Several customers have contacted me at Why Cloth Diaper recently seeking advice about traveling with cloth diapers. Should they do it? Can they do it? Are there any tricks?
The short answer is yes, of course, you can take that fun summer vacation with your family and continue using cloth diapers along the way. We won’t tell you how to wash your diapers; you already know that. However, there are several things to think about as you plan and pack for your vacation.
Whether a Washer?
Identify where you are going to be washing your diapers? The washer (and dryer?) at a hotel or rental condo? At Grandma’s house? At a public laundromat? If using machines at laundromats, check to see if they have pre-set washing settings or if you can tailor the setting to your needs. Some won’t let you add an extra rinse or soak as they are already set for certain wash cycles. If access to a washing machine is easy then, obviously, washing diapers doesn’t become a burden on your vacation. However, if finding a washing machine requires a great deal of hassle (across town and you are not renting a car) or expense, then do consider disposables. I know it is heretical to suggest but this is your vacation, and if you don’t CD your child for one week the sun still will come up in the morning and the birds will still sing, and you are not a failure as a parent.
Soft or Hard?
Try to understand if the location you are visiting has hard or soft water. If you live in an area with soft water and then travel and try to wash your diapers in hard water, you will need to alter your routine and, perhaps, your detergent. If you don’t, you might find your diapers have developed irritating build up and a nasty stink. Know before you go so that you can plan accordingly.
Bring your supplies with you or identify where you can find them in your vacation spot. A good wet bag or pail liner is essential, maybe more than one. You might be going longer between washes than you typically do at home so extra diapers could be required. If you have a specific detergent that you use, make sure to bring it along or identify where you can buy it at your new location. We know of families that even bring their diaper sprayer from home and hook it up in the hotel room. You know what you need, just don’t forget to bring it.
I am a big fan of liners when traveling as they make it easier to dispose of the solids and keep the stink factor down in the diaper pail. Imse Vimse makes some compostable ones that I am particularly like. Not for everyone, I understand, but they work for us. Another option is a hybrid diaper with a disposable insert. The Flip diaper is great for this.
Clean The Machine
This step is most important if you are using a public washing machine. Often the water temperature if lower than what you are used to at home and there can be some fairly nasty build up of all sorts of detergents, bleaches, softeners, and additives. Do at least one detergent free hot rinse before adding your diapers to eliminate as much of the gunk as possible. You do not want to risk mucking up your diapers with all sorts of build up that can lead to rashes and repelling issues. Take the time to do the rinse (or two!) before washing your diapers.
Cloth diapering while traveling can give pause to even the most passionate cloth diapering families. Well, we have done it and are here to tell you it really isn’t that bad. Like many things in life, it is 80% attitude and 20% implementation. If you are committed to cloth diapering and making it work, it will. You just need to do a little bit of preparation.
The Weekend Getaway
The easiest scenario is the weekend getaway by car. If you are going for just a weekend or other short trip, just bring along a stash of cloth diapers that will last you for your trip and a couple wet bags or your pail liner from home. We love the Bummis tote bags for short trips. Might want to throw in a diaper buddy in the wet bags or pail liners to address any odor issues and off you go. We know that some people bring along their diaper sprayer and hook it up to the hotel bathroom toilet or the one at Grandma’s house. Just pack everything home and do laundry as usual when you return. Simple.
If your trip is longer than just a couple days, you most likely will need to do laundry. Once again, it is all easy to do. As with the shorter trips, bring along a couple of wet bags or pail liners (with deodorizing disks or diaper buddies) and the sprayer if that is what you use at home. Also, bring your laundry detergent from home or plan on purchasing more at your destination. When you are making your trip plans, just confirm that there is time every third day or so, depending on the number of diapers that you take, set aside for laundry. There are many online directories of laundromats if your hotel or rental condo does not supply a washer and dryer.
One issue to be mindful of when using a different washing machine is that the diapers might not smell and feel the same way they do at home. Water quality differs across the country. If you have soft water in your neighborhood but travel somewhere with hard water, there may be detergent build up. Perhaps you generally use the sanitize cycle on your washing machine, but the one at your destination is more basic and does not have such a feature. Recognize that you may need to do an extra rinse or two, and that is simply part of the adventure of travel.
Staying at Grandma’s House?
Obviously, if you are staying with family or friends on your trip, it might seem that cloth diapering would be easy. That can be true. However, please be mindful of the fact that not everyone, particularly those who do not cloth diaper or who do not have young children, might be comfortable with poopy diapers in their washing machine. Totally cool. No need to add to any family drama. Simply run an extra cycle with only bleach or a little vinegar or tea tree oil in the wash (and no diapers) and all should be well. Bleach is an obvious germ killer, but vinegar and tea tree oil are also disinfectants and can remove any lingering germs left behind.
The beauty of prefolds
Many people who might use AIOs or Pocket diapers at home switch to prefolds and covers while traveling. Prefolds are great travel diapers as they are easy to pack and take up little room (especially helpful with baggage restrictions on many airlines). Also, they dry very quickly. PUL covers, in particular, are very easy to wash and dry and can be done in a bathroom sink if a washing machine is not available.
The beauty of flushable liners
Many people who do not use liners at home, do so while traveling in order to ease the washing process. With a flushable liner, no solids get onto the diaper and so washing becomes much simpler. There is no need for a sprayer or to swish the diaper in the toilet. Imse Vimse makes great flushable liners that are easy to pack.
What not to bring?
Wool covers, while great and when properly lanolized, extremely waterproof, are hard to dry. They must be dried flat and can take a long time, particularly in humid weather. They do not tend to be a great traveling option. Also, we have found that if being line dried, bamboo diapers can take a bit of time to dry in humid weather.
Whatever you do, have a safe and fun trip. Remember, the most important thing to bring is your senses of humor and adventure.