As our family travels around the world, we’ve become more committed to traveling sustainably, not just in the activities we do, but in the products we buy. Over the years, we’ve consciously sought out eco friendly travel products. And we try, as best we can, to do plastic-free travel.
For families who travel, sustainable travel may not always be top of mind. Especially when we have other worries to think about like how to prevent a meltdown, what foods to feed your picky eater, and how to keep your kids safe while navigating busy cities. But practicing sustainable travel habits today is critical to ensuring that we can still enjoy travel tomorrow.
As we raise our kids to be global travelers, we can be their models for how to travel sustainably. And one way we can do this is by aiming for plastic-free travel.
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Why plastic-free travel is becoming increasingly important
Although there are some plastics that can be made without the use of fossil fuels, most plastic on the market today still rely on fossil fuels. Plastic is made by combining heat-treated ethane and propane into various types of polymers. Ethane and propane comes from refining raw materials like natural gas and oil, which come from fossil fuels.
As the world becomes more populous, our reliance on plastic and other fossil fuel products and by-products will continue to wreak havoc on our planet. Not only is the burning of fossil fuels harmful to the environment, so is the extraction of it.
While using eco friendly travel products and committing to plastic-free travel isn’t going to improve the environment overnight, it can help. If enough people make this shift in mindset, it can show companies that there is a market for sustainable products.
Tips for buying eco friendly travel products for plastic-free travel
When looking for eco friendly travel products to buy, it’s important to look at the materials that your products are made from. It may be challenging to do completely plastic-free travel. Even if you’re buying something reusable, it could contain materials like nylon, polyester, vinyl, and acrylic, which are all plastic. And products can come delivered in plastic packaging.
That doesn’t mean that you should completely discount buying these products. Reusable plastic is still less damaging to the environment than single use plastic. However, it does mean that you need to be mindful of the products that you purchase. Weigh the costs and benefits of using these products.
Other helpful tips for buying sustainable travel products include supporting smaller businesses rather than chain companies and choosing products that are made from sustainably sourced materials. When possible, buy products that have a Fair Trade certification.
Check out my post on must have items to find out what other supplies you need for family travel.
Our favorite eco friendly travel products to buy
Over the years, we’ve started using more and more sustainable travel products. It’s one of the ways we try to minimize our impact as we travel around the world.
Many of the eco friendly travel products we use are not solely geared for travel. Rather, they’re everyday products that we can use while we are traveling.
Take a look at our favorite products we’ve used over the years.
1. Packing cubes
We use packing cubes to help us organize our clothes. Rather than putting them in disposable plastic bags, packing cubes last longer, so it creates less waste. They are, however, made of nylon, so using them wouldn’t be completely plastic-free travel.
Each member of the family has their own packing cube which they can pack however they want. They fit neatly into our bags and help keep loose items together in one place.
When choosing a packing cube, look for ones that are well made and durable. We like buying them in various sizes, so that they can accommodate a variety of things. Here are a few that you can buy for your trip:
2. Zipper pouches
In the past, we used to use gallon size plastic bags to hold random items. These days, as we aim to use more eco-friendly travel products and engage in plastic-free travel, we’ve shifted to using zipper pouches. They are a lot more sturdy.
We use a variety of zipper pouches to hold cords for laptops, bandaids, makeup, and other small loose items. When buying zipper pouches, you can look for makeup bags, pencil pouches, or even toiletries bags. Again, it may not always be possible to do completely plastic-free travel as some zipper pouches are made from nylon, but their reusability is still helping the environment.
Here are a few that you can buy:
3. Tote bags for carrying eco friendly travel products
While using nylon tote bags on your trip isn’t exactly plastic-free travel, it can be a lot more eco-friendly than getting a disposable plastic bag from the store when you’re shopping.
We carry about five tote bags with us when we travel. These eco friendly travel products are helpful for souvenir shopping and grocery shopping. Or for carrying extra things around. One of the tote bags I have is a canvas one, so it doubles as a beach bag when I need it.
Here are some foldable tote bags that you can buy for travel:
4. Mesh produce bags
On the topic of grocery shopping, I have become increasingly aware of the amount of plastic bags we use just when we shop for groceries! That’s why I love taking along mesh produce bags when I go grocery shopping during my travels.
While I realize that mesh is still made of plastic, it is a lot more durable than single use plastic, and can be used over and over again. We carry four or five mesh bags with us when we travel. We use these for buying produce at local markets.
You can buy these mesh produce bags, which are exactly the same ones we bought. We absolutely love them:
5. Drawstring bags
Another set of eco friendly travel products we like to bring along are drawstring bags. When you do long term family travel like we do, you will occasionally need to do laundry. Rather than throwing them into plastic bags, we like to use cloth drawstring bags for our laundry.
Drawstring bags make it easier to carry your laundry to the laundromat. You just cinch up the top, put it on your back, and you’re good to go! We have one drawstring bag for each member of our family. So even our kids can carry their own laundry to the laundromat.
Drawstring bags can also double as a beach bag (as long as you use a clean one, rather than one that was used for your dirty clothes!). Take a look at this drawstring bag to buy for traveling:
Since we travel with kids, we always need to be prepared with snacks when you’re traveling. As we try to be more sustainably minded, we are trying to move away from our reliance on plastic food storage bags.
That’s why we were so excited when we found out about Stashers. These bags, made of silicone, are self-sealing, so you can store food in the pouches without worrying about spills or leaks. They come in a variety of sizes, so you can be prepared for whatever snack or leftover you’ll find yourself with.
You can buy your own set of Stashers on Amazon.
7. Food-saving eco friendly travel products
Some other food-related eco friendly travel products we’ve fallen in love with are beeswax food wrappers. We’re absolutely obsessed with beeswax wraps. And I love the fact that I no longer have to rely on plastic wrap to store leftovers again.
Beeswax wraps are made of cotton cloth that is coated with beeswax. The wraps can be used to cover plates, bowls, or just the food item itself. You can use your hands to warm up the wax. You won’t have a tight seal like plastic wrap, but you’ll definitely feel good about yourself.
Here are the two brands of beeswax food wraps we use that you can buy for your own family:
Take a look at more essential items to take for your travels here.
8. Reusable straws
One of the things that broke my heart while traveling in Bali was seeing the amount of plastic trash in the water. Some of this trash included plastic straws. While Bali has now made an effort to ban plastic straws, not every destination has done the same.
That’s why we travel with our own reusable straws. I prefer using stainless steel straws, but I have also used bamboo straws. And silicone straws are also pretty popular to use. Throw them in your purse, and pull them out whenever you’re at a restaurant. Start saying “no” to those plastic straws!
Here are some reusable straws you can buy for your travels:
9. Grayl water bottles
Disposable plastic bottles are a big contributor to trash in many countries. But sometimes it’s hard to find clean drinking water without buying a plastic bottle.
That’s why we like using Grayl bottles for our plastic-free travel experiences. These bottles have a filter and purifier that allows you to have clean drinking water wherever you go. While the bottles themselves are made of plastic, you are still greatly reducing the amount of plastic bottles you put into the environment by using a Grayl bottle. And you can now return used filter cartridges back to Grayl, so you’re still reducing the amount of waste.
We’ve been using eco friendly travel products since 2018, and I estimate we’ve prevented over 4,000 plastic bottles from going into a landfill. Click the links below to buy your Grayl bottles.
10. Bamboo toothbrushes
We go through toothbrushes so quickly. And it breaks my heart whenever we have to throw a plastic toothbrush into the garbage bin.
We recently started using bamboo toothbrushes. And we feel a lot better now when we brush our teeth. The one thing about bamboo toothbrushes is that you still have to dispose of the bristles in the trash. But depending on your city’s garbage program, you may be able to throw these eco friendly travel products in the compost or yard waste bin.
Here are some bamboo toothbrushes you can buy for travel or for home:
11. Toothpaste tabs
Along with toothbrushes, I hate that our toothbrushes come in plastic tubes. We recently switched to toothpaste tabs to brush our teeth in our efforts to do more plastic-free travel.
Toothpaste tabs are such simple to use eco friendly travel products. You just put one in your mouth, chew on it to break it up in your mouth, and then start brushing your teeth with a wet toothbrush.
Right now there isn’t much selection of flavors besides mint, but I’m sure as these eco friendly travel products become more popular, you’ll find flavor options that are more kid friendly.
Check out these toothpaste tabs to buy for your family:
Need ideas for bags to carry your travel products? Here are our favorite backpacks.
12. Other dental-focused eco friendly travel products
Floss may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of plastic, but these thin nylon threads can do a lot of damage to the ecosystem, especially when it comes to marine life. When we were in Puerto Escondido, we learned how sea turtles can often mistake these as food and swallow them.
Why not swap out your nylon floss for silk floss instead. These are a more biodegradable option, and help make plastic-free travel much more possible for your family.
Buy these eco friendly travel products using these links below:
13. Bar shampoo and conditioners
On the topic of hygiene, we’ve become increasingly aware over the years of how many plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles we dispose of every year. That’s why we switched to bar shampoos and conditioners.
Rather than using bottles, we use shampoo and conditioner bars to wash our hair. These eco friendly travel products are small and light, and you can use one of the silicone Stashers to store them in your travel bag.
Check out these shampoo and conditioner bars to buy for your next trip:
14. Detergent strips
If you’re planning on traveling for longer than a week, or even slow traveling, you’ll likely need to do laundry. If your vacation rental has a washer and dryer, then you’ll likely need to buy laundry detergent.
For years I’ve been looking for biodegradable and environmentally friendly laundry detergent to take with us while we travel. That’s why I was so excited when I found out about detergent strips.
Detergent strips are dry concentrated strips of laundry detergent that you can throw in your washer. These eco friendly travel products can replace a whole bottle of laundry detergent for a fraction of the weight and waste. We love taking these along on our trips.
Snag a pack of detergent strips for your next trip here:
15. Wool dryer balls
In addition to detergent strips, we’ve also started using wool dryer balls. Did you know that dryer sheets have plastic in them? Wool dryer balls are a much more sustainable alternative, and they don’t weigh a lot either.
We throw three wool dryer balls into each load in the dryer. And that helps keep our clothes static free.
Buy one of these sets of wool dryer balls for your next trip:
Want to learn more about how to travel sustainably? Read here.
Stocking up on the best eco friendly travel products for your next trip
Trying to engage in plastic-free travel as a family can be challenging. Fortunately, it’s a lot more achievable than you realize.
With the accessibility of eco friendly travel products available for you, it’s easier than ever to travel in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
As concerns about environmental conservation grow in the next coming years, it will be even more important that travelers be mindful of the products they use and dispose of on their trips. As you plan and prepare for future trips, stock up on these sustainable travel items to ensure a guilt-free vacation.
Are you struggling to keep your travel planning and preparation organized? My Overseas Family Vacation Travel Prep Checklist is just the tool you need! Click here to receive your free copy by signing up for my newsletter.Want to connect with me on social media? Find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. And for those of you who are dedicated to traveling more responsibly, sustainably, and ethically, join over 180 like-minded families on my Facebook group, Responsible Family Travel.