Family Travels: Fending Off Waste

Two weeks ago hubs, teenie and I took our first trip together by plane (as three) for a last minute getaway to Florida. Wanting to take advantage of the whole under two fly free deal I was itching to go somewhere with her. Having also been craving a poolside bar with a frozen cocktail or two, heat and sandy beaches, we decided to head south. We had considered going to the Virgin Islands or even Key West, but even before all the hurricane madness started we opted to fly into Orlando as they offered quick, direct flights at decent rates. Our plan was to fly in there, stay for a day since I had some leftover Disney points, and then drive to the beach. Never having stayed on the gulf side of Florida we decided on Clearwater Beach. While this trip was by no means waste free (no matter how hard I tried and wanted it to be), there were a lot of steps taken along the way to keep it in check as much as possible given the variables. Every trip is a learning experience for next time and I’d love to share with you all the things that I tried, learned and plan to do in the future.


With everything going in the weeks prior to our trip and having traveled a lot by plane as well as on road trips with teenie I didn’t really give planning a lot of thought in advance. It wasn’t until the day prior that I realized how different this was going to be from my past travel experiences with teenie. First, we’d be traveling by plane so I wasn’t going to have my complete assortment of on-the-go essentials that normally come with us on road trips. Even the ice pack I put into her little lunch box was going to have to stay home. This meant I was going to have to get milk and some produce there for snacking then plan to eat out for most meals. There is an awesome website called the Eat Well Guide which is great for locating sustainable places to eat and shop for groceries near you. Having used it to look up places within Richmond, I knew it was pretty spot on. Briefly looking ahead it seemed as if there were options in both places we were going to be staying. My plan was to at least pack as much as I could that would be reasonable to get us through the flight there, along with enough dry snacks to last the week. This included two local apples, a large jar of cashews and a small container of almonds (both purchased in bulk). I decided to bring two small snack containers for nuts and any produce since they easily fit inside my bag. Since they otherwise would have been empty, the two small containers were utilized for the flight by packing them with cheese and homegrown carrots. To minimize the amount of stuff we brought, I decided to just bring along her water bottle and one small insulated stainless cup with the lid. Seeing as we wouldn’t have an ice pack, the insulated cup would be better than the mason jar for keeping milk cold when out. In my go-pack I had two sets of forks, knives and I brought along several napkins to use throughout the trip as well as a couple silicone straws for avoiding single use when out (learn more about these drinkware items here).  One cloth produce/bulk bag for loose, dry items came along as well as a normal sized mason jar for water, coffee or leftovers. Of course we brought unscented castile soap along to wash both the dishes and the baby, hehe.

In hindsight I may have packed a little too light. First thing is I should have brought something for my other half to drink out of.  The second day in we went to stop for coffee and he wanted a separate cup because he doesn’t like drinking out of the mason jar.  This would have meant getting it in one that was disposable…ew. Luckily this Starbucks was at a Target so I made a quick stop by the travel cups and decided it would be worth it to grab him a simple insulated stainless cup so he’d have something to use throughout the trip figuring it’d get plenty of use in its lifetime. I’m glad I did as glass was prohibited at the hotel pool in Clearwater (understandably) so at least we had this cup on hand to keep us hydrated the whole day through.

Another thing I wish I had brought was a container for leftovers. We ended up having to take home leftovers at least once which resulted in a styrofoam container and plastic bag. While I have been holding off on buying additional containers for the time being since I have several, I do believe that a stainless box like this one would be better for traveling due to its lightweight and shatterproof nature. Lastly, I had thought about bringing a reusable bag but since I wanted to keep belongings to a minimum and wasn’t planning on doing any shopping (like for stuff, not even thinking about food) it was left at home. Doh!

As far everything else not related to food but intended to reduce waste I packed the usual:
– Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, sunscreen, lotion.

I’m starting to realize that bringing an extra bar of soap along for washing hands would be a good idea as that is the one hotel toiletry item that ended up being used during both of my recent travels. Since its always opened by someone other than myself, making whoever I’m traveling with aware that I have it would hopefully eliminate the use of one less toiletry.


Remember when I said I thought there were a lot of sustainable options to dine and shop? Yeeea, no. Not at least around us by Disney. Orlando is a big place, and we were staying in Kissammee so within close proximity of our hotel the pickings were slim. I realized during this trip how hard it must be for vegans to find food. It’s even harder when you no longer want to eat or support industrialized/conventionally grown food from who knows where because that’s practically all most restaurants serve.

I tried finding farmers markets to at least have local produce we could snack on and carry around but even that was difficult. The grocery stores near where we were staying were conventional, and the options limited or wrapped in plastic!! (soooo much plastic)

I also couldn’t find anything grown locally but this may have been because there wasn’t anything jumping out that said local and I realize now that I was looking at produce that was seasonal to Virginia. In this situation, all you can do is your best. The following is what I grabbed so we’d have breakfast in the hotel one day and several snack options throughout the trip:

Milk – Horizon Organic Whole (for the mini)

Bagels – from the bakery section in a berry stained produce bag I had in my go-pack.

Cream cheese – organic in paper & foil wrapper.

Produce – assortment of organic and unpackaged (the pepper was the only thing not organic because all organic peppers were wrapped in plastic)

Since I didn’t have a reusable bag, I got groceries in a paper bag which was used to collect any recyclables we created along the way.  They ended up traveling from Orlando to Clearwater where the hotel recycled (yaaay!!).


As I said earlier, finding restaurants with sustainable menu options was pretty much a no-go throughout the trip. We were able to at least find several restaurants with healthy menus that offered a lot of vegetarian choices which was good. The most frustrating part from eating out so much became the unnecessary waste that came to use without us asking! It truly blew my mind to see so many restaurants within feet of the beach and sea, using plastic cups and straws willy nilly.

The first restaurant we ate at upon our arrival used nothing but plastic cups. {said banging head against table} Let me just reiterate that while I can’t control what my husband does, I can at least choose for myself and teenie. Since we had her water bottle, I was able to decline water in their cups for her and for myself.  Instead of an adult bevvie served in plastic, I was able to get local beer in a can served as is. They didn’t recycle (dirty rotten shame) but at least they let me carry the empty can out with me so it could be recycled at my hotel.  See those napkins up there – these unwelcome little boogers were a common occurrence. At that restaurant I asked if the waitress could take them back because we didn’t need them but according to her, once they were on the table they were ours. Grrr.

As often as possible I’d try to give back the stuff waitstaff would bring us but after a while it became exhausting so with paper products I started to just let it go but did continue keep at refusing disposable plastics.

This restaurant totally blindsided me as I didn’t catch the signs that they served their drinks in disposable cups. When we asked for two waters (since teenie had her water bottle), not only did they come in disposable cups, which I would have totally avoided if known, but we ended up with three…

That wasn’t the last time that sort of thing happened. During our last breakfast before headed back up to the airport, the hostess at a restaurant in our hotel asked if I wanted anything for teenie to drink. I politely declined, knowing I had her water bottle in my bag or that she could drink from my cup (which was glass). Moments later she still shows up anyways with a disposable cup…with a plastic lid…and a plastic straw.  After having a struggle trying to get her to understand that I didn’t want the free kids menu and crayons wrapped in plastic, I let it go since the waste at that point was already created.

That wasn’t the first time I had to fend off free stuff people tried to give the kiddo. Nearly every restaurant had paper menus with crayons. We had kept some crayons from our first meal out, along with a paper menu from the dino restaurant in my bag so we could ward off the freebies.

Isn’t it crazy how much garbage one can create even when they are actively trying to avoid it? Reducing waste when away from home definitely has its challenges, but its all totally worth it and really comes down to just doing the best you can. For many of these places I will likely send each of them an email to encourage changing their practices to ones that are more sustainable in the future.

Come back Monday for a better look at our time in Clearwater, Florida! 🙂

xo, Erica

One Reply to “Family Travels: Fending Off Waste”

  1. “I realized during this trip how hard it must be for vegans to find food.” The struggle is real

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