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Zero Waste Travel Essentials


Last Updated on January 30, 2023

These zero waste travel essentials are easy to pack and all but eliminate the most common types of travel wastes.

Travel essentials for women don’t have to be complicated. And the best part is, taking these zero waste vacation essentials with you means you won’t have to carry a lot of extra stuff! These must have travel items cut down on food and travel waste and eliminate the paper goods that come with eating on the road. Take these travel must haves with you on vacation or any time you’re on the go for an extended period of time.

zero waste travel essentials

I used to get a little nervous when packing because the zero waste and Boy Scout motto are one and the same: “Be prepared!”

But, it’s difficult to be prepared when you have no idea where the open road will take you. And, traveling has the potential to produce a lot of waste. Every gas station stop and meal can produce a bunch of plastic and paper waste.

why you’ll love these travel essentials for women

  • Every single challenge I face on short trips is tackled with these two waste busting items
  • These two items are small enough to easily fit in even small bags
  • Minimal, lightweight, and makes short trips a zero waste breeze!
top view of travel essentials including a reusable towel and mason jar

The trip started out with a friendly face and a spiked strawberry smoothie.

must have travel items

Some people will suggest a “zero waste kit” which includes a plate, fork, multiple bags, the kitchen sink, 4 chairs, and a map of the solar system. Not ideal for being on the go. Keeping something like that in the trunk might be nice, but I don’t want to be constantly on the move with that much stuff. 

My must have travel items for short trips have three requirements. My travel essentials need to be minimal, lightweight, and keep me waste free.

Recently, I went on a weekend trip to LA. I met up with the wonderful Amanda from Cozy Caravan and wanted to stay waste free, even on the road.

So let me tell you, friend. The two travel must haves I brought were:

  • 16oz Mason Jar
  • Cloth Napkin

how i used my travel must haves

woman wearing a sunhat and sunglasses as part of her travel essentials for women.
woman wearing a sunhat and sunglasses as part of her travel essentials for women.

day 1

Amanda and I both share a deep love for food and drink. So our trip revolved around A LOT of eating and drinking. The morning started out with a mason jar full of iced kombucha and a croissant. 

The one thing I had to do in LA was visit a taqueria. Amanda scoped out a place with real plates. We sampled some amazing veggie tacos! We avoided the paper cups with our mason jars and wiped our hands on a cloth napkin instead of a napkin.

Next, we rolled into a winery on the beach in Malibu. We wound up crashing a Disney party and a birthday party.

We got offered lots of free food. Thankfully we came prepared for finger food. We kept our water in the mason jar and our snacks on the napkin.

Two women smiling and wearing sunglasses while they travel in a zero waste way

bonus vacation essentials

Wine tasting! I love wine tasting; it’s almost always a zero waste activity with real glasses, compostable cork, and a 100% recyclable glass bottle. Plus, nothing beats sipping wine, smelling the salt water, feeling the sun on your skin, and chatting the afternoon away with a dear friend. 

After the winery, we wound up at Sage — a vegan and gluten free restaurant in LA. It was wonderful! They had cloth napkins and respected the no straw request for my delicious margarita.

A mason jar is a vacation essential to use with coffee, trail mix, and even ice cream.

Vegan, Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Ice Cream!

A mason jar is a vacation essential to use with coffee, trail mix, and even ice cream.

Road snacks bought in bulk

A mason jar is a vacation essential to use with coffee, trail mix, and even ice cream.

Vanilla, Coriander, Almond Milk Lattee

If we had leftovers, we could easily tote them home. But, since we had an empty jar, the obvious solution was to load up on vegan peanut butter chocolate ice cream! 

Two scoops in the mason jar to go. If you’re in the LA area, you have to check out Scoops. They even have metal tasting spoons! 

woman holding a reusable towel as a must have travel item instead of using napkins to hold her donut

day 2

The next morning we went to Blue Star Donut for breakfast. Donuts — the unspoken travel essentials for women, am I right?

I presented my napkin, and they were more than happy to give me my donut without any waste.

And, the best part was — I WASN’T THE FIRST PERSON TO BYOC (bring your own cloth) THAT MORNING! Cue the internal screaming and fireworks. 

See my tiny bag? This is why minimalism and effectiveness are important. I don’t want to buy a bigger bag when this one is perfect. 

zero waste store front selling travel essentials for women

Then the trip ended with a trip to Tom’s coffee shop where Amanda works. It is so cool. They have an amazing outdoor sitting area, are totally eco friendly, and everything you buy is one-for-one.

I got some coffee to go in my mason jar and was off.

And, as an added bonus — look at all of this bulk!? Don’t underestimate what you may find during your travels to aid you on the road. Package-free finds will complement your zero waste vacation essentials and should be purchased whenever you have the chance.

bulk fresh fruit make great zero waste travel essentials

Tons of fresh fruit

bulk photo of beef jerky to buy as zero waste travel must haves

Bulk jerky and Slim Jims

Also, this is what I packed. I wore the white button down and drab jacket on the way down, and wore my pajama top to come home.

This all came from my 18 piece wardrobe

I am already missing the 80 degree weather and sipping wine in Malibu, so I definitely want to travel more this year.

I would love to go camping and explore my new state! 

What are some of your travel essentials? 

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  1. This looks so fun! Cheers to zero waste travel. I always tote along a fork, too, and a few bulk bags for buying snacks – but looks like you’ve got it all covered. Now I’m dreaming of sunny LA 🙂

    1. If I were staying longer I might have needed some! But, for such a short trip they weren’t necessary. I love finger food or really just eating with my fingers. If I were more dignified I might have brought a spork. Haha.

  2. I have never thought to travel with a mason jar. We have so many in our kitchen cabinets that I might have to keep one in my car "just in case!".

    ps. I am very jealous about you tasting wine on the beach! Sounds amazing!

  3. Kathryn,

    YES! Pirate for life!!! Thank you so much for the lovely visit. Experiencing LA with you was a great lesson in zero waste, and I’m going to start incorporating that lifestyle into my routine. You’ve got such a positive spirit and kind heart. I see big things for you, friend. <3 <3 <3

    Come back soon! Plenty of vegan places to try, and Scoops changes their flavors daily….;)


    1. Yes! I am so, so happy to hear about your waste reduction efforts! I cannot wait to hear all about them.
      Also, they’re building a bullet train from SF to LA, I’ll be able to meet you at Scoops in 45 minutes!

  4. When I first saw the photo, I thought iced tea and croissant are must haves?

    Kidding aside, these are really great ideas to help eliminate waste whether traveling or not. Though I might replace the mason jar with a recyclable plastic or something afraid that it might break inside my bag. I bring cloth napkin too.

  5. I had never thought about being zero waste and traveling. Definitely an area of my life I need to give more thought to. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for the post. I travel extensivley in Europe and always with carry on luggage ant tips for taking liquors through security? At this point we are required to put all liquids in a 1l see through plastic bag :(. I have been reusing an old old zip lock bag but it is getting to the point where this will need to be recycled and now that I no longer own plastic bags I am searching for a ZW option.

  7. I travel pretty frequently for work and I found that bringing my own reusable bamboo fork, spoon, chop sticks, stainless steel straw, reusable bag (maybe a bulk bag) and mason jar (that I use as my water bottle with a charcoal filter) really helps to reduce my plastic use. And, now I’ll add in a cloth napkin and maybe one of my bee wraps. But, I really struggle with finding food that is a) vegan and b) not already covered in plastic. The difficulty increases when I’m traveling to an area in the US that isn’t vegan friendly and doesn’t seem to have recycling bins. I can bring some nuts and fruit but after a day or two I get pretty hungry. If I have to use a plastic container from takeout or something I bring it with me until I can recycle it. I hope to see more options in airports and throughout the US (until then… "hi, can I have a water with no straw? Can I have a salad with no cheese or meat? What can of containers do you use for takeout? Oh ok I’ll finish my salad.)

  8. your picture made me wonder, bobby pins? hair ties? sunglasses? these little things i never think of, how can i make them zero waste? (mind you i have probably lost 100’s of bobby pins in my life…where do they go??)

    1. I store my bobby pins in a small Tic-Tac candy container. ? I purchased it years ago, I think because it was banana flavored and I wanted to try it and I thought about reusing the container.

    2. Don’t sunglasses typically come on a rack without packaging? Bobby pins come on a cardboard sheet loose right? (I haven’t bought any in years.) You can compost the cardboard. Isn’t it the same for hair ties? I thought they came on cardboard sheets?

    1. You can also try to make use of what you already have instead of buying new things.

      For example I’m sure you have a tupper or any food container that was purchased ages ago and you forgot about them or you don’t use them because they are too small for a portion of food.

      Also if you happen to purchase something covered in plastic bc right then you don’t have other options, then you can just wash that and use it again. For example ice cream container.

      So just try to look around in your house and try to be creative when it comes to reuse items. ?

  9. My mom and dad always carried a picnic box in the trunk of their car. It had metal utensils, a table cloth made of an old sheet, and paper plates and napkins. I have one in each of our vehicles. Now I can up date these with cloth napkins, (which I always use at home) and metal plates. Thanks for the great info.