Tips to help you pack less and pack more efficiently for your slow travel adventure.

8 Must-Have Zero Waste Travel Toiletries

8 Must-Have Zero Waste Travel Toiletries

Toiletries are a necessary thing to pack to maintain our hygiene and personal maintenance, but the number of things we pack can easily add up, especially when we pack unnecessary and wasteful products. Zero-waste travel toiletries are a great way to reduce your waste while traveling, and save money! This article will cover some of the best zero waste travel toiletries for you to consider for your next adventure. 

By choosing low-waste, reusable solutions you will not only reduce the waste you create but also save space in your bag and save money on future purchases! With this guide, you can save $150 annually with sustainable swaps in your toiletry bag alone!

These products are designed to minimize waste and reduce the environmental footprint of your travel, while also saving you money and hassle from shopping in foreign places. In this article, we’ll discuss some essential zero-waste toiletries that can help you maintain your hygiene and keep the planet clean. 

Arrangement of all zero waste travel toiletry options that I use

Table of Contents

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1. Makeup Palette

We are starting the list strong, with a game changer for your toiletries with a completely zero-waste makeup palette. Makeup has always been a source of waste in my cosmetics since they are so often made with plastic packaging, are non-refillable, and have a short lifetime.

Level up your low-waste lifestyle with this completely zero-waste palette by Elate. This is a 100% customizable palette, where you can pick and choose which capsules you want to complete your look. Choose from eye shadow, blush, eyebrow color, eyeliner, foundation, concealer, and more! You can mix and match to make your perfect set, without buying all the extra crap.

This palette comes in different sizes, so you can design it for your glam desires. The palette housing is made from Bamboo, and each tablet is set in 100% aluminum, so you can recycle them everywhere! When one is finished, simply order a new one and receive it in 100% recyclable packaging.

Open makeup palette, DIY makeup remover, reusable cotton rounds, and eco-brushes


If you don’t consider sunscreen in your daily makeup application, that should change. Your face is constantly taking on the sun’s harmful rays, which can increase the appearance of aging and create skin cancers. The catch is, not all sunscreens are created equal. In fact, popular brands like Banana Boat, Coppertone, and Neutrogena cause a lot of damage to our marine ecosystem.

The chemicals in these sunscreens cause reproduction issues, growth defects, and more (and you’re putting that on your body?!) Look out for these harmful chemicals in many name-brand sunscreens that lead to marine degradation and coral bleaching.

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Benzophenone-1
  • Benzophenone-8
  • 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor
  • 3-Benzylidene camphor
  • Octocrylene
Sun Bum Face Sunscreen is my go to daily protectant. It is vegan and reef friendly, which is so essential for environemntal conservation. While you're already on a roll saving the planet, get yourself some Sun Bum Body Sunscreen as well.

2. Makeup Remover

On the topic of makeup, makeup wipes are quickly filling our waterways and landfills, and for no reason at all. Not only are they a major source of waste, but also a major source of money spent. Save yourself the trouble while traveling, and swap to a zero-waste option that you can even make yourself!

For the past few years, I have been using reusable cotton pads and a DIY makeup remover which leaves my skin feeling clean and hydrated – yay no toxic chemicals on my skin!

DIY Makeup Remover

The makeup remover is a combination of almond oil and rose hip water, but any oil-based solution will work! It even takes off my waterproof mascara! Look around you for a ‘Refill Store’, and get a makeup remover created just for you.

This is a great chance to reuse any old bottle (make it under 3oz. so you can take it on a carry-on), and refill it to make your perfect remover. I wear some makeup daily and only need to refill my 3oz container 1x per year! The cost is about $4 to fill the bottle.

Reusable Cotton Pads

Cotton pads are the best way to remove makeup with your new DIY remover. They are soft, eco-friendly, and can be homemade! Once I am low on clean cotton pads to use, I simply soak them and wash them with non-toxic soap, and they’re good as new! No searching for makeup wipes in a small town in Vietnam, you got yourself covered for months (if not years). The cost is free or $5 if you purchase them!

If you're not handy with a sewing machine, purchase yourself some Reusable Cotton Rounds!
Makeup Wipes Annual Cost Re-usable Annual Cost Annual Cost Savings

$0.02 / wipe * 365 days = $73

Pads + DIY Remover = $9

$64 Saved Annually

3. Menstrual Cup

If you’re a person that has periods, you need to get on board with this one. Menstrual cups are a complete game-changer for your monthly cycle in terms of health, ease, comfort, and cost.

Not only do they reduce unnecessary waste, but they are also so much better for your health. Shoving cotton *up there* affects your pH, meanwhile, silicon has no adverse effect on your body. Once the cup is in, you don’t even feel it!

If that doesn’t convince you, the cost savings will. Let’s assume the average period requires 4 tampons/day and lasts 5 days, that is 20 tampons/month. A box of tampons containing 47 tampons = $10.47, or $0.22/tampon. Over 1 year (13 cycles), that is $57!

A menstrual cup lasts about 8 years... that's right, 8 years of no tampons or pads. They vary in cost, but my personal favorite is the Pixie Menstrual Cup. This cup has different sizes since all bodies are different, comes with the cutest carrying bag, and has a Buy-1, Give-1 promise. Your purchase will benefit you, and a woman in need to have menstrual stability for the rest of her pre-menopausal life!
Pink menstrual cup and tampons which are both zero waste travel toiletry options

I have been using a menstrual cup for over a decade, and I couldn’t imagine ever going back. I do keep a few ob-applicator free tampons in my purse and bag for emergencies, and mostly since I have had them for years and can’t just toss them!

Tampons Annual Cost Menstrual Cup Annual Cost Annual Cost Savings

$0.22 / tampon * 20 tampons * 13 cycles = $57

Menstrual cup = $23 / 8 years = $3

$55 Saved Annually

4. Reusable Cotton Swab

Cotton swabs serve such a simple purpose, and they can easily be swapped out for something that will save you money and waste. Not to mention how bulky they are to keep in your travel bag.

If you just can't go without the feeling of being completely clean in your ear canal (I get it), at least opt for a more sustainable option like these Bamboo Swabs!
I use The Last Swab, and absolutely love it. The silicone tips are covered in little dots to leave your ears feeling clean and fresh every time. It is easy to clean, and takes up no space at all while traveling!
Cotton Swab Annual Cost Last Swab Annual Cost Annual Cost Savings

$0.01 / swab * 365 days = $3.65

The Last Swab = $11 / 5 years = $2.2

$1.45 Saved Annually

*Okay, so not a major cost savings, but it is a major waste reduction. Not to mention you won’t have to go buy some while you’re traveling and make space in your bag!

5. Soap + Scrub Bag

Once you’re traveling, you realize anything in a bottle takes up so much space. And if it is any type of soap or product, you realize it is mostly water taking up all that space!

Going for a bar of soap will save you so much space, and you have more control of what you’re putting on your body! Not to mention it will last at least 2x as long as a bottle of body wash.

You’ll never see organic, natural body wash soap, but you definitely can get that in a bar of soap, while also supporting local artisans as you travel!

Black and White scrubber bag for soap

Scrubber Pouch

Some people can just use soap and not scrub their bodies, and still feel clean. That’s not me, and if it’s not you either then a scrubber pouch for your soap is the perfect solution. Simply slide your soap into this woven little bag and you have an upgraded loofah that will last a while!

They come in a variety of designs and materials, so you can get one that works well for you. You can even try out making one yourself!

If you're going to give crocheting a go and make your own, props to you! However if crafting isn't your thing, check this high quality MainBasics Scrubber Pouch. Now you can wash away all your dirty consumeristic ways and say goodbye to plastic loofahs for good.

6. Bamboo Toothbrush

The bamboo toothbrush is the icon of ‘sustainable living’, but hey it’s true! Toothbrushes have a relatively short lifespan and should be replaced every 3 months. That means 4 of these plastic sticks end up in the landfill, or more likely washed up on a beach somewhere, where they stay for the next 500 years.

Set of 10 bamboo toothbrushes, labeled as Climate Pledge Friendly on Amazon
Switching to a bamboo toothbrush costs you $0 extra, and offers the opportunity to reduce your plastic use! Get yourself a pack of Bamboo Toothbrushes to bring along on your travels. It's always nice to have a spare when you need it, and you may not find these sustianable solutions in every country you go to!
Plastic Toothbrush Annual Cost Bamboo Toothbrush Annual Cost Annual Cost Savings

$3.98 / toothbrush * 4/year = $15.92

Toothbrush = $0.8 * 4/year = $3.2

$12.72 Saved Annually

Toothpaste Tablets

On the note of dental hygiene, toothpaste tablets have taken over the ‘zero-waste’ market. They are an ingenious solution to toothpaste tubes that typically can’t be recycled. But how feasible are they for travel?

To be honest, they’re not easy to come by in many parts of the world. And if they are, they can be outrageously expensive. While traveling for the past year, even in Westernized areas of Europe, I struggled to find them!

However, if you're in an area that receives Amazon deliveries, check for the Hello Toothpaste Tablets. They are only $7 for 1 month supply, which is comparable to your average bottle of toothpaste!
Blue container of toothpaste tablets to reduce waste
Generic Toothpaste Annual Cost Hello Tablets Annual Cost Annual Cost Savings

$1.0 / oz. * 14.2 oz / year = $14.2

$7.99 / month * 12 months = $95.88

-$81.48 Saved Annually

Toothpaste tablets aren’t a feasible swap for everyone yet, due to the high cost. Sustainable purchasing doesn’t have to be perfect, just be mindful and do what you can!

7. Medicine Organizer

Traveling with medicine is a good idea for a lot of reasons. You never know when you’re going to feel a type of way (headache, fever, stomach issues, no sleep, etc). Rather than bring a bunch of bulky bottles, or worse, not bring anything and try to find it in a foreign country when you need it most, get an organizer!

This Sukuos Medicine Organizer allowed me to just take the medicine and vitamins from my containers at home and have a bit of everything, just in case!
Open medicine organizer with various pills to use for travel

8. Jewelry Organizer

Okay, so not really toiletry per se. But, I have seen way too many people using zip-loc bags to hold their jewelry. While this does work, it wears down over time, resulting in waste, or doesn’t protect your jewelry, resulting in waste.

I am a big jewelry person, so this is a must-have for me. My case is reliable and durable, and it was a gift from a friend, so there was no unnecessary consumerism on my part! Ask around to your friends and family to see if they have something laying around for you that will help you stay organized!

Summary - Top 8 Must Have Zero Waste Travel Toiletries

By choosing zero waste toiletries, you will reduce the amount of waste you create, save money, and reduce the number of items in your luggage while traveling. Many of these items are affordable, and pay for themselves over a few months! Every item you purchase supports a future state of the world; one filled with trash that litters the planet for millennia, or one that prioritizes innovative solutions in a sustainable way.

We travel to see the beauty of nature around the world, let’s not fill it with trash and waste. Support low-waste items and support a cleaner future, for all.

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Packing, Travel Planning, 0 comments
Best Packing Hacks for Slow Travel [Budget and Eco-Friendly]

Best Packing Hacks for Slow Travel [Budget and Eco-Friendly]

So you’re about to take off on a slow travel adventure (or maybe you’re just thinking about it). How could you possibly fit everything you want and need into a single backpack? How do you pack for a trip without overpacking? This is a list of the best packing hacks within your budget to help you stay organized for all of your travel adventures, so you can fit everything you need without the extra baggage!

Read More - Learn more about What Slow Travel Is, and how it will completely transform the way you travel! 

Items packed for long term travel, laid out on the floor
Packed bags for long term travel laid out on the floor

While it is possible to get everything you could want in a massive rolling suitcase, you’ll soon regret it with the added cost and hassle it will incur as you try to ‘go with the flow’ but you’re bagged down (literally). In order to travel affordably, it is essential to cut costs wherever possible, and luggage is a big opportunity for cost savings. 

By limiting your luggage to a primary large backpack, and a smaller personal bag, you will experience cost savings with every instance of transportation, not to mention the ease of movement between your destinations, so you can go where you want, without the limitations of how you’ll get there.

Table of Contents

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How To Pack For A Trip Without Overpacking

It can be tough to downsize from our endless options of shoes & jackets for any occasion, down to what can be carried on your back in 1 to 2 bags.  By limiting your luggage to only a personal bag and a trekking style backpack, you’ll save money on almost all types of transport, while also making it more convenient to get around for your long-haul and across-the-city travel needs. While yes there are some tips to fit more items into your bags, like:

  • Roll your clothes, don’t fold them
  • Wear bulky clothing on the plane, (which doubles as a pillow on those long flights!)
  • Opt for versatile items

Save yourself some space in your bag, and try to limit your packing to the bare essentials of what you’ll need! I guarantee there will be things you don’t really need that are taking up precious space, and things you wish you had room for that you find on the journey.

Everything you need can fit into a backpack, so if you’re over-full, start going through what you have by absolute essentials first!

Use Packing Cubes For Your Clothing

Packing cubes may seem like such a non-essential thing to use while traveling, and maybe they are if you’re bringing only a few articles of clothing and don’t need to stay ultra-organized.  However, if you care about keeping your own sense of style and options in clothing, it would probably be pretty daunting to throw all of it together in your bag and dig through every time you wanted to grab a jacket or find your swimsuit to hit the beach.  

Packing cubes will help keep everything organized, wrinkle-free, and in better condition to last longer so that you get the most value out of every article of clothing you have. When it comes to packing cubes, my best suggestions are to:

  • Use various sizes of packing cubes so they fit the gaps in your bag for full space optimization
  • As mentioned above, roll all of your clothes
  • Use things you already have to save money

While some types of packing cubes do seem to be essential for organization and peace of mind, this definitely doesn’t need to be something that is a huge expense.  Try to find something you already have and could use while abroad, like a scarf, produce bag, or drawstring bag. 

If you don't have something you could use, check out this set of Packing Cubes. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, and supports a Small Business!
Set of blue packing cubes for travel organization, with the label for Small Business on Amazon

Invest In A Hanging Toiletries Bag

No matter where you are going, whether to a bungalow in Southeast Asia or the high-fashion areas of Europe, your toiletries are something you are going to access daily (hopefully twice a day if you listen to your dentist).  Having a toiletry bag that can be hung up for ease of access is a game changer.  

As much as we all want to be more minimalistic, we are humans and we have basic cosmetic, hygienic, and medical needs.  Do yourself a favor and keep all of those needs organized and in an easy-to-access location. Not only will this save you time and hassle in getting to what you need every day, but it will keep your items together in a safe and organized space to prevent unnecessary damage. 

Hanging toiletry bag with blue and white floral design
Check out this Hanging Toiletry Bag which supports a small business, comes in a variety of sizes and colors, and is a perfect organizer for your travels! Nothing is worse than toothpaste that explodes over everything in your bag requiring a load of laundry as soon as you arrive, not to mention what a waste of product it can be if it isn't properly contained.
Another suggestion on the topic of toiletries, be selective about what you bring. Opt for reusable items like a Menstrual Cup, Reusable Cotton Swab or Reusable Makeup Remover. This will save you money and reduce your waste!

Did you know the average cost of tampons is $168 a year? You could swap that out for a 1x $20 purchase on a menstrual cup and never worry about a quick trip to the store again, that is if tampons are even sold in the country you’re going to.

Read More - Check out these Top 8 Must-Have Zero Waste Toiletries for Travel. Not only do they help reduce waste, but they will save you a ton of money every year!

Use A Jewelry Organizer

While traveling long-term, jewelry is definitely not essential for some, but for others like myself, it is a statement of creativity, art, and individuality.  It’s okay to bring along the ‘non-essentials’ that make you feel like yourself, and who wouldn’t want some of the gemstone rings and silver earrings collected all over the world? As much as I am for not purchasing things that could be created in less wasteful ways, I just haven’t found any other solution to transporting jewelry than a dedicated jewelry organizer. 

As much as I wish it could be as easy as using a reusable bag and tossing it all in, we all know how tedious it will be to untangle those chains that we won’t even bother, or worse, the jewelry we love ends up bent, broken and damaged in its rough transport. This was a purchase I avoided making for so long, but as I realized how crucial it would be, a few conversations with friends and family resulted in one being gifted to me by my sister. All it takes is a conversation to realize that someone in your life has exactly what you need, and is more than happy to lend it your way!

Jewelry organizer showing rings and earrings to demonstrate efficient packing strategies.

Make Sure Everything Has A Place

We’ve all seen travelers that have a backpack stuffed full, hidden under a web of cloth, shoes, and gadgets hanging off of the side.  While this might be efficient for getting everything from point A to point B, it’s almost asking to be a target of a quick swipe by a passerby, a struggle to fit in luggage compartments on any public transport if it isn’t torn off in the process of getting shoved in, or just being a target in general as a clear traveling tourist.  

While traveling with limited things in a limited space, it is essential to make sure everything has a place, and that place doesn’t include being carabinered to the side of a strap that’s held together by duct tape (but we appreciate the ingenuity). 

A great way to make sure it all fits in your bag is to downsize what you have and opt for items that are versatile! That bandana tied to the size could serve as a head wrap, a way to bundle your clothes or produce, a shirt, or a hand towel. The Tupperware container you use for take out and food storage at hostels can also be used to house all of your electronic accessories, and the sarong you fell in love with in Thailand can be a towel, a dress, and a sheet for privacy in hostel stays (don’t forget some string)!

Thrift For The Packing Essentials You Do Need

It is an exciting time step to begin packing for the trip you’ve been dreaming of, but rather than falling for all of the marketing traps to get the trendiest travel bags and gadgets, check out your local thrift stores, or online stores like REI garage sale and Patagonia’s Worn Wear. These items have been lightly used but can be the highest quality, for a fraction of the price, especially compared to Instagram products that all of the influencers use (we all know they aren’t on a budget or planet conscious, so stay true to what your life aligns with). Once you have an idea of where you want to go in the world, or what travel style suits you, whether it’s a few months in the mountains in South America, the beaches of Southeast Asia, or the historical cities of Europe, you will have a better idea of what you will need. Make a generic list of some essentials, and hit the thrift stores local to you to see if you can find what you need for only a few dollars! My favorite travel fanny pack was $3 at a Goodwill, and you can always find

Some of my favorite and best quality hiking clothes have been thrifted from a Goodwill, and plus if it doesn’t serve you on your travel and you do need to ditch it, you’ll be less attached to a jacket that cost $8 than a brand new $150 jacket. There is a big emphasis on thrifting what you need, don’t get anything and everything you could use, just to end up across the world with no option of where to donate the items!

Get The Right Bag For You

The final and maybe most important tip for staying organized is to use a bag that suits your travel needs. The best options are overnight backpacking-style bags for so many reasons. They are designed for comfort which is ideal when you end up needing to carry it across a city, let’s not talk about dragging your wheeled luggage down a historic cobble-stone street with narrow stairways (you will end up with a broken wheel, trust me). The backpacks also have a ton of compartments that help you stay organized and keep certain items in easy-to-access places, with enough hiding places for the essential items you don’t want to be found. 

They come in so many sizes, styles, and colors so not only will they fit what you want and need, but they will be easier to identify and locate on public transport or in public areas. Plus, they almost always pass as a carry-on on flights, unless the plane is small it may get gate-checked, but even then that is free so no stress! The bag you use to travel with will become your home base, where you keep all of your essentials, the memories you’ve picked up along the way, and something that you will rely on to be durable while you move around. Although the price can get up there, there are a ton of options for used backpacks at sporting goods stores, and REI garage sales, or ask your friends and family, they might have one they haven’t used in years you can use.

Five different backpack styles for long term travel

Summary - 7 Packing Hacks For Slow Travel

Whether you are leaving in a few days or daydreaming about your worldly adventures, these tips will help you stay organized wherever your travels might take you. It took me some trial and error, and more money spent than what was necessary, to nail down the perfect packing structure to ensure I have everything I need while saving space for the things I want. Don’t forget to minimize what you bring, making sure everything has a place in the bag that is right for you!

The goal of long-term travel is to take it slow, don’t overthink too much, and experience as much of the world and yourself as you can, so don’t let what and how you pack to make your life harder than it needs to be! Simplify and enjoy the journey. If you have any organization hacks you use or have seen others use, please share them in the comments below!

Packing is only half of the battle, check out the other steps in Starting Your Slow Travel Journey!

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Packing, Travel Planning, 0 comments