I’ll spare you my pitch on why you should use cloth diapers on your child; I imagine if you are reading this post then you already cloth diaper. Some of the lingo that I use presupposes that you already cloth diaper. If you are considering traveling with cloth diapers, I can tell you that it is not as difficult as you might think!
A Frequent question that people ask is: should I travel with cloth diapers or should I just use disposables? If you decide that you’d like to travel with cloth, then the next question is, how do I travel with cloth diapers?
I began cloth diapering my son at two weeks old, and I clothed diapered until he potty trained at 27 months. During that time we took numerous road trips, two domestic round trip flights and five international round trip flights. I cloth diapered on all of those trips.
There is no right or wrong answer in deciding whether to cloth diaper while traveling. If you choose to use disposable’s on your trip, there is no shame in that. Whether you cloth diaper on vacation or not, how many diapers you bring, how you wash them, etc. will all depend on a few factors.
In this article, I will review the things that you need to consider in deciding to travel with cloth diapers, how many diapers to bring, and I will also give you some general tips. Let’s review the issues and hopefully by the end you’ll have enough information to make traveling with cloth diapers seem easy as pie!
Why Travel with Cloth?
You are probably considering traveling with cloth diapers for the same reasons that you cloth diaper at home. The two primary motives for me were that it is better for the environment and the cost. These didn’t change just because I was traveling. In deciding to travel with my cloth diapers, I considered the three things below, and I weighed them against my reasons for cloth diapering in the first place. Sometimes the environment will win out, and sometimes convenience wins out.
Things to Consider
The three things to consider before leaving are your mode of transportation, how long you’ll be gone, and whether you’ll have access to a washer and dryer.
1. Your Mode of Transportation
Will you be traveling by airplane or car? The mode of transportation may dictate whether you bring cloth or disposable diapers and also how you pack your cloth diapers.
- On the plane: For long-haul flights, I used disposables on the plane. For shorter flights, I used cloth diapers on the plane. For shorter trips, I would pack what I needed + one extra cloth diaper, and I would toss in 2 disposable’s for good measure. So if you usually change diapers every two hours then count the time from when you’ll leave your home until you arrive at your destination. Let’s say that’s 6 hours, then I’d bring 4 diapers (3 changes + 1 extra). I’d also bring a small wet bag and wipes (I use Water Wipes).
- At Your Destination: I have a dedicated cloth diaper suitcase. It’s not a full-sized suitcase, but it’s bigger than a carry-on. I would pack all of my cloth diapers, wipes, and any other diaper related items in this bag. Any extra space was filled with my son’s clothes. I check this bag.
- In the Car: For long-distance car travel, I would throw my child in a disposable for the car travel portion. For the car ride, make the decision of whether to use cloth or disposables based on your child’s leakage situation. My son leaked after ~2.5 hours in a cloth diaper so I would change him every ~2 hours. For long-distance car travel, I did not want to stop every 2 hours to change diapers, so disposable’s worked better for us.
- At Your Destination: If you are driving then traveling with cloth diapers is a no brainer; you can be a little more flexible with how many diapers and diaper related gear you bring. You could bring a diaper suitcase or you could bring your entire diaper pail. If you bring your entire diaper pail then I’d pack the diapers in the pail and put the entire thing in the car.
2. How Long Will You Be Gone?
If you are traveling for less than 4 days, you may be able to skip washing altogether and pack your dirty diapers home. If you are going for longer, then you’ll need to address where/when/how you are going to wash.
3. Accommodation Type & Access to Laundry
Lastly, you’ll need to consider accommodation type and whether you will have access to a washer/dryer or a laundromat. Another question you’ll want to ask yourself is if will you want to do diaper laundry?
If it’s a beach resort, you may not want to be washing nappies. If you are doing a three-week tour of Italy, then it will take a little more research to ensure that you can have access to a washing machine at each destination.
If you are going to visit family, it may not be that big of a deal.
If you are staying at someone’s house, then you’ll most likely have access to a washer and a dryer. Before departure, you should ask your host if it is ok that you wash diaper laundry in their machines.
If your accommodation does not have a washer or dryer, then consider whether you can or would want to use a laundromat. You can also hand wash diapers in the sink or in the tub; I have never done this, but it’s an option.
Two other considerations are the cost of laundry (if you have to use coin-operated laundry) and will you have time to do laundry?
When our son was ~5 months old, we went to Shenandoah National Park for five days. We stayed at the lodge in the park, but they did not have washing machines. I did a little research and found that the campgrounds, about 5 minutes from the lodge, had washing facilities. So we planned that on day 3 of our trip we’d take a few hours and hang out at the campground and wash diapers. We took turns with the baby while the other person got to explore the woods. It turned out to be a lovely day!
What to Bring While Traveling with Cloth Diapers
So let’s say that you’ve decided that traveling with cloth diapers is right for you! The next question is what should you bring?
I would bring 3.5 days’ worth of diapers and wash every 4th day. So let’s say I washed on a Sunday, then I would wash again on Wednesday night or Thursday morning. (Wash Monday-Wednesday’s diapers). I bring the extra .5 days’ worth so that I have some diapers to use while I am running diaper laundry. If that is too long between washes, you could bring 2.5 days’ worth of laundry and wash every 3rd day.
For my son, at 2 yrs old I would bring six diapers per day. That included two diapers for the morning, one nap diaper, two-afternoon diapers, and one-night diaper. How many diapers you go through is unique to each child, so take stock of how many diapers your kiddo goes through in a day.
Types of Diapers
The general recommendation is to bring compact diaper types (like flats). I used All-in-Ones, so that’s what I traveled with. But if you are trying to conserve space consider bringing your flats and covers. jkl
Also, if other people will be watching your kid, then it may be prudent to pack a few pockets or AIO’s.
A good friend of mine also recommends bringing a few diaper covers (even if you are not bringing flat and covers). You can throw a cover over a disposable in the car or over a cloth diaper that is prone to leaks. There are a number of scenarios in which an extra PUL cover could come in handy.
I would bring one large or medium wet bag for the ‘house’ and one small wet bag for the diaper bag.
If your baby is going through 10-12 diapers a day, you’ll probably need a large wet bag for home.
At home, we have a diaper sprayer attached to the toilet. Most accommodations will not have one of these. While traveling, I’ve found that you need to be comfortable with the dunk and swish method or use disposable liners. I prefer disposable liners, and these are the ones that we used.
You have a few options here, and I’ve done all three. You can pick up some travel sized sachets of detergent and bring them with, pack detergent from home in a leak-proof Tupperware jar, or purchase detergent at your destination. If you think hard water will be a problem you can bring a bit of Borax (or purchase there).
A friend of mine who lives in Sweden tells me that while traveling in Europe you may be hard-pressed to find water softeners; however, she says that many detergents will have instructions for use with hard/soft water and you’d adjust the amount of detergent accordingly.
In Ireland, I have used both Persil and Ariel, and both have worked fine. Also, Tide = Ariel in Europe.
- While traveling with cloth diapers, it’s ok to use a combination of both disposables and cloth diapers.
- Bring all of the supplies that you’ll need. Bring your snappies, diaper cream, and covers. Cloth diapering stuff is not readily available on the road.
- Pack precisely what you’ll need, don’t pack extra diapers.
- Stop cloth diapering at home a half-day to one full day before travel and do diaper laundry. You do not want dirty diapers sitting in the pail at home for two weeks. If you do end up with a dirty diaper or two pack them with you and wash them at your destination.
- Many European destinations do not have dryers readily available. You can hang dry the diapers around the hotel/Airbnb, or you can drape them over radiators.
Traveling with cloth diapers is totally doable!! It just takes some planning and forethought. Also, practice makes perfect (or better). This is like any other skill in life, you just have to try it and see how it goes. You’ll live and learn, and you can make adjustments for the next time!
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