What if you could travel in such a way that has little impact on our environment and positive impact on local communities? Well you can, and it’s even possible as a family!
Sustainable travel is something I talk about a lot in this blog because the stories that come from sustainable travel can be so inspiring. Stories of community development through tourism, conservation through educational travel and the idea of a collective mission to change the world through travel.
In this blog I have reached out to fellow travel bloggers to give some insight on travelling sustainably as a family. I’m not a parent myself, however I can see that planning a family holiday isn’t as simple as planning a solo trip. That doesn’t necessarily mean that P&O cruises or National Lampoon style road trips are the only options.
Read on for some recommendations on sustainable travel destinations that will ‘Wow’ you and your little (or big) ones.
Come to Copenhagen she said. Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen. Bring your family. And feel good about it too.
Consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, Denmark has reason to be. A clean and sustainably focused city affords Danes a high quality of life. Copenhagen is one of the most sustainable cities in the world. With a compact city centre full of historic charm, the town is walkable, green and very family friendly. Danes prioritise family life and as a visitor, you’ll enjoy the many beautiful parks, clean beaches and harbour baths for swimming when the weather turns to summer.
Jump on a bicycle and ride like a local, where 50% of the population commutes to work or school on two wheels. Families with small children can rent cargo bikes and keep their wee ones safely tucked in while touring the town along the many roads made just for bicycles. Or cruise the clean canals in an electric picnic boat that encourages children to scoop up any trash they might find and rewards them for their efforts. And classic Copenhagen charms at the Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park, where green initiatives keep your roller coasters running on wind energy and solar power. Copenhagen is fantastic for families. That’s Danish for fantastic.
Nicaragua, Central America
Nicaragua is just starting to emerge as travel destination after years of political instability. Tourism here is still mostly small-scale with lots of wonderful eco and community businesses, allowing you to authentically experience the warmth of Central America. We spent a month exploring Nicaragua with our family and stayed in a number of places that left a big impression on us.
We spent a week learning Spanish at La Mariposa Spanish School where our days were filled with one-on-one Spanish classes (even the kids!), sightseeing trips to nearby volcanoes, lakes and villages in the afternoon and time at our rustic home stay in the evening. La Mariposa is an amazing sustainable tourism organisation that greatly contributes to the community through employment and social and environmental projects. On the northwest coast we stayed at Rancho Esperanza, a hostel with a conscious. They combine low-impact natural-living (think composting toilets and no AC) with a wealth of community projects in the small village of Jiquilillo. Our kids loved participating with the local children in the Kids Club held every day after school. On the rural island of Ometepe we stayed at a working finca (farm) in an eco-friendly cabin built with cob, an ancient technique using all natural materials.
In addition to its spectacular natural environment, Nicaragua offers many sustainable tourism businesses that are giving back to their communities. We saw so many examples there of tourism done right.
Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua is a great sustainable travel destination for families. This small Caribbean island is literally paradisiac, with gorgeous beaches, clear waters and an incredible amount of on-land activities to keep everyone entertained. Most resorts are family friendly, and all of them are striving to become greener by inviting guests to choose to drink tap water and avoid plastic straws in an effort to reduce plastic waste; or by only changing towels upon guests’ request.
One of the loveliest things to do that is at the same time entertaining for adults and children alike, and sends a positive, responsible tourism message, is visiting the Donkey Sanctuary, which gives shelter, food and medical care to rescued donkeys. There is no admission fee, though donations are welcome
Siem Reap, Cambodia
After the reign of terror that spread through Cambodia with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, the country has transformed into one of communal outreach, social upliftment and sustainable eco-conscious practices. When visiting the spiritual centre of Cambodia, Siem Reap, you will notice that most of the hotels, restaurants and boutique stores have a social or environmental element. The produce is either locally sourced or some of the profits go to a good cause that help to strengthen the locals’ future.
While the stand-out structure of Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples will most likely only be appreciated by older kids and adults, there are still a range of family-friendly activities and sites to visit. I loved the boutique stores and cafes along Kandal village, where each store follows guidelines of eco-tourism. From the Little Red Fox cafe to Mademoiselle Thyda who opened a yoga studio to empower young Cambodian girls.
Phare is a standout family activity that teaches skills to Cambodian youth and is a super fun Cirque du Soleil act for all ages. The Made in Cambodia market is also a nice place for a stroll and to support local artisans. Active families can also take a scenic bike ride with Grasshopper Adventures, whose philosophy is that tourism should have a positive impact on the local community.
The strikingly beautiful city of Grenoble is the perfect example of somewhere that’s both centred on sustainability and incredibly family friendly. At the foot of the French Alps (with Mont Blanc looming in the distance) it’s a breathtakingly beautiful place with easy access to nature: mountains, lakes and rivers abound. There can be few better places for families looking to get outdoors and away from the TV!
The city (except for the air, which is renowned for being an issue in the area) itself is clean and safe, with an emphasis on cycling and public transport. There are parks, museums, playgrounds, cinemas, bars, cafes and restaurants- something to keep anyone entertained, plus a great street art scene to enjoy as you walk the streets!
Grenoble sets a great example as far as sustainability goes too. With a Green Party mayor at the helm, there are all manner of positive initiatives in place regarding the environment and sustainable action. For instance, the city has made a huge push for greener inner city transport, where public transport and cycling (there are 300km of cycle paths in Grenoble alone!) are used by the majority; new car-free thoroughfares are being created as well.
Another Grenoble initiative that received global acknowledgement came from its decision to replace advertising boards in public spaces with trees. In a bid to create a greener space for its citizens, all billboards will be replaced by the end of 2019. And finally, Grenoble is known for its eco-neighbourhoods, which is a form of town planning oriented around sustainable development, social housing and the incorporation of nature in the city!
Koh Lipe, Thailand
The islands in Thailand’s Andaman Sea do not seem like the first place you would go to partake in sustainable travel activities. However, the tiny island of Koh Lipe is taking step forward, which many other island have not yet done. The island is partially powered by solar, reducing the amount of diesel burned to provide power to the town. The area surrounding the island is protected by a Marine National Park which means that fishing is banned. Because of this, Koh Lipe is one of the best places to go snorkelling and Scuba diving in Thailand.
Perhaps one of the most impressive acts of sustainability is the volunteer run Trash Hero organisation. Every Monday morning, tourists and locals of all ages (yes, family friendly) can join the volunteer cleanup. Some days the clean up is around Koh Lipe, while on other days the trips head out to the neighbouring island of Koh Adang. Cleaning up ocean trash is a great way to give a little something back while traveling. It is also a great way to educate children where all the trash really ends up once it goes down the drain.
Koh Lipe is a beautiful island in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. It is yet to be over-exploited by tourism, and the government has banned building resorts in many areas of the islands to help preserve its natural charm.
Planning a trip to Thailand? Check out The Lost Passport’s Thailand Travel Guide
Soneva Fushi is a luxury resort in the Maldives, a well-known destinations for jetsetters and honeymooners. But there are also several resorts that are family friendly with activities and accommodation suitable for all ages. Soneva Fushi is one of those family-friendly Maldivian resorts.
First of all, as soon as you get on the back, you have to put away your shoes. They have a no shoes, no news policy, which is pretty cool since you’ll literally walk around without shoes all the time and being more connected to nature. The Maldives in general is struggling with waste and the environment is getting destroyed of all the garbage and plastics. Luckily there is hope, with resorts educating locals and also making effort to conserve the coral reefs and environment. Soneva Fushi is one of the most succesful eco-friendly resorts in the Maldives, and they’re aiming to be fully self-sufficient, which is very impressive since it’s a small island.
They have their own recycling station, and there is also gardens where they grow herbs and vegetables. It’s very impressive to see. Soneva Fushi also take great pride in how they arrange dolphin cruises and snorkelling tours. A few resorts in the Maldives are not as careful while taking tourists on these activities. But here it’s all about sustainability and harmony.
I really like the Maldives because of the pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear water. It’s a fantastic destination with a whole world under the sea to discover as well. The snorkelling is amazing, and you can see many different species of fish and other marine creatures.