The hidden costs of my holiday
An analysis using a CO2 calculation tool

During my trip with friends to Normandy (France) I was wondering how green this holiday actually was. Sleeping in a tent and sharing transport felt very sustainable, so I decided to find out how well we have done CO2 wise and what could be done better next time.


I travelled together with seven people, a campervan, a car and a tent for one week. We went to three different camping sites in one week . On our way we explored old cities, went on a hike, and visited (lots of) churches and some musea. We enjoyed ourselves, each other’s company and the (mostly) nice sunny weather.


With the ‘advies op maat’ tool by milieucentraal I analyzed our approximate CO2 emission. This is an online tool to roughly estimate the CO2 impact of your holiday. The outcomes also give you practical tips to make your holiday more environmentally friendly. I found this very insightful and I will share my findings with you. After answering a few questions I got the results which were quite surprising for me!


For the seven of us our total emissions were 1400 kgs of carbon dioxide for the whole week. The majority of this is due to our transportation mode (88 percent),  not our activities or accomodation which resulted in 100 kgs of C02 emission each. To get an idea of the numbers mentioned: an average Dutch family has a yearly CO2 emittance of 4000 kg for energy use (gas, electricity) and 4000 kg for food, and a two beach holiday to Bali for four persons results in a 16000 kg CO2 emittance.



First of all, for transportation we only had one campervan and one car for seven people. Although travelling by train could be more sustainable this was not possible because we camped at campsites in remote areas. Beforehand I thought that taking a long distance bus (like flixbus) was a better option CO2 wise, but this turns out not to be the case for us. According to milieucentraal CO2 emission would have been two times higher if we had travelled by bus! Nevertheless, our chosen means of transport resulted in the emission of 1400 kgs of carbon, during the holiday I did not realise how big the difference was with a holiday by public transport or bike. This is definitely something I want to take as a lesson for future holidays.



In Normandy we camped at cheap and simple sites. Although we did this because it was cheap and fun it also turned out to be CO2 wise very favourable over choosing an apartment. The difference between camping and an apartment was way bigger than I imagined before. A week in an apartment would have resulted in 950 kgs of CO2 while setting up our tent produced only 100 kgs of CO2 emission! This difference is quite dramatic, but when I think about it also quite logical. While camping we only used electricity to charge our phones and cameras once in a while. Apart from this our shower sessions were very limited due to the coins that provided only a few minutes of hot water (which some of my friends complained about more than once).



A lot of our movement by car was from travelling to and from activities, so in that sense we should have chosen our activities differently. Most of the activities itself- visiting musea, beautiful cities and cliffs - were however well chosen. What I actually did like the most was hiking from our campsite in Yport to the beautiful cliffs of Etretat, which was in fact the most sustainable activity of the whole trip.


It was very surprising for me how much of a difference it makes to stay in The Netherlands, as much of our CO2 emission comes from travelling to and from the destination. Next time I will definitely try to look for campsites closer by and try to convince my friends that camping in our home country can be fun too!


Overall I found this tool very insightful and I will definitely use it next time to plan my holiday. I particularly liked the fact that they suggested more carbon friendly alternatives to the decisions you made. So why not use it to plan your next holiday too!

by Emmy