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RISMEDIA, March 19, 2010—(MCT)—Planning a getaway? Now is a good time to lock in the dates and destination for any travel plans this year. But planning a vacation is not the time to forget how to lessen your impacton our planet. Deciding where to go, where to stay, how to get there, and what to bring all provide opportunities to make smarter choices.

Pick the perfect place: Whether you decide to visit an environmentally sustainable winery in Napa Valley or check into a green certified ski lodge in Utah—the choices for eco-friendly destinations are endless. You can seek out spots that appeal to you and your family on websites like EcoTrotters.com. Or, tour companies like Intrepid Travel specifically coordinate eco-friendly excursions across the country. Don’t forget the ultimate eco-destinations in America—our National Parks. There is one in nearly every state and they are home to awe-inspiring views, free roaming wildlife, and endless things for the nature lover to do. Plus, they won’t bust your budget.

Stay smart: It’s all the rage these days to go green and many hotels are either being built with the Earth in mind or are making retrofits which will conserve energy and water. Some hotel restaurants even feature all-organic menus. To find exactly what you’re looking for, check out IStayGreen.org and EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels.com. AAA also features green, eco-icons in their guidebooks that highlight hotels which are making eco-friendly strides.

Getting there is half the fun: It isn’t just where you go and where you stay; it’s also important how you get there. But, who really has the time to sift through mounds of research to figure out if flying, driving, or traveling by train is better for the planet? TripFootprint.com does the hard part for you. Enter in where you’re headed, with how many people, and it’ll scientifically determine which way will generate the smallest amount of pollution. Another option for those who may not have the most fuel-efficient ride is to park it and rent a hybrid. It cuts down on the wear and tear of your own car and you’ll be creating fewer emissions on your trip.

A better bag: The best choice for luggage is to use the bags and suitcases you already have. But, if you need some new pieces, there are plenty of eco-friendly options that are just a click away. Websites such as Luggage.com have wide selections of eco-friendly luggage made by Patagonia, Eco-Traveler, Mountainsmith and more. Many are made with recycled materials or renewable resources and they are available in every price range.

There are many decisions to be made when planning your next vacation. Do your part to make your getaways good for you and our planet.

(c) 2010, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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