How to book a sustainable (and unforgettable!) vacation

"The overnight train NJ491 ÖBB Nightjet connects Hamburg and Vienna with a travel time of 12 hours and 50 minutes." Doesn’t this sound like the start of an exciting novel? Maybe the kind of book you would like to read during your trip when you don't have to be behind the wheel yourself?

But the reality is even better: the night train is not a writer’s fantasy, but real life. You can travel very comfortably on the NJ491 ÖBB Nightjet from Hamburg to Vienna. The train offers seats, couchettes and sleeping cars, you can take bicycles and pets with you, there are one-bed compartments and also family compartments. Isn’t that fantastic?

This one example alone shows that if you want to travel in a climate-friendly way, you don’t have to compromise. It’s not a question of living a less exciting life than others. On the contrary, if you only travel by plane or cruise ship when you go on vacation, you may miss out on some of the greatest adventures and some of the best opportunities to make memories that last a lifetime. And that’s what travel is all about, right?

By the way, when it comes to rail travel, prices are often much more affordable than you might think. For young people in particular, there are always special offers for trips in Germany and throughout Europe, for example the Interrail ticket or the reduced Bahncard for schoolchildren, students and apprentices. In addition, there is no need for stops at service areas, expensive refuelling, or the time-intensive security checks at airports.

But transportation is, of course, only one aspect of a vacation. When it comes to choosing destinations and accommodations, completely new possibilities open up if you look for sustainable offers. To stay with the example of Austria: At the Magdas Hotel, which is run by socially-minded hoteliers and immigrants or former refugees, guests who arrive by train or bicycle receive a 10 percent discount. The climate-neutral Explorer Hotels in Austria (and Germany) were the first in Europe to be certified with the passive house status. And the boutique hotel Stadthalle Wien is the most sustainable hotel in Austria, according to a ranking by Many accommodations offer rental bikes to their guests which can be used for environmentally-friendly day tours and to explore the area. The bikes usually cost five to ten euros per day – and sometimes they are even included in the price of the overnight stay.

And great places and activities are everywhere. You can hike, sail or paddle during your vacation (even back home), you can go camping, visit relatives or spend the night on a hospitable stranger’s couch, you can discover new perspectives and make friends for life – all without generating a lot of greenhouse gases. It’s just a matter of replacing the “higher, further, faster” of it all with more authentic, worthwhile, and sustainable experiences. The most exciting places are often right around the corner. Just give it a try!

P.S.: Should you get bored during your next hike or walk on the beach, you can always use the opportunity for a spontaneous clean-up and collect some trash. The next tourists as well as the environment will thank you for it!