How to avoid single-use plastic on holiday: 6 Top Tips

Plastic is choking our oceans, killing marine life and polluting our beaches. Most places you travel you’ll see evidence of plastic pollution and yet most people don’t even realize that we’re all responsible for this.

We live in a disposable age. We eat takeaway food, drink takeaway coffee, sip freshly squeezed juice from plastic cups with plastic lids and plastic straws.

So why don’t we ever think about how all of this single-use plastic is disposed of? We feel good about ourselves for remembering to pop our disposable plastic in the recycling. We probably feel good about ourselves for drinking freshly squeezed juice.

But how often do we think about what happens to this plastic when it’s thrown away? Do many of us actually know how much is actually able to be recycled?

And why the hell do we need to drink bottled water anyway? In a country where water is; a) safe to drink, b) FREE.

When you’re travelling sometimes it’s harder to avoid disposables, so here are my Top 6 Tips to help you consume less single-use plastic while on holiday.

Take a water bottle on holiday with you.

1. Carry a drink bottle with you. Stainless steel drinks bottles are best, as they tend to keep your water cooler. Most hotels and resorts have safe drinking water on tap – and you can always ask if you’re unsure.

Have a look at this video for the story of bottled water, it may convince you!


2. Take your own toiletries. This may sound obvious but clearly housekeeping do not refill those miniature bottles of shampoo. It’s also a good idea to buy reusable 100ml bottles for your lotions and potions, if you’re going to take them in your carry-on luggage.

Take your own toiletries, or choose a resort with reusable containers.

3. Take a reusable shopping bag with you and refuse plastic bags from all the souvenir vendors. Sometimes you need to be really clear about this – and repeat yourself a few times!

Here’s another great video about single use plastic – this one even caught the interest of our tweens and teens: Bag It.


4. Eat in. Sit down in that café for a coffee instead of walking along the street with it, eat your lunch from a plate and drink your juice from a glass without a straw (or a lid). If you must drink on the move, take a Keep Cup with you.

Use a keep cup instead of takeaway coffee cups.

Think about it – you don’t generally keep a supply of straws at home for when you get thirsty – why do you need one when you’re at a café or bar? The photo below is of straws collected in a 60 minute cleanup at Manly Cove. Recognise the yellow and red stripes…?

Straws found in one morning's clean up at Manly Beach.

5. Take your two hands, and pick it up. If you see plastic littering the beach while on holiday – do the right thing, set a good example for anyone who might be watching, and pick it up. This is the philosophy put forward by environmental group the Two Hands Project.

Two Hands embodies the spirit of the huge national/international clean up days but asks what you can do with your two hands in 30 minutes, at a location near you, on any day of the year. 

A morning's cleanup results at Freshwater Beach.

6. Say thanks to the tourism operators who are doing the right thing. I make a point of saying thank-you when I find operators doing the right thing. I know it’s only me, but if more people said something out loud, more people would get the message.

Places like Malolo Island Resort in Fiji, who provide shampoo and conditioner in reusable ceramic containers, or Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, who have banned bottled water from their resort and provide reusable drink bottles to their guests.

Blanket Bay Lodge in New Zealand provide a free water bottle to guests with a note saying – “the water here comes from the mountains and actually tastes fantastic!”

Intrepid Travel provide hand made shopping bags to guests on tour and go so far as to explain the damage done to the environment by plastic bags and encourage you not to use them.

There are probably lots more operators out there doing good things. I’d love to start a list here.

Can anyone nominate a hotel, resort or tour operator that’s setting a good example with regards to plastic pollution?

About Author


Mother, travel blogger, social media diva, scuba girl and passionate eco-warrior, on a mission to remove plastic from my life. I also blog here about diving:


  1. Hi there Deb, I love this post and feel both inspired and ashamed. I had a takeaway coffee this very day and they used two cups, paper ones but a plastic lid. I could do a whole lot better myself. Funnily enough I’ve just been starting to look at ethical travel websites.

    Other places: the whole town of Huskisson at Jervis Bay is plastic bag free – every shop – isn’t that good?

    • That’s brilliant – I wish Australia would do the same as a whole. We have so many half measures here.

      Target used to charge for plastic bags and now they’ve reverted because they apparently had too many complaints. The last few times I’ve shopped at Target the cashiers have thanked me for bringing my own bag. Stupid decision. And look at the success of plastic bag bans overseas – why are retailers so afraid?

  2. Yes, I totally agree with what you said. Plastic is harmful for natural resources and animals. This is the main reason that I really try hard to teach my children how to throw their garbage in the right trash bin. I also tought them how to do recycling. I think that these are just little things to do but i know it will help a lot and can result for a big change. Thanks for sharing this article.

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