12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

I’ve assembled a group of 12 easy-to-adopt habits for vacation travel. These are simple adjustments anyone can accomplish with what they already have, and are no extra work at all.

Although there is a lot more I can do, I’m starting with some easily-accomplishable changes. Next, I’ll work my way up to some even more thorough adaptations for more eco-friendly vacations.

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

1. Bring Cloth Napkins

Bring cloth napkins and cloth shopping bags. Hand wash them if needed.

These were purchased from a local consignment shop – even further recycling. They take up next to no room in my bag or the washing machine.

For new cotton napkins, here’s a tip; avoid single-color napkins unless they have a design. They all seem to stain quickly from butter or other oily condiments. If you can’t find a camouflaging pattern that you like, then go for a raised design like these.

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

2. Take Bottles and Mugs

Tote your own reusable water bottle and coffee mug. And remember to get them filled – take them into restaurants and filling stations with you.

The white, red, black container is a Specialized cycling bottle – they serve many purposes for us. We use them for sailing, mowing, traveling, dive trips – not just cycling.

The container with the finger hole is a Tervis water bottle. I earned mine by passing a Microsoft Industry Certification. The handle is most useful since I can hold a dog leash and this in the same hand while walking.

To the side is a Starbucks aluminum tumbler. While I haven’t tried it for iced beverages, I imagine it would keep those cold just like the really expensive brands. I’ll have to try it!

When all of mine wear out, THEN I will invest in a stainless steel water bottle that doubles as a canteen for hot coffee AND has a top finger hole. Two in one! And no plastics. Before you know it, I’ll be dragging out my old green Thermos – remember those? Who knew your grandparents were so economical and ecoconscious!

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

3. Be Observant

Look around when you arrive at a restaurant, and make your plan. Notice if drinks are in glasses or plastic cups, if condiments are in refillable containers or single-use plastics. Order accordingly.

Speak up about why you don’t want a straw or plastic cup. Put a little pressure on the wait staff to report back to the manager that customers prefer ecoconscious choices.

Online, you can find lists of more eco-conscious restaurants chains. I found the 12 Best Ethical Chains, and even a list of 7 Fast Food Chains Going Green.

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

4. Cook for Yourself

Stay somewhere that you can cook for yourself and reduce the amount of single-use plastics consumed, or eliminate them.

Plus, for even less expenditure than eating out, you can dine in high style; splurging on the best of the best and spoil yourself silly.

The teeny tiny waffle maker is actually an individual waffle maker by Dash that belongs to friends who used to live in an Airstream small camper. It’s not much larger than my fist. Some varieties of these can be used for paninis, hash browns, taco bowls, and several other uses. So stinkin’ cute!

Oh, and that’s our Bialetti Moka pot – you’ll break even after six cups, and practically be making money by your tenth brew! Plus, it’s so much nicer to make your own espresso. We use that an a Bodum French Press to reduce waste.

You can find some pretty nifty camping knife sets that are compact and convenient for road trips. Not something you want in your carry on while flying…

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

5. Pack Toiletries

Bring your own toiletries. Make sure they are in biodegradable containers. Avoid the hotel minis if there is any questions of recycle-ability.

This Reef Sentinel Kit has everything you need for travel; sunscreen, shampoo/bodywash, leave-in conditioner, and sting relief. Perfect sizes and the tubes are made of sugar cane resin; completely biodegradable.

Stream2Sea has generously given me a discount code “KimW” for you to use at the checkout at checkout to save 10%. Using my link does not increase your price. You actually get a discount, and I receive a small portion of the sale. This allows me to buy more sunscreen for myself and my vacation crew. 

Use bar shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant if leaks concern you.

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

6. Switch to a Bamboo Toothbrush

Switch to bamboo toothbrushes. They’re lighter and take up less space. Just kidding. They are almost exactly the same – except for the 400 years it takes for the plastic ones to decompose!

Also, plastic toothbrushes remain in landfills indefinitely, and as they settle into the landfill, they release chemicals into the air.

The bamboo toothbrushes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and designs. Some even come in bamboo cases, and they are perfect for offering to guests in your own home as well. The consummate hostess should offer all eco-conscious selections, right?

I recently wrote and published 30 Minute Ecoconscious Bathroom Makeover // Eliminating Plastics and Going Green due to wanting my guest bathroom to be completely, totally eco-friendly and inviting.

Here’s 7 Ways Your Plastic Toothbrush Is Evil. Very interesting reading!

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

7. Trade Razors

Trade multiple-use plastic for zillion-use metal and wood razors.

I found the rosewood-handled razor above from Harayli. It looks as lovely as if it had come straight from Harrods. The gleaming metal and polished handle blend beautifully in the shower. It comes in a Gilette Fusion or Gilette Mach 3 option, and even a safety razor design. I still throw away blades, but that’s much less refuse than I was creating in the past.

Here’s a scary article: 2 Billion Tossed Per Year: What’s The Most Wasteful Bathroom Product? It’s all about… razors. There are some less environmentally unfriendly options presented, as well as advice to use conditioner instead of foaming cans of shaving cream.

Even though razors are not a single-use plastic, and they can be recycled, those are still some seriously staggering usage numbers.

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

8. Shop Responsibly for Vacation Wear

Buy recycled clothing – check at the website/app good on you for a sustainability report on your favorite brands.

Although I have seriously expensive taste in clothing, 95% of my wardrobe is from thrift and consignment shops. I buy top brands, at about 1/30th the retail price. Plus, I’m keeping clothing out of the landfill.

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

9. Don’t Forget Snacks

Bring your own snacks in your multi-use containers to avoid plastic wrappers on pre-packaged energy bars and so on.

Better yet – there are several healthy snacks that come in their own containers. They are bananas, apples, peaches, pears… you get the idea.

Here are several types of eco-friendly snack bags for your trail mix and bulk goodies! Some of them are so cute!

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

10. Apply Safe Sunscreen

Use only reef-safe sunscreen, and make sure it’s in a completely biodegradeable container, like Stream2Sea’s sugar resin tubes.

Sunscreens containing the toxins oxybenzone and octinoxate are banned in several vacation destinations. Don’t show up with illegal chemicals!

Select a sunscreen that is mineral-based, non-nano, coral larvae-safe, and, important too; human-safe. Chemicals that are endocrine disruptors, that exacerbate redness and rosacea, and are absorbed into your skin are not desirable.

Still not convinced? Read this: Sunscreen Bans: Just How Bad are Oxybenzone and Octinoxate?

I use Stream2Sea because it’s locally produced, safe for humans and sea life, and not banned. (At Stream2Sea use the code “KimW” for 10% off) This is the only non-nano, mineral sunscreen I know of that also uses completely biodegradable containers.

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

11. Hotel Breakfasts

Beware hotel breakfasts, or, bring your own picnic set and wash them in your hotel room. Hotel breakfasts simply must be the most plastic-heavy event imaginable. Think about the extra large trash can in those self-serve lines, and imagine how much of the plastic thrown in there is sorted and recycled. I bet not much.

The breakfasts in a hotel feature styrofoam or paper bowls, plastic knives, forks and spoons, plastic sachets or plastic pots of jam and jelly, and other single-use plastic condiments and foods.

Find somewhere that serves food on crockery and beverages in glass.

There are so many conveniently-packaged travel flatware choices these days; it’s easy to pop one of these sets in your handbag or backpack. If you don’t fancy licking bamboo; there are plenty of stainless steel compact sets, or, bring a couple forks, knives, and spoons from home with you!

, 12 Plastic-Free Vacation Tips

12. Solve Several Feminine Challenges

Any vacation can become more challenging to women trying to maintain personal hygiene as well as practice discretion, and at the same time, jump in and out of swimming pools and the ocean on dive trips. Here’s the perfect solution!

Just packing is a challenge – the bulk of personal products presents a bother, as does disposal. There’s a tremendous amount of waste, potential for leakage on vacation clothing – often white – and just the all around nuisance and bother.

While I’d heard of this solution, I had not tried it until a recent dive trip. A lifetime of inconveniences immediately solved! My first experience was with The Diva Cup, though there are several other brands available.

First of all, it’s so small – you can see above the elastic hair band, and the carrying bag. It’s easy to pop into your makeup or toiletry bag “just in case” of the unexpected visitor. No more rushing around an island trying to find a solution. Discreet and so packable, this is the answer to always being prepared while on vacation, without hauling around a bulk of products you might not even use.

Also, there’s nothing of which to dispose, and you have a 12-hour window before emptying it, which should be sufficient for long days of diving and swimming.

Next, I tried a type of discs, the Softcup. While they are even smaller, you need one every day, so you’re back to packing more than one item. One benefit was the ability to wear them during intimacy. They also enjoy long wear, however, you are back to throwing something away every day.

What to read next: How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

What to watch next: Packing for a Dive Cruise

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