How to travel low waste – essentials and tips

Author: Ruby Helyer


woman travelling with luggage

It’s getting closer to the time for you to head out travelling, but you have no idea what to pack. When travelling responsibly it is imperative to ensure you leave behind as little waste as possible.

Gone are the days of wheeling three suitcases behind you and strapping a backpack on your front while also struggling with two bags on your bag; minimalist packing is here (thanks Marie Kondo)!

Not only will packing minimally help you with weight and size limitations, but it will also help you travel low waste with just a few essentials.

Prioritising Your Packing List

To ensure you only pack true essentials, you should prioritise your packing. Make a list. Check it twice. You know the deal.

For a week or two before your travel date looms, I suggest making a note of all the items you use every day. This will ensure that the items you pack are actual things you use and not a last-minute panic-pack (no, you don’t need 7 dresses for your trip to the French Alps in the middle of winter!).

By knowing the items that you use every day, or most days, you can figure out the amount or size of the item needed for however long you are travelling for, meaning you can take exactly the amount needed and give yourself far more usable space in your bags. 

Spruce up Your Bathroom Routine

My biggest tip for travelling is, to not only condense your bathroom routine, but also to swap as many liquids in plastic bottles into solids, or even to remove them entirely.

Most bathroom and beauty items are easy to swap out for a low waste alternative; items such as toothpaste into tablets, make up wipes into muslin cloths, bottled shower gel into soap bar, and plastic disposable razor into a safety razor (although, make sure you pack spare blades in your cabin bag!), are all easy swaps to make your essential bathroom routine a much more environmentally friendly one.

For more details on other sustainable swaps you can make in your bathroom, check out our article How to Make Simple Sustainable Beauty Swaps.

Many low waste travel alternatives do not have packaging which will help you to fit more in your bags and only get lighter as items get used. Win win.

Go Digital

We live in an age where most things are digital: money, photos, books, and more. You can use this to your, and the world’s, advantage.

Not only will going digital save on weight and size of your luggage, but it is also the most sustainable thing you can do while travelling.

With most of us owning smartphones, tablets, or laptops, it is easy to create and store memories without printing hundreds of sheets of paper or wasting any other resources. And while a handwritten letter will always be a nice surprise from a friend who’s travelling, so is an email or a phone call out of the blue.

Gone are the days of carrying half a dozen books to read as you lounge in the sun at the beach; most of us own tablets for reading ebooks or listening to audiobooks and podcasts now, a much easier and more sustainable way to get your essential reading done while exploring the world.

Many countries also offer weekly or monthly transport tickets digitally, but do research before you go away and be aware that not all countries are equal in going digital.

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Be Resourceful

When buying items for your travels, try to be resourceful in your search and find items that have more than one use. Not only will this save you money, but also space.

There are many dresses that can be worn in more ways than one; try buying one made of sustainable material like cotton rather than polyester to ensure sustainable value. Along with this there are also scarves and hats that can be worn or used in a multitude of ways.

Avoid purchasing fast fashion pieces, but rather splurge a little extra money on clothing and supplies that will last the test of time. Buy cheap, buy twice, as they say.

Check out our article on sustainable fashion to learn more.

Waste Not, Want Not

On top of being resourceful with your purchases, try to be resourceful with your skills too. If something breaks, instead of throwing it away, fix it instead.

Take a small sewing kit with you on your travels, they’re great for fixing holes in bags, trousers, or tops, or affixing something that may need it. You never know what you’ll come across, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Not only will fixing items save you from embarrassment, but it’s also a great life skill to have and will save you a ton of money in the long run, allowing you to afford your next holiday a lot quicker.

7 Day Low Waste Packing List

low-waste travel essentials

If I were packing for a 7-day trip, this is what I would take, let me inspire you:


  • 2 x denim jeans
  • 5 x cotton t-shirts, tops or blouses
  • 1 x cotton dress
  • 1 x skirt
  • 8 x bamboo socks
  • 9 x cotton underwear
  • 4 x bras
  • Shoes depending on terrain and plans



  • Reusable coffee cup
  • Reusable water bottle (I use a sports bottle; it has lasted me for years)
  • Tablet or Kindle for reading, designing, any computer needs
  • A spare Tupperware box
  • Reusable cutlery (great for visiting Asian countries if you can’t use chopsticks, like my mum)
  • A Swiss army knife - you never know when it’ll come in handy
  • Sewing kit

While packing lists obviously change from person-to-person and holiday destination, I think this list is a great starter that can help you see how easy it is to pack low waste luggage.

Be Considerate

Overall, when packing a low waste bag, simply thinking a little longer about the uses of items will help a lot. Don’t pack things willy-nilly because you might need them (even when you haven’t used it once in the last 6 months).

Remove as much packaging as you can and try to take items that serve multiple purposes or that have great value.

About the author

Ruby is a Brit lost in space. She enjoys travelling the world, having lived in a handful of different countries she now lives and studies in beautiful Tennessee, US. When she isn’t fighting the environmental battle against climate change, she can be found walking her dogs, creating illustrations, or experimenting in the kitchen.

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