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7 Eco-Travel Tips for Earth Day—and Every Day!

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
April 18, 2018
Earth_Day_Illustration
Iadamson / Dreamstime.com
Going green has never been easier—or more luxurious! Just in time for Earth Day, Budget Travel shares seven ways to help you have an environmentally friendly—and totally brag-worthy—vacation.

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.

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Travel Tips

5 New Rules to Guarantee a Great Trip

What does the vacation of your dreams look like? Are the skies are impossibly blue, beaches powdery and pristine, the kids perfectly behaved, and there never are any crowds? Me too. But as much as you hope for that Instagram-worthy trip, sometimes it rains. Or the airline loses the bag you’d packed with the only swimsuit that fits just right. Or tickets to the Eiffel Tower means a two hour wait, baking in the Paris summer heat. Now and again, the stars do align, granting you a bliss-filled, picture-postcard week away. But the truth is, a great vacation takes a little work. With a little planning, some flexibility and a dash of creativity, you can have a fantastic vacation anytime, anywhere. Here’s how. 1. GET TO KNOW THE LOCALS Hopping on an open-top, double-decker tour bus is a great (and fast!) way to see the sites, but you’ll likely miss out on those cool nooks and crannies only a native will know about. Make new friends instantly with a good travel social app. Vayable will hook you up with locals who lead insider excursions from restaurant and pub crawls to neighborhood exploring, photo-walks, and even running tours. Some extra friendly folks will even join you for a meal. The Like a Local app offers in-the-know travel tips, tours and listings of things to do curated by locals in close to 4,000 cities around the world. Bonus: skip the long lines and book tickets directly from the app. 2.  DOWNLOAD A PERSONAL ASSISTANT Love to travel but hate all of the planning? Let your phone help lead the way. Apps such as Field Trip and Time To Enjoy use the GPS on your smartphone to automatically suggest cool activities and places to visit right as you are walking around. Tell it your faves (Gothic architecture! Ethopian food! Fusion jazz!) and it will customize its recommendations. Activities can also be synched up to your phone’s calendar so that you don’t accidentally double-book a Broadway matinee and lunch reservations at that cute little French place. Detour delivers expert narration for great self-guided walking tours. 3. THEN PUT YOUR SMARTPHONE AWAY Sure, it’s tempting to take a selfie at the edge of the Grand Canyon (pro tip: don’t) or to Instagram your latte art at that impossibly adorable Venetian café. Who doesn’t want a Facebook page filled with bucket-list pix? But while you’re busy capturing yourself at just the right angle, you’re also missing out on the experience of, you know, actually being at the Grand Canyon. Yes, some of the apps recommended above will help you get the most out of your trip, but at the same time, multiple studies suggest that we are spending way too much time on our phones, whether it’s texting or posting to social media, and we’re ignoring the world around us. So you really want to enjoy your vacation, and all of the sites, sounds and smells? Stash away your phone for at least a few hours a day. 4. TAKE A CLASS One summer a few years ago, it poured every day during my weeklong Cape Cod vacation. After a few days of drowning my disappointment in the hotel’s indoor pool, I wandered into town and found a little art shop that was holding daily scrapbooking classes. A closet crafter, I was thrilled to find something creative to pass away the stormy days. Plus I met a bunch of regulars who gave me lots of good local tips (the pub down the street waters down the drinks, the pancake place serves to-die-for crepes). Explore a new interest or keep up with one you’ve already mastered (Crossfit to burn off those crepes, anyone?). Dabble can help you find local classes in everything including food and art, business and technology, fitness and even education. Plus there are volunteer opportunities to make your soul feel good. 5. BE SPONTANEOUS My husband and I like to leave at least two vacation days completely unbooked. That means no hotel reservations, no plans and no apps to help us out. The first time was admittedly nerve-wracking. What if we couldn’t find a decent place to stay? With some faith and a full tank of gas, we went off-script and explored the tiny towns we’d otherwise drive right by. The results? A cozy night outside of Taos, New Mexico, in a palapa with a hand-carved four poster bed, a wood-burning adobe stove and a complimentary bottle of tequila left on the nightstand. Sometimes the best plans are the ones you don’t make at all.

Travel Tips

Nab These Great 2018 Deals Now!

As our name suggests, Budget Travel is all about empowering our audience to get out there and see more for less. We spend a good deal of our time (and have a lot of fun) researching bargain trips, great hotel rates, and airfare-booking secrets. So we’re psyched to report that the U.S. Travel Association is launching Daily Getaways 2018 (dailygetaways.ustravel.org) on Monday, April 9, offering some of the year’s best deals for up to 60 percent off, just in time for the summer high season. LOYALTY POINTS FOR SALE Are you one of the 72 percent of Americans who crave an easier, more affordable way to redeem loyalty points to book travel? The U.S. Travel Association found that nearly three in four travelers face that challenge, and this year’s Daily Getaways is making it easier than ever to capitalize on rewards programs, with top travel companies offering deeply discounted loyalty points for sale. A few examples of loyalty points for sale include Choice Privileges, IHG Rewards Club, Hilton Honors, and more. DAILY DEALS From April 9 through May 9, new, limited-quantity deals will go live at 1pm Eastern each day. Deals include the loyalty points sale mentioned above as well as coupons for car rentals, tickets to popular attractions, deals on hotel stays, and more. Spoiler alert: The very first deal, on April 9, is a discounted Universal Express Ticket including admission, for $139, and there will be only 250 on sale. BROWSE THE DEALS IN ADVANCE Our favorite part of Daily Getaways is that you can start browsing the month of deals now to see what’s on the horizon and mark your calendars (paper or virtual) and sign up for daily notifications to make sure you don’t miss out. In addition to the Universal deal mentioned above, others we may mark our calendars for include: A one-day car rental from Avis for $30 (April 13), a four-night stay at Excalibur Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas for $475 (April 18), and a two-night escape at Omni Hotels & Resorts for $245 (April 20).

Travel Tips

Skip the Lines at Popular Attractions

There are some travel destinations that are so wonderful, you come home with only one complaint: The lines were too long. After visiting Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland last summer, and then reveling in my hometown NYC’s holiday window displays and museum mega-shows, I have become super-eager to learn how I can skip the lines at popular attractions without breaking the bank. As luck would have it, TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travel Trends Report (tripadvisor.com) includes a list of the most booked tours under $150, and many of the top tours on the list are, you guessed it, skip-the-line deals. Here, some of the most popular affordable travel experiences as ranked by TripAdvisor. SKIP THE LINES IN ROME “Holy wait time!” is surely an often-heard quip for people stuck in line to see the stunning art collections and sacred spaces at Vatican City, in Rome. TripAdvisor found that the no. 1 most-booked travel experience under $150 was City Wonders’ Skip the Line: Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica (citywonders.com, under $80). City Wonders brings small groups (20 and under) led by expert guides to the Vatican 30 minutes before other tours and 90 minutes before the general public enters. The attractions you can expect to see without crowds include the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the “Last Judgment,” both by Michelangelo, the stunning interior of St. Peter’s, designed by Michelangelo, and that over-achiever’s sculpture “Pieta.” Not only did City Wonders’ Vatican tour top TripAdvisor’s list, but the company’s Skip the Line: Colosseum & Ancient Rome Small Group Tour with Forum & Palatine Hill was ranked third. SKIP THE LINES IN BARCELONA Priority Access: Barcelona Sagrada Familia Tour is another skip-the-line experience that ranked well on TripAdvisor’s survey, coming in at no. 5. The famously gorgeous and crowded cathedral, with its unique fairytale spires and surreal look, is even more enjoyable when you visit using the early-access option for under $50. SKIP THE LINES IN PARIS Eiffel Tower Summit: Priority Access With Host offers a skip-the-line one-hour guided tour for under $80, bringing what is perhaps the most iconic of travel icons up close for a relatively reasonable price. OTHER TOP TRAVEL EXPERIENCES UNDER $150 TripAdvisor’s top 10 travel experiences under $150 also included some experiences that don’t involve skipping any lines but are nonetheless must-dos for anyone keeping a bucket list. The top domestic U.S. experiences were a Chicago Architecture River Cruise and tickets to the observation decks at New York’s Empire State Building. And other top experiences were decidedly Euro-centric, including a Rome Hop-On, Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour; Warner Bros Studio: The Making of Harry Potter With Luxury Round-Trip Transport From London; Murano, Burano, and Torcello Half-day Sightseeing Tour (Venice): and a Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour.

Travel Tips

How to Get a Good Sleep on a Plane

Remember how well you slept on your last flight? How the hours in the air just melted away in a haze of happy dreams, and how you woke up refreshed and ready for your vacation? Neither do we. But we do have great advice on how to make your next flight the most restful ever. Our authority is Roy Raymann, PhD, the resident sleep expert at SleepScore Labs (sleepscore.com) and former “sleep czar” for Apple, where he helped developed NightShift and Bedtime. Here, Raymann’s easy steps to grabbing maximum shuteye at 30,000 feet. 1. BOOK A WINDOW SEAT While the window is prized by travelers who want to watch takeoff and landing and spot landmarks like mountain ranges and lakes down below, Raymann says the window seat also has an advantage for those who want to sleep: Lean against the window, and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of not being disturbed by seatmates who have to visit the plane’s restroom. 2. GET COMFORTABLE Raymann recommends that you wear comfortable clothing (including sleep socks), pack a neck pillow, use the airplane blanket (or pack your own). The more your airplane seat feels like a comfy home away from home, the greater the chance you’ll stay asleep and wake up refreshed. 3. SHUT OUT NOISE Most of us need quiet to sleep properly. Raymann recommends that you use earplugs to dampen the noises of the plane’s engines, flight crew, and fellow passengers. Or employe noise-cancellation headphones and listen to something relaxing, such as nature sounds or gentle music. 4. EMBRACE DARKNESS People sleep better in the dark. Pack a sleep mask to help you create your own personal darkness and to discourage you from opening your eyes. 5. EAT & DRINK IN MODERATION While it’s not a good idea to try to sleep on an empty stomach, it’s also a mistake to eat large portions or fatty or spicy meals. Opt for light, healthy snacks, such as nuts. And while drinking wine, beer, or spirits may help you fall asleep, remember that it will likely make it more difficult for you to actually stay asleep. 6. RECLINE & STRETCH Use what legroom you have to stretch your legs and recline your seat (remember to do so politely). Raymann recommends straightening your legs, bent slightly at the knees in order to fall asleep more easily, and leaning back tells your brain that you want to rest or sleep. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE WAYS TO GET A GOOD SLEEP ON A PLANE? We want to know what sleep tips work for you. Post a comment, email us at info@BudgetTravel.com, or follow us on social media to join the conversation.

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