Long-Distance Travel For Holidays – A Challenge For Sustainability

Ah…school holidays!Airplane

The most expensive part of any holiday away from home for us tends to be the travel.  And it can have a big impact on the environment.

We’ve just spent a week in Melbourne with family.  That’s some 470 km (as the crow flies) – much longer by road or rail.


When my children were small, there was only one practical transport option: flying – because it takes only about an hour (plus transfers). But it is expensive – no discount fares where I live. It also is bad environmentally. For example, it releases about 0.19 tonnes CO2e per person each way. (CO2e means ‘carbon dioxide-equivalent’, which means the effect of all the greenhouse gas emissions converted what they would be if only carbon dioxide was admitted.) And even though we can offset that with tree-planting via Greenfleet I still feel bad about the environmental impact.

But as the kids have grown older, other options became or feasible options have become more feasible.


Options like long distance train and coach journeys.  In eastern Australia, NSW Trainlink offers $1 fares for children travelling with a full fare paying adult.  For about the cost of one airfare we can all travel two thirds of the way to Melbourne first class with privacy and room of our own dog box (daysitter cabin) and hot meals. We have an enforced day (9 hours) of relaxing (hopefully) family time, with lots of sleeping, reading, games and listening – and we can move around and enjoy the delights of train travel. And, at about 1/3 to 1/4 of the greenhouse gas emissions, it’s way more environmentally friendly than air travel. That’s pretty attractive!

But for this holiday things didn’t go according to that plan.

First, some bright spark decided to schedule major track maintenance for the school holidays…so it would be coach the whole journey except for about 3 hours.  It’s one thing to spend six hours in a train and three hours in a coach with restless teens – but quite another to spend 10 hours in a coach. It would be more like torture than a relaxing start or finish to a holiday!

And second, iPods have gone AWOL in our house and my teens – now in the narcissistic phase – can’t live without them, let alone ‘waste a whole day travelling’.

So air travel + offsets – and big money – it was 🙁


Next holidays my youngest will be too old for the $1 fare…and learning to drive.  So guess what the pressure will be for our mode of travel then!  At least if the car is full, the environmental impact wouldn’t be as bad as if it were just one person…

How to you travel at holiday time?  What options do you have?  Post a comment to let me know 😉

Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!

[post updated 9 December 2015]