DIY zero waste travel kit

DIY zero waste travel kit

My family of 4 takes a few road trips around the west coast every summer, and we try really hard to avoid creating trash while we travel.  We’ve definitely had our moments of last minute, unplanned fast food stops (vegan burgers from Burger King aren’t too bad!). 


But now that things are opening up a bit more, we’re able to avoid most trash when we travel with a pretty simple DIY zero waste travel kit and a little bit of planning ahead.  


This is what we bring with us on road trips and when we travel by plane.

Here’s a quick caveat for you: we aren’t trying to travel super light.  Vegan kids don’t always have lots of choices and might be a little picky at times, so we tend to overpack a little to make travel go more smoothly for everyone.  You might find that you don’t need all of these things if you’re more minimalist and flexible in your foods.

  • travel mug for everyone who might want a hot or specialty beverage. 

I drink coffee most mornings, and my daughters like the occasional boba tea or frozen lemonade or orchata. And as I’m filming this, most businesses are letting you bring in your own reusable coffee mug again. So we get our coffees, frappucinos, or frozen lemonades in our own containers.  Just wash it well before you bring it in and don’t be afraid to ask!

  • water bottle – for everyone. 

Pretty self explanatory.  On road trips, we keep a few extras in the car with extra water. On plane trips, we bring a couple of extras too in case they won’t refill our water for us and want us to use their plastic cups.

  • travel size fork/spoon/knife (but not on an airplane) or spork for everyone.

If we’re eating somewhere that doesn’t use real silverware, we’ll ask them to keep the forks .  Usually they oblige, sometimes they forget, but if we’ve got forks and spoons, we know we can skip disposable ones. Putting them on the table helps remind the staff that you don’t need utensils.

  • reusable straws

This is one of those items you can probably get away without, but if you’ve got kids who get excited about frozen lemonade or boba tea, one of these is a nice addition to your DIY zero waste travel kit!

BTW, if you want a little pouch that holds your utensils & straw, I’ve got a tutorial video HERE

  • cloth napkins

We always have a few of these handy.  They let us avoid paper napkins & are great for a spill in the car. I have a video tutorial HERE & a blog post HERE on how to sew your own napkins here.  Remember to ask folks to hold the napkins if you’re eating somewhere that doesn’t use real napkins.  Sometimes we still get paper napkins on accident, which we use & compost or save it in the car for emergencies.

  • mason jar, bento box or container, and/or a wax wrap or waxed snack bag

It’s great to have a couple of containers to hold leftovers or snacks on the go.  I’ve got a video tutorial on how to make a waxed snack bag HERE. This lets us avoid takeout boxes, which usually end up as landfill waste.

  • cloth bags for snacks & pastries

If we didn’t finish the chips or breadsticks, we can just put them in a bag.  It’s also great for packing sandwiches for lunches.  We usually bring a drawstring bag & snack & sandwich sized bags.  They’re usually holding our snacks on the way out of the house, so we often don’t have to think about packing these.  I’ve got a video HERE on how to make a drawstring bag & a video HERE & tutorial HERE on how to make snack & sandwich sized bags too.   

  • shopping bags.

Depending on where you’re going and for how long, you’ll probably need to shop for some food, so remember to bring your own bags!

  • compost container

We always try to compost when we’re out and about.  Some places that you visit have compost collection these days, which is great. And if not, there are resources: & have compost finder maps.  Local community gardens, or even a local farm might be able to take your compost.  If none of those are available and you’re driving, you can just bring it home to your own bin.  If you keep the lid on your compost, it should be fine until you get back.  If we’re traveling for over a week, we’ll usually have a large bin with a lid for our compost and drive it home with no issues.

And here’s a couple of bonus tips for zero waste travel:

  • Find local bulk bins near you has a great list. has a list too.  Look up some local bakeries & delis for unpackaged bread & treats. 

  • Pack awesome snacks.

Having awesome snacks from the bulk bins & fruits & veggies that travel well can help you avoid last minute, spontaneous stops for food.  We usually bring a couple of fresh loaves of bread & some yummy spreads (homemade cashew cheese, hummus).

  • Plan ahead!

Think about those meals that might be a little rushed or unscheduled – like the dinner on the road in between your stops.  You might be able to find a place to eat if you look online in advance, or maybe you’ll remember to pack a meal for that stretch of your trip. 

There’s how to create a truly DIY zero waste travel kit. I hope that’s helpful for you!  Is there anything you’d add to this list? Leave a comment below! Or anything you know for sure you wouldn’t use?  Tell me that too.

Thanks for reading!



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