Will 2019 Be the Year to Travel Without a Car?

There are endless options to lessen your carbon footprint when traveling. 

Bird Scooter

Bird Scooter

Photo by: Bird Scooter

Bird Scooter

The time to lessen our collective carbon footprint has arrived. If you're already recycling, composting and carrying a refillable water bottle, you know these small changes have a positive overall environmental impact. Car-free travel fits this trend like a glove.

Tourism is a vital economic engine and helps people bridge cultures and communities, but it also generates an estimated 8% of the world’s annual global greenhouse emissions. For those who are concerned with the negative impact tourism can have on the environment, traveling without a car is a no-brainer.

On your next vacation, get out from behind the steering wheel. Here are five ways to give car-free travel a whirl.

Bird is the Word: E-Scooters

Bird is an electric scooter-sharing company dubbed the “Uber of scooters.” Launched in September 2017, it offers an environmentally-friendly transportation solution to travel short distances. Riders can locate scooters using the company’s smartphone app. After paying the $1 unlocking fee they are charged 15 cents per minute. Scooters are clustered in dockless “nests” on the sidewalk, for quick and easy pick-up and drop-off. Bird is currently available in over 100 cities across the globe with similar scooter-share companies sprouting up faster than weeds in a garden.

Take a Hike

In a fast-paced world that revolves around screens, the simple act of walking helps to refocus the mind, combat stress and strengthen muscles. It’s loaded with low-tech appeal and doesn’t cost a cent.

Car-free walking trails are gaining popularity in urban areas. In New York City, the High Line, an elevated 1.45-mile former rail trail, has quickly become a favorite with pedestrians seeking eye-candy views. It transformed a formerly unused industrial zone into a public greenway fringed with hundreds of lush plant species.

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail opened in 2013. This 8-mile walking and biking trail connects the city’s cultural districts and historic neighborhoods with bold public art throughout. Most of the flat trail includes split walking and biking lanes.

Wales is the first country in the world to have a dedicated footpath that hugs the entire coastline, the 870-mile Wales Coast Path. Completed in 2012, hiking even just a short span presents dramatic seascapes worthy of a dozen Instagram posts.

Ride Public Transportation

Utilizing public transportation benefits the planet but it can also enrich your vacation. Once you’re out of the isolation zone of a personal vehicle, the shared journey of globally responsible travel facilitates a deeper immersion in the destination and person-to-person interactions.

Cities across the globe are working to increase and improve public transportation options. New York City’s robust network of subways and buses is being amped up with the addition of new ferry routes that now reach every borough.

In car-crazed Los Angeles, traffic jams and freeways have come to define life as much as surfing and sunshine. The car still reigns supreme in SoCal but a game-changing new Metro is finally putting the City of Angeles on the radar of car-free travelers.

Switzerland is a stunningly beautiful country with a comprehensive network of trains reaching its most remote Alpine corners. The Lake Geneva region is a pioneer in car-free tourism. Check-in to any hotel in the charming lakeside cities Lausanne, Vevey or Montreux and receive a card giving complimentary access to local public transportation. All types of accommodations, from five-star luxury properties to budget-minded hostels, participate.

Tiny, landlocked and traffic-clogged, Luxembourg is taking a progressive step and making public transportation in the entire country free for everyone by March 2020.

Norwegian Cruise Ship

Norwegian Cruise Ship

MS Nordlys in Hjørundfjorden on a calm autumn day.

Photo by: Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten

Go Green at Sea

If you think cruising is an ecological disaster, think again.

For a low-impact seafaring vacation in Maine, consider cruising on a Windjammer. Windjammers are sailing vessels that don’t rely on fossil fuels. Treasured by environmentalists, these traditional tall ships are powered by harnessing the wind. Sail Maine’s rugged coast with no set itinerary, as each day’s destination is determined the old-fashioned way, by winds and tide.

Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise line with a fleet of small ships designed to sail in remote areas, is on the forefront of green technology. They’ve banned all single-use plastic and have introduced the world’s first hybrid-electric powered cruise ship. Their next step is powering cruise ships with fossil-free, renewable gas produced from dead fish and other organic waste.

Pedal

If vacations are an excuse to put your usual fitness routine to rest, a bicycle can be a traveler’s best friend. You’ll get exercise and assimilate into a destination’s fabric more easily from the perch of a bike than from behind the windshield of a car.

Hotels are making it easy to cycle in the city. The Kimpton hotel chain’s sturdy, custom-made loaner bikes are complimentary for guests at all of their hotel locations, facilitating urban explorations on two wheels.

Individual hotels are getting into the act. In Clearwater Beach, Florida, the Sandpearl is the state’s first LEED-certified resort. Guests have the use of beach cruisers to cycle the seaside path or the paved, mixed-use Pinellas Trail. Additionally, they may ride all public transportation for free by showing their room key.

Bike share programs are gaining popularity worldwide. Dozens of cities, from Washington D. C. to Paris, now have user-friendly bike shares. Download the app, find a kiosk, swipe your credit card, hop on and you’ll be zipping around town in no time.

For those whose vacations revolve around exploring potent potables, consider a Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tour. Visit vineyards and sip some of the California’s best vintages as you pedal through grape-lined bike routes.

For craft beer drinkers, Beer & Bike Tours has numerous cycling adventures on tap. Guided itineraries to hops-and-barley powerhouse destinations, including Colorado, Belgium and Germany, are a beer-infused fantasy.

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