Archive for the ‘Eco-Friendly’ Category

10 Ways to Leave A Vacation Destination Better Than You Found it

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

We all want to have fun on our vacations, relaxing by soaking up sun and sipping cocktails on a tropical beach. However, traveling to a foreign country for vacation should be much more – a chance to learn the culture and connect with the amazing people who live there, and somehow leaving the place better off because of your presence. Here are 10 suggestions to do just that:

0_1139286641. Pick up litter.
I carry a few plastic bags in my backpack when I go sightseeing, visit natural attractions, or walk on the beach so I can pick up trash and carry it out. The locals usually look at me like I’m crazy, but that quickly turns to big smiles when they realize what I’m doing. Remember – it’s not just about cleaning up after yourself, but for those who aren’t so thoughtful, and setting a good example in the process.

2. Talk to the locals.
Don’t be afraid to say “hi” to the local people. Start out with a smile, ask their name, about their family, and joke around a bit. You’ll be amazed how warm and endearing people become once they see you show genuine interest in their lives. Some of the coolest people I’ve ever met around the world have humble jobs in tourism, but once we made a simple human connection we became lifelong friends.

3. Leave good reviews.
The tourism industry, like so many others there days, is dominated by online content from sites like, TripAdvisor, LoneyPlanet, Yelp, etc. Reviews can make or break a business so when you’re having a good experience at a hotel, restaurant, or bar, take the time to snap a few photos and leave a nice review on these sites. Be sure to let the management know so they can give good feedback to their employees, but if you don’t like a place for some reason, also tell the management before you leave a bad review, giving them a fair chance to fix it.

4. Make a donation locally.
Before your vacation is over and you get back on a plane, leave a donation with a local charity or community organization. It doesn’t matter how much you give because the simple, gracious act of wanting to help people goes a long way. Donating to a big organization online is great, but next time actually go meet face to face with someone at the church, community center, or town hall and learn about the people you’ll be helping.

5. Tip.
Tipping isn’t required in most countries outside the United States, but it still can make a big difference in someone’s life. In many tourist destinations the locals work 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week for only a couple hundred dollars a month. Leaving a dollar or two may be insignificant to you, but it could mean the world to them and be the difference of a good meal. If a waiter, bellboy, taxi driver, or tour guide was friendly and made your stay better somehow, remember to tip them. I give a big tip to the hotel when I leave to spread evenly among the whole staff, so the more backstage, humble workers like maids and maintenance men get rewarded too.

6. Respect the people who live there.0_BBK67D
Remember that you are in someone else’s home, so think of yourself as a special guest and act accordingly. Of course you want to have a few drinks and have fun, but you can loosen up and still be conscious of the local people around you who make a living in tourism and treat them like gold.

7. Learn to say “Please” and “Thank you,” in the native tongue.
Just by learning a few basic words in the language you’ll open the door to new friendships and opportunities. The locals will love it that you’re showing appreciation and respect for their culture.

8. Patronize locally-owned businesses.
Too often, tourists frequent the bigger chain hotels, restaurants, and attractions, owned by corporations or foreign investors. So make an effort to seek out some smaller local establishments, too – you’ll be directly supporting someone’s family and probably get a better meal or room at a lower price, as well as a taste of the authentic culture.

9. Keep in touch.
Exchange email addresses and add people you meet on Facebook. It’s fun to keep in touch and build lifelong friendships with some of the great people who live there. Who knows – you might come back, or they might come visit you in the U.S. one day so you’ll get the chance to return the hospitality!

10. Practice a random act of kindness.
Before you leave, do something nice for a local person or family you’ve met. Leave a big tip for the cleaning ladies, take a local family out for dinner, or fund a class field trip at the local elementary school. Get creative and have fun with it – the good karma you create will remain long after you’ve gone home.

This is a guest post contributed by Norm Schriever. Norm is an best selling author, pro blogger, expat, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone who hopes to leave this planet a little better than how he found it. 



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City of the Month: Costa Rica… Yes, It’s a Republic Not a City.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013






Each month Travel Smart Blog features a city to explore and inspire future travels. This month, I wanted to focus on Costa Rica but choosing just one city was impossible. In fact, the tiny republic of Costa Rica only has a population of 4.6 Million people, which is half the size of New York City, so I figured why not just profile the whole country!

Situated between Nicaragua and Panama on the Central American Isthmus, the country has three distinct regions influenced by their locations: the Pacific coast, the Caribbean and the Central Region.

What used to truly be a place to live like Robinson Crusoe has captivated the imaginations of surfers, yogis and eco-tourists. In fact, Starbucks recently bought nearly 600 acres of land near the Poas Volcano (an easy day-trip from San Jose), to establish a laboratory to experiment with new varieties of coffee. While the road infrastructure is still a bit primitive and can make traveling to some of the areas a bit more challenging, Costa Rica is for adventure seekers, families, couples and those looking to relax. More and more hotels, resorts, yoga and surf camps, and eco-tourism attractions pop up every month making Costa Rica a must-add-destination to your vacation list.

Getting Around
As I referenced above, the roads in Costa Rica are pretty bad and car rentals can be pricey. So believe it or not, cheap flights between cities are often the best way to see the country. Check out this local airline Nature Air. There are currently two international airports in Costa Rica. Juan Santamaria Airport is the oldest and centrally located north of San José. Liberia (LIR) opened two years ago and is the gateway airport to the beaches of the Guanacaste region and the Nicoya Peninsula. Flying into Liberia saves you a 5 hour drive to the beaches.

Costa Rica’s Central Valley is famous for having some of the best weather in the world, due to its’ mountainous location yet only 9 degrees from the equator. But the difference in the mountains or on the beaches can vary by 20 degrees. Look out for these micro-climates. The high mountain areas (Monteverde, Savegre, Poás Volcano, etc.) can get chilly – pack a light sweater or jacket.

Cities to Visit in Costa Rica

San José
Spend a few days in the capital city of San José and embrace the history and culture of Costa Rica. The introduction of coffee to the Central Valley in the early nineteenth century fueled San José’s prosperity as the city embraced capitalism. San José is like any big city, although relatively casual: stick to long pants (dresses and skirts also work for women). Most visitors spend a day or two here before venturing to the jungles and beaches. Be sure to see the Plaza de la Cultura, the Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica, and see if you can get tickets for a performance at the Teatro Nacional.

0_109765118Santa Teresa and the Pacific Coast
To the North you’ll find the beach towns of the Nicoya Peninsula in the southwestern part of Guancaste province, which are some of the best surfing spots imaginable. This is why the area is gaining in popularity and experiencing explosive growth. Despite new development, the region’s natural beauty remains intact. None is more beautiful than the beaches of Santa Teresa. But nearby Jaco, Tamarindo, and in the South Dominical beckon to beachgoers for R&R or a surfer’s paradise.

Monteverde and the Central Region
The mountain region of Costa Rica is made up of many small towns including Arenal Volcano, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio. Monteverde is home to the Cloud Forests. Cloud forests are unique highland forests characterized by 100% humidity. A visit to this region inspires the imagination for all that is natural and sustainable. Be ready for some zip-line fun and spend a day or two at an eco-lodge of which I’ll recommend a few in an upcoming post.

Primary Language: Spanish

Currency: Costa Rican Colon

Capital: San José

Population: 4,695,900+




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10 Incredible Parks You Can’t Miss

Friday, July 26th, 2013

If you’re backpacking, or on a leisurely vacation, chances are you want to experience the destination in all its glory. Often the first places that enthused travelers are itching to check out are historical monuments, museums, clubs, bars, and restaurants. However, there is one destination that is truly underrated: parks.
All across Europe and the U.S. breathtaking parks are open to the public. Visiting these parks allows one to experience serene, natural, beauty and provides an idyllic getaway to the craziness that sometimes consumes traveling and exploring. Here are the 10 most incredible parks you can’t miss when gallivanting around the globe.

Vondelpark_Hotelsdotcom1. If you’re looking for outdoor things to do in Amsterdam, there’s nothing like grabbing a bottle of wine and some snacks for a visit to Vondelpark, the biggest park in the city where you can experience live music and theater performances on the weekend. This park features lakes, wildlife, and rose gardens away from the canals and restaurants.

2. One park in particular that is both inspiring, as well as an adequate exercise is Park Güell in Gracia, Barcelona. Get a unique, art-fix here while adventuring through the windey trails you will encounter various Gaudi designed statues, foundations, sculptures, pillars, and of course the famous gingerbread houses that bring you back to your childhood memories of playing Candy land.

3. Considered an educational hotspot, with its nature and art tours, The High Line park in New York was once an old, abandoned railroad track. Today however, it has been transformed with lush grasses, trees, flowers, and bushes, additionally, the original railroad tracks have been incorporated into the design. The concrete slants and various artist booths alongside extravagant plants and trees is a unique experience you can’t pass up.

4. Home to the Taste of Chicago food festival, the SummerDance festival, and of course “The Bean” (Cloud Gate), Grant Park, Chicago offers sports, arts, concerts, and plenty of sunshine in the “Windy City.”

5. Spectacular in length, The Grand Entrance to London’s Hyde Park features massive columns and iron gates leading to the three hundred and fifty acre Park, equipped with meadows, tennis courts, british bowling, and putting greens. Rent a boat and tour the grounds by water while making your way to the adjacent Kensington Gardens.

High Line_Hotelsdotcom6. Away from the normal rise and grind of Los Angeles, Griffith Park is the largest stretch of nature in the city, reaching 4,000 acres of adventure including: horseback riding, swimming, and the Griffith Observatory. A short walk up Canyon Drive leads to The Bronson Caves, an outcropping where dozens of movies, and TV shows (Batman!) have been shot. So if you’re looking for green things to do in LA, this park can’t be beat.

7. A vivacious, urban playground, El Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid has ample romantic architecture and dynamic musicians, fortune tellers, vendors. On Sunday evenings, young bohemians are often present jamming away on their bongos and enjoying endless bottles of wine and a sunset.

8. The Englischer Garten in Munich is one of Europe’s largest municipal parks, equipped with beer gardens, a lake, bike and jogging paths, and at times, nude sunbathers. If you’re looking for something different; enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at the Japanese tea house.

9. Away from the typical manicured gardens, Buttes-Chaumont’s plants are untended and lush. One of the biggest parks in Paris, Buttes has various panoramic views, but for the best, guests should venture to the park’s central lake and then to the historic Temple of Sybil – a stone gazebo modeled to replicate an ancient Roman temple-that sits quietly atop the island in the middle of the water. Venture further and encounter a quaint bridge that provides access to a cave where you’ll experience one of the most awe-inspiring and romantic things to do in Paris.

10. The meadows of The Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California harbor the epic festival Outside lands, eight lakes, and the de Young Museum, an incredible building with all the aspects of a fairy treehouse, encompassing a living roof with almost two million plants and a four-story rainforest, bustling with the life of thirty-eight thousand animals!

This article is by Party Earth. Click here to get the inside scoop on the best concerts, festivals, parties, and more in your city every weekend!





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What’s More American than Our National Parks?

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Whether you’re planning a day trip for the whole family or a multi-day backpacking trek, National Parks are the perfect destination for your summer travels. Amongst these, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado offers some of the most versatile terrain, wildlife and activities easily accessible to guests of all different ages and interests boasting over 358 miles of trails and 150 lakes.

It’s no surprise that you will not be able to cover the whole park in a single weekend or even week – but no matter how you choose to explore, you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by beautiful Colorado landscape. The key to getting the most out of your Rocky Mountain experience? Plan ahead!

Rocky Mountain National Park by Car

The first, and perhaps most convenient way to explore Rocky Mountain National park is by car. If you only have a day or two but want to get an all-inclusive overview of what the park has to offer – this may be your best option.

The most popular drive is Trail Ridge Road, which takes you from Estes Park west to Grand Lake. There are many view points you can stop off at – notably Tundra World Nature trail where you can take a closer look at the plants and animals of the Rocky Mountains and Rainbow Curve which offer views of 9 different mountain peaks. If you have more time, Bear Lake Road allows you to park your car and take an easy walk to Bear Lake, Sprague Lake, Emerald Lake and Moraine Park Museum. Old Fall River Road doesn’t offer as many stop-offs to get out and walk around, but this steep drive up a gravel road is the original road over the continental divide and will give you a more rugged (but just as beautiful) Rocky Mountain experience.

Rocky Mountain National Park on Foot

If you have a couple days and feel like doing some more extensive exploring by foot, you definitely have some options. If you’re looking for an easier day hike, there are many trailheads that will take you to beautiful lakes, waterfalls or mountain views.

JARIRF-00003752-001The most popular trails are in the eastern portion of the park, and a great trailhead to start at is the Bear Lake trailhead. From here the Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake trails are all relatively easy and under a few miles round trip. These lakes are some of the most beautiful sights in Estes Park, but because of this, they’re very popular tourist destinations so it’s best to go during the week or early in the morning if you want to avoid crowds.

A slightly more challenging but much less crowded hike is the Black Lake Hike that starts at the Glacier Gorge trailhead. You’ll pass through Alberta Falls, Mills Lake and Jewel Lake. If you have time, you can reserve a back country camping pass to one of the many sights in that area and explore The Loch, Lake of Glass, Sky Pond or Andrew’s Glacier – incredibly beautiful sights that see slightly less tourism as they’re further from the trail heads and harder to get to.

For serious backpackers, heading to the Southern part of the park will give you many hiking/camping options with little to no tourists. From the Wild Basin Trailhead, you can explore more strenuous hikes such as the strenuous, 13.2-mile hike to Thunder Lake. You can veer off and explore but just remember, backcountry camping sites must always be reserved in advance!

As you can see, Rocky Mountain National Park has something for everyone. The best way to maximize your experience here is to divide and conquer. Whether you choose to take a scenic drive, day hike to one of the parks beautiful lakes, or adventure on backpacking journey – feel free to share your experiences below!




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National Park Week

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Looking for the next budget-friendly spring destination? Starting today, travelers will have five days of free entry to nearly 400 National Parks coast-to-coast as part of National Park Week.

Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaFrom marvelous landscapes and seascapes to the nation’s most precious arts and culture exhibitions, each national park offers breathtaking views and unique outdoor experiences that can help relax and recharge travelers., together with The Active Times, has listed the perfect lodge or hotel, plus activities to explore to help make your trip a complete success.

Yosemite National Park

Where to Stay:  The Ahwahnee (4.2 guest rating): This four-star luxury property is located at the foot of Yosemite Village and has some of the park’s most iconic locations, such as Glacier PointHalf Dome, and Upper Yosemite Falls.

What to do: Take a short, 2.2-mile roundtrip hike into the heart of the Mariposa Grove, where walking among the hundreds of 200-foot-tall sequoias—the biggest living things on earth—reminds us of how small we are in the grand scheme of nature.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Where to Stay:  Gustavus Inn at Glacier Bay (5.0 guest rating): Located minutes from Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve and the ocean, this quaint bed and breakfast offers complimentary daily breakfast and locally-sourced, fresh cuisine served daily.

What to do: Take a day-long boat tour cruising through the park’s rich waters, spotting sea lions, puffins and whales, making brief island stops and, at last, getting you close enough to hear the dramatic thundering of building-sized chunks of ice calving from the glaciers and dropping into the ocean.

Acadia National Park

Where to Stay:  Primrose Inn (4.9 guest rating):  Walking distance from Bar Harbor, the Primrose Inn is in close proximity to Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor Whale Watching, Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain.

What to do: For one of the best views, head up the steep but rewarding Precipice Trail, a hike that incorporates stone steps and iron-rung ladders up a cliff-face to the 1,058-foot summit of Champlain Mountain.

Glacier National Park

Where to Stay: The Lodge at Whitefish Lake (4.7 guest rating): Located close to Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort and Glacier National Park, this property offers a full-service spa, onsite recreation in the winter like snowshoeing and ice skating, and in the summer hiking and biking trails and kayaking.

What to do: Take a day-hike into the rugged-yet-spectacular Granite Park Chalet will introduce you to the local bighorns and take you past gushing waterfalls.

What are your plans for Earth Day and National Park Week? Let us know in the comments!





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5 Tips for Traveling Green

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Nicole and friend taking a pedi-cab to a Colorado Rockies game

How eco-conscious are you when you are on vacation? Is it like your diet – a distant memory until you return home? Or are you aware of your environmental impact even when you are away? In the United States alone, more than 43 million people consider themselves eco-tourists.

Here are a few of my tips for things that you can do to conserve and protect our earth while you are traveling:

1. Pack your own reusable water bottles. Simple enough! Not only is this cost-effective for you but it significantly cuts down on plastic waste. More than 31 million single-serve plastic bottles end up in landfills or as litter every day. You can light a 60-watt light bulb for six hours a day from recycling a single plastic bottle.

2. Bring your own toiletries, instead of using the hotels’ bath products. You can purchase travel size refillable bottles for almost anything from shampoo to contact solution. Simply fill them before your trip and never be without your favorite incidentals. This is a significant change you can make as solid waste disposal and landfills become an even bigger environmental issue. Operation Clean the World collects leftover and discarded soaps and toiletries from hotels, reprocesses them and distributes them to homeless shelters and across the world to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

3. Reuse hotel towels. Most hotels now post signs in the bathrooms requesting that you re-hang your towel for an extra use before having it laundered. On average, the washing of linens consumes 35% of a hotel’s energy consumption for the laundry process and 65% for the drying process. According to, the average amount of water used (in a luxury hotel) is 475 gallons per room/per day. Wow!  While many hotels are putting in systems to reduce water waste and maximize efficiencies, you can help by simply being aware of your own water consumption.

4. Consider alternative transportation. Choosing a hotel that is centrally located to the sites/interests that you are visiting may enable you to eliminate the need for a rental car. Minimize your carbon footprint and get to know an area by walking to nearby sites. Take advantage of complimentary hotel shuttles or hire a pedi-cab. Many hotels can help you with a bicycle rental as well. Some cities, such as Denver and San Antonio, actually have a bike sharing program called B-Cycle that allows you to take a bike located at a number of bike racks around the city for a nominal charge and simply leave it at another rack when you are done. 

5. Choose Sustainable Hotels and restaurants. Many hotels and resorts realize the negative impact that their business was having on the environment and have taken significant steps to alleviate that strain. Efforts include but are not limited to reducing waste and eliminating toxic chemicals used in cleaning, installing energy efficient lighting, dimmers and timers to reduce energy consumption, installing Energy Star appliances, installing water diverters on existing toilets or low-flow toilets, installing high performance, low-flow showerheads, landscaping with native plants, serving water only when requested, providing recycling areas for guests and staff.  Here are a few of the notable eco-friendly hotels.

How are you reducing your carbon footprint when traveling? Please share any thoughts or questions you may have below!



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The Most Eco-Friendly U.S. Hotels

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

To honor Earth Day, today’s post is merely about saying “Well done and reach farther” to a few U.S. hotels that are making their lightest environmental footprint one critical step at a time.

From offsetting power consumption to using nontoxic cleaning supplies and organic, locally grown produce, it’s not hard (any more) to find a hotel that truly is aware and somewhat responsible for its environmental impact. Being green is a trend that is here to stay in hospitality, and as you travel the globe, enjoy finding these gems (and there are more every day) that make being good to the environment so amazingly cool. For example, The Standard Hotel, both the West Hollywood (Ca.) as well as the Downtown Los Angeles location, just made Boxed Water, because it really is better, available in every hotel room.

Here are a few more hotels that I found (I checked the Green Hotels Association, Green Seal,, etc.) that are truly committed to being green, while delivering a great customer hotel experience:

  • The Orchard Garden Hotel, San Francisco. This LEED-certified (U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program) hotel embodies the green concept in its construction and operations.
  • Gaia Napa Valley Hotel & Spa, American Canyon, CA. Nearly three years old, this hotel was created with as many recycled materials and as little energy that could be used.
  • Hilton Vancouver (Wa.). This LEED-certified hotel offers a refueling station for electric cars, a heat-reflecting roof and uses local organic growers to supply its restaurant.
  • Hotel Monaco, Chicago.  Soy ink, recycling bins in the rooms, donation programs and non-toxic cleaning supplies are just a few of the eco-finds in a Kimpton Hotel. Many of Chicago’s hotels are also making green waves. And all of Kimpton’s 42 hotels are not only chic and customer-centric but they even have Kimpton’s EarthCare standards of environmentally friendly products and practices.
  • Habitat Suites, Austin, TX. This hotel’s efficiency programs conserve big: nearly 2.4 million gallons of water and 38,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
  • The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii. This resort uses biodegradable cleaning products, pesticide-free landscaping practices and supports a local university program that monitors the nearby coral reefs. Fairmont Hotels are hospitality eco-pioneers.  All hotels offer sustainable, locally sourced and organic products, wherever possible.

So remember when you travel, it’s not just about traveling light, it’s about having the lightest travel footprint, too!



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