How to Travel Responsibly – Tips for Beginners

photo of sea turtle
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What Does Responsible Travel Mean?

Among the many definitions of Responsible Travel or Sustainable Travel, the underlying meaning is to travel without creating a negative economic or environmental impact. To go even further, it means to travel while creating a positive environmental and economic impact on the destination your traveling to.

There is a formally recognized definition established at the Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism that outlines Responsible Tourism in extensive detail.

Tourism is a rapidly growing industry. Our world is not getting any bigger. The importance of us all individually to steer this impact in a positive becomes more significant with each day.

The cultures and knowledge we share through traveling drives our evolution of humanity. We must continue to seek out diversity so that our views can continue to evolve. Why else to travel, if not to explore and discover new worlds.

Below are some simple guidelines to help you Travel Responsibly. Even with these notes below, please always independently research and question what you read.

How To Travel Responsibly

1. Define Your Travel Purpose

Goal setting for a journey often makes that journey more fulfilling. Having goals establishes a base direction that can guide your planning process. Example goals can be small highlights like eat with a local, hike to the end of a trail, see the big five, take a specific photo, etc. Goals like these begin to form your itinerary. The more you learn about the destination, the pieces start to fall in place. As traveling responsibly can feel extremely broad and daunting, having these goals gives you a starting point for researching how to achieve these specific goals responsibly.

2. Prioritize Sustainably Conscious Properties And Experiences

Prioritize hotels and experiences that are committed to sustainability and conservation. Ask the question before you book. Sustainability and conservation initiatives are growing world-wide. An Increasing amount of travel companies are championing these practices and proudly sharing their successes. Learn more about them and hold them accountable.

Seek out activities with conservation components as part of the activity. Experience your surroundings while leaving them better than when you arrived.

3. Do Not Exploit Wildlife

A good rule of thumb is if you can ride, hug or have a selfie with a wild animal, then it is cruel and you should not take part. One of the most important things we as travelers can do is identify situations in which animals are exploited and refuse service from those suppliers or programs. However, with any animal experience claiming to be 100% humane alongside online review sites filled with endless positive reviews, it can be extremely difficult to know what mistreatment is.

Ultimately, you cannot trust animal encounter experiences and their claims. You must validate their claims yourself or through internationally recognized organizations.

Here are animal encounter experiences that commonly claim they support conservation or are humane, but are never:

  • Petting or Walking with Lions or Lion Cubs
  • Riding Elephants
  • Tiger Selfies
  • Koala Cuddling
  • Swimming with Dolphins
  • Bear Parks
  • Holding Sea Turtles
  • Snake Charming
  • Crocodile Farming
  • Great White Cage Diving while Chumming the Water

A good resource to learn more on the subject is research done by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

4. Support, Buy And Eat Local

Research regions and towns where the locals manage their economies, land and resources. Responsible travel spending aims to put your tourism dollars into the hands of the local economies that truly benefit the locals.

5. Ask Before Taking Photos Of People

Be considerate with your camera. Capturing the incredible sights and icons through travel has become an inspiration on it’s own to travel. Just as you would like your permission given for a photo, it is always advised to request the same from locals.

6. Pack Reusable Travel Supplies

Look, our world has been built on plastic. Plastic has reached almost every inch of this world. While we may not have known the damage of plastics in years past, we do know them know. So let’s work towards moving towards reusable supplies, especially through travel. Think reusable and not disposable.

Different levels of plastic bans are trending throughout the developing world. Countries like Kenya, Rwanda, the UK, and more have announced planned phase outs of plastic in the coming years. In the countries that have already banned them, It is incredible to see practical success of plastic bans, proving it is not needed As plastic is intertwined in so much of our lives, it may seem like a daunting challenge. However, these countries have taken it on with success, inspiring others to follow. Let us join them.

7. Fly Less

Fly as little as possible. Airline travel is a significant producer of greenhouse gasses. Consider trains and public transportation throughout your journey. When you fly, make it count!

8. Share Your Experiences And Passion With Others

Share what you’ve learned through your adventure and discovery with others. Show them what you have learned through your responsible travel and inspire them to set off on a journey of their own!

Responsible Travel is important, and does not need to be as daunting, expensive or prohibitive as it typically is viewed. With all change, it has to start somewhere. These simple steps will hopefully inspire you to grow as a Responsible traveler.

Additional Responsible Travel Resources

Wildlife Conservation Research Unit
Responsible Tourism Partnerships
World Wildlife Org
World Travel and Tourism Council


If you have recommendations, information or information disputes, please email [email protected]

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