With the holidays on the horizon, many of you may be making travel plans and wondering if you will be able to continue using cloth diapers. Traveling with cloth diapers is certainly doable, but it does require a bit of forethought and planning. There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should use cloth during your travels:
- How long will you be gone?
- Where are you going?
- What kinds of resources might you have available to you?
The answers to these questions will help you determine if it would make sense to travel with your cloth diapers, or if you need to make other arrangements.
Question 1: How Long Will You Be Gone?
If you are only going to be gone one or two nights, it will be no problem to use cloth. At that length, you don’t need to worry about laundry because you can do it when you get home. As long as you have a large zippered wet bag (or maybe a few small ones), you will be fine to store your dirty diapers without issue.
One thing to consider though is how big your stash is. When you aren’t planning on doing laundry, you may need to pack the bulk of your stash. I usually planned for at least 6-7 diapers per day (but if you have a newborn, you may need even more). If you were going to be gone 2 nights, that usually means you need 3 days worth of diapers (depending on when you depart or arrive back home). That means I would need 18-21 diapers for my trip. There are ways to manage the amount of diapers you need, and I will be discussing them later in this article.
Question 2: Where Are You Going?
Where you are going may determine whether you want to use cloth. As you know, sometimes cloth might be messy. Depending on where you’re staying, you may or may not feel comfortable using cloth. When we travel, we usually stay with one of our sets of parents. In those cases, we are totally all for using cloth. However, we have traveled to another state and stayed with relatives a little more distant. Sometimes with relatives that are a little more distant, you aren’t sure if they’re going to worry or exaggerate the idea of whatever mess you might be making.
The main point is this: your destination will ultimately determine your comfort level with doing what you need to do to care for your cloth.
Question 3: What Kinds of Resources Do You Have Available?
If you are going to be gone for a full week and will not have access to washing machine (or another way to wash your diapers, if you’re willing to hand wash), bringing cloth may not be the best idea. Cloth diapers are best maintained by washing every 2-3 days. If you wait a week to wash them, you may run into issues with mold (I know it’s happened to me before when I found a stray wet bag left from an outing in the back of a car several days later!) You may also run into issues with strong odors. Those issues aside, the amount of diapers you would need to pack to get a full week’s worth with no washing would be a lot of extra bags of luggage! You could need 40-50 diapers!
However, if you will be staying with a relative that is in full support of you using cloth and you have access to a washing machine, using your cloth is still completely doable. If you’re staying in a hotel and have access to coin laundry, you could also consider using cloth (just make sure you do an excellent job removing any poop from diapers to be as courteous as possible to other people–you might even consider doing a quick rinse or soak of those diapers in the toilet to make sure there isn’t any stray solids left behind).
How to Travel with Your Cloth Diapers
Now that you have been given a few things to consider about whether using cloth during travel makes sense, here is how you can do it as easily and efficiently as possible. There are two separate sets of instructions–instructions for those that will be gone a short amount of time, and instructions for those gone long enough to need a washing plan.
If you will be gone a short amount of time:
- Determine how many diapers you need (depends on the age of your baby, but think of how many you usually go through in a day and multiply by how many days you will be gone–add an extra couple diapers for good measure, you don’t want to run out!)
- Make sure you have a wet bag large enough (or a few small ones) to store all your dirty diapers.
- Make sure you pack a diaper rash cream that is cloth diaper safe.
- Use a duffel bag for your diapers! I’ve tried many ways of packing diapers, including putting them right the baby’s suitcase. I have preferred having the diapers in a separate bag that is easy to carry, like a duffel bag or a backpack. That way you don’t need to pack a larger suitcase, which can be bulky, or pull things out of it every time you need a diaper. I usually use my gym bag for this when we travel.
If you will be gone for longer than 2-3 days:
1. Decide how often you want to wash while gone. There are two different schools of thought on this–some want to do as little laundry as possible when traveling, but that means you need to have room for a bigger stash of diapers. Others plan to wash frequently. I personally do a small load of laundry every day when I travel. I pack enough diapers for 2 days worth (plus a couple extra), and I wash/dry a small load daily. I do this because:
- Keeps the amount of dirty diapers at bay–if you are visiting someone else’s home, I feel like is a more courteous approach to take. In a different home, you won’t have your typical set up for dirty diapers. You don’t want to fill their guest room with a mound of dirty diapers that sits there for days.
- I don’t need to pack as many, therefore keeping our luggage a little lighter.
- You can bring home clean diapers instead of loading up the car or airline luggage with dirty diapers to stink it up.
Daily washing might not be possible if you are staying somewhere that you need to go offsite to wash (like maybe a laundromat). In that case, just make a plan ahead of time for how and when you’re going to wash, and pack the respective amount of diapers.
2. You will still need to bring either one large wet bag or a few small ones to store dirty diapers in-between washings.
3. Pack your preferred detergent. I measure out what I need and pack it in a Tupperware. If you use a liquid, you could consider putting what you need in a mason jar.
4. Make a plan for drying: if you usually hang dry, you will want to thing about how you will do that. Maybe you can plan to just hang them on the towel bars and/or bathtub and shower curtain bar. I personally just use the dryer if available–that makes the diapers ready for use much faster.
5. Decide how you will pack the diapers. I prefer using a diaper bag or backpack as opposed to a larger suitcase (I always found it more convenient to have the diapers readily accessible). Do what works for you, though! If it’s important to you to have fewer bags (like if you’re flying), then go ahead and use a larger suitcase to accommodate.
Traveling with Cloth is Doable, but…
You can totally travel with cloth, and I encourage you to do so if you want! I won’t lie, though–it really is more convenient to travel with disposables, and this is coming from someone that usually eye rolls the “cloth is just too inconvenient” comments. There are times it just makes more sense to travel with disposables, and if that’s what you need to do, that is totally okay! Remember, using cloth diapers doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It all comes back to what your reasons for using cloth are: some babies have reactions to disposables, and it might be really important for your family to figure out how to travel with cloth. Some families might be working toward “zero waste”, and it may also be really important to you to use cloth. If you use cloth for budgetary reasons, maybe you just feel it will be more convenient to spring for disposables for your travels. It’s up to you, and you don’t need to feel pressured to do it one way over another.
Would you ever travel with cloth diapers, or do you have any tips to add? Share in the comments!