29 March 2013

Cloth Diapering: Traveling with Cloth Diapers

Let's wrap up this cloth diapering series by talking about what it's like to use cloth diapers while traveling. In case you missed the previous posts in the series, be sure to also check out the basics, how to get started and care for your diapers, the Gilbertson family's experience, and our family's experience.

Just because you cloth diaper at home doesn't mean that cloth diapering is always the best option while you're away from home. I'm not talking about going to play group, the store, or even spending a night at Aunt Suzie's house; I'm talking about being away from home...like on an airplane and in another time zone away.

First, let me share how we decide whether we're going the cloth or disposable route on the road.

Will there be access to laundry?
    No --> Use disposable. We have a policy of not flying with dirty diapers because you never know when luggage may be delayed or smelly diapers may interest security screening dogs. Just, no.
    Yes --> Keep considering cloth.

How accessible is the laundry? If the laundry belongs to a friend/family member, are they okay with you laundering diapers in their machines?
    Coin laundry --> Use disposable. We don't want to risk damage to our diapers or the hassle of guessing how many drying cycles it'll take to fully dry the diapers.
    Laundry where we're staying --> Talk to the host about doing diaper laundry. If they're okay with it, keep considering cloth.

How long will we be gone?
    Less than 4 days --> It's probably not worth taking cloth diapers when one pack of disposables will cover the whole time and we'd barely have enough time to use and wash the diapers before packing up to go home again.
    More than 4 days --> Keep considering cloth.

At this point, we usually consider other factors, including the amount of space and weight we have in our luggage, the amount of times we'll be able to use the diapers while we're gone, and whether we'll have time to do diaper laundry while we're traveling.

So far, the only time we've decided to do cloth diapers during a trip away from home was when we spent more than a month in New Zealand. We stayed almost entirely with family (who were graciously supportive...or at least tolerant...of our cloth diapering) and knew that we'd be able to use the diapers over and over again while saving trips to the store for diapers and space in a landfill.

Next, let's talk about the pros, cons, and experience of cloth diapering while away from home.


  • Using the same diapers as normal means consistency for the little one and you. You can largely avoid figuring out which brand of disposable will result in the fewest leaks/rashes, which is especially nice when traveling internationally. 
  • If you're traveling somewhere sunny, it's a good opportunity to get the diapers in the sun for some serious natural disinfectant. 
  • If you're going to access laundry for diapers every few days, you can pack fewer clothes and do some clothing laundry at the same place you're laundering diapers. 


  • Diapers can get heavy and are certainly bulky, so they have the potential to take up a lot of luggage space and weight. 
  • You have to do laundry on vacation. Wah-wah. Then again, if you're a parent and you're traveling for any length of time, you'll be doing laundry anyway. Wah-wah.

As I mentioned, we took our cloth diapers to New Zealand and had a great experience. We used the itti bitti d'lish snap in ones. Because we can reuse the outer cover and only go through two or three per day, we took about half as many outer covers as we did inserts. I took two large wet bags so that one wet bag could be in the wash while we filled the other with another round of dirty diapers. We also used the extra wet bags to carry clean diapers while traveling between places.

As for laundry, I took a baggie of our Charlie's Soap, which we used most of the time (until I forgot it and my mother-in-law had to ship it across the country to us - thanks, Pat!). We didn't have problems with border security being nervous about our white powder, but I figured they'd be able to test it if we did have problems. I enjoyed being able to use different washing machines as we were shopping for a new machine at home, and using different features helped me narrow down what I liked and didn't like. I also loved (loved, loved, loved) being able to hang our diapers in the sunny New Zealand air. One afternoon on the line eliminated nearly six months of diaper stains. Awesome! And...I learned the hard way that we could have packed fewer clothes because we were washing diapers so frequently.

Overall, I'd definitely do it again, and I look forward to our next trip that is long enough to make it worth packing our nappies!

What about you - if you cloth diaper at home, have you done it while traveling? How did it go? Would you consider it in the future?

The rest of the cloth diapering series:
   The Basics
   Getting Started & Daily Care
   Kendra, Greg, & Kenley's Experience
   Our Experience & Product Reviews

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