ocean with currents and waves and splashing children in the shallows? Check, check, and check. A waterproof case can prevent calamity. This one from PunkCase has a slim profile and a built-in screen protector, and it’s not only waterproof, it’s also made to withstand drops of nearly seven feet. Before you go and toss it in the deep end, though, be sure to test it out with a paper towel or a bit of cloth before trusting it with your phone—if there’s any moisture inside when you open it back up, you’ll know there’s a problem. It’s worth taking the time for that extra step, because once you’ve gotten the all-clear, you can go forth and shoot without a care in the world. PunkCase waterproof Crystal case in teal, from $35; amazon.com.