Category: travel

9 Zero Waste Travel Tips That Won’t Suck The Joy Out Of Your Trip

Looking for zero waste travel tips? Want to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling? Or just waste less? It's possible to take part in environmentally-friendly travel without it sucking!

“Zero waste travel? That sounds … joyless,” my friend teases as we pick at a pile of nachos.

“It really does, doesn’t it?” I laugh. When I first started thinking about my carbon footprint and how much waste I produce while traveling I pictured myself eating lentils out of a mason jar, while waiting for the subway.

Not relaxing, not lovely, not very, uh, vacation-y.

But as I started to tweak and test and I discovered that – counter-intuitive and unlikely as it sounds – I actually enjoyed my trips more when I did these things.

I got through security at the airport faster, I had more conversations with locals + more picnics in the park, and I was less likely to spill coffee or leftovers all over my bag. (A surprisingly and frustratingly common occurrence.)

9 Zero Waste Travel Tips That Won’t Suck The Joy Out Of Your Trip

A giant asterisk: None of us are perfect and most things we do have SOME impact on the environment. I don’t want your trip to be a hard, boring slog of eating sandwiches while walking in the rain and denying yourself any joy or convenience.

Try one or two of these things! Do what’s easiest for you. And if you try something and it sucks the joy right out of your trip, don’t do it again. Try something else. Eat the fish and spit out the bones. (Ya know, like metaphorically.)

1. Experiment with road tripping + train travel 

If you’re traveling for the sake of traveling (like, an ‘I just need to get out of a town’ vacation), consider a destination you can reach in some manner that doesn’t involve a plane. I was horrified to learn that taking one round-trip flight between New York and California generates about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that a car emits over an entire year.

I’m not suggesting we give up flying completely – that’s simply not an option for a lot of people. But when we’re thinking about travel in general (rather than a trip to a specific place, for a specific reason), what if we at least considered a road trip? What if we at least opened the Amtrak tab and scrolled around for five minutes?

As a side note, I like road trips a million times better than air travel. I like being able to pull over whenever I want, explore anything I see, and take the scenic route.

Also: road trips down require me to take off my shoes, belt, scarf, and jewelry while a stranger pats me down.

Related: Everything you need to know to plan an amazing road trip

2. Take a longer vacation

In case you needed it: here’ s your official permission to make your vacation longer. If we’re going to use up all that jet fuel getting some place, we might as well make it worth our while!

So tack some extra days onto that business trip or really, actually use all your vacation days this year. 52% of Americans don’t use all their vacation time! If you’ve got paid vacation time, uuuuuuuse iiiiiiiit. Taking time off literally makes you a better worker!

3. Book the direct flight

Jets burn the most fuel during take off, so here’s your excuse to buy the direct flight – one fewer flight > one fewer take-off > fewer emissions.

Also, you might want to stick with coach. Because there are more seats in coach, that means more people per tank of fuel, which means a smaller environmental impact. In fact, the emissions associated with flying business class are three times (!!!) that of flying coach. (Don’t worry, you can still get that exit row upgrade in coach!)

If you’d like to buy carbon offsets you can, but most airlines now have them baked into your flight cost! If you want to buy them anyway, you can do that here.

4. Skip baggage claim

Packing carry-on only means lighter luggage, which means better gas mileage for your road trip and an easier take off for that jet you’re on.

Also, let’s be real. Trundling down the baggage claim and waiting for 15 minutes isn’t fun.

Here’s how I packed in a carry-on for a six-week, multi-country, multi-climate trip. It’s not as hard as it sounds. I promise!

5. See the city on bike, foot, or bus

Some of my favorite travel memories involve public transport in other countries – watching people climb on top of the buses in southern Nepal, sharing snacks with my train-car mates in India, making conversation in my terrible Spanish on the bus in Costa Rica.

Public transport gives you insights into ‘real life’ at your travel destination. It also happens to be cheaper and better for the environment than taking taxis everywhere.

Most major western cities have bike sharing programs and it wouldn’t be a visit to the Netherlands if you didn’t take part in their bike culture.

And, of course, walking creates zero emissions, is good exercise, and allows you to explore a city slowly enough that you discover hidden gems. When I was in Costa Rica a few weeks ago, my friend and I stumbled across this cemetery as we were poking around San Jose. It’s one of my favorite memories of the whole trip!

Download the City Bike app to see where you can pick up and drop off bikes or check out these apps that help you find walking tours of cities all over the world.

6. Stay in an Airbnb or a vacation rental

Airbnb and vacation rentals aren’t perfect – nothing is. But from an environmental impact standpoint, they’re a jillion times better than hotels. Think of all those empty hotel rooms being heated and cooled, those hallways with the lights on all night, and the constant washing of sheets and towels, often after one use.

Besides, you get more for your tourism dollar in a vacation rental, it’s easier to stay in a ‘real’ neighborhood, and you often have a kitchen so you can make a few meals in-house and save $$$. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s $40 towards your first booking!

7. Try a new restaurant

Bad news: milk, cheese, and meat aren’t particularly great for the planet. Good news: your trip can be an opportunity to try an amazing vegetarian or vegan restaurant in your destination city!

This site will help you find vegan and vegetarian restaurants in any zip code. Or just use this trip as an excuse to eat more avocados, more peanut butter, and more bread than ever!

8. BYO… most things

We can dramatically reduce the amount of waste we create while traveling with a tiiiny bit of planning. We can bring our travel coffee mugs and water bottlesa set of silverware, a tiffin for restaurant leftover or impromptu picnics, and a reusable bag.

And if you’re thinking, “That sure seems like an annoying hassle, Sarah,” I get it!

You know what I hate more than the hassle of packing this extra stuff? I hate carrying my delicious restaurant leftovers in my hands for an hour because the Styrofoam clamshell they gave me isn’t watertight, so if I put it in my bag it’ll leak pasta all over.

I don’t like drinking coffee out of little paper cups that burn my hand and don’t keep my coffee warm. I hate eating takeout with a tiny plastic fork that breaks when I use it on a piece of apple.

So, yes, bringing these things is better for the environment but, selfishly, they’re better for me. They keep my coffee warm longer. They let me put my leftovers in my bag and forget about them. They make my picnic nicer and my trip to the picturesque street market more enjoyable.

9. Forget about that dang 3 ounce rule!

Three ounces of shampoo and conditioner is not going to get you through your two week trip. Shampoo and conditioner bars create less waste, last much longer than their liquid counterparts, and don’t count towards that three-once rule. More space in your one-gallon ziplock for other awesome, liquid things!

You can also find face wash, sunscreen, face cream, and body lotion in bar form. Or toothpaste in … tab form? They won’t spill in your bag and they’ll last forever!

I want to hear from you! Share your best environmentally-friendly travel tips in the comments so we can learn from you!

P.S. How to live out of a suitcase – glamorously 

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

10 Airbnb tips to find the best places + avoid grody hovels

Looking for Airbnb tips? Want to know how to find the best Airbnbs and avoid creeps and dirty places? Read on for Airbnb advice learned from six years of using the platform! #traveltips #bestairbnb #lodging #triptips

I’m struggling to figure out the minimalist hipster microwave in my Airbnb when I hear my phone ping. I fuss with the buttons and knobs on the microwave (maybe it’s not a microwave?) as my phone pings again and again and again.

I’ve just posted a video tour of the place where I’m staying – all exposed brick and gorgeous light – and I’m pretty such I know what the Instagram dms are going to say: “How do you find these great places?!” and “Where are you? What’s the listing for this place?”

For ages people have been asking me to share my best Airbnb tips and how I find such great places. This, my friends, is that post!

(And no Airbnb post would be complete without me sharing my affiliate code for $40 towards your first booking. So there’s that.)

If you’re preemtively side-eyeing Airbnb and thinking “Why would I want to use a service that requires a how-to and tips? I don’t need a tutorial on booking hotels! Harumph!”

I get it. But here are three reasons I will almost always use Airbnb:

1. You will almost always get more for your money

Last week, four of us stayed in this two-bedroom waterfront condo for a total of $99 a night. The hotel directly across the street is $153 per night for a room with one queen bed. This is pretty much the case everywhere, ever.

2. You can stay in a residential neighborhood rather than out by the airport

You know what I’m talking about. Most non-boutique hotels exist in that weird hinterland between the highway and Applebee’s. Most Airbnbs are in real, actual neighborhoods.

You can go for a walk in the morning! Pop down to the coffee shop! Get an idea of how locals live rather than eating hotel oatmeal with a bunch of business travelers!

3. You’re putting money directly in the pockets of locals (rather than multinational hospitality conglomerates) 

The money I give my Airbnb host is helping her pay for groceries and her kid’s soccer camp. When I stay at a Holiday Inn, my money is going to InterContinental Hotels Group. And who are they, really?

10 Airbnb tips to find great hosts + avoid grody hovels


The Cheapskate Guide To: Portland

What to travel cheaply in Portland? Click through for Portland travel tips from a local on the best, cheapest food to eat, things to do, and places to go!

Is it possible to travel cheaply in Portland – what with all those world-class restaurants, great live music, and some of the best hiking in the country? It sure is! I brought in a Portland native to give us the low-down on the best food carts, $3 cocktails, and how to see Multnomah Falls for $5 instead of $40!


The Cheapskate Guide To: Dublin

Looking to sneak in a cheap trip to Dublin? Click through for from-a-local cheap Dublin travel tips on where to stay, what to do, and what to eat on a budget!

Looking to sneak in a cheap trip to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day? Want to drink some Guinness in a Real, Proper Irish pub? Irish travel doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg! I brought in a local to tell share all the best, cheapest stuff around Dublin!

Hi, I’m Sharon and I’m a clinical pharmacist (noooo, don’t fall asleep, it’s interesting, I swear!). I graduated from college in Dublin in 2007, but have only recently made my way back to work in the city.

It’s very different living here in my 30s compared to when I was a student! Dublin is a tourist hotspot and has a reputation for being expensive, but you can still find plenty to do for free or cheap in this vibrant city.

Looking to sneak in a cheap trip to Dublin? Click through for from-a-local cheap Dublin travel tips on where to stay, what to do, and what to eat on a budget!

Cheap Lodging in Dublin

There’s no way around it, Dublin’s accommodation is expensive. A group would probably get the best value from a private room in a hostel or a self-catering apartment, but there is value to be had for solo travellers too.

Generator Hostel Smithfield – private room from $58/night

This popular hostel is in a great location, right beside the red Luas (tram) line and within walking distance of the main city thoroughfares. Smithfield Square often hosts cultural events and festivals too. If you can handle a large dorm room, the price drops as low as $15.

Fitzwilliam Townhouse  – $65/night

If you have a taste for period dramas, you might enjoy a stay in this listed Georgian building in the city centre.  Never fear, despite the age of the building, there is free wifi. An extra €7 ($8) will get you a traditional Irish breakfast, which I find makes lunch unnecessary!

Airbnbs – $60-$130/night

If you want to be right in the middle of things, an apartment just off the Liffey quays at Bachelor’s Walk would be ideal.

I will fight you for this gorgeous cottage north of the river in hipster Stoneybatter. A bit more expensive, yes, but it sleeps up to four people.

Alternatively, you could check out a garden-level apartment in a Georgian house in leafy Ranelagh. This village is a little further away from the main tourist sights, south of the Grand Canal, but it’s a lovely, quiet area, and you will be spoiled for choice of restaurants and bars.

For a bit more space for your money, you could head further out of the city centre to a place in the suburbs like this cozy-looking Castleknock one-bed apartment, close to bus and train services.

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!

Looking to sneak in a cheap trip to Dublin? Click through for from-a-local cheap Dublin travel tips on where to stay, what to do, and what to eat on a budget!

Cheap Food in Dublin

In general, lunch is much cheaper than dinner. And if you want good quality food at a decent price point, don’t eat in tourist hotspots like Templebar. Don’t go  anywhere with laminated menus in multiple languages. But if you’ve been reading Sarah’s articles for a while, you already know that, right? 😉 Standard tipping in Ireland is 10% (but be nice and round up!).

Even the fanciest restaurants usually have an early bird or pre-theatre menu (often $20-$30 for three courses) but the times and days it’s available vary a lot, so if there’s somewhere in particular you want to try out, check their website first. It’s a good way to experience a nice place on a budget.

Govinda’s – $7 for a mountain of tasty vegetarian food

YOU DO NOT NEED A LARGE PLATE. You will look at the plate sizes in the Abbey St branch and think, ‘hmm, I’m pretty hungry’, but they pile the food on there like you wouldn’t believe. I have never finished a regular plate ($10), so if you plan on moving afterwards, go for a small or split a regular.

The building is a Hare Krishna temple, so the daily specials are usually Indian stews and rice dishes, always vegetarian, with vegan options. Should you find yourself on the southside, there’s a second branch on Aungier St.

O’Neill’s – $13 for all day breakfast

This pub is featured in the Lonely Planet, so I was wary of including it, but I used to eat there a lot in college so I know it’s good. A traditional Irish breakfast has bacon, sausage, eggs, black and white pudding* and then people argue about the other ingredients, but O’Neill’s just throws them all in – tomato, mushrooms, beans and potato cake. If that seems like too much pork in one go, there’s a mini version too, or try a carvery dinner.

*Pudding is a type of pork sausage involving blood, suet and oats. Don’t freak out! As a person who rarely eats meat, I can still highly recommend it. I prefer the black one, try both and see what you think!

Burritos & Blues – $7-$8 for a burrito

This Wexford St institution opens until 4am Friday and Saturday nights to cater to the crowds of people being ushered out of bars, clubs and music venues in the area and looking for some soakage.

But any time is a good time to try their completely customisable burritos/tacos/quesadillas. On Mondays all burritos are €5 ($6) all day if you want to save a little extra! As a bonus, they’re strong on gluten free options.

Scrumdiddly’s – $4-$5 for an unseemly amount of ice cream

If you want to skip straight to dessert, this home-grown chain is springing up branches everywhere. I’d recommend the Dun Laoghaire branch on a Sunday, so you can take a walk through the huge food market in the People’s Park while you’re there.

(Walking the pier is also quite the photo op, with fishing boats and a sailing school, and you’ll more than likely see some seals too).

But I digress! Scrumdiddly’s will make you a sundae with any combo of ice cream and toppings you want, or try one of their menu options like the Rocky Road (two kinds of ice cream, whipped cream, Oreos, rocky road, marshmallows and chocolate sauce!). They also serve milkshakes, crepes and waffles.

Looking to sneak in a cheap trip to Dublin? Click through for from-a-local cheap Dublin travel tips on where to stay, what to do, and what to eat on a budget!

Cheap Things to Do in Dublin

The first thing you should do when you hit Dublin is check out the Dublin Event Guide. This is an exhaustive list of free events issued weekly by a German expat on a completely voluntary basis. It includes everything from markets and car boot sales to gallery open nights and children’s art workshops. There may be a few events included which are not completely free so read carefully, but it’s always my go-to for finding something to do.

Visit the National Museums – free

The good news is all of Ireland’s National Museums have free admission and three of them are in Dublin. The Natural History Museum on Merrion St (known locally as the Dead Zoo) is probably the most popular with locals but they’re all pretty great.

I highly recommend checking out the Kingship & Sacrifice exhibition at the Archaeology Museum in Kildare St – it tells the story of the 2000-year old remains of Iron Age people found preserved in peat bogs.

Side note – the main collection at the National Gallery is also free but there is a charge for special exhibitions (usually the fun stuff like this year’s Caravaggio and Vermeer). However, there is a discount on the late-opening Thursday evenings.

Chester Beatty Library – free

Their homepage says they are ‘described by the Lonely Planet as not just the best museum in Dublin, but one of the best in Europe’. What more is there to say? Sir Alfred Chester Beatty left an amazing collection of art and artefacts from around the world, only a fraction of which is on display at any one time.

Stroll through a park – free

The city centre has some really great parks, and when the weather allows, we like to make the most of them. St. Stephen’s Green is popular, and very pretty, but often busy with business people eating lunch.

Try the nearby Merrion Square or Iveagh Gardens instead. They both have a great sense of quiet and calm. Merrion Square is probably best known for its Oscar Wilde statue, while Iveagh Gardens is more formal.

If you really want to get a sense of space, Phoenix Park to the west of the city is the largest enclosed public park in any capital city in Europe. It’s home to Dublin Zoo (unfortunately quite expensive), the US Ambassador’s residence, and our president’s residence, Áras an Uachtaráin.

There’s also a visitor’s centre with free tours, some restored Victorian gardens, a castle, a fort only recently opened to the public, and did I mention the herd of wild deer? You could easily spend a whole day here, so you might want to rent a bike ($6 for 1 hour or $18 for the day).

Looking to sneak in a cheap trip to Dublin? Click through for from-a-local cheap Dublin travel tips on where to stay, what to do, and what to eat on a budget!

Whitefriar St Church – free

Dublin has a wealth of churches and cathedrals of various ages and denominations. Your guidebook might suggest Christchurch and St. Patrick’s, but they do charge an admission fee. The Carmelite church on Whitefriar St does not operate as a tourist attraction, so bear in mind that it’s a place of worship when you visit.

The stained glass windows are beautiful, and it has some really unusual shrines. If your sense of romance leans towards the gothic, you might like to see the shrine to St. Valentine which houses some of his remains.

Poke around a market – free

Personally, I love nothing better than rummaging through a market at the weekend, and Dublin has lots of them on offer. The Dublin Food Co-op is open Wednesday to Sunday.

Saturday is the best day for food, as it brings out all the artisan producers and handmade treats (and if I can have one brag about Ireland, it’s that we have fantastic quality ingredients and such amazing people who make the most of them!).

Sundays have a different vibe, with varying events such as vintage fairs and international fusion week. My favourite is the flea market on the last Sunday of every month.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Dublin in December, the flea has an amazing Christmas fair (in a different venue). Last year it had some really cracking art and design, and I got loads of my gift shopping done!

Thanks so much for sharing, Sharon! I’m sure there are plenty of other Irish readers – what would you add? 

P.S. The best 18 travel tips gathered from 13,000+ readers

Photo by Madelon ?? on Unsplash

The Cheapskate Guide To: Brisbane

Want to do Brisbane cheap? Click through for from-a-local cheap travel tips on where to go, what to do, and cheap food around Brisbane!Is it possible to do Brisbane cheap? Do Kangaroos keep their babies in a tummy pocket?

The answer to both of those questions is yes, and I brought in a Brisbane local to tell us all about $16 hostels, $6 Indian food, and free art museums!