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7 Ways to Reduce your Impacts while Traveling

By December 22, 2016 For Your Journey, Travel
reduce-travel-impacts

Its interesting to see how people travel. Even people with the strongest opinion about environmental and social impacts can be the worst example while traveling. Frankly, we can all do better at reducing our impacts on the places we visit, and people we encounter, while traveling. So here are 7 suggestions on reducing your impact:

Prepare

We can all get caught off-guard ocassionally, but far too many travelers fail to bring clothing appropriate for the

Well Prepared Yellowstone Travelers!

Well Prepared Yellowstone Travelers!

common possibilities. Sure, the freak Texas snowstorm in July is excusable, but not knowing ahead of time that thunderstorms are likely,  and they can cause temperatures below 50F (10C). A perfect scenario for hypothermia and that’s being ill-prepared.

Not having long pants and long sleeve shirts for a vacation in Yellowstone, would also be ill-prepared. Those cooler temps and biting insects can ruin your day!

 

There are a hundred ways you can miss the boat on preparedness. But here are some things to think about on travel preparations:

  • Prescriptions
  • Redundant documents
  • Advising others of your travel plans
  • Expected and Possible weather conditions
  • Laws and policies of your destination
  • Plan B  such as cancelling or extrication if needed

Travel

It seems hypocritical to be “Green” and also be a traveler, however there are many ways to reduce your impact while traveling. Some of these have to do with environmental impacts, and others address sociadsc_0394l impacts.

The biggest way to reduce your environmental impacts, is to travel under your own power, or in vehicles that greatly reduce emissions, or maximize their output by their capacity. For example, you and 11 friends want to go on a roadtrip to a game in a distant state. You plan on taking two SUV’s. Do you know that modern motorcoaches have the same efficiency as one SUV, and far less emissions? True, and that efficiency is effectively the same with 6 passengers or 56. Flying on a private jet ok? Not so much, but traveling on an aircraft where you can fill the capacity is much better.

Other environmental impacts to think about: Do you stay on approved walkways, paths and trails? Or do you trample your way to the best vantage point for that world-class photo? (Nor actually being a world class photographer)

041011112107Social impacts are the things many of us don’t think about intuitively. We talk loudly in places that its uncouth, or even disrespectful. We stand directly in places that others wait patiently to take a photo with our backsides in the frame. No regard is given to the local customs, and have no clue why they don’t like tourists. I hear Americans constantly complain about Chinese Tourists, yet our actions are equally disturbing in other countries. Don’t be that tourist – be better.

  • Use mass modes, highly efficient, or non combustion modes of travel
  • Limit your travel to established roadways, marked trails, and approved paths
  • Learn the customs of your destination and try to adhere to them
  • Become aware of your surroundings, and the needs of those around you
  • Lose the personal entitlement attitude, consider your visit as being a guest

Waste Management

I find it particularly annoying when someone is all political about saving the earth, and stopping greenhouse gasses, then finishes their cigarette and flicks the butt. Do it in a national park, and I’m likely to pick it up, and flick it back – even if you are in your car.  Seriously!

While butt flicking smokers are a peeve, we can all do our part to effect change in managing our waste, and where it ends up. The easiest way to think about it, is if you didn’t just harvest it on-sight, and use or consume it – it doesn’t belong in that place. Pick and eat an apple in an orchard, and leave the core, I’m ok with that (although many growers are not – so ask.) Eat an apple anywhere else, it doesn’t belong on the ground, no matter how biodegradable you think it is. Best would be a compost bin, however regular trash may be the only available solution.

Consider the “R’s” of waste – Reduce, ReUse, Recycle. Even if you are visiting a destination where its not commonly practiced is no excuse for you to not be proactive in your personal behavior. Once as a Wilderness Ranger,  I was brought to a backcountry campsite by an angry backpacker who wished to show me what the “Boy Scouts” had done to the campsite he had just hiked 6 miles to enjoy. As I assessed the scene, and took inventory of the damage and litter, the liquor bottles, empty canned food, microwave dinners, and tobacco butts and evidence of drug use, was clearly cause for concern – but it wasn’t caused by boy scouts – and I would bet my reputation on it. By reducing your waste, and practicing other sound waste management principles, you too leave it so nobody can accuse you of negative impacts; even if left by others

  • Use appropriate containers for any waste
  • Recycle whenever possible. If in doubt- ask
  • Consider donating items to those in need, before departing
  • Buy hygiene supplies like soap, on arrival, and don’t use the small bottles in the hotel
  • Biodegradable is no excuse for littering – Use a receptacle.
  • Reduce water related waste. Consider no water running while lathering, reusing towels and bringing your own water bottle to refill.
  • Consider your own filtering system instead of bottled water purchases.

Robbing the Romance

I’m not thinking of romance in terms of affection, but the romance of being outdoors, traveling abroad, discovering new things. You can rob it by what you leave behind, and what you take.

Look, there is something magical about finding something, you are sure nobody has discovered. Its exciting! It can be personally moving. Yet removing that item destroys any opportunity of someone else having that same
experience. Likewise if it is altered or destroyed from its original state. Nature has a way of gradually doing this without our help, such the iconic hoodoo that collapsed in Bryce Canyon National Park; or with our help like the thoughtless adults in Goblin State Park toppling rock formations.

I have taken thousands of people, small groups at a time, to see some amazing natural things in this world. I get the privilege of reliving my initial experience through their own. Everytime. I’m glad I already had the sense to not pocket the arrowheads, remove the petroglyph, cut down the tree, or kill off the wildlife. Because I, and now thousands of others, have left them for others to discover.  So don’t rob the romance from others.cornerstone-church-arizona-tour-2016_5611a

  • Leave what you find for others to discover
  • Be an advocate that others do the same
  • Don’t alter, move, graffiti, or destroy
  • Take it with you, in a picture or drawing (Oh share with us – we’ll put it here too!)
  • Its ok not to share the location of things you think others would destroy. Like my favorite fishing spots
  • Selfies – Just Don’t

Live and Let Live

Most of us have at least a passive interest in wild creatures. Some a fascination. Others just lose their minds! The bigger the creature, the more likely it will draw out crazy mindless people willing to die to get a photo, or touch the animal.

dscf0156Look, wild animals can be habituated to human influence, and it can be dangerous. Despite the warnings at National Parks, people still feed squirrels and other rodents. Its quite obvious when they approach you practically begging. Feed one, then stick out your hand without food to pet it and see what happens; I’d be most interested in how many stitches you receive – as 32 is the record I’m personally familiar (Not me – just saw it happen) Larger animals might seem fine one minute, and then decide they don’t like the situation, and you are wearing horns, teeth, or antlers in a non-fashionable way.

This might seem all terrible to you – but it usually means that animal will get dispatched. That’s polite code for killed. We really don’t want that to happen. And you certainly don’t want to be the cause or on the receiving end of the debacle either.

More importantly, getting too close puts the animal out of its natural state, and the entire reason you probably came to that destination is to see it IN its natural state. If the animal has to stop what it is doing, alter its actions, or move away, you are too close. That even means if you are legally allowed to be that close, you shouldn’t – we are talking about reducing impacts, and ethics – not policies and ever-changing rules.

  • If the animal alters behavior due to your presence – put more distance between you and it
  • Don’t feed wild animals
  • Learn about behavior specific to the animals you are likely to encounter
  • Interface with wildlife can be very rewarding with guides and naturalists

Be Invisible

Travelers have a way of attracting the scorn of locals, and those who prey on them; such as pickpocketers, scammers, etc. If you are the traveler that needs to file a police report, or is getting in confrontations with other travelers and the locals, you have some work to do!

Not Invisible!

Not Invisible!

Being a tourist at the All Inclusive Resort is one thing. Its entirely different when truly traveling. You don’t want to stand out, or be targeted. You certainly don’t want the ire of the locals heaped on you, before you have earned it ( and hopefully  you won’t.)

  • When possible & appropriate, where attire that is similar to locals
  • Don’t wear clothing that is imprinted with phrases that offend.
  • Wear and/or remove hats and head coverings as custom dictates
  • Safeguard your money, and avoid large, easy to steal handbags
  • Learn local phrases, even if in a foreign language. Particularly for bathroom, roads, etc.
  • Minimize the need to ask for directions. Each time makes you stand out as a tourist.
  • Follow local customs and practices. Become part of the local culture, and not a foreigner.

    Dressed Like Locals... Invisible!

    Dressed Like Locals… Invisible!

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Airline Changed Your Seat? Here’s what to Do!

By December 6, 2016 Family Travel, For Your Journey, Hacks, Solo Travel, Travel
airline-aisle

The Problem

We have probably all been there…

Meticulous care is given to book a flight, selecting the best seats for your interests, and at the gate, you get reassigned. OR WORSE, the flight attendants have reassigned you to another seat while you are waiting in the aisle!

You are probably upset, or at the least, irritated. But wait – you paid for that seat right? You booked it, secured it, have the original tickets, so what is going on? What can you do about it?

Causes

Before addressing your options, lets review real scenarios that cause you to get bumped to another seat.

  1. A Federal Air Marshal has been assigned to your flight, and has chosen to be seated in the very seat you purchased. You are going to get reassigned.
  2. A family booked tickets online, but the seats were randomly assigned, and at the gate they presented their concern about having 3 young children scattered around the plane. The gate and flight attendants will group them if at all possible, and if its on your aisle, you are getting reassigned.
  3. A person with disabilities has specific needs, and the seat you booked is one of only 5 on the plane that can accomodate those needs. Even if they booked a different seat, you are getting reassigned
  4. A person with mobility limitations was booked online for a seat near the back of the plane, but for sake of expedient boarding, and safety, that passenger is placed in one of the front rows. If you booked there, you are getting reassigned.
  5. A Customer of Size (some might refer to as obese) booked a ticket, and paid for an adjacent seat, which didn’t correspond with their booked seat. The attendants will vacate the seat next to them, thus, you are getting reassigned.
  6. You board a plane that originated with passengers earlier in the day. Someone was assigned your seat on that flight, and is continuing on to the final destination – but you boarded at the second leg of the flight. The first passenger will be allowed to retain that seat for the duration of the flight, and you will be reassigned.
  7. The flight is full, and was overbooked. You are on the last boarding call. Lucky to even get on the aircraft, to accommodate all of the above scenarios, your were actually reassigned 4 times and didn’t know it. All you know is that the seat you have in your hand is not the seat the flight attendant is giving you.
  8. A different plane then normally assigned to this flight has to be used, due to scheduled maintainence, and its seating configuration is different – including which rows are emergency exit rows. You and many others are getting reassigned.

window-seat

What do you do?

Frankly you have little option, and almost no legal protection. The airline ticket provides you carriage on the flight, but almost all airlines have fine print in the ticket contract that allows them to make seat changes without your consent, and with no compensation. But here are some things that you should be aware, and can do.

  1. The seat they offer you in the reassignment must be of the same category, or Like for Like. Meaning if you booked Business Class and they move you to Coach, they are obligated to pay the difference. They may attempt to offer a credit or air miles, but must pay in cash if you request it. I would choose cash.
  2. If they move you to a seat within your category, they are not obligated to assure its same – as in, you booked a window seat, but reassigned to a aisle. You have no recourse, and can either accept the reassignment, or leave the flight and forfeit your booking without refund.
  3. If the airline makes a fair re-assignment (under the law), you  may not have any official options, but you certainly can tell them that you will comply, but that you do so under protest. Then at the newly assigned seat, ask very politely what accommodations the airline will make for your inconvenience. Flight attendants can make a report to the company about your request, the circumstances behind the changed seating (which you may not be aware) and that you didn’t give them grief, or create a scene, over the change. The better airlines tend to offer extra air miles on their frequent flier programs, a free upgrade, or free drinks on the plane. Remember that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
  4. Some airlines make many more seating changes than others, and people who use those carriers often, can find themselves getting moved regularly. As a regular customer, you can write a letter explaining your frustration, documenting the number of flights you have paid on that airline, and how many times you or your party suffered reassigned seating. Money talks, and they don’t want to lose regular customers. You might be amazed how the letter can affect future flights. People who have done just this effort, have had it all end mysteriously! Gate attendants won’t admit it, but somewhere there is a tag or code that tells them to avoid doing this to certain customers.
  5. If you are a customer of size, and travel with a companion, your ticketing can be quite useful. Be sure to book 3 seats, and leave the aisle seat unused. Airlines sometimes make a RESERVED ticket to place on the seat, as a reminder to flight staff that the seat is paid, and serves a specific purpose. This way you and your companion can be seated together.
  6. Don’t sit in the first 3 rows or the last two rows. These are preferred location or Federal Air Marshals, and also the most likely seats to be reassigned for those with mobility concerns or need extra care. The Bulkhead seats  are notorious for reassignment. if you have long legs and must sit in seats like bulkhead, go ahead and let the gate attendant know that you are a customer of size, and that you have booked your seat specifically to meet your medical needs.
  7. Take advantage of the services of a travel professional. Explain your concerns about being seated in the correct seat, especially if traveling with a companion. They can make the calls to the right people to help make it improbable that you will get reassigned. I say improbable, as its no guarantee.

Lastly, before heading out on your flight, bring along a few thank you cards, and some nice chocolate. If those who make an effort to accommodate you on the flight, know how much you care about the effort, it goes a long way. A thank you note and some chocolate does wonders. You do it to say thank you, and with no other expectation.

airline-seats

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