As for anyone who loves to travel, I think it’s really important to consider what we buy for each new trip and how wasteful these things can be. Of course, some of these things we obtain may not be on purpose, or we simply don’t think about it because it’s free – like plastic cutlery or free toiletries from hotels.
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Having a set list of low waste travel essentials is a great way to not only save money, but to cut down on single use waste and throwing things straight to landfill. These things can be used over and over again, and could either be recycled or repurposed at the end of their lives too.
I’ve created a list of my favourite travel essentials that can help lessen the impact on the planet, so hopefully they give you some inspiration!
Travel coffee cup
If you love to have hot drinks on the go, then having a reusable coffee cup is a great alternative. According to Which? in the UK alone we use around 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year, and around 16 billion(!) globally. Being able to cut down on unnecessary waste regardless on where you are in the world means that you don’t carry that extra guilt with you too.
There are plenty of different travel mugs to choose from – I prefer insulated ones as these keep your drinks hotter for longer, which is great if you’re in a rush or simply forget about it! There are loads of different brands now, and it’s totally up to you on how much you want to spend on one. I really like Chilly’s, as well as Yeti.
Smart phone wallet – e-tickets
One super easy way to reduce waste while travelling is to have your tickets on your mobile. Whether you’re travelling by plane or train, or you’re simply going to see a live show, being able to have your tickets on your phone means you’re not only less likely to loose them (we’ve all been there) but it also doesn’t cost any more money.
When it comes to booking tickets to see live shows, there can be an extra fee to have the tickets printed out and sent to you so this can be a great way to avoid this. Although some airlines still require physical tickets (or you might just be given one at the airport regardless), it’s good to check and see if you can check-in online and get that mobile pass.
One thing I couldn’t recommend more when going out travelling is to have a power bank. Whether you’re in your own country or a completely new one, having a fully charged phone is essential for getting around.
Not only does it decrease the durability of your battery by running it down empty, but also if your travel or show tickets are on there, then that could result in you being stuck in a different place for longer than expected. A lot of the time we rely on our phones for maps as well, so having a power bank is definitely a worthwhile investment for those long days exploring.
Package free toiletries
Although this may seem like an obvious suggestion to some, but having solid toiletries is a great way to not only cut down on waste, but they also last a lot longer and don’t class as a liquid on planes – meaning it’s much easier to fly carry on!
You can get so many different kinds of solid toiletries these days, from shampoo and conditioner to face cleaners and moisturisers. Or if you prefer liquid toiletries, having little silicone reusable containers to put in your products is a great way to reduce waste and stick to liquid allowances if need be. If you need some ideas on where to start, I have a guide to sustainable toiletries too.
Having a reusable cutlery set
As with the coffee cups, this might only be a good idea if you tend to eat out a lot or bring food with you regularly, but having a cutlery set is a great way to reduce single use plastic waste such as forks or straws.
While it may seem like you have to have a bamboo cutlery set, if you’re not bothered by the weight then you can just bring a set from your home, which is also a great way to save a few extra pennies (especially if you don’t know if you’ll use it enough to buy one). If you don’t feel like you need to bring out a whole set with you every time, you could always get a bamboo or stainless steel spork to keep in your bag!
As well as the cutlery, if you tend to buy a lot of drinks that often come with straws, you could always bring your own. There are loads of different kinds you can choose from, whether that be a stainless steel one or a foldaway one to use specifically for travel.
Insulated water bottle
Probably my top recommendation will be having a reusable water bottle. There’s nothing quite worse than being out on a hot day to pull out a lukewarm bottle of water to quench your thirst. Not only that, you’ll probably end up buying another drink in a plastic bottle purely because it’s cold, and so creating even more waste.
Having a reusable insulated bottle is one of the best things you can do, especially since over 7 billion plastic bottles are bought in the UK every year. By investing in a good water bottle it means that not only will your drinks stay at temperature for longer, but you can also save money as a lot of refill stations are free to use.
Of course there are some places where it isn’t advised to drink tap water – for this I would suggest buying a really large bottle of water which you can use to refill your reusable bottle, and so using less plastic overall.
Bringing a reusable bag with you while travelling is a really easy and simple thing you can start off with, and you probably already own a few tote bags without even thinking about it. With most places banning single use plastic bags, having a reusable bag to take around with you not only is better for the planet, but will also save you money – as many shops still sell some form of plastic bag, they’re just a little more durable than single use ones.
I also really recommend having a To-Go Kit when going out, make sure you check out my post on that too if you’re interested!
Although it may not be the cheapest alternative, and also might not be for everyone, having an e-reader is a great way to cut down on physical weight when going travelling. I love to read, but taking physical books on trips not only takes up a lot of place, and they can be heavy too, and if you’re a quick reader then you may finish a book before you even get halfway through your trip.
I love having my kindle on travel days especially, because not only are they lightweight, but you can adjust the brightness too – which is great if you cant sleep on an overnight flight. Some kindles you can even download audiobooks into too, which can save vital space on your phone if need be.
Reusable containers or snack packs
If you’re the type to bring snacks along on a trip or on a day out, then having some form of reusable container is a must. If you like to go out for meals a lot, then bringing some form of sealable tub so it doesn’t leak is a great idea. Though if you prefer simple snacks or baked goods, then either a reusable snack wrap or a Stasher bag is a good shout, as these are a lot lighter and take up less space.
If you’re part of half of the population that menstruates, then having some reusable products is a great way to reduce your waste wherever you are. There are loads of different products depending on what kind you prefer.
Menstrual cups are very big when it comes to travelling as they take up hardly any room and are easy to clean, but there are loads of different kinds of pads and period pants if you prefer those, as well as period swimsuits now as well!
If you tend to travel with large bags which have to be checked or stored away, then having a reusable luggage tag is a good way to make sure your luggage is easily distinguishable, as well as having your details if it ever gets lost. I’ve had the same baggage tag for around 4 years now, which I also got secondhand to reduce extra packaging being wasted.
With the recent hit of covid around the world, and continuing to be cautious when travelling, having reusable masks is a good idea if you move around frequently – some people may already have reusable masks from during the pandemic as well. Some countries such as Japan and South Korea wear face masks day-to-day, so these might be a good idea to bring if you ever go there!
Reusable ear plugs
Whether you’re travelling on a plane or staying in a hostel, sometimes ear plugs are a must, especially if you’re needing sleep or have to get up early the next day. There are a few different brands that make some good reusable ear plugs that last a long time, such as Loop. These can be really good for people who struggle with noise sensitivity, which is great for travelling or going to loud events too.
These are just a few of my travel essentials, but hopefully they help you create less waste throughout your future travels!
Looking for more sustainable ideas? Check out my other posts!
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