Plastic-Free Travel – 16 Easy Ways You Can Make a Difference

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I’m loving the recent plastic-free movement that seems to be increasing in popularity. If like me, you’re keen to do your bit by trying plastic free living, not just on your travels, but your day-to-day life, then I hope these pointers and tips will help.

A Plastic Free Life

I have a long way to go to reduce all the plastic I use, but I always think something is better than nothing. Years and years ago when I first became a vegetarian every once in a while, I’d cave and have a burger. As a meat-eater I’d never pick a beef burger, so I’m not sure why I craved one so badly but that’s not the point. I got over it. Some people said I shouldn’t be a vegetarian, but surely a 98% one is better than not one at all (if of course, that’s important to you)? My ultimate goal is to become a vegan, but I’m taking baby steps to get there.

My plastic-free travel intentions are fairly new. They say it only takes 21 days for something to become a habit, so with all the good things brands, bloggers, friends and colleagues are doing in this plastic-free movement I have high hopes it’s achievable. 80% of the plastics found in the ocean are estimated to have come from land-based sources, so I really want to do my bit.

I also really want to set a good example for Nova and Kit, and to get them into good routines. To be honest though once they go to school I feel like they’ll be teaching me things about saving the planet!

Anyway, whether you nail this list, just do one thing or maybe you do even more than I’m suggesting, go you! You’re making a huge difference to the world.

Consider Recycled Swimwear

Batoko is an independent brand based here in England, which uses recycled plastic, such as plastic bottles, fishnets and carpets, to make really cool, stylish swimwear. If you’re a fan of twinning with your mini-explorers (who isn’t?!) they have a gorgeous range too (search ‘kids’ on their site to see them).

A post shared by BATOKO® (@batoko) on

Buy: Batoko

Cost: £10 for kid’s costumes and £30/40 for adults

Why? Batoko say that the amount of plastic that goes into making their swimwear is recorded by weight and is the equivalent of approximately 10 plastic bottles per swimsuit. The plastic is shredded into flakes, melted, extruded and spun into polyester yarn.

Scrap Mini Toiletries

If you travel with just hand-luggage you’re restricted to the 100ml liquid rule, so I know mini-toiletries can be tempting. However, the plastic waste is just so unnecessary. I suggest getting a few empty containers for a few quid and then just decanting some of your usual stuff into them. You can then reuse the bottles each time. A word of warning – don’t go for the cheapy, lift top bottles as they just leak. Instead go for a sturdy screw top.

If you want to take it a step further, Jo recommends using a soap bar instead of shower gel. You can also get aluminium free deodorant bars and such like from Lush.


Lush deodorant bars

Shampoo bar

Toiletry bottles

Aluminium jars

Cost: Various

Why? The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. [2]

Try Zero Waste Make Up

Plastic free make up does exist. I know it’s hard to believe considering how much packaging is often used for such small products, like lipsticks. It’s all just so unnecessary.

Buy: Zero waste make-up on Etsy

Cost: A few quid

Why? It’s a really simple way of getting closer to plastic-free living.

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Use Travel Cubes

Travel cubes changed my life. Sounds a bit OTT, but I love them! They’re especially perfect for family travel. We share cases and I mix everyone’s stuff up in case one of the cases gets lost. Previously I was using plastic bags to compartmentalise the different groups of clothes. Admittedly the bags would be reused for dirty washing or whatever, but packing cubes are so much better as they can be washed so they have a longer life span. Many also have little vent holes so you don’t end up with that stuffy clothes smell.

I colour-coordinate mine, so I know for example, blue cubes have Nova’s clothes, orange have Kit’s etc, but maybe I’ll save all that excitement for another post!

Buy: Travel cubes

Cost: £5 and up

Why? After the UK’s tax on single-use plastic bags, the use of them dropped by 90 percent, equalling 9 billion less plastic bags being used. That’s epic!

Use Knot Wraps

Scrap wrapping paper and instead use knot wraps. I discovered these a few years ago and love them. They’re essentially a piece of fabric that can be used as gift wrap, but also a headband – great for protecting your parting from the glaring sun or scraping back your fringe in hot destinations. They also make a good alternative to carrier bags for packing things like jewellery.

Buy: Knot wrap

Cost: Less than a tenner

Why? Wrapping paper is often dyed and laminated; it can also contain non-paper additives such as glitter and plastics. On average, it takes 6 mature trees to make a tonne of paper. This means approximately 50,000 trees are used to make the 8,250 tonnes consumed at Christmas (estimated Christmas use = 75% of total).

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Use Bamboo Cutlery

If you’re eating at the airport or on the go you’ll often see plastic throwaway cutlery. I always travel with spoons and forks for my mini-explorers, but I’m making a conscious effort to try and travel with my own bamboo spoon too.


Adult bamboo cutlery set

Adult bamboo cutlery set

Cost: Few quid

Why? Six million tons of non-durable plastics are thrown every year. This plastic is putting around700 marine species in danger of extinction due to the threat plastic poses to them from entanglement, pollution, and ingestion.

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Consider Cloth Nappies

Admittedly this isn’t something that I’ve tried, but I do feel massively guilty about the number of nappies I’ve used. Nova was out of the nappies by about 18-months old, which is quite early, and I’m hoping Kit will be the same too.

Cloth nappies are ideal for travels because they don’t really take up any space in your luggage. I don’t feel like I can chat too much about this subject, but Mamalina is your girl. If you’re after a middle ground, Kit & Kin aim to use sustainable materials in their disposable nappies and give back to the environment with purchases.

Buy: Cloth Nappies

Cost: From around £3 upwards

Why? It takes one nappy 500 years to decompose. In the UK 8 million disposable nappies go into landfill every single day.

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Shun the Straw

Whether you’re travelling in the UK or elsewhere you can easily shun the straw and plastic stirrer. It’s such an easy win in my opinion. If you really, really need or want a straw I suggest travelling with your own – it’s super light and doesn’t really take up any space in your bag.

Buy: Metal straw

Cost: Free if you go without or £5 if you buy your own set

Why? It’s estimated that 8.5 billion plastic straws were thrown away in the UK every year. There are plans to ban them in the UK, with some festivals already eliminating them from this summer. That figure would be even bigger if we took it worldwide.

Metal Containers

If you pick snacks up at the airport you’ll know that they often come in plastic boxes; yoghurt, fresh fruit, sandwiches etc. Where possible, and especially for kid snacks, I take my own containers and snacks. Yes, sometimes you just need to grab on the go or you can’t travel with fresh stuff, but even if you take some empty containers with you to use during your trip it’s something.

Buy: Stainless steel container

Cost: £6 and upwards

Why? As an example, grapes sold in sealed trays rather than loose bunches typically have reduced waste in stores by over 20%.

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Bring a Bottle

This isn’t a new concept, but it is getting way more popular so I have no doubts that more drinking water fountains will start to pop up to make refills even easier. Sure, a reusable plastic bottle is a step in the right direction, but a metal one is even better.

I have a S’well one and it’s great. Not only do they come in loads of gorgeous designs, but they also keep your cold drinks cold for 24 hours or hot drinks hot for 12 hours. They come in different sizes too, so the small ones are great for kiddies or if you don’t have much room in your handbag.


S’well 500ml bottle

S’well 250ml bottle

Cost: c. £20-£40

Why? It can take 450 years for some types of plastic bottle to break down.

Bag for Life

This is such an easy win. Shun plastic bags and instead use a fabric bag. There are absolutely millions of fun, stylish bags in lots of different sizes and they can be washed an reused for years. I shove one or two in my change bag and use them for shopping, snacks, spare clothes and so on. You can also use them as gift bags, so effectively a 2 in 1 present.


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Cost: A little as a few quid

Why? After the UK’s tax on single-use plastic bags, the use of single-use plastic bags dropped by 90 percent, equalling 9 billion less plastic bags being used. 9 billion? That’s epic! There’s still a way to go though. In Kenya there are fines if you use a plastic bag and if business people are caught making or importing them, they face up to four years in jail.

Plastic Free Toothbrush

A bamboo toothbrush is biodegradable, so it’s a really good step in becoming plastic-free. They’re becoming more popular now, so I have no doubts they’ll start popping up in more supermarkets soon enough. Ocado offer them.

Buy: Bamboo toothbrush

Cost: £5 and up for a set of four

Why? It’s said that it takes 400 years for a plastic toothbrush to decompose. You’re supposed to change your toothbrush every three months, so that’s just a crazy amount of waste. Electric toothbrushes aren’t very environmentally-friendly either as they use batteries, plastic and rubber.

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Biodegradable phone case

You can scrap your plastic phone case quite easily. Go for a 100% compostable case that comes in plastic-free packaging that’s also BPA-free and protects your phone from scratches and knocks. I’ve only just discovered this idea, as again rather naively I never really gave a thought as to what my case was made of.


Cost: c. £20

Why? Traditional plastic can take hundreds of years to breakdown (into harmful microplastics)

Use Wooden toys

I’m a huge fan of wooden toys because I think they last longer, look nicer and stimulate more creative play. They’re also less likely to break, so travel quite well.


Cost: Ranging

Why? Just like plastic bottles, plastic toys often end up in landfill and the ocean.

Use Beeswax Wrap

This may sound naïve, but I never really thought of cling film as plastic. I don’t use it, so I guess it never really crossed my mind until I received a sample of Beeswax Wraps. Using the warmth of your hands you simply wrap one of the small sheets over a piece of food, bowl etc. They allow the food to breathe and then once you’re done with it you just wash it and reuse.

Buy: Beeswax wraps

Cost: £13.50 for 3

Why? A reduction in landfill waste.

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Go for Bulk Size

Admittedly this one is easier to do before your trip. If I have to buy something that comes in plastic packaging I usually go for a bigger size and then decant that for easier day to day use or for my trips. For example, I buy bigger versions of snacks/food and portion up and decant big toiletries into smaller containers.

Buy: Various

Cost: Often cheaper than buying lots of smaller ones

Why? Reduction in landfill waste.

Use a Reusable Coffee Cup

Many cafes offer cheaper drinks if you use your own cup. There are absolutely loads on the market, but you’ll need to go for what works for your lifestyle. No point buying a bulky glass cup if it won’t fit in your bag as you’ll never use it.


Cost: Various

Why? Each year 100,000 trees are destroyed to make coffee cups and 2.5 billion cups are thrown away.

Celebrate Plastic Free Living

If you want to spread the world and celebrate your movement, these are my favourite plastic-free hashtags and accounts on Instagram:

#plasticfreejuly #plasticfree #plasticfreeparent #plasticfreetravel #zeroplastic #plasticfreeoceans #ditchthedisposables #reducingwaste #lesswaste #zerowastelifestyle

@mamalinauk @plasticfreemeorg @gretazart @dewii.veg

Got something to add this list? I’m all ears! X

Read More…

Plastic Free July

Plastic Free Parent Guide

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