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Jody Thompson
December 2016.
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How can I get the best beach holiday at the least cost to the planet?
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The big thing about how you’re going to get the greenest or most eco-friendly holiday is how you get there. By most measures, the bus is the most eco-friendly way to travel, but realistically, that tends to limit where you go a bit. So the train is the next best, most eco-friendly way to travel which is actually going to be useful.

You’ve got to stay in the UK but you’ve got loads of options. There’s Cornwall, Devon, plus South and West Wales which are regularly voted as having some of the world’s best beaches. It depends what kind of beach you want too. You’ve got Norfolk if you want very unspoiled beaches with lots of nature and wildlife or the more traditional end-of-the-pier ones, or Northumberland which has amazing castles and islands. You’ve got all that without even leaving Great Britain.

  • Cut out that carbon-spewing flight and take the train to St Ives, Cornwall: a prime staycation destination for the nation

You can also go further afield if you take the train to Europe. You can get the Eurostar to Paris, then the fast train to the South of France – it’s about six hours to Nice. It’s also just over six hours to Barcelona. Once you get to Barcelona, you’re on the high-speed Spanish network so you can get all round the country that way. Once you get to Nice, you’ve got beaches coming out of your ears and once you get to Barcelona, you can take a local train and an hour up the coast you’ve got all the resorts of the Costa Barcelona which are particularly good for families. If you head a little bit further north, then you’ve got the Costa Brava too, which again has more beach resorts than you can shake a lilo at.

  • Europe by train: amazing, unspoilt Cadaques on the Costa Brava (where Salvador Dalí used to live) is only 10 hours from London by rail

Then there are ferries. You can get to the Netherlands and the north coast of France really easily. If you can get public transport there at either end and be a foot passenger, then that’s even better than driving on and off. Normandy has some lovely coast and Brittany has some amazing beaches. The Glénan Islands just off the coast of Brittany look like they are straight out of the Caribbean. They are just incredible, and have amazing white sands and turquoise sea. Maybe not quite as warm as the Caribbean sadly, but they are just stunning.

  • It’s not the Caribbean, it’s actually off Brittany: France’s astonishing Glénan Islands

Or there are the Isles of Scilly which are similarly stunning and look straight from the pages of a Caribbean holiday brochure. You can get the ferry from Penzance. So train to Penzance, then ferry over to the islands, then boats between the islands.

If you do want to travel even further afield, you will have to take a plane. It might sound a bit funny to talk about eco-friendly ways of taking planes, but there are greener ways of doing it. If you fly on a newer plane like the Dreamliner, they burn up to 20% less fuel so they’re much more eco-friendly than the older ones.

British Airways list on their website which routes they fly with the Dreamliner. There’s only a few beachy ones though – they go to a couple of the Emirates, Oman and Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is the closest as it’s only a four hour flight and it’s wonderful, it’s got great beaches and nightlife, or it’s really easy to get down to Eilat from there, which is all beach resorts. It’s worth checking with other airlines and tour operators too as to whether they have Dreamliners and which routes they fly on.

  • Tel Aviv: only four hours from the UK on a greener Dreamliner, and packed with beaches and nightlife.

If you can’t take one of the newer planes, take a direct flight, because it’s the take-off and landing that have the most environmental impact. If you’re going somewhere where it touches down en route or you have multiple legs, then your journey will have a bigger impact. If you wanted to say, go to the Caribbean, which has some of the best beach holidays in the world, then look for direct flights to the likes of Antigua or St Lucia. With the Indian Ocean, look at somewhere like Mauritius that you can fly straight into, rather than the Maldives or the Seychelles. Once you get to those places, you’re going to have to take a seaplane or something else to get to your island.

The other thing to remember is the accommodation once you get there. GreenHotelWorld which shows you eco-friendly hotels launched last year. There’s also Green Globe which certifies businesses that genuinely have green and sustainable tourism policies.

The final thing is to try and offset the environmental cost of your holiday – because when it comes down to it, travel is always going to have an impact. Have a look at some of the offset programmes like planting trees, so that even if you haven’t had the most eco-friendly trip, you can balance things out a bit.

Travel journalist Cathy Winston edits 101 Singles Holidays and video-blogs family-friendly holidays on YouTube as MummyTravels