How in the world do you TRAVEL with cloth diapers?

traveling with cloth diapers - what I take and how we make it work

One of the questions most newbies to cloth diapering have is “Oh no, how in the world do you TRAVEL with these things?”

I’m here to tell you, IT IS DOABLE! While there is nothing wrong with switching to disposables during your trip (I have done that as well when we were going to a place that didn’t have a washer and dryer!) if you’re committed to keeping those little tushies in cloth, here are some tips to help you out.

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My first words of advice are to ALWAYS pack more diapers and wipes than you think you’ll need. Seriously. You don’t want to be stuck without a clean one, and inevitably, the day you think you can get away with packing light will be the day your little one has 3 blowouts before lunchtime! (Ask me how I know this… )

So how many cloth diapers do you need? Breastfed newborns soil about 8-12 diapers per day, or generally, about every time they nurse. Once they start solids, the frequency of changing decreases somewhat to 6-8 per day. Older babies (like 8-12 months) have digestive systems that are “settling in” so to speak, and they need maybe 4-6 changes per day. Toddlers need even fewer, especially if they’re sleeping through the night. Remember these are just averages. My youngest was a pooper, and we had to change him even more frequently, while my oldest (maybe because we had to supplement with a little formula), caused us to CELEBRATE when he actually pooped. It was a lot easier keeping my oldest in cloth diapers than my youngest for sure.

If you’re using cloth wipes as well, you’ll need 1-3 for each change. Always bring extra. Always. Bring. Extra.

So, take that amount of diapers above and multiply by the number of days between washing. When I was at home, I generally washed diapers every 3 days, but when traveling, it was every 2 ON THE DOT, especially when staying with friends/family. My mom was not exactly THRILLED with the idea of us using her washing machine for poopy diapers, but came around to it once I showed her how little poop actually goes in the washing machine! (basically, you put any poop solids into the toilet and just flush them away!) Also, a note to put here is that exclusively breastfed babies have poop that is water soluble, so those diapers don’t even need to be scraped off or anything. They generally don’t smell bad either.

Also remember that depending on the type of diapers you use, you may have to adjust as well. I found that for us, the most efficient way to cloth diaper was to use a PUL cover with either one thick or two thin prefolds as the insert (We had a special system for overnight including a waterproof cover, a wraparound cloth diaper (like Kushies), one thick insert, one thin insert, and a cloth liner or two). This way, when the diaper was just wet, I could simply replace the prefolds and keep the cover on until we had a big number two or a soak-through (small number twos don’t necessarily require you to get a new cover). This worked because I could pack fewer covers. If you’re using All-in-One diapers, you’ll have to change the whole thing every time, and that gets a little bulky to pack. The upside to these is that they are SO MUCH SIMPLER. Both types have their place and really, it depends on you and your baby’s preference.

Remember to always pack a couple of extras. Seriously. I cannot stress this enough.

As far as detergents, make sure you keep in mind the liquid restrictions for flying. If you use a liquid detergent, make sure it’s put in your checked luggage and it’s double or triple contained in some sort of plastic bag so it doesn’t leak all over the contents of your suitcase. Personally, I use powdered detergent for cloth diapers (It’s always better to use detergent made for cloth diapers since regular detergents don’t always get them clean enough and can also reduce the life of your cloth diapers). It takes up less room and while I still would put it in the checked luggage, if you put it in your carry on, limit it to a 12-ounce container or less and be prepared to put it in a separate bin for the extra screening.

On that note, any stains that refuse to come out in the wash (which are less likely with an all natural detergent like Nellie’s but can still happen), bleach them in the sun. That’s seriously all you need to do. Hang them outside in the middle of the day and let mother nature do the rest.

Okay, so once you arrive at your destination, the cloth diaper issue really isn’t so bad. The stressful part can be the actual TRAVELING, especially if you’re flying or using public transportation. If you’re travelling by car, the cloth diapers are a little less of an issue because you can just rinse them off and put them in a waterproof soiled diaper bag and be done with it. You can pull over and change at a rest stop or even on the side of the road and no one cares. I’ve done this and it wasn’t that bad at all. Now, if you’re using a method of transportation where people are packed in like sardines, that puts a whole other wrench in things. Honestly, my personal recommendation for flying or taking a train/bus/cruise/etc is to just use disposables for the duration of transit so you’re not fiddling with soiled diapers with a crowd of people around. It’s just easier and less of a hassle for everyone.

traveling with cloth diapers - what I take and how we make it work

That being said, it’s also totally doable if you do it right. Remember to always bring more cloth diapers than you think you’ll need. Also, bring a couple of changes of clothes for both you and your baby. The last thing you want is to be stuck on an airplane after a nasty blowout without a change of clothes or an extra diaper! If you’ll be using cloth diapers, make sure to change right before boarding. Also, have a really good, smell-proof receptacle/wetbag/large zip-top bag to put the diapers in for the trip so your companions aren’t giving you the evil eye the whole time.

So, things you’ll need to have on hand for traveling with cloth diapers:

  • Enough diapers and wipes for your kid, depending on age, frequency of washing, and the poop/pee habits of your little one.
  • EXTRA DIAPERS AND WIPES! Don’t be left empty handed (or bare-bottomed!)
  • Extra changes of clothes for you and your kid.
  • Wet bag/diaper pail/somewhere to put soiled diapers and wipes
  • Something to scrape sticky poop off the diapers
  • Detergent (go with powdered, made specifically for cloth diapers)
  • Don’t forget all the other things too like a changing blanket, diaper cream, etc.
  • EXTRA DIAPERS AND WIPES! I seriously cannot stress this enough!

Finally, the last piece of advice I have is to “strip” all of your diapers right before travelling to make sure they are as absorbent as possible. If you’re brand new to cloth diapering, stripping your cloth diapers is essential. Just wash all the diapers and wipes with the original blue DAWN soap (1 teaspoon for HE machines and 1 tablespoon for other machines) in the hottest water possible. It’s also prudent to add a ½ cup of bleach. Do the rinse cycle 2-4 more times (with no detergent) until you see ZERO soap suds.

If you’re dead set against bleach like we were, you can use 1 Tablespoon Hydrogen Peroxide and 1 teaspoon lemon juice instead. We also added some essential oil like Thieves or Lavender.

There you have it. Travelling with cloth diapers can be a little scary, but it’s absolutely doable if you commit to it. Just remember to always have extra diapers and wipes on hand!

This post was written by…

Rachelle from Mamma Writes Reviews

A note from Tapped Out Travellers… while we have asked Rachelle to write this amazing guide for cloth diapering while travelling, we did use cloth diapers once upon a time in our travels. It has been so long since Baby Girl was in cloth diapers (she outgrew our supply and we choose not to purchase bigger sizes) that we felt it prudent to get first-hand information from a more recent cloth diaper user. The cogs are turning and everything she has pointed out I can remember we have used.

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traveling with cloth diapers - what I take and how we make it work