Responsible tourism is all about having fun while minimizing stress on the environment. This style of travel also generates more economic and social benefits in your host communities. Small changes can make your next vacation greener, more memorable, and something you’re even happier to look back on in the future. Whether it's helping out the planet or being culturally conscious as you travel, everyone involved — yourself included — will be glad you did.

Bring an Empty, Reusable Water Bottle

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You'll save money and waste less plastic. Make a habit of filling it up anytime you're near a drinking fountain, including right after airport security. You’re more likely to stay hydrated, as well as prepared for any time you may need to take a pill, have a coughing fit, or find yourself on an unexpectedly long walk.

You can find a bottle that clips to your backpack if you're short on luggage space, and you can even get one with a filter if you're going to an area where the water quality is questionable.

Turn Down the Turndown Service

Hotel chains prioritize cleanliness, and that’s a good thing. They make sure new guests always have clean linens and fresh towels. But if you’re staying in the same hotel for a few days, you have the option of keeping the same towels and sheets. Even just skipping the washing cycle once or twice can add up to a significant reduction in water and energy use. If you spent the day taking it easy, let room service you don’t need anything new that day. This helps every travel destination save water, but it’s even more important if you’re visiting a country that’s in the middle of a drought.

Travel Off-Peak

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Countries and regions that depend on tourism have to deal with some pretty rocky economic cycles. Even a strong peak season won’t necessarily help during a slow off-peak winter. If your schedule is flexible enough to do some off-peak sight-seeing, that’s a great way to travel sustainably. You can also enjoy more of the sights without the bustle of crowds or steep summer airline prices, like these European cities. Not only will you end up with fun memories and a little more cash in your bank account, but your host community also won’t have such a turbulent tourism industry.

Eat and Shop Locally

Ditch the big, familiar international chains and go local. Every region has food that you just can’t get anywhere else, and here’s your chance to try it. Do a bit of research ahead of time or ask a reputable tour guide for suggestions. Try something you’ve never eaten before every day to expand your palate and your knowledge of your host community’s culture. Maybe you’ll find a dish you love that you can recreate at home to relive the memories.

Eating locally is fun, and so is shopping locally. Go on an adventure and do your souvenir shopping off the beaten path. You can find high-quality clothing, unique gifts, and more when you start exploring the cities around the tourist attractions. Supporting local business owners does a lot of good. It helps strengthen the local economies and helps small stores compete with bigger conglomerates.

Dive Deep Instead of Jet-Setting

Airplanes, boats, and cars are unavoidable parts of international vacations. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get rid of your next trip’s carbon footprint entirely. But you can minimize the energy use by planning your trip around a single location. Explore your host community’s culture, history, and environment in detail. By staying in one general area instead of traveling to multiple countries or far-flung destinations, you can keep your fuel consumption to a minimum. Staying in one spot can also be more fun since you can relax and enjoy a leisurely stay.

If you know you want to see a few countries during your next trip instead of just one, that doesn’t mean you can’t try out a few responsible tourism techniques. Consider signing up for a bike tour instead of a bus tour or white river rafting instead of taking a motorized boat out on a lake. Every small bit of conservation makes a difference.

Study Before You Hit the Road

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You want a vacation that takes away from your workload, not one that adds to it. But getting ready for a big vacation doesn’t mean you have to hit the shelves at your local library. Watch some fun YouTube videos about your destination or check out the travel documentaries on Netflix. A little bit of prep work can help you uncover some fun travel destinations that are off the beaten path. You can also pick up a few details about the culture and social norms where you’re traveling. Not only can that help you relax if you have a bit of social anxiety, but it’s also respectful to the people in your host community. Every country (and every region within each country) has its own rules and social norms, especially when it comes to dining. Being prepared — and following the customs you’re comfortable with — will make every interaction more enjoyable.

Look for Responsible Tourism Packages

Planning a vacation can be stressful, and that’s not what vacations are about. If you just want to get up and go but you also want to make a difference, find a responsible tourism package. Just like you can find travel agents for cruises, adventure tours, and historical sight-seeing, there are people who specialize in sustainability. You can search for complete vacation packages that include cool destinations, green travel, and good feelings. Talk to a travel agent to find your dream vacation package. Alternatively, you can search online with keywords like ‘responsible tourism,’ ‘sustainable tourism,’ or, if you love nature, ‘eco-tourism.’ Then you can enjoy a perfectly planned vacation with peace of mind.