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More than 1 billion tourists travel internationally each year. But not everyone wants you visiting their city.

“There’s been a sudden explosion of awareness around over-tourism because there are more destinations where it’s become an issue,” says Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Citizen protests have taken root in cities like Barcelona, where tourists staying in hotels increased by 7 million since 1990; overall, the city saw 32 million visitors last year. Protests have taken place in Venice and Amsterdam, too, where a rise in services such as cruises and home-sharing has resulted in a crush of tourists disrupting everyday life. In fact, handmade signs in Venice have read, “Tourists, go away!”

As policy-makers and travel companies work to address an issue reaching its boiling point, we travelers also can do our part to help—and still enjoy an epic, guilt-free vacation. The key comes in planning ahead, showing a little respect and thinking sustainably.

“Applying the principles of sustainable travel to your vacation is not only good for the destination, ensuring it is healthy and available for generations of travelers to come, but it makes for a better vacation,” says Samantha Hogenson, Managing Director, Center for Responsible Travel.

Below are some tips Orbitz collected from experts to inspire a vacation that will make you feel good about traveling, not guilty.

RELATED: The world’s 8 coolest eco lodges you can book now

1. Avoid following the crowd

Who enjoys being elbow to elbow with people vying for the same experience? Especially while on vacation? “Change your mindset from seeking destinations that travel magazines tout as ‘hot,’ which can mean crowded,” Durband says. He encourages travelers to demonstrate a little creativity, which could ultimately yield a more memorable trip. For instance, he says instead of picking Bali, choose a lesser-known island in Indonesia or Thailand that will boast less-crowded beaches and less traffic.

2. Travel at “off-peak” times

Don’t feel guilty about wanting to experience popular destinations—they’re typically popular for good reason—but go when the crowds thin, so you’re not part of the herd. Check with local tourism authorities to know peak visitation times for popular attractions so that you can plan around it. Also ask about “off-season” and “shoulder season” periods for the destination as a whole. “Traveling at this time is often more beneficial to the local community, as well as for you,” says Kelley Louise, Executive Director of Travel+Social Good, citing travel to Bermuda in March as an example. “It’s often less expensive and less crowded. It’s also powerful for the community because you’re putting dollars into the economy when tourism is traditionally slower.”

3. Check when cruises are in port

Destinations that serve as cruise ports, such as Santorini, Venice, Barcelona and Dubrovnik, can be extremely crowded when ships dock. It’s not only annoying to locals, but annoying to travelers hoping to hit up the same sites, often at the same time. Plan your travels for when a ship is not in port by checking with local tourist authorities ahead of time.

4. Seek out locals for advice

Nobody knows their destination—and will work to protect it—better than the folks who live there. Direct questions to locals over social media and respected online travel forums such as TripAdvisor and Girls LOVE Travel. “See what makes sense from their perspective,” says Louise of crowdsourcing locals online before and during travel. “If it’s something they respect, that’s a great first step.”

5. Harness knowledge from an on-the-ground army of researchers

Louise adds that the expanding circle of travel bloggers are a resource worth tapping for sustainable ideas and attractions relevant to a specific destination. “They are working hard to get on-the-ground tips and gems and immersive experiences that tend to be sustainable,” she says. If you can’t find what you’re looking for from our team of experts here on the Orbitz Travel Blog, try Louise’s travel hack: Enter into Google “blog” and “things to do in ________,” and you’ll find a cascade of ideas to make you a better educated and more mindful traveler.

Trastevere a less populated neighborhood of Rome, Italy

6. Stay outside of the popular areas

Choose small, family- or locally-run properties that are away from the most iconic sights and cities. You’ll not only be avoiding the crowds, but you’ll be putting money into areas that are likely to embrace tourist dollars—and may find yourself spoiled with unique invitations and access that the typical tourist would never receive.

7. Know where your money is going

“The money we spend can be a powerful source in protecting the destinations that we love,” says Louise. Do a little homework on where a hotel or tour company puts its money, and from where they hire its employees, to make sure it supports the local economy. It’s often as simple as looking at the website or casting an email to the business. Hiring a local guide, in particular, can direct you to lesser-known (but still fascinating) areas and activities you otherwise wouldn’t find on your own (or perhaps even be able to gain access as a non-local). Louise also recommends seeking out platforms that allow you to book vetted, sustainable experiences around the globe, such as Urban Adventures, Lokal and

ALSO: Earn rewards traveling to all your favorite destinations with Orbitz Rewards—join today!

8. Choose local eats

That McDonald’s might be awfully tempting when hunger pangs strike, but you’ll be helping the community by opting to eat at a mom-and-pop restaurant instead. “Whenever possible, eat locally and sustainably sourced foods to minimize over-reliance on imports while helping to maintain traditional fare,” says Hogenson.

9. Shop local

Rather than spend money on foreign-made tourist trinkets at cookie-cutter souvenir shops, purchase handicrafts made by locals to support their livelihoods and the uniqueness of the destination. Locals in the destination can help to steer you to markets and shops that support the community.

10. Seek group transportation

If you don’t “need” to drive a car—and can instead take public or group transportation—do it. “You need a car to get to Yellowstone National Park,” says Durband, “but once there, or from a nearby town, you can enjoy single-day or short multi-day packages in vans or buses that reduce vehicular congestion and exhaust.” Plus, you might even make a new friend or two in the process of group or public travel. Riding subway system in places such as Paris, Shanghai or New York, for instance, is a cultural experience unto itself.

11. Visit similar, lesser-known destinations before the most popular ones

Durband says that iconic sights such as Machu Picchu get crowded, in part, because people wait their entire lives to experience them and wind up lingering an obscenely long time because of this build-up. “If you visit Pisac, Ollantaytambo and perhaps a few others prior to visiting Machu Picchu,” he says, “you’ll learn so much of relevance that your visit to Machu Picchu will be more alive, and you’ll absorb more about it in a shorter time.”

12. Leave no trace

Don’t be that tourist who defies rules and defiles a protected natural environment by carving initials into a centuries-old rock cliff or scattering candy wrappers on the ground. Neither adds to the ambience, and these actions are typically illegal. Pick up after yourself and respect cultural/environmental treasures so that settings remain unspoiled for generations to come.

13. Stay on marked trails … but take those less traveled

When visiting National Parks, opt to visit sections of the park not highlighted in third-party travel guides by checking in with park rangers to learn their suggestions for less-visited, though equally stunning areas, to visit,” says Hogenson. And whatever you do, stay on the designated trails to prevent erosion.

RELATED: 100 National Parks experiences you’ll never forget

14. Be conscious of your waste and water use

Many destinations have trouble managing the waste that tourists leave behind. Hogenson recommends doing little things like bringing a reusable water bottle and water filtration straw (to avoid the purchase of plastic water bottles) and reusable travel silverware. And for locales where water is a precious commodity, help preserve the H20: Avoid taking super-long showers, flushing the toilet unnecessarily and asking housekeeping to wash your towels every night.

15. Incorporate sustainable and mindful practices into your daily life

By implementing this thinking into the everyday, considerate choices become secondhand nature over time. Educate yourself on the food you’re buying, the companies you’re hiring and the brands you’re supporting (big and small). These choices ultimately will be reflected when you plan travel—and while you’re traveling, too.

Tagged: Feature, Top 10 Lists

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Erica Bray

Erica Bray

Erica is a practical free spirit who loves travel, yoga and ice cream. A Northwestern University-trained journalist with more than 15 years of experience straddling digital and broadcast media, Erica can be found doing handstands everywhere she travels -- even risking arrest in some cases. Learn about her at

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