What impact do you have on the places you’re traveling to? Whether it’s a 2-hour drive or a 2-year jaunt around the globe, there are several ways we can all be better travelers and minimize our impact. Throughout the years, I’ve compiled some of my favorite travel tips.

By Emily Taylor, Photos by Emily Sierra Photography

1. Ditch single-use products

This message cannot be shouted often enough!

  • Pack your own water bottle and coffee mug. Staying hydrated and properly caffeinated are crucial during travel, so why not just have your own jug to refill along the way? I converted my mother-in-law after our New Mexico road trip last year, so how about you?
  • BYO soap, shampoo, conditioner and toiletries. I know, the tiny bottles in hotel rooms are cute, but what do you think happens to them after you’ve opened them? Bonus points if your shampoo and conditioner also come in bar form!
  • Pack your own spork and straw. You’ll feel like the cool kid at lunch with a fancy lunch box while everyone eats out of paper bags.
  • Use a menstrual cup. I understand this is an uncomfortable topic, and some of you probably said, “WTF is that?”. Do your own research and make your own decisions, but you can help eliminate sanitary waste.

Drinking coffee from a reusable coffee mug at Mono Lake, California

2. Seek alternative-travel

  • Bike. Bring your bike and helmet with you to quickly get from A to B. Many towns and cities have bike shares as well, making it easier than ever to reduce your footprint.
  • Walk. How far do you have to go? Do you have the time to walk those 5 blocks? I don’t judge for city-use Strava!
  • Take the bus. Getting around might be even easier than you think with public transportation. Plus, you never know who you’ll meet or what sort of experiences you’ll have in transit. Google Maps can help plan your route, but there are many other apps that also support public transportation around the world.

Commuting by bicycle on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Nevada

3. Don’t be trashy

I feel like it should go without saying that you should pick-up and pack-out your trash. If you see other trash on the trail, beach, hotel lobby floor, consider throwing it away. Why not?

Packing out a beer can from the backcountry

4. Spread the wealth

Yes, that one place does make the best burgers in the world (it’s not just their sign that says so). Perhaps you should try the other restaurants in town? By supporting a variety of establishments (restaurants, shops and hotels), you are spreading your dollars throughout the area and helping ensure a balanced local economy.

Bowl of ramen at a restaurant in Billings, Montana - trying new restaurants over a trip

5. Shop local

When you support a local establishment, you are directly putting dollars into the destination you are visiting. In fact, you are investing in that destination. You also might find that you personally gain more from the experience by simply meeting the owners of that hotel, shop or restaurant. They’re probably excited to tell you why they love this place so much. Also, some of my favorite souvenirs and gifts have been from local shops where nearby artists often contribute their talents.

Shopping local in Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico means supporting the local artisans and economy

6. Take more than just a selfie

Beyond that quick photo you snapped, what else do you have to gain from your destination? Talk to people, buy a postcard, grab a coffee, spend more than 5 minutes, or maybe just spend the night! Find out what’s off-the-beaten path in the destination you’re visiting–it might just be the highlight of your trip.

Crowd of people at busy overlook in Bryce Canyon National Park

What are some of your favorite sustainable travel tips?

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