What Is Ecotourism? Planning a Sustainable Family Vacation

By Rebecca Desfosse in Thinking Sustainably

Imagine your family trekking across the Arabian Desert or taking in the views along the Costa Rican shoreline. We all want to visit and experience nature's most beautiful sights, but we should try to do so in a way that doesn't damage the environment we're admiring. That's where ecotourism comes in. So, what is ecotourism?

Ecotourism encompasses "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education," according to The International Ecotourism Society. The principles behind this initiative include giving back to local communities. This concept minimizes the environmental effect of mainstream travel and promotes sustainability, making it perfect for any eco-friendly family.

Want to plan your own sustainable family vacation? Here's what you need to know.

Mother with two children looking at mountains on family vacation

Research Ecotourism Packages and Eco-Friendly Hotels

Today, you will find dozens of ecotourism packages that include transportation, accommodations, eco-friendly adventures, and even "green hotels." But how can you make the right picks for your eco-friendly vacation?

Assess the hotel's environmental influence, energy consumption, and awareness of local culture. For example, hotels can save energy via timers or key-activated lights or use alternative energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines. Hotels can also make efforts to conserve in other ways, such as using low-flush toilets, promoting recycling programs, and using cleaning products made from naturally derived ingredients. They can provide community support by employing locals as tour guides or hotel staff, serving locally grown food, and backing initiatives that benefit nearby residents.

Use Alternative Methods of Transportation

To reduce the effect of travel on the environment, make a conscious effort to use noninvasive methods of transportation. Take public transportation, such as a bus or train, whenever possible. For shorter distances, walk, bike, or use an electric scooter. Not only are these methods more sustainable, but they allow you fully experience the place you are visiting.

Family biking on a road

Give Back to the Communities You Visit

Be sure to look for ways to give back to the communities you visit. With an increase in eco-awareness, many hotels and airlines are creating community projects and other efforts to help you give back to local destinations. Whether it's volunteering at a local organization as a family or even just donating leftover change from a currency exchange, research some initiatives in the communities you plan to visit and be sure to contribute to or support those that enhance the lives of the local people.

So, what is ecotourism? It's a greener, more thoughtful way to travel that will give your family the trip of a lifetime while minimizing your collective environmental footprint. Tell us about your favorite Earth-friendly family vacation on Twitter!

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Why It's Good

Planning a vacation with the principles of ecotourism in mind means you're continuing your commitment to the Earth even while traveling. Supporting local communities and reducing your environmental impact enrich your experience of the place you're visiting and give your family memories to last a lifetime.