08.31.12Martha Golea

Uninvited Parenting Advice: Top 10 Travel Tips

vacation bagDon't leave home without a water bottle.

Labor Day weekend is upon us and you’re probably ready for some time off, right? If you’re hitting the lake, beach, Civil War reenactment, or whatever your vacation preference is, check out these 10 tips for water-wise travel before you go.

  1. Carry a reusable water bottle wherever you go. Everyone in the family needs one! 60 million plastic bottles are thrown away each day, in the United States alone, and who wants to spend so much money on bottles of water when you could be spending it on snacks or commemorative tee shirts?! The filtered water in the fountain drink machines usually tastes just as good as the stuff you pay for, so fill up any time you stop for gas.
  2. Shop at home and pack a cooler. Food from home vs. fast food uses less packaging, creates less waste, is healthier, and you can make fewer pit stops. My family traveled a ton when I was a kid and I have to say, a boring peanut butter sandwich is way more fun when mom throws it at you from the front seat. Yes, you’ll probably end up with baby carrots wedged into every crevice of your vehicle, but I can’t express how much nicer it is to find a carrot in your seat than a mangled French fry.
  3. If/when you eat out, eat local. My parents had a strict rule that when we traveled we never ate somewhere that we could eat in our hometown. Sure, chain restaurants are reliable, but they typically ship their food products in from all over the world, which uses excessive resources. Lately it’s become very popular for small local restaurants to get fresh ingredients from nearby farmers, which is infinitely more sustainable. Plus eating in unusual places can be a fun new experience for kids and help expand their palates.
  4. In a restaurant, don’t let your server fill your water glasses beyond what you can drink. They may seem super proactive when they refill your glass every few sips, but you can only drink so much water in one sitting and they’ll end up pouring it all down the drain when you leave. So feel free to decline refills.
  5. While you’re at it, decline some housekeeping, too! In hotels, it can be really nice to have someone else clean up after your family for a change, but do you really need new sheets and towels every single day? Hotels can save millions of gallons of water each year when guests choose to reuse sheets and towels twice before laundering. And hey, they’ll still make your bed and clean your toilet – what’s not to love?
  6. Be conscientious even if it’s not your water bill. Hotels don’t have top secret unlimited water sources, they use the same water all the rest of us use. And there’s never a good reason to waste it.
  7. Before you leave home, unplug all appliances, device chargers, computers, etc. Just having them plugged in (even if they’re not turned on) uses electricity.  Plus plugged-in appliances can potentially start house fires, so unplugging is a win-win.
  8. If you have a pool, cover it while you’re gone. A cover can minimize evaporation, which means you won’t need to top it off when you get back home. As an added bonus, those neighbor kids probably won’t sneak into your pool if they have to go to the effort of pulling the cover off, right?
  9. Install a rain sensor on your irrigation controller so your irrigation won’t run if it rains over the weekend. You don’t want to come back from vacation to dirty looks from your neighbors, right? People get really up in arms over sprinklers running in the rain.
  10. Check for leaks before you leave. I believe Murphy’s Law of the three day weekend  states that if you plan to be gone for a long weekend, a leak will start as soon as you leave and run the whole time you’re away. This is one case where lightning CAN strike twice. I’ve had two washing machines spring a leak and flood my apartment in the last six years. If I wanted to grow cotton in my apartment, that would have been welcome irrigation, but I’m not much of a farmer so every drop of those floods went to waste.

What else do you do to conserve water while you travel? I know there are plenty of ideas that I missed, so post yours in the comments or share them with me on Twitter @MarGoH2O

If you enjoyed this post, maybe my other Uninvited Parenting Advice posts will enrich your life, too! Read my archives here.

Martha Golea

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Martha Golea

A seasoned communicator and passionate water conservationist, Martha Golea tracks projects in progress and reports on usage of new and exploratory irrigation technology and water management strategies. Martha also regularly contributes content on water management and conservation to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.




  1. Friday, 1:25 Richard Restuccia

    Great tips Martha. I’m glad I saw them before I headed out on my trip. I’m thankful so many places offer free water if you just ask.

  2. Friday, 1:55 Alan Harris

    Each one of your points is good and most are relevant to me. Here are my thoughts on your recommendations:
    1. I have a Vapur bottle which collapses…more about that in a future post
    2. We always pack a cooler for the car for at least part of the trip
    3. I love to eat local…not to be altruistic, but I travel so much I just want something different and good
    4. Can’t tell you how many waiters don’t understand what a half a glass means!
    5. Now if they could just train the housekeepers to leave the towel on the rack!
    6. …except for the newer hotels in Vegas where they have on site water treatment so the water is recycled in which case it becomes a discussion about energy which uses water…oh never mind!
    7. Not to mention just think about how much water they would have to use to put out the fire
    8. No pool here
    9. No irrigation system (proper plant selection helps here)
    10. Remind me not to stand next to you in a lightning storm.
    Can’t wait to see what MomH2O has to say!

  3. Friday, 7:44 Karen Kennedy

    Home floods are no joke! I have first-hand experience of extra large water heaters leaking — twice. The first time was in my native state of California, where a water heater leak isn’t too big of an issue because water heaters are installed in the garage — we may be crazy people in CA but water heaters residing in a place that is flat and concrete = good. Maybe earthquakes are the reason? The next house was in Houston Texas where water heaters are installed in the ATTIC. The attic, REALLY???? I struggled with the idea of having (2) 100-gallon water heaters basically in the third story of my home and directly below was enough custom maple flooring to construct a basketball court. I used all of my persuasive ability on my builder and he would not budge. (I even tried bribing him with chocolate, but no success.) The solution? Check out This device is small, easy to install and give you great piece-of-mind when you head out for fun that if a pipe springs a leak, your water will shut off and you will come home to a dry house.

  4. Tuesday, 9:17 Lauren Hanson

    Great tips Martha! Here’s another one: Want to spruce up your wardrobe before heading out of town? Head to a thrift shop and pick up some vintage styles. Recycled clothing can be just as fun and a lot more sustainable.

  5. Tuesday, 9:40 Martha Golea

    Richard, did you know at Starbucks you can ask for a venti iced water? It cracks me up. It’s tap water in a big cup, but it sounds cool!!

  6. Tuesday, 9:40 Martha Golea

    Alan, I wanted to mention the amount of water used to put out a house fire but I thought that might be a downer and could cause people to worry while they’re on vacation. Thanks for taking on that responsibility. 🙂

  7. Tuesday, 9:41 Martha Golea

    Good point, Lauren. Thrift shopping was one of my parenting tips in UPA: Humiliation, but I forgot to include it here. Thanks for mentioning the benefit of thrift shopping for vacation!

  8. Tuesday, 11:24 MomH2O

    ok…it’s time to throw some food around! I’ve contemplated this unique method of “fast food” and do believe that I didn’t do any damage with this practice!! Picture this: family of 6 on a long road trip…don’t want to eat out constantly so Mom (moi) bags all meals in servings just like backpacker meals (but we don’t have to add water and reconstitute). When it’s time to eat, the kids decide which menu they want – we pull it out from under the bench seat in the van and voila!! fast food with all the elements of a healthy meal…yes, I really did throw my kids’ food at them!!
    I surely do love catching the soul food my kids are throwing back to me in their adult lives!! Reading these blogs is refreshing…yes, Richard, I enjoy yours too:-)

  9. Tuesday, 11:44 Martha Golea

    MomH2O, we have lots of great bloggers, you know? 🙂 Have you read Kelly’s Jane Austen post? I think you’ll love it, even though you’re not necessarily an Austen fan. Check it out:

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