Top tips for a sustainable holiday

In recent years there has been an increased awareness of the impact our holidays and travelling has had on the planet, with more people looking to travel sustainably [1]. However, it can be tricky knowing how we approach this, as much of the conversation around sustainable travel often makes us feel ashamed about travelling. Instead of guilt tripping people into not going away (it won’t work), we need to understand what we can do to make our holidays more sustainable. This means travelling in a way that helps to minimise the impact on the environment, as well as avoiding any negative social and economic implications [2]. So, where to start?

Planning the trip

Being aware of what has the most significant environmental impact can help us to make a more informed decision when deciding on the destination and type of holiday. Cruises, for example, create a lot of water and air pollution, produce a vast amount of waste and cause damage to marine ecosystems [3] so are one of the least sustainable options.

It is no secret that flying is also environmentally taxing, due to the level of carbon emissions [4]. Being conscious of the distance and the number of flights needed for a holiday is something to consider when choosing the destination. Since the pandemic, many of us have found an appreciation for staycations, which is hugely beneficial as it significantly reduces the amount of travel, and therefore travel related carbon emissions, whilst also allowing us to enjoy beauty closer to home. Plus, saving on travel costs is a bonus for our wallets.

Slow Travel

For those of us who prefer to travel further away, holidaying sustainably does not mean we have to sacrifice all foreign travel. Going abroad is a great way to experience a different adventure and new cultures. By focusing on taking a slow travel approach, it can help minimise our environmental impact [5]. What exactly is slow travel? It is a term we are beginning to hear more frequently, and the clue is in the name. It is about slowing down and spending a longer period of time exploring one location and making the journey part of the overall experience [6]. It involves using more environmentally friendly methods of transportation such as trains instead of flying, or walking/ biking to explore a new place. Because of this, slow travel is now increasingly being recognised as a more sustainable way of travelling [5]. It can also result in a much more immersive experience as well as having psychological benefits, such as improving mental well-being through a more mindful approach to travel and being out in nature [7].

Live like a local

The economic impact we have on a place, and the people who inhabit it, is a key part of determining how sustainable a holiday is [2]. So, where we spend our money when we are away is key. One way to ensure we have a positive impact is to support local businesses. Instead of staying at all-inclusive resorts, which can often take away from local business [8], utilising local accommodation such as hotels, hostels or air bnb’s can help support the people who live there. This is also a great way to see more of the area being visited. For many of us, food is a big part of being on holiday. By eating out at local restaurants and shopping at markets this is another way to experience the cuisine whilst supporting the economy. Plus, eating where the locals go will ensure the tastiest food - they know best!


For many of us, travelling abroad is about having experiences or taking part in activities that we aren’t able to do at home. Sadly, sometimes these aren’t always ethical or sustainable. It is our responsibility to do our research and make sure the activities we are signing up for are not detrimental to the local areas, wildlife, or people. Take elephant riding for example. It makes for a great photo but in reality the elephants are usually held captive in poor conditions, beaten and often suffer from many health issues [9]. These cruel and unethical practices towards the wildlife involved should be avoided at all costs.

Delving a bit deeper and looking into the animal tourism planned before the trip can help to avoid becoming involved in any practices that harm animals. Anything that involves riding animals is a big red flag. Luckily, there are now many programs that focus on conservation so the wildlife can be enjoyed without being harmed [10].

Leave no trace

The leave no trace principle aims to minimise all impact to an outdoor area in order to preserve it for future generations [11].The principle initially stemmed from camping or hiking activities in the wilderness [11], however the rules can be extended to pretty much any outdoor area visited. Following the principles are important to ensuring a sustainable visit, whether that is looking after the ocean by not touching coral and sea life or avoiding visits to over-populated places at peak times. Sometimes the no trace principle can be forgotten when closer to home, but even making sure all rubbish is disposed of properly when visiting a local park is a step in the right direction.


Whether it is a staycation or a trip abroad, there are many positives of getting away to a new place, so the opportunity to travel should be embraced. We just need to make sure we are doing our bit to make our holiday as sustainable as possible. This can be achieved by cutting down our travel-related carbon emissions, supporting local businesses and avoiding any activities that will harm the wildlife or environment we are visiting. In doing this, we can minimise our impact and ensure our favourite holiday destinations can continue to be enjoyed.


  1. Oonowska M, et al. Toward a Sustainable Tourism. In: Mariani MM, et al., editors. Tourism Management, Marketing, and Development: Performance, Strategies, and Sustainability. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US; 2016. p. 195-213.
  2. UNWTO Ua. Making Tourism More Sustainable - A Guide for Policy Makers. UNEP and UNWTO, 2005, p.11-12
  3. Johnson D. Environmentally sustainable cruise tourism: a reality check. science direct. 2002; Volume 26, Issue 4.
  4. Keith G. Debbage ND. Aviation carbon emissions, route choice and tourist destinations: Are non-stop routes a remedy? . ScienceDirect. 2019; 79.
  5. Gunesch K. The Ecological and Social Power of Slow Tourism for Sensitive yet Profitable Environmental Sustainability: International Insights for Airline and Business Travel from Intercultural Student and Spiritual Stakeholders. Review of Socio-Economic Perspectives. 2017; Vol 2(I), pp 125-138.
  6. Buckley R. Tourism under climate change: will slow travel supersede short breaks? . Ambio. 2011; 40, 3
  7. Farkić J TS. Rethinking Tourist Wellbeing through the Concept of Slow Adventure. Sports (Basel). 2019; vol. 7,8 190.
  8. Emrullah Erul KMW. Explaining Perceived Impacts of All-Inclusive Resorts through Community Attachment 2016.
  9. Bansiddhi P NK, Brown JL, Punyapornwithaya V, Pongsopawijit P, Thitaram C. Management factors affecting physical health and welfare of tourist camp elephants in Thailand. PeerJ. 2019.
  10. Andrea Giampiccoli DOMSJ. Community-based tourism and animals: Theorising the relationship. Cogent Social Sciences. 2020.
  11. Gregory L Simon PA. Beyond Leave No Trace. Ethics, Place & Environment. 2009; 12.

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