Organic Family Travel

The return of warm sunshine here in the northern hemisphere and your thoughts may be turning to vacations but in this day and age, especially for us natural folks, travel comes loaded with all types of responsibilities.

As an almost everyday family with organic tendencies, here are just some of the questions we ask each year as we begin to make travel plans …

  • Can we justify flying as a means of travel?
  • Is the gas guzzling vehicle just as bad?
  • What about taking the ferry?
  • What economic impact will I have on a local community?
  • Should I rather support my local community?
  • How can I travel responsibly within my budget?
  • Can our trip make a contribution?
  • Will we still be able to choose organic?

Not the only questions about travel whilst leading a natural, organic lifestyle by any means; we each have to make the choices that sit most comfortably with ourselves and you’ll most likely have your own.

Here are a few ideas we’ve come across for our family to undertake more organic family travel within our budget.

Accommodation Options

1. Choose Organic/Eco Accommodation

If your journey can be planned in advance,  look out for special guide books and website directories to put you in touch with the ideal accommodation for you. There are countless organic places to stay in the UK and abroad. Whilst travelling in Spain last year we stayed in an organic eco campsite and Spain’s first organic eco aparthotel.

We found Vinyols Campsite prior to leaving Scotland just by doing a quick internet search. We weren’t sure when we might be able to stop by, so we just saved the details and contacted them a few days before arriving. It was all very casual and we had such an amazing time that we’re hoping to go back soon to help out on the farm!

Even without prior research, if you know what you’re looking for then you’ll be able to come across the perfect location for your family’s vacation. The Venus Albir was the aparthotel we discovered in The Lonely Planet guide to Spain. With a vibrant fair trade eco shop and a delicious organic and vegetarian restaurant, it was a most welcome find as we were passing through that well-known tourist ghetto of Alicante!

2. House Exchange Websites

A super affordable method of travelling to new countries without breaking your bank and with minimal environmental impact is a home exchange vacation. We’ve been home exchanging for four years now and have made more than ten swaps. Whilst I appreciate that swapping houses with perfect strangers may not be everyone’s cup of tea, for us and the families we’ve swapped with, it’s been one of the most enriching travel experiences we’ve ever undertaken.

By home exchanging, you’ll experience your chosen destination less as a tourist and more as a local. You’ll be using up roughly the same resources as your host family, so there’ll be no extra environmental burden and you’ll be contributing to a real living economic community. You don’t have any accommodation fees to pay, which can be a real boon for those of you with large families and living in a house with all of its personal comforts can make travelling far less stressful and more restful than staying in a busy resort or hotel.

Reduce Car Travel Impact

1. Avoid Motorway Service Stations

We made the decision a few years ago to avoid air travel where possible and we most often travel by car. A prickly decision by some green standards, we find that it works for us in many ways, especially given our tendency to travel to out of reach locations not serviced by public transport. Whilst continuing to travel may not meet many green families’  approval, our decision to keep travelling is one of the cornerstones of our home education policy.

One of the ways we try to lessen our impact and keep our travel organic is to avoid motorway service stations. This is most easily done if you avoid travelling on motorways to begin with, but it is often simply not practical to do so, especially if you’re facing time constraints. The UK motorway network is serviced in the main by chain restaurants offering highly priced processed foods, with little choice for the organic traveller.

Packing your own meals for travelling will save you money and afford you the luxury of eating exactly what you want, however we’ve found that however well-intentioned, we’re not always able to do so. In these cases, we make it our policy to avoid the motorway services and to investigate other options to suit our budget.

The internet is our best friend here and there are a range of websites we use in our quest to eat healthy, natural food off the motorway.

2. Drive at 60 mph

So we’ve taken the controversial decision to travel by car. How can we lessen the impact? Well, one of the most important ways is to never buy a new car – have you noticed how the environmental impact of manufacturing a new car is hardly ever taken into account when assessing the eco credentials?

Another important contribution we make is by reducing the speed we travel at to 60 miles per hour. In addition to being safer and less stressful, this affords us a significant saving in fuel costs and CO2 emissions. According to FuelEconomy.Gov, “You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas, assuming a fuel price of $3.79/gallon” – in the UK fuel costs are closer to $7.50/gallon!

Where it’s suitable to drive more slowly, we find that 45-50 mph obtains the best fuel economy. The Energy Saving Trust UK provides more details on efficient driving practices.

When we’re able, we’d love to convert from diesel to waste vegetable oil. It hasn’t happened yet, but it isn’t far away on out wishlist.

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

This summer we’ve decided to forego our usual twelve weeks of travel to stay at home and explore the best of what the UK has to offer. We’ll still be applying the same rules and making sure we choose organic options that fit with our life stance. What about you? Do you still travel as part of your natural life and what limits are acceptable to you?


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