Responsible Travel has a name that immediately makes it stand out from the other travel sites. This, its founder says, was done intentionally to challenge the holiday industry and to act like a Trojan horse, inspiring change from within. The result is a holiday booking platform that gets you the dream holiday you've always wanted only without the guilt. The company even started the World Responsible Tourism Awards back in 2004, aiming to inspire change in tourism.
Sure, you still have to get a flight in most cases, but the way your trip impacts the local community is taken into account. In fact Responsible Travel aims to help the community with its holidays. On top of that it runs a Trip for Trip scheme which puts profits into helping take children out on day trips for new experiences. It's one of the best online travel sites (opens in new tab) you can use, and one of the few that puts sustainability at the heart of what it offers.
Responsible Travel: What you get
Responsible Travel offers over 6,000 responsible holidays from 400 providers worldwide, making it ones of the largest green travel companies. It is also an ABTA member meaning your investments are protected so you can be sure you'll get your money back should there be any cancellations. Something like Expedia (opens in new tab) has more options, but that's a far larger and less responsible operator.
Each holiday is screened for its environmental compliance with a view to help grassroot initiatives and local providers. It was responsible for publishing the first carbon audits of holidays and tries to avoid flights where possible. The company also works to stop orphanage tourism, elephant rides, orca shows and doesn't offer any zoo related trips at all.
Since 2019 the site has been publishing its own travel guides and now features over 650, all of which aim to help educate travelers on how they can have the best holiday while making the right impact.
Responsible Travel: Website and user experience
The Responsible Travel website is super minimal, clear and easy to use. Right from the homepage you're met with big, inviting imagery. Across the top are options to search by Destination, Holiday Type, Last Minute, Offers or via the self-published Guides. If you go by location you're met with a guide to the area including maps, local history and community information as well as the best times to go, weather guides and must see sights.
This all makes it a decent option if you're not sure what you want and enjoy the part of picking the holiday. Shopping between a trip to the African plains with the Maasi or bullet train travelling around Japan – not a decision you get to enjoy making too often probably.
Once you've narrowed down a holiday – from a list shown with large images, clear price ranges and traveler review ratings – you are met with more useful information. There's a selection of real images from actual holidays, the price 'from' and 'to' and a list of what's included (or not, in the case of flights). You even get a day by day break-down of the trip saying what you'll be doing and where. You can check dates, prices and availability or hit the "Enquire Or Book" icon.
This takes you to an email webform where you can send your request. Yup, this is a real person dealing with you, not a pre-populated list that you can hit to order instantly. That's a positive for a bespoke booking with a helpful travel team guiding you along, but a negative for anyone that wants to book there and then in a hurry. That said, you can call directly with a number given, if you want to handle everything quickly over the phone, or just prefer the person to person talking.
Extra information on "free from" food options and LGBT (they left off the Q+) friendliness are also welcome additions.
Responsible Travel: Sustainability credentials
Responsible Travel works to be eco-friendly on a number of fronts.
Primarily it was setup to help create a balance between travellers and local communities. The idea being that both sides gain from the trip so the local communities welcome visitors and share their experience and wisdom with the holidaymakers who's money is giving back to helping sustain that community.
One example of community support, beyond just money, is at the Okavango Delta World Heritage Site where locals take you to the Delta so they get paid for their knowledge of the area. This ecosystem is under threat a dam being built that could cut off its water supply. By informing travellers it's more likely that actions like that will be opposed and the area can be protected.
Travel is kept to small groups for a more intimate experience but also less impact on the environment. This also helps to keep the carbon footprint down and where possible local forms of transport will be used, like trains rather than planes, for example. Gas cooking rather than coal, proper waste disposal and locally owned accommodation use are all ways to help reduce negative environmental impact. And that's just naming a few, there are plenty more listed specific to each holiday.
This gets its own section as its mostly about keeping flights to a minimum. This means taking a longer holiday with fewer flights if possible, avoiding internal flights, picking economy seats, choosing a newer aircraft and packing light. Responsible Travel's founder Justin Francis works with the UK government and has founded the Jet Zero Council which has created legislation to get to zero carbon aviation.
Responsible Travel encourages its holidaymakers to give a review of the trip but unlike many sites this also features a star rating for the eco-friendliness of the offering. The result is a clear view, when browsing the site, of just how good each trip is.
Responsible Travel: Customer reviews
With a Trustpilot (opens in new tab) review rating of 4.3, with 71% "excellent" ratings, this appears to be a very well received website.
One positive review from Catherine in California said: "I have arranged two trips using Responsible Travel, a group walking tour of Mt. Blanc and a guided cycle trip in Italy. Both booking experiences were smooth and all my questions were handled promptly. The trips used very knowledgeable guides and they were open to using local food and entertainment as well as being mindful about recycling and the environment. I will definitely book through Responsible Travel again. Thank you to the team."
One negative review, from RL in Great Britain, talking about his three star review not appearing said: "My conclusion is that they 'lose' less than perfect reviews." The only other negative review was actually about another company, so this can't count against Responsible Travel.
If you'd rather get more customer reviews before making your vacation decision, we think Priceline (opens in new tab) is a good pick here.
Should you use Responsible Travel?
If you want all the ease of a holiday that's filled with memory making experiences but without the hassle of organizing it yourself, Responsible Travel is great. But on top of that you are also getting the peace of mind knowing that your trip will impact the environment and local community positively – or at least a lot less negatively than most other options. While travel inherently comes with some kind of impact on the environment, Responsible Travel does its best to acknowledge we, as humans, want to travel and minimizes the negatives of it.
This is a great eco-friendly holiday booking tool that works with a clear, informative and concise website and allows you to book with a helpful and friendly travel team of real-world people. It's not the cheapest but in terms of value you get what you pay for. If you just want cheap at any cost, something like CheapTickets (opens in new tab) will serve you well.