It’s times like these and periods when you cannot travel, you can really take time to think about how to be a better tourist and the things you can do make a better impact on the world around us.
It isn’t just when you’re writing your new year’s resolutions that you can think about ways to improve, there is no time like the present. This post contains lots of tips for how to be a better tourist, from supporting and engaging with locals, sustainability methods including those to offset your carbon footprint, stop animal cruelty and to help the planet.
Learning how to be a better tourist
There’s no doubt 2020 has been a challenging and unyielding year so far. However, the positive environmental benefits of the travel suspension in terms of pollution, nature, wildlife, not to mention over-tourism, factors which have been ignored for too long have had some well-needed relief.
It’s made me take a long hard look at my own travels and, like many others, I was travelling to overpopulated tourist destinations and fell into the trap of exploring the Instagram hotspots, a mere highlight reel of what a destination may have to offer. In some ways, ticking a country off the list became more important than exploring the breadth and width of a destination, without truly appreciating the uniqueness and beauty.
Lockdown has not only given me time to think about how I can do better in terms of my own global footprint, but it also evokes thoughts about the ways in which I too can be a better tourist.
1 – Learn a language
You can learn so much from engaging with the locals when visiting a destination and this can not only help you have a better experience, it can have a positive impact for locals too.
Like me, many people are still on furlough and are in a position where they cannot fully do their normal day-to-day jobs. This gives ample time to learn a language to not only add a new skill to your repertoire but to also improve the ways you can engage with locals on your next trip.
As a Brit, I have the privilege that it doesn’t seem to matter where I go there will always be someone who can speak English. The reality is that as travellers we can all be pretty damn ignorant in this regard.
As a rule of thumb and at the very least, it’s polite to learn and be able to say common courtesies such as hello, thank you, please and goodbye before travelling to a destination. But if you can take the time out to learn a new language, there really is no time like the present.
Learning Spanish Online with Whee Culture
I’ve always wanted to speak Spanish. I’d learned Spanish at school alongside French, but after leaving school and not speaking the two languages for a while, they both kind of merged into one.
Every year when I would write my New Year’s resolutions, learning Spanish would always come to my mind, but I always felt that I didn’t have the time to learn on top of my day job.
I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with Whee Institute Language & Culture School, and I jumped at the chance to learn Spanish again on their daily Zoom classes.
Whee Institute is a language school based in Columbia and has the motto “happiness through education” empowering their students to have fun whilst learning. All of the teachers are fully qualified to teach Spanish, all the lessons are live (not pre-recorded) and are fully customised to students levels, with a variety of fun interactive games to improve your skills.
Needless to say, after not speaking Spanish for almost 20 years I was excited, yet nervous about speaking Spanish again as I hadn’t spoken in so long. I needn’t have been worried as my teacher Angela instantly put me at ease and I soon began to engage with the other students in my level group. After just one week of lessons, I was able to talk about myself and my surroundings in a basic format, describe what other people were doing or what I could see in photos and videos.
After listening to audiobooks and using language apps, I can wholeheartedly say that you pick up language so much quicker with a live class. Within a few weeks, my confidence grew so much and I felt able enough to speak longer sentences and write in Spanish.
Learning Spanish, of course, makes me want to travel, but I love how Whee incorporates the travel element into their teaching. Angela asked us to write about our favourite city and compare our lives to the people who live there, which gave a great opportunity to practice the present tense and everyday actions. I loved writing about the exciting and often crazy lives of New Yorkers, compared to my own life and relished at the opportunity to learn future tense by writing and speaking about all the things I want to do and see in Costa Rica when I visit. I even had the opportunity to write and talk about the day in the life of David Beckham…ooh, how I love that man!
The small group classes enabled me to learn with other Brits, as well as classmates from Germany, Canada and France. I’ve since connected with some of them on Instagram and it’s great to come away from this experience with friends and people to practice with.
It’s estimated that over 400 million people in the world speak Spanish and Spanish is the 4th most spoken language in the world. If you want to be one of them, why not join Whee for one of their free online Spanish classes, which take place every Friday!
If you enjoy the free online Spanish class and want to sign up for the lessons online with Whee, use my code JasmineWhee to take 10% off.
Learn Italian with Michelle from The Intrepid Guide
Learn Italian with Michelle from The Intrepid Guide, a travel blogger from Australia. Michelle confessed she wasn’t a natural linguist when she moved to Rome in 2010, and through her progression, in speaking Italian she really knows how tough it can be to learn a new language. That’s why Michelle has developed her own self-study 14 module course to help you go from clueless to confident!
With the freedom to study at your own pace, the course also has 10+ video lessons, audio conversations, worksheets and engaging quizzes, downloadable material and an exclusive Facebook group where you can interact with Michelle and other students!
For so much content, this Italian language course is an absolute steal for $75 US dollars (£60!)
Michelle also has her own Amazon book to learn basic Italian in 8 hours or 30 minutes a day if you want to learn over 16 days and the Fluent Before You Fly books is £7.56 on Amazon!
2 – Choose less populated travel destinations
As I mentioned earlier in the post, so many of us (me included) are often guilty of only visiting the capital cities when visiting a new country. These cities are often the busiest and overpopulated areas, with the influx of tourists causing a strain to the already overwhelmed public services and tourist hotspots.
As travellers we really need to broaden our minds and stop inundating overpopulated cities and destinations, as this not only makes things difficult for the locals living in these areas, it means we’re not actually learning and discovering new destinations.
Why not explore second cities or go off the beaten track to visit less frequented destinations? You may find that people become more intrigued by your travels when you start visiting places that have not visited themselves!
3 – Travel Off-Season
I get that it isn’t always possible to travel off-season, due to ridiculous fees for travelling outside of school holidays these days. If this applies to you, this makes the above point about travelling to less frequented destinations even more important. But, if you are able to travel outside of the school holidays then there’s really no reason why you cannot travel offseason.
It will not only make travelling less expensive, but it puts less of a strain on destinations.
I enjoyed a weekend in Rotterdam in April. I visited Iceland in September and found it to be the perfect time to visit. September is Iceland’s only autumnal month and it looked so beautiful in autumn colours, wasn’t as cold and was much cheaper too! I also got to see the Northern lights!
4 – Choose slow travel over quick getaways
As someone who is often described as so relaxed, I’m horizontal; it’s always been about the slow travel for me. I just wasn’t made for quick fly-by-my-pants getaways where I don’t get a chance to see everything I want to.
Sure, I’ve enjoyed many weekend trips to European countries, but last year I realised that I need at least four days to explore a destination rather than two for a weekend getaway.
There are so many benefits of sustainable tourism to be gained from embracing slow travel, and it gives you the opportunity to fully appreciate and learn about a destination, rather than merely ticking countries off a list.
It is certainly a way to enjoy a more authentic travel experience.
5 – Avoid flying in favour of more economical modes of transport
I love the feeling of takeoff, being in an aeroplane and knowing that in a short time I will have reached my chosen holiday destination. But I can’t help but think about how the planet has needed the break from so many planes flying.
There are more economical ways of travelling both to a destination and when you’re visiting a destination. For instance, from Britain, it is easy to travel to France and The Netherlands via Eurostar in just a couple of hours. One of the huge benefits of travelling by Eurostar is you’re not as restricted on luggage allowance, which makes it particularly ideal for longer stays.
I’ll certainly be looking to enjoy more road trips in the UK when I can travel again, rather than frequent weekend trips to Europe.
When I visit a destination I tend to walk as much as possible as it also is the best way to explore a new city. Furthermore, many cities have free walking tours with valuable insight from locals.
Visiting places such as Denmark and The Netherlands presents a great opportunity to bike around the cities and I certainly enjoyed biking around The Hague. Using public transport, such as buses and trains outside of commuting hours is also a great way to explore rather than travelling by taxi.
6 – Offset flights you take by giving back to the environment
Airline travel is the biggest polluters of greenhouse gases due to the heights they fly in the atmosphere. But, did you know you can offset your flights voluntarily?
Planting trees has a huge effect on tackling climate change by removing CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. Research indicates that almost two-thirds of the emissions produced by humans could be removed by planting trees.
Many airlines now have flight off-set schemes in place, but some are sketchy, to say the least…and do not disclose exactly where your funds will be going.
You can calculate the number of carbon emissions you create (approximately) and offset your flights using the websites below:
On the Treedom Trees website, you can calculate how much CO2 you produce, which you can offset by adopting trees.
What I love about Treedom Trees is that every tree planted is taken care of by a local farmer, who will be able to use the fruit as a food resource or to support their income.
The trees are photographed, geolocated and recorded in a diary. You can visit your trees online page at any time to see the growth of the tree, whilst helping local communities and the planet at the same time!
Treedom Trees even have tree packages for a baby tree for a new baby, best friends tree & love is in the air (two trees together) and a family tree to make for great gift ideas.
7 – Travel Light
Did you know that the weight of your luggage impacts the number of emissions used in transport?
Now if you were to ask me this time last year to travel light, that would be a big ask indeed! I notoriously pack everything but the kitchen sink and used to take five pairs of shoes with me on every trip! Even on a press trip shopping in Den Bosch, my friend Ellie had to sit on my case for me so I could do it up!
Though, this all changed for me when I began using The Travel Hack Backpack, which enables me to pack up to five days worth of clothes in a backpack.
I’d started to get frustrated with airlines continually hiking their baggage fees and I wanted a trendy ladies travel carry-on bag that I could slip under my aeroplane seat with no fees, as well as use as a day bag.
The Travel Hack Backpack has handy compartments for your laptop, passport and water bottle to make travelling on the go even easier. Head over to my The Travel Hack Backpack review post to find out more.
Packing light may have more benefits than you think!
8 – Reuse your holiday clothes instead of buying new
Never have we had a more appropriate time to rethink our consumer habits than during lockdown when all the shops were closed. Many of us managed well enough without our fast fashion fixes, some even may have learned how to upskill themselves by adjusting and mending their own clothes.
Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. But, one thing I’m great at is reusing my summer holiday wardrobe. These clothes usually remain in my suitcase right up until the next trip and they are the clothes I have been wearing on holiday for years. Plus, you know fashion trends always come back around right!
I may, of course, buy the odd dress or sandals once a year to add to the collection. In fact, as I’m writing this post, I am sunbathing in the garden wearing one of my holiday dresses from 2012.
9 – Donate your clothes when visiting poorer destinations
Packing light aside, one of the most rewarding things you can do during a trip is to give back to a destination in need. Therefore, if you do have some space in your luggage consider donating some of your unwanted clothes to the poorer destinations you visit.
Cuba is one the destinations that there are various points to drop unwanted clothes during your holiday.
10 – Use reusable soap and shampoo bars as travel toiletries rather than liquid plastic ones
It’s shocking when you sit and think about all the products you buy that are plastic and are thrown away after use.
If like me, fitting all your liquids in your liquid bag is one big chore, then using soap and shampoo bars can also make packing light much easier! These bars won’t have to go into your liquids bag, but you will want to wrap them in something whilst they are in your luggage. Better safe than sorry!
Shampoo bars, in particular, can last as long as six months and Zero Waste Path have some great ones for coloured hair too. All their products are 100% biodegradable, handmade vegan, zero waste and palm-oil free.
11 – Choose to stay in local accommodation or boutique accommodation to support local businesses
I have a whole blog post about why I love boutique hotels and how they aid local life by utilising local businesses in terms of the interiors, catering and by being more eco friendly. You can read my Europe’s Best Boutique Hotels post here.
Big corporate hotels generally source their interiors and catering from international companies, but with small boutique hotels, they are often much better at supporting local businesses.
Boutique hotels often give visitors a taste of a destination and provide an authentic experience. I always check the hotel websites and reviews before booking anything to get a feel for a hotel before I book.
Staying in locally-owned AirBnB rentals can also be a way of supporting the locals by renting their properties. Though it should be noted that some cities do not use Airbnb due to the increase in investors buying properties to rent out.
12 – Use sustainable travel accessories
There is a huge market for sustainable travel products to ensure we are all doing what we can to be more eco-friendly and travel sustainably.
I don’t travel anywhere without my thermal travel waterbottle. These water bottles keep water at the desired temperature so I never have to worry about my water being warm. It has helped me reduce my own plastic waste, preventing me from buying obligatory bottles of water at the airport or for the beach.
13 – Limit your use of water
As well as reducing your own plastic waste by using a water bottle, it is also important to reduce your water consumption where possible. Water is precious in many countries where water is scarce due to humidity or limited methods of sourcing water.
I always remember not running the tap water when I brushed my teeth when I visited The Canary Islands as a child. The sign in the bathrooms always read that water is precious in The Canary Islands and it made me think long and hard about things I often took for granted.
14 – Limit your linen and towel change
I’m pleased that the majority of hotels I visit now have signs to let visitors know to limit their towel and linen change to be more eco friendly. But if they don’t, take a moment to think whether you really need a clean towel or linen and how often you would change them if you were at home.
15 – Use local restaurants and shops rather than big corporate chains
One reason that I’ve never been a big fan of all-inclusive restaurants is that they rarely serve local cuisine. Whilst, of course, they have some benefits particularly for those on very tight budgets or those travelling with very young children, personally, I rarely choose to dine in all-inclusive restaurants.
I don’t see the point in travelling to a new destination to eat the same food I can eat at home. Travel is all about new experiences and for me, food is an integral part of experiencing a new travel destination.
Dining in locally owned family restaurants you can try recipes that have been in families for generations to truly get an authentic experience. Furthermore, the money you pay to dine in local restaurants is helping keep their much-loved independent restaurants going and helps support the local economy.
It makes me so mad when destinations I love become over-developed and full of chain restaurants I can dine in at home. Similarly, you will often find recognisable supermarket chains in your travels and the same principle applies, shop local where you can.
I tried a variety of local dishes dining in Dubrovnik, ate my way around the food markets in Prague and did an Italian food tour in Puglia. For me, no all-inclusive restaurant is ever going to match these experiences. Click here to check out my Destination Dining posts!
16 – Leave only footprints & don’t litter!
This is something I shouldn’t have to write, but even in my hometown of Milton Keynes, I have witnessed so much unnecessary littering since lockdown restrictions have eased.
Always put rubbish in the bins provided and if the bins are full take the rubbish home with you. It really is as simple as that!
If there are specific bins for cans, plastic etc use them. It’s little things like this which will prevent all beaches being covered in plastic waste and the decline of more wildlife.
In fact, you will find in some cultures it is always custom to take rubbish home with you, such as in Japan.
17 – Book tours and excursions with local tour operators
A similar principle applies for tours and excursions as it does for where you stay, eat and shop. Why give your money to the big tour operators when you can help local communities by booking tours with them.
Booking tours and excursions with local tour operators gives you the opportunity to enjoy a more authentic travel experience as it often gives you personal insight about a destination you may not discover anywhere else.
I thoroughly enjoyed my tour to Navagio Beach, known as Shipwreck Beach in Zakynthos with Peter Tours as it included swimming in natural coves and I was shown rock formations, such as Poseidon’s face that I never would have seen if I had hired my own boat. I also saw the loggerhead turtles in their natural habitat in Zante with the same company.
Whilst I do recommend you book tours and excursions with local companies, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t do your research! Always choose sustainable travel companies and this brings me onto my next point.
18 – Avoid Animal Tourism or Choose Ethical Animal Sanctuaries
Again this is something I shouldn’t have to write, but it’s 2020 and you still see people riding elephants, posing with lion and tiger cubs and swimming with dolphins in pools.
Elephants have to have their spirits broken before it is possible to ride them and this, like many other wild animals, involves them being stripped away from their mothers at a very young age.
Similarly, it is not natural to be able to pose with a lion or tiger cub. Is your selfie really worth the torture of seeing these animals drugged so they can sit beside you? Many places pose as sanctuaries, but seeing animals tied up with tiny cages and no sign of conservation efforts to restore these animals to their natural habitat are big telltale signs that this isn’t an animal sanctuary. Do your research before visiting!
As I discovered during my day trip to Bimini from Miami, it’s possible to swim with wild dolphins in their natural habitat in the ocean. Why then would you choose to swim with them in a swimming pool (which might seem big to you but tiny compared to the ocean) to pose for a coerced selfie of the dolphin kissing you? Don’t get me started on the videos and pictures I’ve seen of people being pulled in the water by dolphins…and why people would choose to do that rather than swim in the ocean with dolphins in Bimini is beyond me!
If you can’t avoid animal tourism activities, it is important to properly research the places you visit, and I don’t just mean by visiting the company website. The internet gives us a whole load of information at our fingertips…use it!
If you do witness animal cruelty on your travels, make sure you report it on the Born Free website.
19 – Understand and research the countries you are visiting
It could be covering up and knowing what to dress in the places you visit to be respectful of the locals’ faith or beliefs or it could be that a country has a poor drainage system and you can’t flush toilet paper. It’s these nuggets of information that can set you apart from being another ignorant tourist to a compassionate traveller.
Do your research! I like to read a mixture of information from tourist board websites and travel blogs to get both official and personal travel information to help tailor my travel experience.
Pinterest provides a goldmine of information about travel destinations and blogs. Click here to check out my travel Pinterest boards.
My Pinterest boards are frequently updated so give me a follow on Pinterest for future travel inspiration.
20 – Travel locally and enjoy the beauty on your own doorstep
If the 2020 lockdown has taught us anything, it’s to appreciate the beauty on your doorstep. The park areas in Milton Keynes have been an absolute godsend for me during this time and I also discovered hidden gems that I hadn’t seen before.
I am really looking forward to exploring more of the UK to see some of the wonderful destinations on my British bucket list as I loved weekends in York and Brighton last year. But first, I can’t resist a trip back to Cornwall as I loved my first trip to Cornwall so much last year. Head over to this post to read my Perfect Southern Cornwall Road Trip Itinerary for 3 Days in Cornwall.
How To Be a Better Tourist & The Benefits of Sustainable Tourism
I hope you found this post insightful in terms of how to be a better tourist, but also the benefits of sustainable tourism for you (as a traveller) and the destinations you are visiting. Taking on some of these tips, if not all of them, can be positive life-changes to help you appreciate the world around you! There are so many little changes we can all make to make a positive impact on the world around us; together we can make it happen!
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