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4 ways to save money and reduce your impact while planning your next vacation

Just because you may want to stay closer to home doesn't mean you have to sacrifice an incredible vacation.

Just because you may want to stay closer to home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice an incredible vacation.

Photo Credit: TikTok

Vacations are the best parts of the year. But there are two things that basically everyone wants to avoid when they get time off: overpaying for your stay and feeling bad about not getting enough out of the trip.

Luckily, we can deal with both issues at once by prioritizing frugal, sustainable options. Here are four tips you can use to pay less for a better vacation.

Quick steps

Not every change you make to live more sustainably has to be complicated. In fact, most are simple and inexpensive — this is also true when it comes to vacationing. 

1. Swap to a clean sunscreen

Bringing sunscreen to your beach vacay is a no-brainer. But what's a little more complicated is understanding the impact of our sunscreens. 

Many chemical sunscreens are not only harmful to coral reefs after you jump in the ocean, but they can also leach some of these chemicals, like oxybenzone, into our bodies. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group found that a majority of sunscreens include at least one chemical that the FDA says still needs to be researched before being declared safe.

But it's not hard to find plenty of reef-safe, clean sunscreen options. Making the upgrade to these safer, more sustainable sunscreens will cost you about $20 more a year, a small price to pay. 

2. Ditch the single-use items on your trip

Disposable items, like plastic water bottles, will make any vacation surprisingly more expensive. But a little planning (under five minutes) could save you $50 on your vacation while keeping 5 pounds of trash out of our landfills.

If you have empty pill bottles or old travel-size shampoo bottles, just refill them with the products you already have at home. And don't forget to bring your trusty water bottle.

Big steps you can take

3. Find cool vacation spots close to home

The average American spends nearly $2,000 vacationing every year. 

Much of this comes from the transport costs associated with flying. If you could spend 10% less by staying closer to home, you'd net $200 every year.

Beyond the extra $200 that'd go right back into your pocket, you could keep well over 200 pounds of pollution out of the air.

And just because you want to stay closer to home doesn't mean you have to sacrifice an incredible vacation. There are tons of tools to help you find amazing spots within driving distance.

The Within Hours tool finds you vacation spots close to your location. You can search by the distance you are willing to go or by the time you're willing to travel. Once you input your info, the site will spit out tons of suggestions, including campgrounds, cities, museums, landmarks, and parks.

Airbnb also has a tool that lets you find lodging close to national parks. If you only have a weekend to get away, check out this Reader's Digest list of amazing vacation destinations in all 50 states.

4. Find eco-friendly hotels

Choosing the right hotel can go a long way once you've found the perfect city or country to explore. For many of us, that means reserving an affordable and comfortable hotel that isn't unnecessarily wasteful — Booking.com even found that about five in six travelers believe that "sustainable travel is vital."

Plenty of hospitality companies have fully bought in on bringing eco-friendly travel to the mainstream. 

Expedia has a list of Green Hotels with thousands of ratings, allowing you to make the best choice for your next vacation. Tons of other booking websites also let you hone in on sustainability, so always make sure to quickly search the sites for green vacationing options. 

Airbnb, meanwhile, has several filters that allow you to find sustainable spots. For one, you can find destinations that offer EV charging. But you can also select off-the-grid homes, tiny homes, Earth homes, and even treehouses.

Room2 is another company "setting new standards for sustainable hospitality." It uses clean energy to power its buildings, cuts out single-use items, and offers excellent plant-based meals.

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