Packing Tips For a Zero-Waste Trip to Walt Disney World

Packing Tips For a Zero-Waste Trip to Walt Disney World
Disney Parks Zero Waste Wandering

This post is just one part of our Complete Guide to a Fully Sustainable, Zero-Waste Walt Disney World Vacation where we cover all aspects of visiting WDW with zero-waste in mind.

Packing as light as possible will also help reduce emissions during travel, but there are a few key things we recommend every traveling never leaves home without. This isn’t your typical packing list – we designed it to make you a zero-waste warrior on the road. A lot of these items can be used for any type of travel (and really everyday life) but we’ll provide reasons for bringing them to and tips for how to use them specifically in Walt Disney World. Some of these tips might even save you money!

We should also preface this page by letting you know that we’ve linked to a number of products that we find useful in maintaining a Zero-Waste lifestyle. In keeping with the spirit of minimal environmental impact, however, we encourage you to (in this order) borrow, rent, thrift/buy used, or create any/all of these items before you consider buying them brand new online or in a store. The links we provide are intended as examples of the types of products you should look for.

Zero-Waste Essentials

These are the things you’ll find on us at all times, even outside of the parks in day-to-day use. It may sound like a lot to carry, but do what works well for you. Disney even sells some of these items in the parks. Check out tips on where to find them and how to choose the perfect one in our Zero-Waste Guide For Souvenir and Gift Shopping While at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Water Bottle

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster branded water bottles for sale

Carry a reusable water bottle with you to avoid having to buy expensive and wasteful plastic bottles.

Since Florida tap water has a rather distinctive (gross) taste, we seek out fresh tasting, filtered water when we visit Walt Disney World. Find out where to find free, zero-waste filtered water and other hydration tips by reading our Complete Guide to Zero-Waste Eating and Drinking at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney does not allow glass containers in the parks unless they’re small, baby food jars (under 4 ounces), so we recommend a bottle that’s stainless steel or hard plastic. Disney sells a wide range of these types of bottles on ShopDisney.com and in the parks so finding one to show off your favorite character or attraction shouldn’t be a problem.

Look for one that’s durable and has a handle or clip for easy carrying – see more tips for shopping in our Zero-Waste Guide For Souvenir and Gift Shopping While at the Walt Disney World Resort.

We like to have dedicated “water only” bottles since putting anything else in it makes it difficult to clean the inside, especially when traveling. Only putting water in it also allows less frequent cleaning.

Hot/Cold Tumbler

Contrary to what you may have heard, there are places on Walt Disney World property where you can fill your reusable travel mug with things like soda, coffee, tea, and even booze – we show you how in our Complete Guide to Zero-Waste Eating and Drinking at the Walt Disney World Resort. To nobody’s surprise, Disney sells an endless amount of designs for these too, but they tend to be a bit cheaper in quality.

Tumblers can be a fashionable accessory for anyone

These tumblers can be used to hold either hot or cold drinks. If carrying both a water bottle and a mug are too much, just carry the tumbler and feel free to use it to hydrate between caffeine doses.

We suggest investing in one that’s mostly stainless steel as plastic tends to chip, crack, or wear over time. 16-ounce (2 cup) capacity seems to be a good size for on-the-go. Look for one that seals airtight so you can throw it in your backpack instead of holding it in your hand until empty. This also helps alleviate spillophobia (a diagnosed fear of spilling your beverage).

Contigo makes some of the best ones on the market but we’ve also found great ones from time to time in our local Starbucks. Be sure to give it a good rinse and scrub with soap in your hotel sink at the end of each day to keep it looking fresh. With daily cleaning and care, we’ve had tumblers last for many years before wearing out or breaking. Imagine how many disposable cups and bottles that’s replaced?? Perhaps thousands!

Utensil and Straw Kit

Having stainless steel utensils on us in Disney World has saved us plenty of heartache when it comes to quick-service dining – especially during Epcot festivals where plasticware is used and tossed in a matter of seconds. If you don’t plan on keeping utensils on you, find out which food spots don’t use plastic in our Complete Guide to Zero-Waste Eating and Drinking at the Walt Disney World Resort.

A family-sized homemade utensil kit. Maybe we should start our own Etsy?

For now, we recommend packing either a fork or spoon (remember that knives, except plastic or rounded blade, are prohibited in carryon baggage and technically not allowed in Disney Parks – even though you can find them in some restaurants). Snag ones from your own kitchen or check your local thrift store. We’ve actually evolved from carrying a kit and now just keep a spork on us at all times – you can find these in most camping stores or on Amazon in both stainless steel or bamboo

If you haven’t heard: Disney has recently ditched plastic straws in favor of paper ones. If paper straws don’t excite you, then you may want to consider bringing a reusable straw and straw brush with you. We personally stopped doing this since we found ourselves rarely-to-never using them. Even for smoothies, Frappuccinos, and the like, we just end up drinking them straight from the cup and then digging in with the spork.

Regardless of what you bring, just remember to give these items a good rinse and scrub with soap after each meal or in your hotel sink at the end of each day.

As for a carrying case, we’ve fashioned our own from scrap fabrics, but we understand you may not be sew inclined. In that case, Etsy and Amazon offer a variety of choices, though most come with utensils too. You may even find that a small pencil case, soft glasses case, or wrapping it in a cloth napkin gets the job done here. Either way, be diligent about the quality and ease of cleaning as you’ll want it to last a long time.

Cloth Napkin

Plastic isn’t our only enemy; Did you know that it takes trees 10-20 years for a tree to grow before it’s ready to be harvested for paper? Even recycled paper uses precious resources to transport and process. Carrying a cloth napkin can eliminate the need to use paper – you can even use it + a rubber band to wrap around your utensils instead of a carrying case.

You can find napkins or tea towels at Bed Bath & Beyond or any home store. The one we’ve been carrying was given to us by a friend – an unintentional souvenier of Hoop as an unfortunate result of too many sangrias…

If you don’t plan to do laundry during your trip, just wash them with soap in the hotel sink at the end of the day and hang dry overnight.

Food Containers

We started carrying containers with us to curb the waste from takeaway containers used for unfinished food. Carrying leftovers around the Parks on a hot day may not be your first thought but remember that food waste is a huge climate issue – plus you’ll never know when that urge for another french fry will hit. We even found a use for them at toppings and salsa bars. Find a list of these in our Complete Guide to Zero-Waste Eating and Drinking at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Packing up leftovers from Sunshine Seasons

Since bulky Gladware-type containers take too much room in our day bags, we resort to collapsible containers. Our go-to is Sea to Summit brand X-Seal & Go containers that essentially fold flat so having them on us at all times is a breeze. They’re also airtight so liquids can’t escape. We’ve been using these for over a year now and they still hold up great – just be sure to give the inside rim and seal a thorough cleaning after each use.

We’ve also heard great things about Stasher bags which are essentially durable and reusable plastic bags. These are also airtight and fold flat for easy transportation, though can’t be used as a plate or bowl (for toppings and condiments) like the X-Seal & Go can.

Disney does sell a range of food storage solutions, but they’re usually babyish and aren’t nearly as durable and versatile as the ones we’ve mentioned.

Rubber Bands

Rubber bands are real-life magic bands.

One of the many uses for a rubber band on the go… when you have to go.

Bear with us while we explain: over years of shopping in the nude, we’ve amassed a number of thick rubber bands from unpackaged produce like broccoli stalks and asparagus bunches. Instead of letting them rot in a landfill or pile up in a drawer, we started putting them around our water bottles and tumblers and discovered an unlimited potential of uses.

They come in handy for identifying your container in a crowd, add extra grip, keep those pesky Starbucks stickers from leaving a sticky residue on your mug, hold charging cables together, can be used to hold your cloth napkin and utensils together, and so much more. Start carrying rubber bands around and we bet you’ll discover some pretty creative uses.

Shopping Bags

As part of Disney’s environmental efforts (hurray!), single-use plastic shopping bags have more-or-less been replaced by reusable ones available for purchase. These bags are a thicker grade plastic, akin to what a grocery store will sell you for 99¢ at the checkout counter. Maybe great to keep in the trunk of your car, but not really practical for everyday use.

While this is a nice effort on Disney’s part, if people buy new bags each time they shop then these might as well be treated as disposable. For that reason, we always come armed with our own bag in case the need arises. Look for ones the ones that fold up small and have a clip so you can toss them into or attach them to your bag or belt loop.

You can find a number of foldable bags like these online but our go-to is ChicoBag’s VITA bag. We got one as a giveaway over five years ago and the thing refuses to die. We use it for weekly grocery runs, picnicking, and everyday shopping. They fold up into a tiny sac with a cinch and clip, so keeping one of them on us at all times is never a problem.

Skip the Disney upcharge and carry one of these for life. Read more tips for shopping in Walt Disney World in our Zero-Waste Guide For Souvenir and Gift Shopping.

Toiletries

I must admit – when I was younger, stealing little toiletry bottles from a Disney hotel room was a thrill. Now that we’ve come to realize the horrific truth about single-use plastic, we started to bring our own toiletries when we travel. You can read more about Disney World’s hotel bathroom quirks in our Ways to Make Your Walt Disney World Hotel Stay More Eco-Friendly but for now, here are our packing tips.

Durable Toiletry Case

Most people seem to think that you can’t fly with liquids in carry-on baggage unless they’re in a disposable plastic bag – this is simply not the case.

The TSA allows any type of container or case for liquids as long as it’s less than a quart in size. We’ve found a number of durable, TSA approved cases with zippers. These can outlast the needless waste of hundreds of disposable bags. They’re sold online or in the travel section of your local drugstore.

Sunscreen

We’re putting sunscreen high on this list since the Florida sun is pretty brutal, year-round.

Ditch the plastic packaged, chemical-laden commercial sunscreen and go for something less harsh to the environment and your skin. We’ve been using sunscreen by Raw Elements – it comes in a paste form which takes some getting used to at first. We’ve found that we go through it a lot slower than liquid sunscreens, though. The 3-ounce size is perfect for carrying-on and it fits well in our toiletry case. The container is metal which can be repurposed or curbside recycled (but check with your municipality) when used up. Best of all, it’s just as effective (maybe even better) than other sunscreens, in our experience.

Deodorant

Deodorant is another necessity in the Florida heat and should be on you at all times. While we haven’t found a solution that works for everyone, plastic-free products are starting to pop up more and more online.

LUSH carries an array of deodorant bars available, you can mix up a homemade concoction (store it in an empty sunscreen tin!), or even try a fresh squeeze of lemon (available for free at all Disney hotel beverage stations).

Whichever you choose, we suggest experimenting at home (or as Rizzo says: doing research on deodorant strength) for a few weeks before committing to a magical scent.

Soap and Shampoo

You’ll want to bring a bar of soap with you as most Disney resorts (and off-property ones as well) will provide you with a plastic-wrapped bar (read more in our Ways to Make Your Walt Disney World Hotel Stay More Eco-Friendly). You’ll need them to not only clean yourself but to also keep your zero-waste essentials looking sparkly.

Finding an unpackaged bar of soap near you will be one of the easier tasks when it comes to zero-waste toiletries –  we recommend products from LUSH since they’re typically ethical and often package-free. If you don’t have one nearby, check Whole Foods or any natural foods store or grocery co-op: they’ll likely sell bar soap as well as bar shampoo and conditioner. Even paper-wrapped soap is a step above plastic-wrapped in this case.

A look at Basin’s collection of package-free soap

If you’ve never tried bar-style hair products, we recommend to try them out for a few weeks to make sure you find one that works for you. In case you were wondering, Natana raves about LUSH’s Honey I Washed My Hair. When traveling, we like to wrap our soap in a washcloth and hold it together with a rubber band.

If you run low on soap during your Disney trip, check out Basin‘s locations in Disney’s Grand Floridian and Disney Springs. They sell soap, shampoo, bath bombs, and more. The best part is: you can find some completely package-free – they even have large, decorative logs of soap that you can have cut-to-size! Found out where to buy even more zero-waste items in our Guide to Souvenir and Gift Shopping While at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss

We recently switched from electric toothbrushes back to manual due to the piling up of wasteful, non-recyclable toothbrush heads. We now use bamboo toothbrushes which can be composted (except for the bristles) and found in a variety of styles. They’re typically available in health food stores and online – just make sure to ask if it’s approved by the American Dental Association (I can make this reference now that Disney owns the rights to Home Alone).

As for toothpaste, look for “tooth tablets” or “tooth powders” instead of pastes. These typically come in refillable containers but may be hard to come by the refills. The containers are much more likely to get recycled than tubes.

We’ve been using a homemade paste made primarily of baking soda and coconut oil which seems to do a great job (no complaints from our dentists), but of course, it may not be right for everyone.

Floss should be easy as a new crop of refillable floss containers and refill packs have popped up on the market lately.

Clothing

We won’t get into a packing list, as those are a dime-a-dozen. We still want to mention a few items you may not have thought of. As always, you should make a trip out to your local vintage clothing store or thrift shop before giving in to fast-fashion.

Raincoat

Fun fact: it rains in Florida!

Another item that’s always with us in Florida is a raincoat. Every season seems to be rainy season in The Sunshine State, even if it’s for only an hour at a time.

After years of buying those flimsy, overpriced, mouse-branded ponchos, we wised up and invested in light waterproof jackets made by Marmot. They’re comfortable, fashionable, and fold up just as small as those dollar store disposables. The best part: they won’t go in the garbage as soon as it stops raining!

Extra Socks

Still on the topic of rain (did we mention that Florida is rainy?), we always recommend over-packing socks on Disney trips to simply avoid having to wait for your wet ones to dry or buy new ones. Though, if you do get desperate, Stance has a location in Disney Springs and their products are really good quality with minimal packaging. You can avoid socks altogether and go with a solid pair of sandals if it’s warm enough.

Extra Layers

As hot as it can get in the Orlando Parks, we do see some cooler nights most months of the year. Arm yourself with extra layers to avoid the unnecessary Spirit Jersey shopping spree. Raincoats like the one we mentioned above, can even double as another layer: a win-win for unpredictable weather. Speaking of unpredictable weather, did you know that you can get a daily Disney World weather update from anywhere by calling (407) 824-4104? It’s the same recording you hear when pressing the Disney Information button on your resort phone!

Laundry Detergent

For those with extended stays or parents of cloth diaper kids, laundry may be inevitable. In-room laundry and resort laundry rooms only offer single-use packets of detergent so if you want to avoid the waste, you’ll have to bring your own. Either pour some liquid or powdered soap from home into a small reusable bottle or pack a small bag of soap nuts.

Pro-Tip: you can check the availability of individual laundry machines at each resort in real-time by going to LaundryView.com.

Wrap-Up

Now that you’re packed and ready to go, check out Ways to Make Your Walt Disney World Hotel Stay More Eco-Friendly.

This post is just one part of our Complete Guide to a Fully Sustainable, Zero-Waste Walt Disney World Vacation where we cover all aspects of visiting WDW with zero-waste in mind.

About Daniel

Curating a database of Disney locations from around the world - come #WanderDisney with me!