By Angie Howard

In our family, one of the best perks of summertime is embarking upon a long-awaited family vacation. Our crew has enjoyed a fair share of getaways, both the "road trip" variety and that of the winged carrier depositing us directly to our destination. There are definite advantages and disadvantages of traveling by either manner especially in reference to traveling with young children; something I'm sure any mother can quickly attest to...and would have their very own repertoire of "war stories" to illustrate the fact.
I will never forget the trip we took to San Antonio when our 2nd born was about 6 months old, and furious about being strapped facing backwards (as law requires) in his car seat. The entire 11 ½ hour drive to South Texas was permeated with his blood-curdling screams, as was the 11 ½ hour drive back home to Conway - not one single nap out of him either way. My husband and I desperately popped Tylenol like they were Tic -Tacs to futile avail while repeating our newly-adopted vow of "no more road trips until everyone is forward-facing!"
Then there was the trip to Disney Land when our boys were 4 years old and 10 months old. We flew the friendly skies to meet Mickey in California under much quieter travel circumstances than our San Antonio road trip, a mostly relaxing journey save the fact I learned the packages of Chex Mix they pass out for your lunch on the airplane are not toddler-friendly fare. My little guy got a Chex Mix Square caught in his throat and choked for 2 or 3 terrifying minutes somewhere thousands of feet above the Western Plains before he finally managed to hack the vile offender up. The sound of your child choking is amplified 10-fold when in a cramped fuselage surrounded by dozens of strangers staring a hole through you and your red-faced baby.
Odds are you consider many factors before finally deciding how to get your family to the cherished summertime retreat (most imperative being to preserve some level of sanity upon your arrival) but have you ever stopped to consider the interesting topic of which mode of transportation to your destination has the softest environmental impact?
Planes, trains, or automobiles, which is the most fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly way to go? Let's take a quick look!
Perhaps the most practical way to measure the eco-impact of popular vacation travel modes is by quantifying the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced. Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. Some greenhouse gases occur naturally and are omitted through natural processes but others are created and omitted from human activities (such as travel methods). Carbon Dioxide is an example of a greenhouse gas produced through various forms of transportation.
According to these figures, train travel to your vacation locale produces the least Carbon emissions per person per mile, closely followed by an average car with 4 passengers. Planes are the highest emitters of Carbon Dioxide gas and research has also shown that airplane emissions have a greater warming effect of emissions from land-based transportation due to the fact that plane emissions are released directly into the upper atmosphere. A challenge corresponding to this information is the obscurity of passenger train travel opportunities close by; although after some research I found Amtrak offers passenger train stations in Little Rock, Arkadelphia, Malvern, Texarkana and Walnut Ridge that will serve as a doorway for transporting you and your family to nearly any large city in the United States.
So will you hit the road, rails, or blue skies with your family this summer? Don't be disheartened from an environmental standpoint if your clan's flight itinerary already sits parked in your "Inbox"! Nearly every choice we make results in some type of environmental impact, and we can easily counteract those Carbon emissions by doing something to offset them, like being sure to unplug all of your televisions, stereos, etc⦠which pull energy if plugged into an outlet even when turned "off" or turning your thermostats up to save energy while away on your trip.
Enjoy your family summer vacation this year no matter the travel method, just remember to pack ear plugs if you're driving and little ones loathe their car seat, and if you fly with toddlers by all means steer clear of the Chex Mix?