Tips for Eco-friendly Family Vacations with Babies and Toddlers

Are eco-friendly family vacations even possible?
Travel is not exactly an eco-friendly undertaking. Carbon footprints notwithstanding, things like bottled water, hotel laundromats, and relying on bottled water definitely take their toll on our planet.
Having a baby is not exactly an eco-friendly undertaking. There’s diapers in landfills (or gallons of water used to launder cloth ones), plus the ten tons of plastic crap stuff that clutters our home before it pollutes our environment.
But travel is so important and beneficial in so many ways (as is the environment, obviously) so it’s important to me to find a way to see the world with my kids without contributing to destroying it. And now that we’re doing fun and more adventurous things in nature–surfing and ziplining, to name a couple–we want to make sure we can play in nature while appreciating it for years to come. Figuring out a way to make eco-friendly family vacations a thing is something my kids and I can work on together.
Tips for Eco-friendly Family Vacations:
Eco-friendly Family Vacation Tips – Eating:
Sometimes we’re somewhere that I feel comfortable drinking the tap water and using it to to fill our refillable water bottles. But we have visited places where I won’t even brush my teeth in anything other than bottled water. And, of course, we know those foil pouches of baby food are awesome and convenient and also filling up landfills with packaging that’s difficult to recycle. So what’s an eco-conscious traveling parent to do?
Breastfeed
Yes, hello, Captain Obvious here, but breastfeeding creates little-to-no waste, unless you’re one of my kids blowing out sleepers at an alarming rate during their first months of life.
Sterilize Baby Bottles in Hotel Room Sink
If you’re not breastfeeding or you use bottles to supplement, wash and sterilize baby bottles in your hotel room sink, rather than use the plastic insert bottler (even though they’re a lot easier when traveling). Once they’re past the age of needing their feeding utensils sterilized, you’ll use a lot less water.
Homemade Baby Food DeliveryIf you typically make your own baby food purees and are reluctant to feed your child only prepared products while traveling, signing up for fresh, homemade baby food delivery during your trip (depending on where you’re going) might be a way to ensure wholesome food without excessive packaging.
One Small Step for MomWipeable bibs, re-usable snack bags, purchasing baby travel feeding gear from environmentally conscious companies like Boon Inc. or  Green Sprouts–these small steps all add up to helping create eco-friendly family vacations.
Eco-friendly Family Vacation Tips – Sleeping:
Some hotels and hotel chains (eg. Hyatt, Kimpton) are more environmentally conscious than others. But most offer the option of foregoing daily bedding and towel changes for the sake of using less wash water. I’ve even taken it a step further in the past… Bringing your own crib sheet (preferably right from baby’s crib before you leave) is just one of my baby travel sleep tips that happens to have a green bonus. The familiar feel and scent may help baby feel more comfortable in strange surroundings and help them fall asleep.
Some resorts incorporate a relationship with nature into your family vacation experience. Earthshine Resort in North Carolina is just such a (memorable) place.
Choosing accommodation that is closest to where you’ll spend the most time is also a cost-saving travel tip to consider. Beachfront hotels may cost a bit more, but if you’re planning to spend most of your vacation on the beach you can typically save on car rentals, taxi or Uber use, and even public transportation (see below).
Eco-friendly Family Vacation Tips – Playing:
Now that my kids are older, we’re starting to play (together!) in nature much more than before. Snorkelling and learning to surf have opened up plenty of conversations about respecting the ocean while enjoying it, and now that we can tackle more adventurous activities like ziplining in the forest or mountain hikes, as a family we are learning to take more care to preserve our environment.
Green Sunscreens
Protecting skin from the sun is SO important. But we must also protect the ocean and coral reefs from sunscreen. If you’ll be snorkelling reefs or spending any great amount of time in or near the water, UV swimwear is your best (and easiest) bet for protecting your skin and the environment. Non-toxic sunscreen formulations like Reef Safe and Badger are great for those spots that a good baby rashguard or UV onesie doesn’t cover.
Recycle Favourite Toys
I used to suggest buying cheap trinkets and gadgets at the dollar store for easy travel toys that won’t break the bank or cause much heartbreak if lost. Well, now I realize that all of that stuff comes at the expense of the environment. It’s easiest (and more affordable) to cull some favourites from the toy pile and re-introduce them during your travels.
Act Local on the Road
Babies and toddlers don’t need (or want) to visit all the top attractions and most Instagrammed locations around the world. No matter where you visit, there are local playgrounds and parks that are fun (and, usually, free) to explore, and also usually filled with local children and parents to connect with.
Eco-friendly Family Vacation Tips – Getting Around:
Jets need jet fuel and (most) cars run on gas. There’s little you can do (other than stay home or attempt a staycation) to completely eliminate your carbon footprint, but you still can take steps to minimize your impact as best you can.
Stay Longer
If you have the luxury of a decent maternity leave, and a bank account to enjoy it, consider taking fewer, longer trips, rather than a bunch of mini-breaks. The fewer the fossil-fueled travel days required, the better it is for Mother Earth.
Trains and Automobiles
You know who loves taking the subway? Yes, I know it’s not you on a Monday morning. But I’m willing to bet your toddler does! Kids love trains and buses and we love the fact that public transport is a cost-effective way to get around that is easier on the environment, too.
Strollers and Carriers
Getting around on foot is probably the most affordable and best way to protect your wallet and the environment while traveling, but babies can’t walk and toddlers can’t seem to walk where or when you want them to. Having a decent, lightweight baby carrier and/or travel stroller at the ready will save your back and your sanity when you just want to get from Point A to Point B.

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This post is part of The Whole Family Happiness Project, in partnership with Social Currents and the Low Carbon Economy Narrative Initiative. The Whole Family Happiness Project poses the question, “What is the connection between our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us?”
To learn more or get involved, visit Whole Family Happiness on Facebook. #wholefamilyhappiness
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3 weeks ago