5 Secrets to Budget (and Planet)-Friendly Travel

When it comes to environmental action, the mantra "Think Globally, Act Locally" is a good one to live by. But what about when we travel? According to Jeff Yeager, the Green Cheapskate, the travel mantra is a simple reversal: "Think Locally, Travel Globally."


You'll usually find the most eco-friendly and genuine travel experiences when you spend less - not more - and get local, no matter where in the world you're wandering. It's all about traveling independently (not in a tour group or packaged tour) and drilling down to the local level, getting a true sense of place by experiencing it as if you live there. Here's how:

For even more of an experience, try a volunteer vacation.

Guidebooks kill: Consult a good, locally researched guidebook like those in the Lonely Planet series for basic background and logistical info before you travel, but don't use it to plan your every move, like where you'll stay, eat and hang out. By the time a guidebook recommends something, it's usually overrun with tourists (and overpriced).

Cheapest of all: the staycation can still be fun.

Travel without reservations:
Except for perhaps the first night or two when you're traveling overseas and going to be suffering from jetlag, avoid making advance reservations at hotels and other accommodations before you leave home. You'll generally pay a lot more for lodging reserved from overseas, and they're rarely the type of local, affordable places you can only find once you're there. Plus, advance reservations limit your ability to be spontaneous in your travels.

See these endangered spots before they're gone forever.

The "Three L's Rule" (Look for Lines of Locals) :
If you're looking for a good meal or friendly place to have a glass of wine, put away your guidebook and open up your eyes and ears. Looking for where the locals hang out and chatting it up with them is the best - and cheapest - way to travel.

A lotteryfor travel hot spots? Thank global warming.

Local transportation and short distances are best:
To travel slowly, covering short distances, and staying places longer is the key to really getting a sense of place and people. Linger in places you've never heard of and where you don't see another tourist; don't plan an itinerary that's just one popular tourist destination (AKA "trap") followed by another. Taking trains, hiking or bicycling will give you a great opportunity to meet local people and see how they live. Plus it will save you a busload of traveler's checks.

Try a romantic ecotourism destination.

Cheap sleep:
Americans can travel to almost anywhere in the world and pay top dollar to stay in an American-style hotel, just like the ones back home. Why even bother to travel if that's what you want? Look for locally owned, "mom and pop" places to stay, pensions and public camping facilities (sometimes free). Check out youth hostels, couch surfing and house swapping for a highly affordable, and rewarding, travel experience.


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