Traveling with Cloth Diapers
I’ve written many blog posts about this topic, and yet every time I travel, I find the need to revisit the topic all over again. Cloth diapers aren’t difficult in and of themselves, but traveling with them is certainly more complicated than traveling with disposables, at least I assume so since I’ve never used disposables while traveling. There are so many things to keep in mind: stash size, type of cloth diaper, and all the needed accessories. You also have to keep in mind what kind of trip this will be. If it’s a road trip, you may have space for a bigger stash. If it’s a plane trip or a camping trip, you may be limited to using flats. If you’re going to a place where others will be taking care of any diaper changes (church camp, family visit, etc), you want to have at least some of your pockets or AIOs with you so to provide for easy diaper changes. If you’re going to be away for more than 2 or 3 days, you have to consider whether or not you have access to a washing machine. If you have to pay for its use, how many quarters will you need and will the benefits of using cloth off set the cost? It’s a lot to think about!
I travel long distances/vacation with cloth diapers three to four times a year. Usually, it’s just for a long weekend, but every summer we are away for 10 days which means bringing a large stash and planning to wash 2-3 times. When you go away with a child who is still in diapers, you have a couple of options:
1) Skip the cloth diapers completely and go disposable. You can probably buy disposables when you arrive at your destination and save packing space, and you don’t have to worry about the washing. Also, disposable diapers are generally smaller than cloth diapers so they take up less space if you decided to buy them at home and bring them. I’ve never been able to bring myself to do this. The only disposable diapering product I’ve ever bought is disposable diaper liners (These are great for avoid the poop dilemma while on the road, by the way!).
2) Use flats and covers. Flat diapers are wonderful for trips because of two reasons: 1) they don’t take up lots of packing space, and 2) they’re super easy to wash. You can follow the same washing routine as you do with your tee shirts and jeans, and they hand wash easily which is perfect for a camping trip. In addition, they line dry rather quickly. If yours is a family that already uses flats, this won’t be a problem. If your stash is comprised of mostly pockets, AIOs, or fitteds, then you might find that spending an extra $24 to purchase 12 flat diapers is a good idea.
After all, flat diapers can also be used as doublers and pocket diaper inserts, so you really won’t be wasting your money. The downside to using flat diapers is that they often require more intricate folding and may or may not take more time to use at the changing table and the aunts and uncles probably won’t want to help you change diapers if you’re using them. To make things easier, you can pad fold them and lay them flat inside a diaper cover which makes them go on almost like an AIO or a pocket.
3) Use all prefolds. These are not quite as easy to wash and dry as flat diapers, but are easier to use at the changing table because the folding is simpler. Again, you can pad fold them and lay them in your covers for an even easier diaper change if you prefer, but they usually don’t keep in solids as well this way, soiling your cover. Prefolds are thicker than flat diapers so they may require an extra rinse when washing them, and they’ll take a little bit more elbow grease if you hand wash. You can use bleach or any type of laundry detergent on them and they machine dry with no problem. However, they will probably take 12-24 hours to line dry. Also, they take up just about as much space in your luggage as pockets, fitteds, or AIOs.
4) Use pockets, fitteds, or AIOs. These take a little more effort to wash, but make diaper changes super quick, which I find really nice when traveling. When you’re on the road/in a plane/running around sight seeing it’s nice to be able to quickly pull out a diaper and slap it on without much fan fare. I’ve even changed my toddlers while they’re standing up in the parking lot when I’m using AIOs or pockets. That’s hard to do with flats or prefolds. If you’re going somewhere with an available washing machine and you have the extra space in your luggage, this is a quick way to take care of diapers while outside the comfort of your own home.
5) Use a combination of cloth diaper styles. I usually take some of all my diapers when we travel. I take a limited number of pockets and AIOs for quick diaper changes, and supplement them with flat or prefold diapers. Then, I count out enough fitted diapers for each night away. We use the flat diapers as often as possible to make washing easier, but use the pockets and AIOs when we’re in a rush and need something quick. This doesn’t take up as much space as using all pockets and it gives us the variety we prefer.
6) Supplement cloth diapers with disposables. Whatever style of cloth diaper you bring along, you can bring or buy some disposable diapers to supplement them.
Like AIOs and pockets, these are good for quick diaper changes, except you throw them away instead of washing them. They’re ideal for dealing with messes on the road, and for minimizing the size of your wash.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you bring along all the accessories needed to use your cloth diapers. Bring along your cloth wipes, or switch to disposable wipes for the journey; make sure you have large and small wet bags for dirty diaper storage; bring any fasteners along such as snappis, boingos, or pins; have your diaper rash cream of choice along (you can even just put a little into a small container); and take enough detergent to wash your diapers every 2-3 days (though I sometimes stretch it out to every 4 days as an exception while we’re away).
You should also account for how many diaper changes your baby needs in a day times the number of days you will be away, or the number of days you would like to go without washing. Of course, you shouldn’t take your entire stash as this will take up too much space, so if you are going to be away more than two or three days, you will need to plan on doing a wash.
Don’t be afraid to break the cloth diaper “rules.” Putting your PUL in the dryer every once in awhile or skipping a rinse cycle isn’t going to hurt your diapers, as long as you don’t do it all the time. A vacation or a trip is a really great excuse to do something abnormal like machine dry or throw in some bleach to make sure diapers get really clean when you can’t follow your normal washing routine. Just make sure you know your diapers’ warranties so you don’t invalidate them.
So, as I tackle the subject of traveling with cloth diapers yet again and I still feel so inexperienced concerning the matter, I have to know: How do you do it? Are you a die hard cloth diaper user even when traveling like me, or do you switch to disposables? If you do choose to travel with cloth diapers, how do you do it? Which ones do you take with you and which ones do you leave behind? How does your washing routine differ?
How many diapers do you take with you? And how much space do cloth diapers take up in your luggage? I’m especially curious to know if any of you have ever braved taking cloth with you on a plane trip. Now that is one trip for which I think I might be tempted to use disposables!