Green travel planning websites are websites that assist in the planning of green travel, typically overland journeys to get from A to B. They are part of the growing travel movement that aims to encourage travellers to think about making more sustainable transport choices and to appreciate the journey as part of the overall travel experience.
While some of this movement is part of a backlash against the rise in cheap flights, all-inclusive package deals and worries over carbon emissions, much more importantly green travel is a reminder of how we can avoid much of the hassle of airports and flights while engaging more with the places and people on our journeys.
Each planning website has its own unique focus and merits. In using these planning tools, the trick is to enjoy how you travel and to think about how you can connect with the countries you travel through. Why not take the plunge and plan your overland journey today. For instance, ever wanted to visit Morocco? Why fly there in 3 hours when you can spend 3 days taking your time to visit Paris, taking the ‘trainhotel’ sleeper to Madrid, an afternoon train down to Andalucía and then a short ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to the Moroccan port of Tangier.
Below I have rated 5 of the best green travel planning websites; Green Traveller, Loco2, Seat 61, Snowcarbon and Flightless Travel. Each has its own unique angle on what green travel means and own merits for planning a particular type of trip. Most are funded by advertising and by taking a commission from bookings. It should be pointed out that these websites are mainly focused on travel from the UK into Europe and beyond.
For trip planning within the UK, Traveline provides an integrated planner for journeys by public transport, bike or car. These planners can be used in conjunction with one of the Green Holiday planning websites such as Green Tourism or Responsible Travel to ensure the whole trip is a green as possible.
In no particular order, here are the top 5 green travel planning websites.
Nutshell: Written by a team of travel writers, Greentraveller was originally started in 2006 as a Green Travel blog by travel guru Richard Hammond who is the co-author of the new green travel book Clean Breaks – 500 new ways to see the world. Other contributors include seasoned travel writers Catherine Mack and Anna Shepard. Recently it has been re-launched with an improved design, holiday directory and sophisticated train planning tool.
Traveller market: Wide ranging appeal but particularly focused on mainstream travel.
Pros: The train planner breaks up the journey into easy to understand sections as well as providing useful comparisons with alternative flights. The biggest draw is the website’s eye catching design that is both easy to navigate that should inspire holiday ideas whilst also easy being simple to navigate. Also of note is the excellent green travel news section that highlights everything from special offers to new high-speed rail lines.
Cons: The trip planner could include bus and ferry information and certified green accommodation could be better highlighted.
Rating: The significant development of this website combined with its top writing talent mean that Greentraveller is probably the best all round green travel site of the moment.
Nutshell: Loco2 was started following from an epic gap year trip in 2006 that took Kate Andrews from Southampton to Costa Rica by Cargo ship and then by yacht across to Tonga in the Pacific. The website covers everything from taking trains and buses to more adventurous journeys by cargo ships.
Traveller market: Young travellers on a budget looking for something different.
Pros: Recently updated with a train journey planning tool. The website has an attractive fresh look and blogs. Each journey is broken down into easy to understand journey legs that includes destination guides and nearby hostels.
Cons: To provide a more effective planning tool for travellers on a budget hoping to maximise every leg of their journey, the planner could perhaps also include searches by transport type and by cost e.g. train vs. bus. While budget travellers will mainly be looking for hostel accommodation there could still be information on certified green accommodation.
Rating: Great website to inspire intrepid young travellers and those young at heart to plan budget overland adventures.
Nutshell: Launched in 2000 by career railway man Mark Smith, Seat 61 was originally started as a hobby but is now a fulltime job. Seat 61 refers to Mark’s preferred seat when travelling in Eurostar first class to ensure a forward facing window seat and table. The site aims to help users navigate the complex timetables when planning a train trip, particularly for long distance journeys. It has quickly grown in popularity with a Seat 61 book, regular media interviews and plans to make a TV programme.
Traveller market: Anybody seeking to navigate complicated train timetables when planning a trip into deepest darkest Europe.
Pros: Extremely informative with outstanding detail on how to book the best tickets for each journey. Each journey also includes a section on what to expect with an excellent series of photos to show what to expect from seats, beds and onboard facilities. Alternative routes are expertly illustrated on the route maps and journeys are peppered with photos to pick out top attractions to be found along the route. Also of note is Seat 61’s top tip, “never travel without a good book and a corkscrew”.
Cons: The website’s heavy layers of small text may not be everyone’s cup of tea and there could a separate news feed on the homepage.
Rating: This award-winning website really is a one stop shop to plan your train journey from the UK to the continent. Chances are you will spend far more time than you had planned visiting this site, a trip to Russia anyone?
Nutshell: Snowcarbon was founded in 2009 by journalists Daniel Elkan and Mark Hodson to help skiers and snowboarders reach ski resorts in Europe by train. There are detailed plans to help plan journeys to around 30 resorts in France, Italy, Austria, Andorra, and Switzerland.
Traveller market: snowsports fanatics.
Pros: Easy to navigate and with an attractive design, there is also an integrated booking option. There is a well-written section on the advantages of taking the train rather than flying including more time on the slopes and a chance to view the scenery on route. Each journey is broken down into easy legs and there is excellent information on each resort’s restaurants and slopes.
Cons: There could be information on the green credentials of each the resorts. For instance whether they generate any of their own energy, use biodiesel for resort vehicles or have any certified green accommodation. For more information on the green efforts some resorts are making see Richard Hammond’s article in Geographical magazine.
Rating: Perfect for researching taking the train to reach your next winter break.
Nutshell: Flightless Travel was founded after environmental scientist Tom McMillan and wife Lorraine took a career break to travel overland from Singapore to Scotland. In addition to a travel planner, visitors can rate and discuss trips.
Traveller market: Committed slow travellers.
Pros: The site is unique from others in that it offers registered travellers the chance to record and rate different routes. There are also forums for travellers to discuss their next trip. What is also exciting is that the planning tool allows different starting locations to be selected.
Cons: Despite many routes not included in the trip planner this has to be seen in the context of how new the site is. While this site is primarily a planning tool, there could still be a page on the different green accommodation schemes to look out for in different countries.
Rating: Of all the sites here, this website’s unique trip rating and forum options make it the one to watch.
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