Eight tips to travelling more sustainably with kids
Writer and children’s author Ben Lerwill share his tips on how to reduce waste when travelling with youngsters
Here’s a sum with multiple answers. Kids plus travel equals… what, exactly? Adventure? Treasured memories? Mind-broadening encounters? Yes. Expense? Chaos? Waste? Often yes, too. There’s a good chance, in fact, that you’ve experienced all of the above – possibly within the same afternoon, and possibly rounded off by one of your children declaring that they really need a wee when you’re stuck in a tunnel on the Paris Métro.
C’est la vie. In many ways, making sustainable travel choices boils down to recognising the things you can control versus the things you can’t. Whether you’re with toddlers, teens or ages in between, taking a trip with kids can hold deep, life-changing benefits. It can also be profligate and unpredictable. At a time when the importance of travelling sustainably has never been more marked, it therefore pays – in more ways than one – to make simple choices that lessen your impact.
1. Pack smart
Even if you’re a stickler for green living at home, it’s easy for good habits to slip when you’re travelling. But when you tot up a fortnight’s worth of single-use water bottles, hotel shower gels and shopping bags – let alone that new inflatable unicorn – the plastic usage alone can be frightening. Happily, it takes very little space to pack sturdy, reusable water bottles, shampoo bars, deflated beach toys and a few bags for life.
2. Make careful transport choices
Travel often involves high-carbon transport so, if you fly, look for direct flights where possible, and be aware that economy tickets can be more carbon-friendly than business-class seats. British Airways offsets all domestic flights, while customers can choose to offset international travel through its charity partner Leapfrog, while other reputable flight-offsetting schemes include Native and Forests Without Frontiers.
3. Fill up
To return to the packing theme, in the case of water bottles, you’ll be glad of them at almost every stage of your trip. If the tap water’s unsafe in your end destination, remember you can use room-boiled, cooled water instead – or ask a restaurant or hotel to fill them with filtered water.
4. Let your kids see and hear your decisions
Children learn by example, so when you’re making an ethical choice – perhaps over where you’re choosing to eat, where you’re opting to stay, or which mode of transport you’re using – vocalise it. Even better, involve them in the decision. One of the joys of travel is the chance to meet new people with fresh perspectives and ideas but, similarly, when you’re together as a family it’s also a prime opportunity for kids to understand that travel decisions can make a difference. See it as a chance to set good habits in place.
5. Support the right local businesses
Countless wonderful, locally run initiatives around the world rely on tourism to keep them ticking over, from eco-retreats and wildlife projects to independent cafés and family-owned B&Bs. Where possible, give some thought to where you want your money to be going. A big fast food chain or a lovingly run local restaurant? A bit of pre-trip research can work wonders.
6. Plan ahead if you’re travelling with babies
Travelling with babies has its rewards – it’s a universal truth that people tend to melt in the presence of a gurgling six-month-old – but it comes with a few headaches attached. In this case, staying sustainable is about doing what you can, where you can. Bring reusable food containers, for example, and prepare meals and snacks in advance. Long-distance journeys aren’t especially conducive to using reusable nappies, but wet bags can help – or consider travelling with a pack of biodegradable disposables instead.
7. Go green with your sun cream
Staying sun-safe shouldn’t be an afterthought – but not all sun creams are created equal. The chemicals they contain can cause significant harm to marine life (and, worryingly, can even reach the ocean via your shower drain). Opt for eco-friendly, non-toxic brands such as Organic Children by Green People, which is gentle on the skin, too.
8. Travel with your eyes open
One of the richest gifts of travel, particularly for kids, is the educational potential it holds (though maybe don’t tell them that). Exposure to different cultures and environments is a privilege, and can hold real long-term advantages, so try to make the most of it. Encourage young travellers to connect with where they are. When they start showing an interest in the things they’re discovering – whether that’s wildlife, a new language, a local eco-initiative or a slice of history – allow them to explore them fully.
Discover your next family holiday with British
British Airways Holidays is here to help you find your perfect break. From carefully selected hotels to straightforward car hire, all costs are included in the final price, meaning there are no surprise extras. Plus, with a Customer Promise, ATOL protection and a 24-hour helpline, you’ll have total peace of mind when booking your holiday.
All-budget family holidays
Pick from three different price ranges to find the perfect escape for your clan
More from Family travel
The winner is announced!
Eight-year-old Andreas Karaiskos has won the British Airways and KidZania London travel writing competition
More from Family travel
Is exercising on holiday really relaxing?
If the idea of spending precious holiday time in the gym seems absurd to you, you’re not alone
More from Health and wellness