You may or may not know that I was supposed to move to Canada on 13th April 2020. I was just a few weeks away from my moving date when the news came that the worldwide spread of the coronavirus meant that the border needed to close. With most of my belongings packed up ready to be sent overseas and nowhere to live other than temporary accommodation we decided that as soon as the restrictions lifted we would hop around Airbnbs with the few belongings we had access to, waiting for each monthly announcement in the hopes that the border would open for us again. As the announcements are every month and there’s no indication as to which way it could go, we have entered an indefinite state of uncertainty as to where we can live for longer than 30 days. So with that on our minds, we chose to live week-to-week, safely exploring parts of England I always wanted to but hadn’t previously made the time to do so before moving.
To prevent the need to eat out, not just to save money but because we didn’t want to be around too many people during a pandemic, we wanted to book accommodation that had a kitchen and that could feel like a home, particularly whilst we didn’t have one. This lead to us staying in various Airbnbs across England.
Doing this meant I worked out what I needed to travel with to make life easier living with the uncertainty of what the next Airbnb would provide by having it already to hand, but also having environmentally conscious products so that even if the Airbnb provided it, I had a plastic-free/responsible/sustainable alternative.
So now I’m sharing my checklist with you for what I recommend packing for a comfortable and eco-friendly stay in an Airbnb. As much as this blog post is about making sure you are prepared in case your host hasn’t provided some basics such as salt and pepper, soap or towels, it’s also about being equipped with environmentally conscious alternatives so that you aren’t using single-use plastics or harmful chemicals.
If you’re an Airbnb host then I’m so happy to have you here! I hope that you pick up some tips on what sustainable swaps you can make to provide a more environmentally conscious experience for your guests.
Dish soap and brush/sponge/cloth
Pack a bar of dish soap along with your choice of eco brush, sponge or cloth (these could be made from coconut, cotton or bamboo) because if your host has provided washing up liquid and a sponge the chances are it won’t be eco friendly.
The benefits to using solid dish washing soap:
Free from palm oil
It will also last far longer than liquid soap, so you get more washes out of it
No plastic packaging and any packaging is recyclable
Packing a tea towel is less about there not being one at the Airbnb you’re staying in but more about the quality of the one they’ve provided for you to use. Out of all the Airbnbs I’ve stayed in only two places had decent tea towels, the rest only provided one and they were those awful thin ones that don’t absorb any water and leave fluff all over the thing you’re trying to dry.
Your alternative is to let things drip dry but I’ve noted that not every Airbnb provides a drying rack, so you have to do the drying, and now we’re back to square one in needing a good tea towel.
Try to avoid the dishwasher, especially if there’s only a a few things going in there. It’s a waste of energy and water.
Personally, I think if a host provided at least salt and pepper to season your food then they’re a decent human being. It’s inexpensive but goes a long way for making guests feel at home when they can make food that doesn’t taste like eating cardboard. Unfortunately not every host provides this so pack some with you, along with your favourite seasonings to bring life to what you cook.
To save on packing, bring a combined seasoning like this Hawaiian seasoning that has garlic, salt, pepper and ginger.
Remember to reuse your containers! You can even use it to make your own seasoning mix!
Similar to seasoning, a considerate Airbnb host will provide oil for cooking but it isn’t a given. To bring more flavour to your cooking, bring an oil that has been infused with an additional herb such as garlic, basil or chilli.
If you’re buying bottled oil, choose glass over plastic and reuse the bottle. I would normally have my reusable oil pourer bottle which I pop a few garlic gloves or rosemary, sage and thyme in to infuse it myself, but it was in storage (ready for our move to Canada) at the time of publishing.
If you want to save on the amount you’re packing/buying then you can always use butter/spread to cook with.
Tea and coffee
Not every Airbnb provides tea and coffee but if they do I am absolutely certain they will be provided in single use sachets or pods which contributes to more plastic waste.
Bring loose tea from home so that you can start the day with your favourite cuppa and avoid plastic packaging and plastic teabags.
Did you know that half of the leading UK teabag brands contain polypropylene, a plastic that won’t biodegrade? With over 10 million mugs of tea being made a day in the UK, that’s a catastrophic amount of plastic tea bags that will sit on our planet for thousands of years to come.
Unfortunately not all bags that coffee grounds come in can be recycled so if you are purchasing these then shop from a local or independent coffee shop who has sourced them sustainably so you are at least protecting the environment in another way and supporting a local business.
If you’re a coffee snob, travel with a WACACO Nanopress portable espresso maker so that you will always get a high quality shot of espresso and can avoid the temptation of coffee machines that use non-biodegradable pods.
Candle and matches
Lighting a candle will help to get rid of smells when you’re cooking. You might think this is a little extra and a candle with the means to light it wouldn’t usually make your packing list, but if your Airbnb is a studio then it will help to prevent your clothes smelling like a fry up.
I love lavender candles but if you’re cooking something particularly potent such as bacon/vegan bacon or onions then choose a citrus scented candle to neutralise the smell of your cooking.
Yes, matches are made with our precious trees, but they are a more sustainable alternative to a lighter as those are made from plastic and metal and will never biodegrade. Second to this, because lighters are made from mixed materials, they aren’t recyclable.
A candle also fits into the comfort category below as it is a moment of self care that we all deserve when taking a break from our regular schedule.
Subscribe to Postcards from Hawaii at the bottom of this page to learn how to make your own candles.
Swiss army knife
A Swiss army knife is always a wise thing to travel with (in checked luggage) for obvious reasons from needing to cut something to opening a wine bottle.
My particular reason for recommending you bring one is that not all Airbnb hosts provide a sharp knife and aside from burning your food, there’s nothing more frustrating when cooking than not being able to successfully chop it up. A Swiss army knife provides you with a knife without needing to carry around a big kitchen knife.
Cooked extra and need to put your leftovers somewhere and the Airbnb you’re in doesn’t have any food containers? Beeswax wraps mean you can easily wrap up food or cover a bowl for the next day. They also come in handy for a sustainable packed lunch if you plan on making sandwiches for on-the-go.
Food storage containers
Whether it’s a fancy glass one with a bamboo lid, a repurposed butter tub or a plastic tub from an old take-out order, packing a couple of reusable food storage containers means you can store your leftovers in the fridge or freezer (depending on how long you’re staying).
You can even use these to pack up a salad for a cheap and sustainable lunch on-the-go whilst you explore wherever it is you’re staying.
I really think not supplying at least two rolls of toilet roll is a cruel joke but some Airbnbs, believe or not, don’t provide any and rarely is it enough to last you and your fellow guests more than a few days. Be prepared with your own toilet roll, and better yet, buy it from an eco-conscious brand like Who Gives A Crap who make 100% recycled toilet paper wrapped in recyclable (plastic-free whoop whoop) packaging!
Pack a bar of soap to wash your body in the shower and your hands at the sink to prevent needing to use what will probably be a plastic bottle of liquid soap.
Handmade soaps from independent retailers are always a good purchase on your travels, they’re a souvenir that won’t gather dust in a draw somewhere plus they help to protect the planet from further plastic waste. I picked these bars up from Clovelly Soap.
Shampoo and conditioner
Sometimes a bottle of shampoo and conditioner is provided but it will be a plastic one or worse, mini plastic bottles, so avoid using these by bringing your own solid hair products.
As a curly haired gal using the Curly Girl Method to revive my hair I appreciate that most solid shampoos contain parabens and sulphates that we don’t want drying out our curly locks, so bring your preferred hair products to prevent an attack on your scalp.
Before packing a towel, double check if your Airbnb provides them. Most Airbnbs do and will list it under the essential amenities along with toilet roll and soap if they are providing them, but if they aren’t then you don’t want to be caught out.
If you have one, pack a microfibre towel to save space.
It’s rare that an Airbnb will have a hairdryer for you to use but if it does have one it will be listed on the Airbnb’s amenities. I can tell you with 99.9% certainty that even if they did provide one it won’t be accompanied by a diffuser for curly hair. So if you, like me, want to style your curls or maybe you want to dry your hair quickly in winter I suggest bringing your own hairdryer with attachments.
This is a big difference between hotels and Airbnbs and something that unless your hair is textured, might not cross your mind.
If you are staying in an Airbnb with a washing machine then SCORE! The chances of being provided with detergent is pretty darn slim though and only once has it been powder, the rest have been pods or tablets. Individually wrapped tablets are usually wrapped in plastic and pods though dissolvable contain harmful chemicals to wildlife, so though you don’t see the harm when you wash your clothes, the toxic water leaving your washing machine is going out to aquatic life. Never mind the fact that they all come in plastic bags.
Avoid tablets and pods by bringing eco-friendly laundry detergent strips.
The benefits to using laundry detergent eco-strips:
They are flat so they are perfect for packing
They are completely dissolvable and biodegradable
No plastic packaging, the packaging is recyclable
Maybe you’re lucky and the Airbnb you’re staying in has a clothes horse, but maybe you’re not and now you’re stuck dodging the clothes you’ve hung up everywhere you can because you want to avoid using the tumble dryer. Well, having a portable washing line means you can easily hang your clothes out to dry in the bathroom.
A travel washing line is also useful for when there isn’t a washing machine and you want to give your undies a quick wash in the sink (pssst the eco-strips mentioned above are good for doing that. Tear them to use less on smaller washes) then hang them up to dry.
Not all TVs are smart, which isn’t a bad thing, it means that people are using the old TVs until they don’t work anymore which is better than upgrading and wasting what you already have. It does mean however that you’re stuck with your bog standard channels and if it’s not a night where the The Great British Bake Off or The Bachelor (look at me making pop culture references without having watched them) isn’t on, then you’ll be forced to watch one of the 76 game shows that are always on air.
Pop in your Google Chromecast/Fire Stick/Streaming thingy-ma-bob and you’ll be able to continue watching whatever you’ve been binging on Netflix, or whatever.
If you don’t have one and won’t make use of it then obviously this isn’t important so just forget I ever said it okay? Cool.
Despite being charged a cleaning fee, you can’t always guarantee that the floor has been cleaned, so bring a pair of slippers to protect your socks from getting grubby. Also if the floors are cold they will keep your feet warm and provide a sense of home comfort.
Eco-friendly Airbnb packing checklist
☐ Dish soap
☐ Brush / sponge / cloth
☐ Tea towel
☐ Cooking oil
☐ Tea and coffee
☐ Swiss army knife
☐ Beeswax wraps
☐ Food storage containers
☐ Toilet roll
☐ Shampoo and conditioner
☐ Laundry detergent
☐ Washing line
I do understand that buying eco-friendly products is more expensive than buying those that aren’t, so please don’t feel guilty if you don’t have the budget to afford some swaps. Instead, start by using up what you already have and find a way to repurpose it. For example, wash out a butter tub and use it for leftovers or wash the sandwich bags you already have to reuse if you aren’t able to purchase beeswax wraps. To quote Tesco, “every little helps”.