In the land where I was born it’s hot and sunny and the middle of the summer holidays. I wish I were there right now. Meanwhile, it’s definitely still winter in the northern hemisphere – with much of Europe and North America blanketed with snow and blasted by Arctic winds.
Here’s a little ray of light if the cold is getting you down…it’s a brilliant time to plan your vacation for the year. Consider:
First, it’s fun. Whether you fancy frolicking in aquamarine waters by a white-sand beach or hiking through a forest of emerald green along the Appalachian trail, planning your summer vacation is a whole lot more enjoyable and productive than bemoaning the cold weather.
Second, winter’s also the best time to get good deals. Generally speaking, the farther in advance you book your flight, train, car hire, hotel, vacation home or whatever you need, the cheaper it will be. If you book through a travel agent, you may even be able to pay in installments to minimize the up-front pain.
Finally, with a little care and planning, you can minimize the travails of your travels on the environment. With the benefit of time to research your options thoroughly and plenty of choice, you can take the time to do it green. You can also book the vacation now so work gets planned around it rather than the other way around.
One way to reduce the environmental impact of traveling is to take longer vacations but to take them less frequently. If you have two weeks’ vacation allowance and you want to go away, it’s better ecologically speaking to take your two weeks all in one go, rather than chop it up into lots of long weekends or shorter breaks.
It’s also better for you, since experts around the world believe it takes a full two weeks to actually refresh your body, mind and spirit and therefore benefit from the holiday physically and psychologically. The same principles apply if you are lucky enough to have more vacation time – the European habit of taking off the entire month of August and disappearing to a country bolthole is a perfect way to ensure maximum rest and relaxation with minimal eco-pain. (If you are American and feeling hard done by in terms of vacation time, then consider supporting this campaign for minimum paid vacation).
If you are booking a longer vacation than you normally take, here are a few tips to bear in mind.
If you are flying or (even better) taking the train, bear in mind that midweek off-peak departures are usually cheaper. If you can leave or return on a Tuesday or Wednesday that’s perfect – there is no rule that says you must take your vacation days Monday to Friday. This doesn’t work with long weekends but it works fine for longer trips.
Consider renting an apartment – it’s usually cheaper than a hotel and since you can cook your own meals, do your own laundry and won’t have a daily maid, it’s certainly greener, too. There are plenty of apartment rental websites around – Holiday Rentals is one or a quick search on Google will return results for your destination.
Another green – and cost effective – option is home swapping. Since I live in a rented property, I don’t have experience with this but I know people who do. Here’s a great guide on how to do it, and what to watch out for.
If possible, plan for an even longer trip – if not now, then one day. Follow the inspirational lead of families such as Soultravelers3 – a mom, dad and young girl on an open-ended, multi-year, round-the-world trip. You don’t need to be loaded – the parents took early retirement and the family lives on less than $25,000 a year. Here’s how.