How to travel single-use plastic free

Tips for a single use plastic reduced travel

Travel is great! I love to travel.
But I am also aware about the impact tourism can have. Good and bad impact!

Since I still like to experience new cultures, explore different countries, I also like to reduce my bad impact on nature. One step could be: Reducing single use plastics.

It is no secret that humans create even more trash when traveling. Eating out more often, get more take away. More sugary juices and frappes… 

We want to enjoy holidays, not thinking about any problems. 

But let’s face it…it is hard to ignore plastic trash on the street, on beaches, in rivers isn’t it? For me it definitely is. 

So I do my very best to reduce my trash footprint and would like to share my best hacks to make it easier for you:

Trash and waste disposal is different everywhere

When you are planning your trip, do some research on the trash situation in the country you like to visit. Is there any recycling, and if yes, what is getting recycled. Do they have landfills or incinerators.

Growing up in a country where there always has been garbage bins to place your trash into makes it hard to think about it could be different somewhere else.

Landfills close to waterways

On a lot of Islands (not only Islands but also Cities/Countries) they don’t have incinerators (where they burn trash to get energy) and recycling is too expensive because they would need to ship it to other places.

Most landfills are often close to the beach or another water stream, that when it’s windy or raining (and in rainy season/monsoon it rains heavy) it’s just a question of time when your coffee cup, plastic bottle, chocolate wrapper and straw will end up in the ocean.
-> 10 ways to be more Zero Waste on an Island

And also in richer and bigger countries, like the U.S., Australia and many parts of Europe the recycling system is not really there yet.
They don’t have, or are just getting started with recycling or deposit machines for plastic bottles. So if you don’t have access to a recycling bin, all the trash ends up on landfills. China is not taking trash from other countries anymore, so landfills will get bigger and bigger if they don’t build incinerator (burning trash for Energy facilities. Not the solution for the future, but one solutions against choking in trash.).

 Carbon off set

If you go traveling by plane, you can’t really travel sustainable. The carbon emission is just too high. (You can always outweigh your carbon footprint by using different kinds of options. Just a few Airlines offer the opportunity to pay carbon off set. But you can do so voluntarily from platforms like atmosfair, climate-friendly, myclimate, and more.

So even if you can’t travel without a carbon footprint, you can always make better and sustainable choices along the way.

Focus on what you can control!

It’s not always easy, but reducing your trash footprint is possible. We live in an online world, and there are solutions for everything. Apps, Websites, Blogs about all Topics you want to know about. Also about the topic Plastic Free/Zero Waste.

There are websites providing searching tools for bulk stores/Zero Waste Stores worldwide, Blogger are sharing their neighborhood shops and markets where you can bring your own container, and bags.
And if you go to countries where you might eat out every day or often (like in South East Asia, South America, Northern America) make sure to have your Zero Waste Kit with you.
I know many people who want to travel with hand luggage only, but even then you can find some utensils not too heavy and big to take with you. And if you already want to save money, take your own snacks and water bottle to save the horrendous airport prices!!
So lets go, my favorite “must have” for a plastic reduced or plastic free travel:

classy vs trashy
to go kit: utensils, napkin and cup

Reusable bottle

Your own reusable bottle

Yes, you can take it through security check, the bottle just needs to be empty.
And on every Airport i’ve been to so far, you can always refill somewhere. 

If you are somewhere where the tap water is not safe to drink, always buy the biggest water bottle you can find. 5L is mostly available everywhere, saving 4x 1L Bottles. Look for 10L or 15L Container…
In a lot of countries your hotel might have a refill station, in Thailand you will find refill stations for a few baht, or if you stay longer you can also take the 20L container for refill stations.
In Cyprus there are refill stations around at almost every smaller supermarket. You get 10L for 1€.

There are more and more refill apps coming. Search “water refill”in your App store, check out an App and please let me know if you find them helpful. (Read more about how to avoid plastic bottles while traveling here.)

Filter bottle

You can also buy bottles with a filter:  “Water-to-Go filters reduce the volume of contaminants in water by over 99.9%. ” Perfect for holidays in countries where you normally can´t drink from tap. Now you can!!! Check them out on WaterToGo and get 15% of all products with the Code HAPPY15 (only on the EU website)(filter bundle excluded).

Or if you are from outside of the EU get one on Amazon-> WaterToGo*

Read more about filter bottles and other water treatments here.

Reusable container.

Bring your reusable container. You can find some made from stainless steel container or also foldable silicone container* for food and snacks.  The silicone ones are perfect for travel because they are lightweight and foldable.

For the travel bring some nuts or dried fruits, a self-made sandwich, quinoa salad, etc with you. This is also the healthier option.
We all know the snacks provided at Airports and Train stations are mostly fatty and full of sugar and calories. 

At your destination use the container if you buy street food, or fresh cut fruit on the street. We even bought pizza slices in Mexico with our container. No questions been asked.

If you can’t finish your dinner you can just put the food into your own container, no wasteful non-recyclable styrofoam or plastic container needed.

Reusable cutlery.

If these are made of wood or bamboo*, there should be no problem to get even the knife and fork through security because they are not sharp at all. 

In countries where you even get offered plastic single use cutlery in restaurants its really handy to have your reusables with you.

Jute bag/mesh produce bag/bulk bag.

If you travel like I do, (individual not in all inclusive resorts) and you are going shopping to make your own food while traveling, or get some bulk food like nuts (nuts are great bulk snacks for travel and hiking), always have your reusable shopping bag* and some mesh produce bags* for fresh produce with you.
They come very handy on markets, you can fold them to make it fit into every bag pack or hand bag or even a jacket pocket. And you will save soooo many plastic bags!!! (Plastic Free Shopping in supermarkets)

If they force you to use plastic bags (in some supermarkets they do when weighing the produce in the shop not at check out) you can reuse the bags as trash bags or just use it for your next shopping. As long as it is plastic nobody will even look  at you 😀 

Reusable cup.

If you love to drink coffee, iced coffee, smoothies, etc. make sure to have your reusable cup* with you.
Also these you can find as foldable cups* nowadays. In a lot of countries you don´t get a glass for smoothies and frappes even if you drink in house. They mostly serve in plastic straight away. 

If you see they grab a to-go cup and you know they have reusable cups tell them you really like to get a reusable cup.

Say no straw please when ordering cold drinks.

Most drinks come straight away with a plastic straw. Sometimes they are so much quicker in putting a straw in your drink than you can say: no straw please.
So make sure to order this straight away! 

If they bring you a straw wrapped in a plastic sleeve just say “No thanks” and make sure they take them back to the counter.

If you need to drink with a straw, make sure to take a reusable straw* with you. You can choose between stainless steel straws, glass straws, bamboo straws, silicone straws.

Can’t wait to see how it’s gonna be next year (2021) when a lot of single use plastic’s getting banned in the EU.
I HOPE to see less plastic straws on beaches (or these awful plastic sleeves where the plastic straws are packed into)….

Buy fruits and veggies on farmers markets or local produce shops

They mostly won’t argue if you want to pack your stuff into your own bag, they might look confused though or laugh at you (experienced in South East Asia and Serbia), but just smile back and keep going) they just don’t know better (many people in Europe look grumpy or argue instead;).

I had my first and only awkward situation in Vienna, Austria and Brandenburg, Germany so far.

In Austria when I bought some bulk cashews  with my own cloth bag and tomatoes in my reusable net (in a cheaper supermarket). The guy at the check out looked confused, took a deep breath and took the tomatoes out of the net to weigh them and then put them back into the net…. He looked at the cashews in my own bag, took a even deeper breath, looked at them like they were poisoned….

I said: “just weigh them please, I don’t want any plastic bags I don’t care if I pay for a few tiny grams more.” He didn’t even say anything, but did weigh them shaking his head a little 😀 I traveled through SEA and five European countries to come to Austria to have my first awkward moment. I didn’t expect that 😉

(More tips for a plastic free shopping in supermarkets)


If you are a smoker, please be aware that cigarette butts DON’T belong on the beach, on the streets, on trails.. The only place to put them is the BIN.
Cigarettes have toxins in them that are poisonous for wild life.
The filter is made out of plastic and breaks down into microplastics after some time. 

In Cyprus I saw that the Umbrellas you can rent on the beach have an ashtray attached. Please use them. I did see still way too many butts on the beach around these umbrellas, even though there is the ashtray in front of their noses. 

We need to change the thinking that it is ok to litter cigarettes.
Throwing cigarette butts everywhere seems to be still an accepted form of littering. It actually is not allowed in most countries and theoretically can cost you a fine in some cities.
C-Butts are actually one of the most found litter on beach clean ups. And one cigarette butt can poison approx. 40/50L of water.

If there are no ashtrays around, use an empty bottle or glass with a lid or get used to have a pocket ashtray* with you at all times. 

Thank you for being the change we need! 


More inspirations and tips for a plastic free travel

– Find your Zero Waste Travel Essentials.

– Read our ultimate responsible travel guide.

– My Zero Waste Beauty Routine for travel.

– How to plan a Beach Clean Up.

– And if you need some input on how to keep a positive Attitude while facing all the massive plastic pollution while traveling -> read this post.


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