Summer is a great time for family vacations. The kids are out of school in most areas and the weather is great… so long as you aren’t after snow or something. Now you just need to find that balance between a fun vacation and being good to the environment, particularly with the Gulf oil spill much on our minds. You have a few options.
A staycation is often the most environmentally responsible choice. Check out the fun things to do in your own area. Often people skip the tourist destinations in their own area because they’re always there. You know you can visit them eventually, and often eventually is really far away.
Use your staycation to do the fun things in your area. Visit local historic sites, parks, beaches, trails and so forth. Try out unfamiliar restaurants.
Local Road Trip
Next best is a local road trip. Find some nearby areas you can drive to visit and stay there. This can include camping, exploring sights a bit further from home, staying in a hotel and so forth.
Longer Road Trip
A long road trip can be a lot of fun for the family. Mine someday wants to do a long road trip up the California coast on the 101, camping whenever we need a break. It’s a great way to appreciate the natural beauty of a place.
If you’re driving for your vacation, short distance or long, make sure you inflate your tires correctly, remove excess weight from your car, use your cruise control and obey the speed limit. These tips should improve your fuel efficiency.
What About Buses, Planes and Trains?
This is a complex calculation. Which is the best depends on what’s available for your transportation, the distance and how many people are in your group and sharing the transportation with you. A full flight is going to be more efficient per person than a half empty one, after all! Depending on where you’re going, you may still need to rent an efficient car to get where you’re going. Most of us aren’t going to spend a vacation in the immediate vicinity of the airport.
Time is also a factor. Planes are fast, but may not be the most efficient option in terms of direct fuel cost. If you don’t have the time to drive, take a bus or train to wherever you’re going, that’s the option you’re going to pick, regardless of efficiency.
There’s a good review of the options at Scholars and Rogues that discusses the lifecycle cost of each type of transit. It has a lot of food for thought. It covers the issues from more than just the viewpoint of fuel consumed by each vehicle. There’s the entire complex lifestyle, and the results go against the usual calculations done based on fuel expended per person. It’s an interesting perspective.
Don’t Forget Bicycling
Bicycling isn’t an option for all family vacations. Kids can only ride so far, and may not be able to do distance riding safely. But of all options, it’s the most energy efficient and the best way to appreciate nature. If you’re going on your vacation by car, consider taking bikes along, remembering that the bike racks will decrease your gas mileage.
No option is perfectly environmentally friendly, but then living isn’t perfectly environmentally friendly. Think about your impact before you pack.