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Plastic Bag Alternatives That Help You Pack & Travel More Responsibly

plastic bag alternatives

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We consume a trillion plastic bags every year.

EVERY. YEAR.

That’s a scary fact, especially when it’s estimated that it could actually be up to 5 trillion every year. And even more so when you think that those plastic bags are still here.

The world is inundated with plastic pollution, so we need to make changes to lessen our impact on our dear planet.

Especially when we travel.

There’s no denying the benefit of a plastic bag on a traveler’s packing list. Not only are they cheap (we tend to have plenty of them stashed at home), but they help us keep our liquids from spilling, our dirty laundry separate from our clean, and our belongings organized.

They’re great… except they’re not.

The lifetime of a plastic bag – grocery bag or shopping bag – doesn’t last long. They rip and tear rather easily and end up going to the trash, because let’s face it, who has time to recycle when they’re traipsing across the globe?

Luckily, the plastic bag alternatives on the market are growing. With these options, travelers can travel without disposable plastics.

Plastic Bag Alternatives for Shopping

Don’t be tempted by plastic shopping bags when shopping for clothes and souvenirs, or while shopping for the occasional groceries to bring back to your AirBnb. Bring some reusable shopping bags, or even a stuffable backpack, for shopping trips.

If you know you’ll be doing some decent grocery shopping, some mesh baggies for produce will also be useful – and they take up virtually no weight or space. For more usefulness, they can double as lingerie washing bags, or bags to help organize the rest of your packing list belongings.

Here are our top picks for plastic shopping bag alternatives:

Baggu Shopping Bags

baggu reusable shopping bag
Baggu reusable shopping bags are my favorite. I’ve had one bag for years and it’s still in perfect condition.

Sea to Summit Stuffable Backpack

sea to summit ultra sil backpack
Sea to Summit Ultra Sil backpack – fits into the palm of your hand. Perfect for impromptu shopping trips and as a daypack. Read our review.

Onya Mesh Produce Bags

onya reusable produce bags
Onya Reusable Produce Bags

Plastic Bag Alternatives for Toiletries

Sometimes it feels like the only way to protect our luggage from our toiletries is by using ziploc bags. There’s no denying they’re convenient and cheap, but with a few small additions, we can forego the need for short-lived plastic bags.

TSA Ready Toiletry Bags

One big problem revolves around TSA’s requirement of using a clear, quart-sized plastic bag for carry-on toiletries. The easiest option is a ziploc bag.

However, there are several carry-on toiletry bag options on the market to help you stay away from the disposables. Our recommendation would be either of the following:

Tom Bihn’s 3D Clear Organizer Cube

tom bihn 3d clear organizer cube
I have been using the Tom Bihn 3D Clear Organizer Cube for years as my carry-on toiletry bag. Love it, and it’s durable.

Lewis N. Clark TSA Approved Toiletry Bag

lewis n clark tsa approved toiletry bag
The Lewis N. Clark TSA Approved Toiletry Bag takes the place of your disposable plastic bag.

Leak-Proof Toiletry Bottles

Even though they appear to be leak resistant, the toiletries you purchase at the grocery store don’t always come in the best bottles for air travel and pressure changes. The easy thing to do is to toss those bottles into a plastic bag, but you don’t need to worry so much if you invest in quality toiletry bottles.

My favorite is Nalgene’s range of leak-proof bottles. I’ve been using Nalgene in various sizes for over a decade and have never had a leak in all those years.

Nalgene’s travel kit

Nalgene bottles
I cannot recommend Nalgene travel toiletry bottles any more. They are my favorite, leak-free options. Check them out on Amazon.

Soap and Shampoo Bar Storage

Traveling with bar soap or a shampoo bar? Chances are you toss the little guy into a ziploc bag before putting it back in your toiletry kit.

If not, then you probably have a soap container, which can get a little bulky, especially when you probably don’t need all that space once the bar gets used.

An alternative is to use a beeswax wrap to wrap up the soap. Just be sure to let your bar dry off before wrapping it up.

Honeybee Beeswax Wraps

honeybee beeswax wraps
Cover your soap bars with beeswax wraps when you travel. Try Honeybee Wraps.

Plastic Bag Alternatives for Clothing

Packing Organization

We’ve all seen the packing tips on some websites that show an organized suitcase with each day’s outfits in separate oversized ziploc bags. While that helps you keep your sanity while traveling, it’s a lot of plastic bags that will eventually die and end up out there in the environment.

Instead, invest in packing cubes to organize your clothing (and other belongings) in a more reusable manner. Our favorites at HPL are the Eagle Creek Compressible Pack-It Specter cubes – super lightweight and convenient.

Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes

compression packing cubes
Eagle Creek’s compression packing cubes are super lightweight and durable.

Shoe Bags

Our shoes are disgusting. Even if they aren’t covered in mud, they have been out there touching everything on the ground – you know, where people spit and animals use the toilet. Throwing them in a plastic shopping bag before packing them makes perfect sense, but that darn plastic bag is unnecessary.

Invest in shoe bags instead – those that can be washed and reused for years. Our pick would actually be the 3D Zip Set from Baggu as the bigger 2 of the set can be used for shoes, and the smaller one for extra luggage organization.

Baggu 3D Zip Set

baggu 3d zip set
Use the Baggu 3D Zip Set bags (large and medium) for shoe storage.

Dirty Clothes

Instead of throwing your dirty laundry into a small garbage bag to keep it separated from your clean clothes, try a dedicated and lightweight laundry bag. Or, you can try a double-sided packing cube made especially for the task.

Eagle Creek Pack-It Clean Dirty Cube

double sided packing cubes
Eagle Creek Pack-It Clean Dirty packing cube – store your dirty or damp clothes in the water-resistant half.

Plastic Bag Alternatives for the Rest

For years I stuffed a few extra ziploc bags into my backpack for emergencies. They make great options for storing food, separating trash, and as a backup should my toiletries need some extra attention.

But they’ve got to go for good…

Silicone ziploc bag alternatives are out there, so tossing one of these onto your packing list will provide numerous benefits as you travel. Pack a picnic lunch with a bottle of local wine, prepare some snacks for a long bus trip, or have a make-shift garbage bag as you drive cross-country.

Best of all, they can be washed out, placed in the microwave or freezer, and used thousands of times.

Stasher Silicone Sandwich Bags

stasher reusable silicone sandwich pouch
Instead of plastic ziploc bags, try a reusable silicone pouch – can be frozen, microwaved, boiled, washed and reused.

Plastic Bag Alternatives Roundup

Baggu Shopping Bag
baggu shopping bag
* Long-lasting and versatile.
* Packable and lightweight.

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Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack
sea to summit backpack
* Fits in palm of hand.
* Great for shopping or as daypack.

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Onya Produce Bags
onya produce bags
* Super lightweight.
* Good for produce or organizing little items in luggage.

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Tom Bihn’s 3D Clear Organizer Cube
Tom Bihn's 3D Clear Organizer Cube
* Small yet sufficient toiletry bag.
* TSA friendly.

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Lewis N. Clark TSA Approved Toiletry Bag
lewis n clark tsa bag
* Durable carry-on toiletry bag.
* TSA friendly.

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Nalgene’s travel kit
Nalgene's travel kit
* Leak-free toiletry bottles.
* Saves need to store toiletries in ziploc bag.

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Honeybee Beeswax Wraps
Honeybee Beeswax Wraps
* Reusable and eco-friendly.
* Can wrap food or solid toiletries.

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Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes
Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes
* Lightweight and compressible cubes.
* Organize your luggage without plastic bags.

BUY NOW
Baggu 3D Zip Set
Baggu 3D Zip Set
* Great option for shoe bags (larger 2).
* Versatile for organizing.

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Eagle Creek Clean Dirty Cube
eagle creek clean dirty cube
* Store dirty clothes in other half of cube.
* Keeps luggage tidy.

BUY NOW
Stasher Silicone Sandwich Bags
Stasher Silicone Sandwich Bags
* Washable, freezable, microwavable.
* Good for food storage and more.

BUY NOW

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Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm producing episodes of The UnPacking List or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

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