- When deciding where to stay once you reach your destination, do you:
Hotels/motels are just part of a trip's cost. Staying close to the attractions may be cheaper -- even if the hotel costs more -- if it lets you skip renting a car. If you picked B, you get some points for being thrifty, but as the next answer shows, there's more to a motel/hotel than the room rate.
- Unless you're going to some rainforest eco-lodge, it doesn't make much difference what hotel you stay at.
False. Low-flow showerheads, compact fluorescent lights, and recycling bins have become more common in hotels and motels as companies try to stand out among the competition. Some boutique hotels not only have detailed energy- and water-saving programs but also pledge to use nontoxic cleaning supplies. Best Western recently broke ground for a LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) hotel near Denver. Still, green policies remain hit and miss. Many national chains, for example, leave it to local managers to decide what to do. So make sure to ask when looking for a reservation.
- When picking a destination, do you:
All of the above. Distance doesn't always equal adventure. For example, Los Angeles is much closer to Mexico City (1,555 air miles) than it is to Washington, D.C. (2,308 air miles). Not to slam national or global firms, but local ownership probably means more of your money will be spent or invested right there in local jobs and supplies. Finally, by timing your visit for non-peak hours or shoulder seasons, you help spread the demand on the local economy and environment. Not to mention that you might have to stand in fewer lines.
- What are some tricks for not needing a car at your destination?
All of the above. Cars are easy, and there's the rub. Doing without a car definitely takes more planning. Combining field trips may make it possible to rent a car for just a few days. If you rent a hybrid, you also can discover why owners love them. Passing on a car entirely doesn't mean you have to hoof it everywhere. Take the subway, hail a cab, or rent a tandem. You may cover less ground but have more fun. And you can bet the kids will remember that horse-drawn carriage ride more than squabbling over the backseat of their own car.
- What should I look for when judging whether a destination is as green as it claims?
All of the above. It can be tough to judge whether a destination is truly sustainable. Development without limits, however, is usually a warning sign that all is not green. Another rule of thumb: Look for destinations where local communities are directly involved in conservation efforts. Download this National Geographic booklet to help you separate the green and not-so-green spots: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/sustainable/pdf/sustainable_writers_manual_booklet.pdf
- Is buying local always better?
No, it's seldom that simple. Buy local souvenirs carved from disappearing rainforest hardwoods or coral yanked from a nearby reef, and you're fueling their destruction. Hiring a local fishing guide whose boat uses a two-cycle engine does no favors for the bay where the unburned gasoline is exhausted. At same time, a guide without customers may have to find work that does even more damage. The bottom line is the same as your life at home: Always think about the trail of consequences you create while moving through the world.
- Most service/volunteer trips are boring, miserable for kids, or involve work nobody wants to do anyway.
False. Wipe away your notions about service trips being all work and no play. The Sierra Club, for example, offers a archaeological service trip for families in Utah's Dixie National Forest that combines hunting for Paleo-Indian stone tools and fixing hiking trails. Group activities are balanced with free time to hike, swim, or fish. To see all the possibilities, go to: http://tioga.sierraclub.org/TripSearch/show-search-results.do?triptype=SV.
For general information on Sierra Club service trips, visit: http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/national/service.asp.
- Service trips are either expensive or faraway.
False. You don't have to fly to around the world or spend a bundle to do some good. There are trails to fix and homes to repair in your own community. Contact the local Sierra Club chapter, your church, or Habitat for Humanity. We don't expect to head across the world without some advance planning, so do a bit of local research and you'll find plenty to be done.
- Ever considered or taken a vacation without leaving town?
Staying home is no guarantee you'll head back to work refreshed. And you don't need a score card to know that staying put to tend to a sick kid or satisfy a pushy boss isn't really a vacation. But there are ways to have a grand time without hitting the road.
Start by not telling everyone you'll be staying in town. To avoid the same-old same-old, consider decamping to a local hotel: It'll have a pool and still be cheaper than gas to get out of town. No shuttling between your home and the in-town hideaway, however, or you'll get sucked back into your everyday life. As for what to do, think how common it is for all of us to skip local sights that tourists come across the country to visit. Why not start by taking a gander at your home place with fresh eyes?
- What are vacations for?
All of the above, but you knew that. Mixing up the routine is why we take vacations. Maybe that's why it's called re-creation. Be sure to involve the whole family in planning your in-town adventure. Unplug from your usual rat race, recharge a bit, and spend real time with loved ones. It could be your best vacation ever.