Five Tips for Family Travel with Climate in Mind

We’re taking a tour this August with Tomorrow's Air member and family travel expert Samantha Runkel. Samantha and her husband Michael met in Antarctica in 2011 and since then have documented much of the planet’s changing landscapes together, often with their two children alongside. Samantha, a recording artist & musician from California, is a sustainability advocate and activist who puts her considerable energy towards climate action, plastic initiatives and producing music with communities on the front lines of climate change. 

In a recent survey of travelers from Australia, Canada, Japan, India, Mexico, U.K., and the United States, people said they plan to travel more with their families in 2022 than they did in 2021. Seventy percent say they plan to take their first international trip with their family since before the pandemic. 

Like all of us at Tomorrow’s Air Samantha “views travel as a tool to educate, inspire and improve the world.” In this article learn Samantha’s top tips for traveling with children without abandoning sustainability. 

Travel slow

Samantha makes a point of narrowing her focus when she travels with her family. Traveling with kids is almost impossible to do quickly anyway, and setting the plan to explore a small area deeply has great rewards. She says, “For a truly slow experience, try narrowing down your focus area. See how well you can get to know the neighborhood you’re staying in, rather than the whole city. Or if you’re staying in the countryside, try spending more time enjoying nature rather than driving elsewhere.” She also suggests engaging kids in small “citizen science” projects they can help with such as  observing plants and flowers and photographing from mountaintops to gauge air quality.  For more ideas, she suggests visiting the National Geographic Citizen Science and  Slow Stories podcast.

Bring reusable plastics

Disposable plastics contribute directly to climate change both through their production. 

By 2050 they are expected to account for 20 percent of all fossil fuel use - and as they degrade, they release greenhouse gasses when they slowly break down. Recycling is great, however just 16 percent of plastic bottles purchased are ever recycled.

When Samantha packs for her family she includes reusable plastics. In her blog she shares a few of her favorite products including Stasher Bags, Final Straws and Cadence Capsules. Tomorrow’s Air partner HYDAWAY bottles collapse down to just over an inch and stash easily in a backpack, purse or pocket. 

Fly efficiently

The benefits of travel, especially as many places struggle to financially recover from covid are valuable and flights will continue to be a travel reality in the coming years. Overall aviation is 2.1 percentof global emissions; when the non-CO2 effects of flying are included, aviation contributes an estimated 4.9 percentto the global warming problem. Electric flights and sustainable aviation fuels are two important areas of innovation that will help. 

Until these become more widespread, use our tips for booking climate conscious flights and make sure to take a look at flights served by Skyscanner, when you use their Greener Choice filter. Flights with the Greener Choice label are chosen based on aircraft type, capacity and the route and distance covered, and identify the ones with lowest emissions. 

Join a clean-up

A fun way to get to know a community is to join a clean-up activity when you visit. Samantha and her family join beach clean-ups often when they travel. As she says in her blog, “What better way to get outside, run around on the beach for a few hours, meet locals, learn a few words in another language (anyone say, “Plastik-Müll”?) and learn how another culture manages their environmental footprint? It’s a high-intensity, sustainable-educational travel sandwich, and for kids, it’s another way aside from playgrounds to connect with other children their age.”

Include Carbon Removal

Local clean-ups are fun for the kids and help improve our world on the ground. And, when it comes to our atmosphere we can help clean up, too, by supporting carbon removal innovations. For example, a mature tree can absorb about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year as well as provide other important benefits such as reduced soil erosion and increased biodiversity. While inexpensive, trees take time to grow, and the carbon they store can be easily released in the event of wildfire, however. This is why we need to support carbon removal innovations such as direct air capture to help restore our climate, too. A single direct air capture machine can remove as much carbon dioxide as 2000 trees in a year. That carbon dioxide can then be stored permanently underground.

Consider adding a contribution to carbon removal when you're planning your next trip, too.

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