The term green travel conjures many different images for travelers – sleeping in a hammock slung between two trees at a public beach, for example. For most travelers, however there are various shades of green travel that involve a range of actions that are far easier to implement.
At the heart of the matter is the universal view of the importance of protecting the natural and cultural environments of places you’re visiting. That means implementing habits that preserve the plants, wildlife, and other resources in their most natural state and respecting the local culture while contributing positively to local communities.
Many travelers believe that taking a green approach to travel makes for a more rewarding and authentic travel experience. It encourages travelers to create deeper connections with the people they meet and the places they visit.
Just like back home, you can take going green about as far as you’re comfortable. Many travelers implement simple ways to green-up their travel:
Choosing green lodging – these are hotels that employ locals, have recycling and linen reuse programs, and give back to the local community. Some green lodging really is renting a hammock on the beach, but other options including working on local farms, renting local apartments, or exchanging homes.
Taking public transportation, walking, or biking – these are all great options for reducing the amount of carbon emissions a traveler causes when they travel. Many cities have begun implementing bike exchanges, for example, and you can often find some of the best tours of cities by hiring a walking tour guide to give you the local, grounds-eye view of a new destination.
Carrying a refillable water bottle – if you’re flying, you’ll need to empty it before you go through security, but you can refill it on the other side and you won’t be buying and tossing water bottles as you travel. You can even get water bottles that filter the water for impurities now so the water you’re drinking is a little safer.
Avoiding takeout in non-recyclable containers – as a traveler, you may not be in the position to cook where you’re staying, so buying your food as you go is part of the travel experience. Street vendor foods and even restaurant leftovers can often be wrapped in just a little paper or recyclable aluminium foil rather than in products that cannot be recycled and cause a greater landfill footprint (think styrofoam).
Booking non-stop flights – a significant portion of a plane’s carbon emissions comes from the takeoff and landing, so reducing the stops helps a traveler’s overall carbon footprint.
Buying local when you arrive – this means choosing local restaurants that buy their products from local farmers instead of hitting the chain that imports everything. Some travelers skip the TSA hassle and buy their shampoo, sunscreen, lotion and other liquids when they arrive. This helps the local economy and makes for an easier trip through security. Donate what’s left to a local shelter or drop it off at a hostel and it will get used up.
Taking a green approach to travel has become important for many travelers and travel suppliers such as hotels and tour operators have heard the call and made options available to travelers who want to go green, but what does a green traveler have to think about when it comes to insuring their trip?
1. Missed connections extend beyond the airlines
A missed connection occurs when a traveler fails to meet a scheduled departure due to severe weather, road closures, labor strikes, or simple errors. Missed connections aren’t isolated to problems with flights. Public transportation can be shut down, roads may be closed, severe weather may stop all ferries from carrying passengers and cars.
When a traveler misses an important connection, they may be forced to purchase new tickets to catch up to their tour. They may have to purchase new lodging and wait for the next shuttle, ferry, or train to take them where they are going. They may be forced to hole up in a hotel and wait out a storm. Either way, it means unexpected and unplanned-for extra expenses and travel insurance with missed connection coverage can help.
2. Cancelling your green travel means losing money
Even green travelers have some pre-paid and usually non-refundable trip expenses. If you’ve taken advantage of an online deal for your green lodging, it often comes with a cancellation policy that means you’ll lose all your investment if you have to cancel. Non-stop flights are sometimes more expensive than those that take a stop or two to pick up more passengers and cancelling means losing that money as well.
When you’re traveling green, you may take advantage of early purchase or discounted travel arrangements and many of those come with strict cancellation rules. If your kid gets sick, or a parent dies, or your passport is stolen, you could be out a lot of money no matter what your style of travel is. Insuring your trip for potential cancellations is the only way to be sure you can get your money back and travel another time.
3. Getting evacuated from a remote village is expensive
For some travelers, green travel means going to very remote places and the more remote the better. If you get injured or find yourself severely ill in a remote location, local medical care may not be nearby and arranging an evacuation from a remote location is time-consuming, complicated, and expensive.
When you travel green and you take your travel to remote locations, it’s important to have emergency medical evacuation coverage from a travel insurance company. They’ll arrange and pay for the costs required to transport you to a medical facility where you can be treated. They’ll also bring you home once you’re stabilized.
4. Medical care may not be available or reliable
The State Department’s travel destination information indicates many locations in the world that are ideal for green travel but have little in the way of close, reliable medical care. If you’re thrown from a donkey while riding a trail in the mountains of Argentina, you may be able to be transported to a medical facility but the local doctors are going to want up-front payment before they treat you beyond basic life-saving measures.
If your health insurance back home doesn’t cover your medical bills where you’re traveling (and many don’t – even Medicare doesn’t extend beyond the U.S. borders) then you could be paying for your medical care by credit card. Buying a travel insurance plan with coverage for medical emergencies means you can be reimbursed for your costs and many travel insurance providers will pay the medical facility directly – a fact that could speed up your treatment.
5. Baggage thieves could leave you nothing to wear
No country is immune from theft and your bag – even when you carry it on the plane – passes through many hands when you travel. In some situations, green travelers are at a higher risk of baggage theft simply because of their exposure. Your baggage may be tossed on top of a bus or strapped to the back of a bike taxi, but it’s always at risk of being stolen or pilfered – especially when you’re distracted by the sights and sounds of your new destination.
A travel insurance plan with coverage for lost or stolen baggage means that you can will be reimbursed for items that are stolen from your baggage. Read our review of baggage coverage or more details.
6. Going green doesn’t have to mean going it alone
Just because you’ve committed to traveling green doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. When you’re in a foreign emergency room having your foot stitched up, it can be a great relief to have a multi-lingual travel insurance representative helping you with interpretations. If it turns out your green hotel overbooked their rooms and you have no place to get some rest, your travel insurance concierge services can help you find another hotel nearby.
Travel insurance plans come with worldwide travel assistance services and the representatives are available 24/7 to help their members who get stuck in sticky travel situations. All it takes is a phone call to get the help you need.