Expert Advice

4 Smart Ways To Travel More Sustainably

Give back to our precious planet during your adventures

Raeanne V
A Hilton Grand Vacations Owner participating at a beach cleanup in Hawaii

Picture this. The sun setting over the mountains, casting a warm orange glow across the horizon. A lush forest of towering trees, a calming breeze rustles the leaves and birds chirp in the canopy above. The turquoise water of a tropical beach, full of majestic marine wildlife. These are just a few of the wonders our planet has to offer.

A Hilton Grand Vacations Owner on vacation in Hawaii 

If any of these scenarios ever got your camera clicking, what better way to return the love to Mother Nature than by planning an eco-friendly adventure?

Whether you’re seeking out a beach vacation with a focus on ocean conservation, a weekend of sustainable hiking or the chance to support small businesses while exploring somewhere new, there are plenty of ways to make your travel more sustainable. Here are four tips to start vacationing with the Earth in mind.

1. Pack Sustainably

When I pack for my trips, I try to bring as little as possible — a backpack for weekend getaways and carry-on luggage for one to two weeks of travel. Every extra pound you bring requires more fuel to transport, so packing light helps reduce your carbon footprint. My two tips for packing light: 

  1. Packing cubes are a game changer. They’re reusable and help you maximize the space in your carry-on, so you don’t have to pack a bigger bag.
  2. Most people tend to pack by planning their outfits by day, thinking, “I’ll wear this outfit on Monday, this on Tuesday” and so on. Start with this, and then get rid of half of what you planned to pack.

Once my clothes are all squared away, here are some of my favorite additional adventure essentials:

  • A reusable water bottle is good for the environment, but it’s also helpful in staying hydrated while hiking or on the beach.
  • Reef-friendly sunblock keeps my skin and the ocean healthy because it doesn’t contain the harmful chemicals that may cause coral bleaching. If reef-friendly sunblock isn’t available in your hometown, check out the convenience stores of the place you’re traveling to — they’ll likely have it.
  • As an artist who loves the ocean, I use Slowtide’s quick-dry towels. Slowtide blends design and functionality by collaborating with brands, artists and photographers to bring beautiful designs to items as simple as a towel. Their products use sustainable materials and reusable packaging, plus they help you pack light.
Reef safe sunscreen, pens and a sketchbook with a drawing of palm trees 

2. Take Care Of Our Oceans

The ocean is home to millions of species and an essential component to Earth’s biodiversity. I’ve swam with whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, giant clams — you name it. Seeing these majestic beings makes me appreciate the serene beauty and fragility of their ecosystem. The ocean is sadly in danger due to overfishing, pollution and climate change. If you love spending time in water like me, consider giving back while on vacation.

Participate in beach cleanups to help keep marine ecosystems healthy. You can find beach cleanups online prior to your travel. After coming across Cayla’s Cleanups on Instagram, I picked up trash while spending time with locals. If you don’t have time for a planned beach cleanup, picking up trash while on your sunset walks or beach picnics is another good choice.

Choose eco-friendly activities. Seek out activities that are less harmful to the ocean, such as snorkeling or kayaking as opposed to jet skiing or motor boating.

Keep your distance from marine life. As cute as the fish are, keep your distance. Many fish have a protective mucus over their scales to protect them. The oils from your skin can wipe off this protective layer and expose these animals to infection. Don’t feed the wildlife, whether it’s fish food or the bread that catamarans give tourists to feed fish; the food can be bad for wildlife.

A Hilton Grand Vacations Owner in Moab, Utah 

3. Hike Responsibly

If you prefer to stick to land and discover the road less traveled, there’s still plenty of opportunities for sustainability. Here’s how you can be a more sustainable hiker, whether you’re hiking Olomana Three Peaks Trail in Oahu, Hawaii, or Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.

Do your research. Check online or with park rangers to see if there are any restrictions regarding activities like campfires or camping.

Stay on designated trails. Stay on marked trails to protect hikers and the ecosystem. Hiking off designated trails can trample vegetation, disturb wildlife and erode the soil.

Bring trash with you and dispose of it properly. This includes your own and any you find along the way. 

4. Support Local Businesses

Are outdoor adventures not your thing? You can still support local businesses. Shopping small helps circulate money within the local economy and create jobs for that community. 

Eat locally. Many small businesses and restaurants focus on sustainability by using locally sourced ingredients or eco-friendly materials. Locally sourced goods also help reduce carbon footprint by minimizing the amount of transportation that goes into shipping.

One of my favorite local eats is Farm To Barn Cafe and Juicery on the North Shore of Oahu. Every dish is crafted with local ingredients and they host weekly pop ups to support local artists. 

A Hilton Grand Vacations swimming with marine wildlife in Hawaii 

Shop small. Speaking of supporting local artists, shopping at small businesses helps preserve local culture and immerses you in the uniqueness of your chosen destination. Local gifts make great souvenirs too. 

One of the coolest local shops I’ve come across is Bischoff’s in Scottsdale, Arizona. It features an eclectic mix of items made by Native American, Western and Southwestern artists. Products range from handmade cowboy boots, Navajo Rugs, artisan jewelry and painted ponies.

Build connections. Supporting people and their businesses enhances your travel experience by allowing you to engage with the people who live there and give you a deeper understanding of the destination. Most of the friends I’ve made in Hawaii were made by supporting a local surf shop called Moku Hawaii. They’ve motivated me to leave Hawaii better than I found it and be a more conscientious tourist.

No matter where your travels take you, there are plenty of ways to give back to our precious planet. Whether it's through ocean conservation, sustainable hiking or supporting local businesses, eco-friendly travel doesn't have to be difficult or boring. So grab your reusable water bottle and get ready for an unforgettable sustainable adventure.

Read “Malama Hawaii: Give Your Next Vacation To The Aloha State New Meaning” for volunteer opportunities to try on your Hawaiian getaway.

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Hilton Grand Vacations Owner Raeanne surfing while on vacation in Hawaii

Raeanne V

Raeanne’s been an Owner since 2019. One of her highlights of ownership was using her ClubPoints to WFH (work from Hawaii) for three nonconsecutive months. Follow Raeanne to satiate your travel bug for adventurous vacations.

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