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Zero Waste Traveling With Kids

by Natalie George March 21, 2018

Zero Waste Traveling With Kids

Traveling with kids can be a challenge in of itself let alone trying to manage your waste and find local foods.'s actually not as hard as you think it may be.

We recently took a family vacation to Quebec City and are going to share with you some of our tips we learned along the way and a few strategies we used to have a less wasteful trip while out and about.

This summer we will be heading on a two month road trip to BC where we will truly be testing our Zero Waste Travel tips.

The majority of waste while traveling comes from eating foods - napkins, straws, disposable containers & packaging, styrofoam take away containers.

First thing is first. Let go of expectations!

It's not going to be perfect and there are going to be locations where you have no choice but to order items in plastic or throw away garbage. Life is not perfect, you will make mistakes and it is totally fine! Move on quick and know better for next time - it's the best you can do.

Stay in an Air BnB or Bed & Breakfast

Staying in a hotel can be costly and less eco friendly. Hotels have many single use items throughout their facilities that you often won't find in an Air BnB (coffee filters, shampoo bottles, soaps, etc) and these add up to huge waste when you attribute how many people stay in a hotel each day and how many hotels there are in every city of our country. They also use more water on average than an Air BnB - especially since they often wash sheets and towels on a daily basis. Choose an a local Air BnB or Bed & Breakfast and you will find that many other advantages as well - convenience, parking, privacy, lower noise level, more amenities and comfort!

Bring your own food with you

Pack food in a cooler and stay in a location with a fridge. We found it easiest to pack breakfast foods and snacks to bring with us. We brought with us fresh fruits, veggies, banana bread, oatmeal, eggs and milk along with a few other staples such as crackers, tortilla chips and salsa. We also packed a couple of frozen locally made pizza's that could be made as a fast dinner or lunch for on the go. These foods made for quick and easy snacks when we were out and about or when we had little choices for healthy foods. It also ensured that our children had a full belly in the morning without having to get out to a restaurant right away.

Bring your Own Containers

Be sure to pack a few stainless steel containers and water bottles. You won't believe how handy they will be on your trip. Whether packing extra snacks in your bento or bringing a few leak proof containers for leftovers you will find these containers to be extremely helpful on your trip.

Stainless steel water bottles are easy to take with you and can be refilled almost anywhere on the road. It will save you from purchasing sugar filled drinks for the kids or plastic water bottles!

Seek out restaurants with local, healthy food

Vacations can be expensive, especially when you add up the eating out factor. We always try to seek out healthy, local restaurants with real food menus. To save on costs we eat a late lunch and often order from the adult menu for the kids (they share an adult meal which I find ends up offering more food and often at a more reasonable price). I find there is more variety of the adult menu and there is always enough food in an adult meal to feed two kids. Don't forget to ask for no straws when ordering drinks or bring your reusable bottles with you.

Avoid fast food, take out restaurants since they produce the largest amount of waste! We look for road side restaurants that have eat in options whereby we can choose to have the food in reusable bowls, plates and cups. It can be slightly more challenging to find these places, especially while traveling but if you plan ahead or give yourself some extra time you will avoid all the waste from standard take out restaurants and you will find healthier food for you and your kids.

Carry your own reusable napkins in your diaper bag or purse

I always have a small stash of resuable wipes in my purse for emergencies. They work great as napkins on little faces in restaurants so that we don't have to use the paper napkins or they can be used on the road as tissues.

Avoid Food Waste and Bring Leftovers Back with You

This is where the fridge comes in handy. Save those leftovers (hopefully in your own container!) and bring them back for later. You will save food waste and the kids will have a snack for later in the day when they get hungry again.

Be prepared

Know your options ahead of time and try not to make too many last minute decisions. Last minute decisions are always convenience decisions and those are the ones that are most wasteful. Plan ahead as much as you can while still allowing yourself flexibility. Ask around for advice and tips and do some research before heading out on the road. Your peace of mind and budget will appreciate it!

Enjoy the Moment

This leads back to our first tip about letting go of expectations. Enjoy the moment and remember that you are on vacation! If you are stressing too much about where to eat, which containers to bring and the fact that you used too many straws you will not enjoy yourself. Find a balance that is right for you and your family while on vacation and you will be sure to have a good time!

Natalie George
Natalie George


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