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Top Five Itineraries for Climate-Conscious School Trips

school trips

Coordinating school trips throws up multiple challenges – and striking the right balance between cost, sustainability, safety, value for money and educational experiences is just one of them. These aspects are frequently considered to be obstacles to adopting low-carbon travel habits – with environmental concerns often taking a back seat. Raising awareness about the importance of low-carbon travel in the planning stage is key. When travellers are well-informed, they can make decisions that prioritise environmental impact.

Transport and accommodation are the most complex – yet vital – components in the path towards decarbonisation. Transforming these elements depends on the destination’s commitment to environmental protection and robust low-carbon policies. Even if our ground operators provide low-carbon transport and accommodation options, challenges may arise if there is a lack of government incentives or climate policies in these destinations. 

So it’s our job as a travel operator to provide low-carbon options, and to encourage our partners to do the same. Some of our destinations have environmental policies in place, but not all, so we strive to do the best we can to minimise our impact. 

There are several ways to accomplish this. For instance, camping and eco lodges have a relatively low carbon footprint, so we increase the time spent in these options over hotels and hostels. Similarly, rail journeys are less impactful than private, smaller transfer vehicles. And when it comes to activities, integrating low or zero-carbon options – such as white-water rafting and trekking is a simple, effective strategy for reducing overall emissions.

Armed with this knowledge, we align our decisions with a commitment to environmental responsibility, actively contributing to the global effort for sustainable travel practices. With this in mind, here are our top five itineraries for climate-conscious school trips.

Setesdal Valley
  1. Norway – Setesdal Valley & River Otra (7 nights) 

To get off-grid whilst remaining climate conscious, this itinerary has you covered. Teams spend two days trekking and wild camping in the Setesdal Valley, carrying everything they need and packing out any waste. After the trek, they experience the valley from a different perspective – by canoeing down the Otra River and wild camping on river islands. Wild camping offers students the opportunity to put into practice all they have learnt about travelling responsibly, including learning where to set up camp and remembering to leave no trace.

As a destination, Norway is already very climate conscious. One way teams can help support this is through recycling their “pant”. When you purchase anything in a plastic bottle or tin can, you pay a deposit, or “pant”, which is included in the price of the item. When you’re done with the bottle or can, you post it into a “pant” machine at the supermarket, and your “pant” is refunded or you can opt to donate it to a local charity. This deposit return scheme is so successful that 97% of plastic bottles in Norway are recycled.

Krupa River Canyon Croatia
  1. Croatia – Coast, Dabarski Kukovi Trek, River & Zadar (10 nights)

Like its Mediterranean neighbours, Croatia has suffered from widespread wildfires in recent years, severely impacting the tourism industry. Embracing sustainable economic practices has never been more crucial. And, while sustainable tourism is still in its infancy here, Croatia has long emphasized conservation and environmental management. Protecting its land, water and air remains a top priority, laying the groundwork for sustainable tourism to flourish. To this end, the Croatian government aims to transition to a low-carbon economy and move away from their reliance on coal consumption by 2033.

To minimise our carbon footprint in a destination already affected by global warming, we’ve crafted itineraries that allow teams to soak up Croatia’s beauty while causing minimal disruption to the local people and environment.

Most activities on this itinerary empower teams to explore independently, and participate in low carbon activities, such as trekking in Velebit National Park and kayaking on the Zrmanja and Krupa rivers. Teams also camp for the duration of their time in Croatia, keeping their impact as low as possible. Rather than eating in restaurants, teams cook for themselves, providing students the chance to support the local economy by purchasing local ingredients.

Mount Toubkal Morocco
  1. Morocco – Mount Toubkal, Community, Coast & Marrakech (13 nights)

Morocco suffers from a lack of rainfall and high temperatures caused by climate change. This extreme weather is having detrimental effects on the country’s agricultural industry, animal husbandry and biodiversity. As these effects are felt intensely, we must ensure our trips act as a force for good and leave minimal impact. 

What sets this itinerary apart is its focus on a condensed area. This is not only more environmentally friendly, it also reduces travel time within the country while ensuring travellers still experience the best that the destination has to offer.

In this itinerary, teams primarily lodge in gites, traditional Berber-style mud-brick buildings serving as homestays. This provides an authentic experience while also contributing to keeping emissions low. The four-day journey to climb Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak – complete with breathtaking views of the Atlas Mountains and Berber villages – further enriches their experience.

The community initiative is an off-the-beaten-track experience where students stay in a village that offers an authentic introduction to Moroccan life. The community hosts visitors as a means of generating income for ongoing development. Students join hands-on activities including tree planting, agricultural tasks and helping with renovations at the local schools using eco-construction techniques and upcycled materials. 

Teams also learn about responsible agriculture, irrigation systems and how important effective water management is, especially during drought seasons. By spending time with the community, students learn how to live a lower carbon lifestyle and limit their impact after returning home.

Mount Kinabalu Borneo
  1. Borneo – Kiulu Trek, Community, Sepilok & Mt Kinabalu (20 nights)

Flying to the other side of the world generates large amounts of carbon, and whilst we do offset these emissions, it’s good to maximise the length of time spent in your destination. This itinerary offers three weeks exploring the Bornean state of Sabah. It packs in a multi-day trek, a community initiative, visits to sun bear and orangutan conservation centres and a climb up the highest mountain in Borneo and Malaysia. All these activities can be completed within a relatively small area of the state, reducing the amount of overland travel required. 

At this community initiative, teams learn about developing methods of responsible consumption and production. The community aims to boost their income through sustainable tourism. This allows them to retain their cultural practices and heritage whilst ensuring that tourism is developed with as minimal impact on the environment as possible. 

Our shorter Borneo itineraries are designed so teams fly into one airport, travel overland throughout their trip, and fly home from a different airport. This maximises the time spent on activities during the trip, while also ensuring the emissions generated by travel are as minimal as we can get them.

Mardi Himal Himalayas trek
  1. Nepal – Helambu Trek, Community & Mardi Himal Trail (27 nights)

Schools in Nepal, particularly in remote areas, often have basic infrastructure and are poorly maintained. Similarly, rural communities are frequently isolated from the economic and social prospects in larger cities, with progress impeded by inadequate infrastructure and fewer opportunities to establish sustainable livelihoods. Due to the country’s economic condition, securing government funding to improve conditions isn’t easy.

Nepal faces another significant challenge – poor waste management and a lack of recycling infrastructure. Around 90% of the country’s waste is deposited in landfill and open dumps. Household waste is discarded in streets, bodies of water and forests, polluting villages and towns and posing hazards to farm animals. 

On this 27-night itinerary, teams visit two initiatives, tackling both of these issues head-on. Students spend five days at a local school in Pokhara, helping to create more resilient buildings and making much-needed upgrades to classrooms. Improved infrastructure is associated with increased attendance rates and reduced dropout rates, ensuring that students remain actively involved in their education. This, in turn, boosts the future prosperity of students.

The second initiative helps rural villages with training and infrastructure development to create unique tourist experiences, fostering sustainable income. They create homestays for visitors to experience local culture, bolstering community development and promoting tourism. Teams also help with farming activities and waste collection.

Trekking is one of the best ways to experience the Himalayas, and this itinerary includes trekking in the Helambu region and up to the Mardi Himal peak. While spending time with their guides and porters, teams learn about their culture and ways of life. Students take home what they have learnt, weaving threads of responsible consumption and production into their everyday lives.

Written by Emily Sandon, Alessia Tomasi & Ellie Ross