Plastic Free July Day 30 - Plastic-Free Vacation

It’s summer time, which means that many of us are packing up our bags and planning some well deserved vacations! It can be very difficult to stay plastic-free while travelling because you’re constantly on the go, there are lots of unexpected and spontaneous things that pop up, and there may be language or cultural barriers that make it hard to plan. To make it a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of necessities to pack with you to keep your trip more sustainable! 

Before we start, I wanted to take a second to chat about the carbon footprint of traveling.

While planes are getting cheaper, and are sometimes the only option to get to our destination, they are a huge emitter of CO2, especially compared to cars. As an example, 4 people flying from San Francisco to LA emit 1.2 tons of CO2. The same trip (800 miles) with a car (24 mi/gal, which is under average), emits 0.57 tons of CO2. If possible, choose alternate modes of transportation like cars, trains, or buses, or if you need to travel by air, considering buying carbon offsets (here’s our blog post about it)! Another great way to travel while caring about the environment is to check out ecotourism, where you travel to a location and help locals preserve and protect the natural environment. 

Once you’ve decided on a destination and transportation, it’s time to get packing!

Here are our waste-free travel necessities, and scroll to the bottom for a full packing list of essentials to keep your vacation waste-free! 

  1. My top essential is a reusable bag. This one is so important because you can use it for so many things, from groceries, to wet swimsuits, to packing up all the extra goodies that you pick up along the way when your suitcase gets too full. 
  2. I don’t travel anywhere without my reusable utensils and straw. When I visited Mexico, they had some of the best street food I’d ever tasted. Most of the time, the vendors offered a plastic utensil, but I made sure to bring my bamboo fork with me and I was always prepared.
  3. If you’re like me and your vacations center around food, reusable containers to take to-go food or to pack snacks throughout the day are a must-have. Check out these stainless steel ones from EcoLunchBoxes, or bring along a few tupperwares from home. 
  4. It is so important to stay hydrated, especially if your trip takes you to a hot and sunny climate this summer. Bring along a reusable water bottle so you’re never stuck without water. The same goes for coffee or tea-- it can never hurt to keep a reusable travel mug with you for when you need a bit of a caffeine pick-me-up. 
  5. We all know how important it is to always be protected by SPF, but instead of carrying around a travel-sized plastic tube of sunscreen, check out these metal tins of coral reef-safe, sensitive skin-safe sunscreen instead. Check out our blog post about sunscreen to learn more about why the ingredients in your SPF are so important!
  6. Especially if you’re going on a longer trip, it can be such a hassle (and a waste) to use lots of little travel-sized plastic containers to carry shampoo, face wash, and body wash. Instead of liquids, bring along solids: a shampoo bar, a facial soap bar, or a plain bar of soap to replace all of your shower necessities. These not only last longer, but you don’t have to worry about TSA hassling you. 
  7. Speaking of solids, there’s another zero waste option for toothpaste, too! These toothpaste tablets from Unpaste (with or without fluoride) are the perfect travel solution because you can bring as much as you need without worrying about TSA liquid limits. You just use one for every brush, crush it between your teeth, and it dissolves into a toothpaste liquid as you start to brush!
  8. The air on planes can be so drying, so it’s important to keep your skin and lips moisturized. These lotion bars from Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve are easy to slip into your carry on (again, solid products, no need to worry about TSA liquid limits!), and this lip balm from Meow Meow Tweet is perfect to keep your lips moisturized using natural, safe ingredients in sustainable paper packaging. 
  9. If you’re camping or spending lots of time outdoors, you’ll need to keep yourself safe from bugs! These bug repellent lotion bars and soaps from Soap & Salve come plastic-free, and will keep you safe from all sorts of little critters. 
  10. If you’re someone who menstruates, you know how frustrating it is to always have to keep supplies on hand, especially if you don’t know where or when your period is going to hit you. For travel, I love to use a menstrual cup because it’s tiny enough to always have handy in my purse and it’s reusable for up to 10 years. I also recommend bringing along reusable pads, just in case. 

Here is a packing list of all these plastic-free items for you to keep to make sure you’re prepared for your next trip:


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