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Optimizing your travel with a zero-waste packing list and eco-friendly travel products is one way you can become a more sustainable traveler. Going plastic-free when packing for your next vacation allows you to make better decisions at your destination, and enable you to refuse single-use plastics. These changes will also help move you toward a zero-waste lifestyle in your home and while traveling. Using less plastic while traveling seems overwhelming, but I suggest every time you travel, swap one item on your packing list with these essential plastic-free and eco-friendly packing suggestions. Before you know it, your entire carry on and suitcase won’t have any plastic and will be filled with products that are good for the environment, and you will be well on your way to being a sustainable traveler.

What makes me an expert at using less plastic while packing for your next trip? I’m a sustainable travel blogger and live and travel plastic-free. I have moved toward being a zero waste traveler and living a plastic-free lifestyle, over the course of the last two years. I won’t lie, some of these changes are hard, and some of these products are going to require a change in mindset, but once you get into the groove of things, it’s a piece of cake. It is also important to remember in times when you can’t be a plastic-free traveler to make smart decisions about the products you use. I also suggest investing in a solid upcycled day bag that has lots of room for plastic-free items, like your utensils, shopping bag, water bottle and much more. So let’s learn how to pack and travel sustainably and use less plastic.

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Zero Waste Toiletries for Packing

1.  Carry on Toiletry Case

Are you guilty of using a single-use zip-lock bag every time you fly? This solution is so easy, it’s at the top of my list of easy ways to use less plastic while packing. Investing in a reusable carry-on liquid case ensures you’re not using plastic bags every time you fly and they are durable and easy to travel with.

Try the all-inclusive reusable toiletry case that comes with reusable bottles for your liquids and little jars for your plastic free homemade lip balm. The second option is just the basics for travelers who need a simple clear toiletry case to breeze through security.

2.  Wooden Toothbrush

Another easy way to use less plastic waste while traveling is with a bamboo toothbrush. It is an added bonus that my dentist recommends these soft bristle brushes over the plastic bristles that can chew up your gums. You should change your brush regularly, so this four pack is the way to go. 

3.  Washable Makeup Remover Cloth

Face wipes you throw away after every use are horrible for the environment. They are wrapped in plastic, take forever to biodegrade and if flushed for any reason can ruin sewer systems. Changing over to a washable, multi-use cloth that reduces your plastic and is better for the environment is an easy sustainable tip. Finding a good cloth means you only need water to remove makeup, so no matter where you are in the world, all you need is a little water and a lot of scrubbing. 

Try the small pads for a compact and easy to use travel option or get the larger cloths for lots of coverage when removing makeup.

4.  Solid Bar Shampoo

I think this is one of the hardest changes for people to make. Some people have types of hair they claim doesn’t work with shampoo bars. I was one of them, but after ensuring my hair was cut and healthy, transitioning to these bars over the course of 3 months caused my hair to change to adapt with natural bars. All this coming from the girl who has thick wavy dry hair. Give it a go and see how your hair responds. The great thing is these bar shampoos don’t have to go with your liquids, saving you space in your carry-on bag.

Buying solid shampoo with or without the case, if you already have one, will minimize the liquids you travel with and reduce your plastic while packing eco-friendly toiletries.

5.  Solid Bar Conditioner

To complete the solid bar set, you’ll need conditioner to ensure your hair stays soft and silky throughout the day.

6.  Menstrual Cup

Tampons create so much waste. I have the copper IUD and with a heavy period, I was going through nearly half a box a month before I switched to a menstrual cup. This investment has saved me hundreds of dollars so far and saved the planet from hundreds of plastic applicators and wrappers.

Support products made in the USA, with this made in California menstrual cup! One of my biggest fears is traveling without access to a bathroom, so pair this with these leakproof undies, for all-day coverage, while you travel.

7.  Plastic Free Body Scrubber

Plastic loofahs are a breeding ground for bacteria and should be replaced almost monthly, meaning you’re creating a lot of plastic waste when you throw it out. Choosing a sustainable and eco-friendly option means less plastic and a more sanitary way to get clean!

8. Plastic-free & Eco-Friendly Deodorant

Deodorant is one of those things I will never understand why people still buy name brand product with harmful chemicals in plastic containers. I make my own deodorant now, but this product is similar to what I make at home.

Please do not by the tea tree option if you are sensitive to baking soda, most of their products are baking soda free except for that one. I choose to highlight the product in jars and not on the stick deodorant since it lasts longer.

9.  Metal Reusable Razor

This is another item that can not only save the planet but save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. Razors, especially with the pink tax, are so pricey and waste so much plastic. Do yourself a favor and invest in a sustainable metal razor.

10.  Laundry Bar Soap for Travel

Great for longer trips or slow travel, laundry bar soap is guaranteed to cut your plastic use while traveling and be great for your clothing. You can wash your clothing from a sink on the road or pretreat and throw in a laundry mat, washer. If you want an alternative, try these soap nuts. I haven’t tried them, but the admins and I all thought they were clever and a great eco-friendly product to try. 

11.  Bamboo Hair Brush

Most hair brushes last a long time. I’ve had one plastic brush since I was like 18, before I finally upgraded. But in a mission to have my entire toiletry kit eco-friendly and maximize the plastic-free packing list, I recently bought this product and love it. 

Zero Waste Utensils to Pack

12.  Reusable Water Bottle

Having a water bottle that you love and trust is essential for plastic-free travel. I haven’t bought bottled water or drink in a plastic bottle in 2 years (yes I celebrate my anniversary) and it is all thanks to my reusable bottles. I have two I rely on, a foldable one and a sturdy one. I only pack one based on the type of traveling I am doing. Remember to pack your bottles before your trip and choose something that fits your day bag. Choosing the right bottle for you is like shopping at Ollivanders. The bottle and you must have a connection.  One of the most common things I hear travelers say is, “I always forget to pack my water bottle, but I have one.”

My go-to travel bottle is the foldable bottle. It easily fits in all my travel day bags, cary on and suitcase. As I drink the water it becomes smaller and smaller, which is convenient for saving space, plus it hooks on to the outside of my bag. This is my top choice for traveling with less plastic. I’ll use studier and a larger bottle for road trips or camping.

13.  Travel Utensil & Cutlery Set

Traveling with a sustainable utensil set, allows you to say no to single-use plastics at your destination. I find these come in handy at ice cream shops that give you plastic spoons, or for those who like to picnic while traveling.

I have two sets. The first is a wooden set. This one is great because the bamboo is biodegradable and it comes in a nice pouch that clips on to the outside if your bag if you’re short on space and it is a breeze to get through security. If you’re worried about using wooden cutlery, the finish provides for a comfortable smooth eating experience. The second is a metal set, which isn’t great for carry-on as you’ll get flagged, but it is great for camping! 

14.  Zero Waste Lunch Box Set

A plastic-free way to eat out or travel with food is essential, but often overlooked. I find these lunch box sets to be amazing when I slow travel and eat takeout. I pick up my food and ask for it in this container. These are also great replacements for plastic or styrofoam doggie bags and allow you to take food back to your BnB or hotel. I often pack food for the flight to forego the airline meals and these come in handy.

This sleek Bento Box is ideal for the fashionable traveler. I love the stacking design giving you options for lots of takeaway food, or just a little bit. The second is a completely plastic-free metal nesting lunch box set with a lifetime warranty. The design is simple and has everything you need to store food.

15.  Reusable Straws

Ah, straws the one little thing everyone loves to talk about. Remember reusable straws are only effective if you pack them, ask for no straw and reuse them. This is probably one of the easiest things you can do for kick-starting your zero waste packing list and I look at them as a gateway to sustainable and zero waste travel. 

Treat yourself with stainless steel straws in a bamboo case. I love the case because my straw often is shoved in the bottom of my bag and the containers make it easier to find and reuse time and time again. My alternative suggestion is a silicone straw. I normally wouldn’t include a silicone option, but I read an article recently by someone with a physical disability and they talked about how metal straws were not a good alternative to plastic for them, because they were too hard. So, for anyone with jaw concerns or wants a softer straw this is a comfortable alternative to plastic. 

Zero Waste Travel Accessories

16.  Packing Cubes

I cringe when I hear people say they use Ziploc bags to itemize and organize their clothing and suitcase. Just don’t. Invest in some packing cubes instead. They are a sustainable long-term eco-friendly option for organizing your clothing and packing. 

17.  Reusable Shopping Bag

Packing a good reusable shopping bag is essential for anyone asking how to use less plastic while packing and traveling. Be a zero waste traveler as you stash local produce or handmade souvenirs in a cute reusable shopping bag, or be practical with a clean and simple look. 

18.  Wooden Sunglasses

Buying cheap plastic sunnies, only to lose and break them is not a sustainable practice. Buying a pair of eco-friendly wooden sunglasses not only looks cool, but helps you save the planet while getting your dose of vitamin D on your next vacation.

19.  Sturdy Long-lasting Flip Flops

Treating Flip Flops as a disposable product buying cheap products that break only to be left by the sea is not a sustainable option. That plastic will end up in the ocean or a landfill. Choosing a well-made sandal that will last you for years, is a better investment and makes you a more sustainable traveler. These long-lasting quality flops will look cool at the beach for years to come.

Zero Waste Packing: Plastic-free and Eco-friendly Travel Essentials

Going plastic free with this packing list for travelers is one easy way to start your journey toward using less plastic and being a zero waste traveler. You can feel good as you watch the plastic in your carry on, suitcase and day back shrink up to nothing. What are your favorite ways to pack less plastic and travel plastic free? Let us know in the comments.

Click on the pin below to save this eco-friendly packing list to your packing list board on Pinterest!

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Susanna Kelly

Susanna Kelly


Susanna focuses on adventure travel and eco-tourism, while hitting pause for what she’s defining as hipster city travel. Follow Susanna on her blog at Wandering Chocobo

You can also keep in touch with Susanna, and find out about all of her upcoming travel plans on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.