12 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Road Trip

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Eco-friendly road trip

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Where is your cabin fever going to take you this year?

After the strange past year or so we’ve had because of the pandemic, getting out into the sunshine is a welcome change.

A road trip can be the perfect way to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, or simply take some time out.

If you’re in the midst of preparing for your summer road trip but feeling guilty about the environmental cost of your family’s planned activities, don’t fret.

Being green on the road goes further than driving an electric or hybrid car.

There are plenty of simple ways in which you can have an Eco-friendly road trip without sacrificing too much.

As an added bonus, a green road trip can save you serious money. Read on for some cost-effective tips on how to make this summer’s trip your greenest yet!

1. Packing

Eco-friendly road trip

The greenest car is one that’s packed full of people, not luggage.

Bring only what you’re sure you’ll need, avoiding tempting but wasteful extras like a second set of golf clubs, and replace the space you’ll save that way with another passenger if you can.

Even if it’s a less fuel-efficient model, one six-passenger car is still greener than two three-passenger cars.

2. Before you leave

Before hitting the road on your Eco-friendly road trip, make sure you haven’t left anything on standby, and unplug appliances that might use up unnecessary electricity.

Plugged electronics still consume energy even when you’re not using them.

It’s important to think about the things we don’t usually consider, like leaving the television on standby or an electric toothbrush plugged into the charger.

You can be Eco-friendly at home when you’re not even there!

3. Check the car

Before your trip, check your car’s oil and tire pressure. Topping off its oil and filling its tires will boost your car’s fuel efficiency by 5 percent or more, making a major difference over an entire road trip.

Making sure you’re not carrying any excess weight can be tricky when going on a road trip, but try and minimize your packing as much as possible.

If you have a bike rack or roof rack on your car which you’re not going to use, take it off. The more weight you carry with you, the more fuel you’ll use, increasing your carbon footprint and costing you more money.

Before you set off, you should also ensure that your car has had full service and is in tip-top condition. Otherwise, you might incur extra expenses on towing a caravan, not to mention adding to the carbon footprint.

4. Adapt your driving style

Of course, taking to the road in a hybrid car is the most Eco-friendly way to travel, but you don’t have to own an Eco-friendly car to drive in an Eco-friendly way and have an Eco-friendly road trip. Cut out sharp braking and acceleration by looking ahead and anticipating changes in traffic flow.

If you’re driving in a manual car, slow down gradually, with your brakes instead of your gears in order to reduce your fuel emissions. If at a standstill in traffic, switch your engine off.

5. Where to stay


If you’ve planned where you’re going, it’s a good idea to try and prebook some Eco-friendly accommodation. There are a number of ‘green’ or ‘eco-hotels around the globe, and their main focus is on conserving water, energy and reducing solid waste.

If, on the other hand, you’re not planning your route and just going to see where your adventure takes you, camping is a fantastic, green alternative (if it’s not the middle of winter, of course!).

6. Minimize your packaging

Avoid taking lots of packaging on your Eco-friendly road trip. Use flasks instead of bottled water, and take reusable grocery bags with you for visiting the store. 

When buying things on your journey, choose foods with the least amount of packaging. Processed foods with a lot of unnecessary wrapping are not a good choice for an Eco-friendly road tripper!

7. Choose where to eat carefully

It’s nice to sit down for a prepared meal after a long day on the road, but try to avoid eating out as much as possible.

Restaurants, especially national fast-food chains, have tremendous carbon footprints. If you’re going to eat at a restaurant, find a small, local restaurant to eat in and try some of the local produce.

Paper plates and cutlery are a no-go, so make sure you find somewhere that only uses real plates, cups, knives, and forks!

If you’re going on a short trip, you could make yourself some food before you leave and store it in a cooler bag.

The American highway system is chock full of rest areas with full picnic facilities, so stop by a supermarket to get some local organic flavor and eat under the open sky!

This will save you money and is a great way to use up any leftovers in the fridge which would otherwise have gone to waste while you’re away.

8. Find your fastest route

Half the fun of a road trip is the drive itself, but not when you’re lost.

If you know where you want to go, use a map or GPS system to find your fastest route.

This is an obvious but effective Eco-friendly tip because the shorter the distance you travel, the less fuel you will use and the less harmful emissions you will produce.

You can find your fastest route even if you set out without a route in mind. Plan your route in stages, and as soon as you establish exactly where you’re heading, calculate the quickest way to get there.

Getting lost wastes both gas and time, both of which are expensive these days.

9. Watch that speed

It can sometimes be tempting to put your foot down when taking to the open road. Not only will this cost you more in fuel, but it will also lose you Eco-points.

Fuel efficiency decreases exponentially above this cut-off speed, which in turn increases your carbon footprint and the total cost of your road trip.

If your car has cruise control, take advantage of it. It will be impossible to speed, you’ll have a smoother journey, and you’re less likely to do any harsh braking.

It may be tough, but every automotive expert out there insists that keeping your speed less than 60 MPH (less than 100 km/hr)  is essential if you want to get the most out of your tank of gas.

The extra few minutes that you’ll shave off your Eco-friendly road trip by driving faster just aren’t worth it. Excessive speed also increases your chances of catastrophic road accidents.

10. Drive responsibly

You’re on vacation, so don’t drive like you’re late to the biggest interview of your life.

Aggressive acceleration is a close second to speeding in terms of unnecessary fuel wastage, especially on long-distance road trips during which you’re regularly accelerating to highway speeds from a dead stop.

Also, if you have to floor the accelerator when you begin a passing maneuver in order to avoid oncoming traffic, wait for the road to clear next time.

11. Open your windows

Avoid using air conditioning and heating as much as possible.

Park in the shade and open the windows instead of switching on the gas-guzzling A/C.

Try not to turn the heating on unless it’s essential, and if you do use it, don’t leave it on for long periods of time.

12. Finally, use your legs!

hiking - Eco-friendly road trip 2

A road trip doesn’t have to be all about driving. Whenever possible, get out of the car and stretch those legs.

By foot can be one of the best ways to explore a new place. Consider hiring some bikes if you’re in a particularly scenic part of the world, and you’ll even manage to get some exercise in too!

Final thoughts

By keeping these simple tips in mind, you can enjoy an incredible Eco-friendly road trip and assuage any guilt you feel about traveling in the first place.

As an added bonus, stretching your car’s fuel economy and replacing restaurant meals with picnics will save your family some much-needed cash.

By slowing down and making family-friendly stops to enjoy the scenery, you may even enjoy going green!

Turn your car into an Eco-friendly vehicle

how to turn your car into an eco-friendly vehicle
Infographic via Global Tint
  • Guest Author

    Greener Ideal strives to help you live your life in more sustainable ways with green living tips, healthy recipes and commentary on the latest environment news. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

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