The world is swamped with tools and resources that make travel planning easier and more efficient. Though not all of them align with the needs and values of responsible and budget-minded independent travelers. We’ve been traveling the world full-time for over seven years and are sharing here the websites and apps we use to organise our travels. From sustainable accommodation options and experiences to affordable, low footprint transportation. Even our communication, foreign exchange and travel insurance needs. Whether you’re planning a RTW backpacking trip or a weekend getaway, these tools will help you create a travel adventure that’s true to your values and budget.
Download your Sustainable Travel Checklist and show the world you care
As travellers, we should all be aware of our travel behaviour and its environmental, economic and social impact; and make conscious decisions about it. Too often, we hear negative stories in the media about tourists behaving badly.
Here is your chance to tick some boxes and check out what it really takes to travel with a sustainable mindset.
Our first choice when it comes to accommodation is to not pay for it at all. House sitting is the ideal bartering method for us: We love animals and get to look after someone else’s pet/s while they get to enjoy a well-deserved holiday or focus on their business trip, knowing their furry family and home are well looked after. A win/win for both sides.
There are a ton of websites out there that help you find house sitting gigs. Here are the ones we’ve used:
In between house sits, we stay in accommodation that is owned and operated by locals (including homestays, B&Bs and short-term rentals). This gives us home comforts like a (shared) kitchen to prepare meals and (often) our own bathroom. At the same time, we support locals and their small businesses. And with the help and knowledge of our hosts, we get to see and learn about the local communities we visit in ways we never could if we stayed in an anonymous hotel or all-inclusive resort. Again a win/win.
For us, travelling responsibly includes being mindful about our carbon footprint.
The best way to reduce our carbon emissions is by travelling less. We do that by focusing on one continent per year and staying as long as our visas allow (rather than jetsetting aroud the world every two weeks). When we do (have to) use transportation, we look for the most environmentally friendly and affordable option: trains and buses over planes, walking and public transport over hire cars and private transfers.
Experiences don’t need to cost the world. In fact, many of the things we see and do to experience a destination are FREE or cost very little – think of walks and hikes, self-guided or free city tours and swims in the ocean. Even many museums and other cultural attractions can be visited free of charge on specific days – like the first Sunday of the month in Rome. And when we do do a more expensive activity, we often take advantage of discount offers.
Whichever one we choose, we make sure that the experience is sustainable and ethical. A wildlife encounter created for our entertainment (like dancing monkeys, jumping dolphins or elephant rides) – no, thanks. A dirt cheap boat tour that doesn’t pay its crew a living wage – not with us. Immersive experiences run by and benefitting locals (like cooking classes and artisan workshops) – count us in.
How good are OTAs in promoting ethical and sustainable travel services?
Organising your travels independently means (to a large extent) using Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). Despite their reach (on both the supply and demand side of travel), most OTAs are still far away from being a driving force for sustainability and ethics in their supply chain. What does this mean for us travellers? We need to form our own judgement about the accommodation, transportation and experience options we choose to book.
While accommodation and transportation take the biggest chunks out of your travel budget, foreign exchange fees and commissions (incurred when you withdraw cash overseas or purchase anything in a currency that’s not your own) can also add up quickly… if you’re not aware of the fees or know how to avoid them.
We use credit, debit and travel money cards that have no (or very low) foreign transaction and currency conversion fees. Even better, with bank accounts in three countries (Australia, Germany and New Zealand), we make use of interbank exchange rates and transfer money between our accounts as needed (to then withdraw in the country we visit).
We always buy travel insurance – for peace of mind:
- Given we carry (almost) everything we own like turtles on our back, insuring our luggage (with everything in it) is like home and contents insurance for your property.
- While we live a healthy, active lifestyle, accidents are not in our control. A hefty bill after being injured and hospitalised in a country with expensive healthcare like the US, is not something we’re keen to get into debt for.
We always compare insurance offerings – to make sure whatever policy we buy actually meets our needs and find the most affordable policy that achieves that goal.
Other services we use on our travels include eSIMs, luggage storage and carbon offsets for emissions we can’t avoid otherwise.