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Mary Mazzoni headshot

3p Weekend: Packaged Vacation Done Right

By Mary Mazzoni

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

It's easy to bemoan large tour groups and 'big box' travel as unsustainable and just plain lame. But many of us don't have the time to plan out trip itineraries on our own. And hopping from hostel to hostel with kids in tow isn't always practical.

Fortunately, the growing popularity of eco-tourism has spawned an ever-growing list of low-impact operators that will do the planning for you, while ensuring a sustainable and immersive travel experience. So, block off those vacation days, and check out these options that deliver better travel with one click.

Mt. Kilimanjaro with Intrepid Travel

Conquer the highest peak in Africa, the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, with sustainable tour operator Intrepid Travel for a grueling adventure you'll never forget. The company's Tanzania trek takes travelers on a seven-day adventure from the historic city of Marangu to Uhuru Peak, the highest summit on Kibo's crater rim.

You'll travel with local guides who will explain the beauty of your surroundings and help you adjust to the higher altitude. And all the while, you'll rest easy knowing Intrepid makes an effort to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people who call this picturesque landscape home. (Just ask 3p's Nick Aster and Jo Piazza, who took the trek as part of their honeymoon earlier this year.)

Intrepid operates several offices in East Africa and works passionately on porter's rights through the Intrepid Foundation. In October, just in time for the United Nations' International Day of Rural Women, the company will help over 2,000 women farmers from around Africa on a trek up Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for land rights.

Click here to schedule your Kilimanjaro trip.

Click here to browse Intrepid Travel's itineraries.

Galapagos Islands with EcoVentura


For travel to the Galapagos Islands, the volcanic archipelago around 700 miles west of the Ecuadorian mainland, you’ll need to plan ahead.

Made famous by Charles Darwin’s visit in the early 1800s, the Galapagos and its stunning biodiversity remain shrouded in mystery — and 97 percent of the islands are a tightly restricted national park. A limited number of tourists can visit each year, and only a few dozen operators can take you there.

3p founder Nick Aster traveled with EcoVentura, which emphasizes sustainability in its cruises to the islands. We know what you're thinking: A sustainable cruise? Is that even possible? But by adhering to the park's strict rules and going even further through a focus on ecology and conservation, the EcoVentura team manages to make the oxymoron a reality. Check out the video above to learn more about Nick's experience.

Click here to choose your Galapagos itinerary. 

Southern Africa with G Adventures

If you're itching to see Africa but aren't sure if your gym regimen jives with the Kilimanjaro trek, you may want to take a second look at Botswana. Lonely Planet named this southern African country as its top travel destination for 2016, and it's thriving as an environmentally-responsible tourism destination.

3p's Travis Noland recently returned from a trip into the Botswana bush with low-impact operator G Adventures. The company, which emphasizes small groups and cultural immersion, offers three southern Africa itineraries that bring visitors up-close and personal with the region's landscapes and people.

Yes, you can go on safari in G Adventures’ all-terrain eco-vehicles. But the most memorable part of your trip may very well be interactions with local communities like the San. Click here to learn more about Travis' experience.

Click here to browse southern Africa itineraries. 

Click here to browse all G Adventures itineraries. 

Nepal with Ace the Himalaya

From the viral 'Barbie Savior' Instagram to actress Louise Linton's gap-year fail, the headlines are full of the hidden pitfalls of 'voluntourism.' (Turns out it's not such a good idea to get sick kids attached to someone who'll be gone by the weekend, or enlist a Western volunteer to do something for which a local could be paid.) But this is not the voluntourism we're talking about here.

Last year, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, killing more than 8,500 people. The nation is still rebuilding 15 months later, and millions remain in temporary housing. Sustainable travel operator Ace the Himalaya took action with a 13-day trek that allows travelers to see Nepal's beauty while working side-by-side with locals to rebuild.

Rebuilding activities take place in the remote Gorkha region, the epicenter of the quake. Since Gorkha is a far distance from Kathmandu, the bulk of disaster-relief efforts have yet to reach this region. Gorkha is also close to the operator's heart, as most of its in-country guides hail from the region and many lost homes in the disaster, the company says on its website.

Click here to schedule your Nepal trip.

Click here to browse all Ace the Himalaya itineraries.

Bhutan and Nepal with Myths and Mountains

Established in 1988, Myths and Mountains provides cultural tours in Asia and South America. You can also travel with a purpose through its READ trips to India, Bhutan and Nepal.

For every trip, Myths and Mountains provides a donation to its affiliate nonprofit READ Global, which funds the construction of libraries and community centers for rural villagers. The nonprofit seeds for-profit businesses to make each library self-sustaining and “connect centers with other organizations providing such diverse resources as microcredit, women’s empowerment, literacy training and health care.”

To date, the nonprofit has established 92 READ Centers, catalyzing 133 for-profit enterprises and serving 2.3 million rural villagers. Myths and Mountains will host READ trips to both Bhutan and Nepal in 2017.

Click here to browse Bhutan itineraries. 

Click here to browse all Myths and Mountains itineraries.

America's National Parks with REI Adventures

The National Park Service celebrates its centennial on August 25. And what better way to take part than an unforgettable excursion into untouched America? To give back more with your trip, book one of dozens of itineraries with REI Adventures, the adventure travel offshoot of outdoor gear brand REI.

In addition to a multimillion-dollar investment as a centennial partner, REI Adventures will donate 10 percent of all national park trips sold this year to the National Park Foundation. The company donated $300,000 through this giving model last year, and this time is expected to be even bigger, the company told 3p.

I took an REI Adventure to the Peruvian Andes last year. And I can attest to the attention to detail and emphasis on sustainability you can expect from the company. National park trips range from exotic kayaking journeys through Alaskan fjord country to backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains and everything in between.

Click here to browse REI Adventures' national park itineraries.

Click here to browse all REI Adventures itineraries. 

Cuba with Global Exchange

It's official: Travel to Cuba is now legal (with some caveats), and sustainable operators are lining up to take you there. When traveling to our southern neighbor for the first time, consider booking your trip with Global Exchange.

Established in 1988, Global Exchange is a nonprofit international human-rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice. It dubs its itineraries 'reality tours' -- emphasizing meaningful, socially-responsible travel that can "change the world."

Choose from several Cuba itineraries this fall, each focusing on an aspect of Cuban life and culture -- from the arts to education and healthy living.

Click here to browse Global Exchange itineraries. 

Italy with Exodus Travels

Focusing on adventure travel that's low on impact and high on cultural immersion, Exodus Travels offers over 500 itineraries in 90 countries. And if you've always dreamed of that luxe holiday in Italy, the company knows just how to kick the eco up a notch: by taking in the gorgeous scenery on a bicycle.

In small groups ranging from four to 16 people, Exodus Travels brings visitors to Italian hotspots like Venice, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. Most routes are low-impact, so they're perfect for families, retirees and 'soft adventurers' of all kinds.

Click here to browse Italy cycling itineraries.

Click here to browse all Exodus Travel itineraries.

Image credits: 1) Mary Mazzoni; 2) Intrepid Travel; 3) Ace the Himalaya; 4) REI Adventures; 5) Exodus Travels 

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni