Take the Green Way There
Of course, when you have little tiny ones (with all the baby accoutrements such as strollers and pack and plays), travels by car might be necessary. But once kids are older, consider taking buses, trains, or even a boat instead of a car or a plane. Getting to your destination will be part of the adventure! Or at least consider ditching the car once you get to your location and making a concerted effort to use public transportation: it will help you avoid getting lost on unfamiliar roadways and allows you and the kids to see the city in a more relaxed, fun way.
Come Prepared for Sugar Lows
Nothing throws a travelling child for a loop like the combination of a disruption from their normal routine combined with low blood sugar. Bringing your own healthy snacks means kids will get nutritious and filling snacks and that you will be less likely to buy unhealthy junk out of desperation at a rest stop or while waiting for the plane. Our picks: granola or one of our other top choices for nutritious on-the-go snacks. Once you’re at your destination, use the opportunity to introduce kids to new, healthy snack foods like native fruits or nuts.
Make the Place You Stay Like a Home Away from Home
You work hard at being eco-friendly at home, so keep up the momentum and stay at a green hotel that offers perks such as recycling, monitoring water usage and refraining from changing the sheets twice a day. At the moment there are multiple green hotel certifications with everyone from Travelocity to some pretty random companies handing out “green” seals of approval, so don’t be afraid to dig a bit deeper and call to speak with the hotel’s staff about their eco-friendly commitments. iStayGreen.com has traveler reviews as well as a self-audit process, which is then verified by the site.
You can also rent an apartment or do a house swap. Staying somewhere with a kitchen (also offered in many chain hotels as a suite option and usually for not much more money) allows you to actually save money on eating out for every meal and is also great for families with dietary considerations, for whom restaurants can be a challenge. Scout out the area farmer’s markets and bring home the bounty for meals. By doing just a bit more research, you can hopefully avoid bringing back a suitcase full of things to recycle.
Keep Vacations from Being a Consumer Affair
Kids love stuff and they can get caught up in the buying excitement as much as parents can, especially when surrounded by novel and exotic wares. Coax them into taking pictures of their favorite spots or activities to create an album once home – it’s a memento that they will look through long after they have tossed aside the toys they adored on first sight. Or create a family tradition and pick something that the whole family can enjoy as a keepsake. One family we know lets their kids choose a refrigerator magnet to commemorate each trip. It’s inexpensive, easy to pack, and the consumer itch has been effectively scratched!
Take Green Breaks Wherever You Go
From visiting New York City’s Highline Park, which was once an abandoned elevated freight line, to making an excursion to one of the National Parks, to playing on the beach in Los Angeles, no matter where you go, exploring the great outdoors is a great way to show kids the diversity in environments that exists even in this country alone. These breaks also help kids get the good green vibes that naturally come from being in nature. Sometimes as parents we forget the intense experience of seeing the ocean for the first time or going hiking; getting to relive these moments through kids gets everyone excited about the world around us. Green spaces are also essential for running (or toddling) out that extra energy before a long flight or car or train ride. Parkscan even be a great place to meet local parents who may have insider tips for other family-friendly outings.
Get Good (Digital) Info
Most of us are on the internet or on iPhones throughout the day anyway, so ditch the bulky guidebook (one less thing to lug around) and hit the web for a variety of sources from city maps to vegetarian and vegan restaurant options. Use social media like Facebook or the Kids on the Go section of Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Travel Forum to get green info from parents in the know. Email far-away friends living in fun destinations for their favorite places. Of course, don’t forget to unplug and actually hang out with the people you are on vacation with! And when you get home, pay it forward by posting your favorite spots online.
Lead image © flickr user ljcybergal