How to Travel with Cloth Diapers

When pregnant with my first and only, I didn’t know a lot about raising a baby but I was dead set on one thing: I wanted to use cloth diapers.

Friends and family were supportive but skeptical. I heard a lot of “well you can definitely give it a try!”

I heard the doubt in their voices and immediately thought, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Cloth diapering was my Everest.

I would conquer it and I would not fail, my stubbornness would not allow it.

And travel is a huge part of my life. If I were going to succeed in cloth diapering, I needed to succeed in traveling with cloth diapers.

After many trips and a lot of trial and error, I’m happy to report it’s possible and actually quite easy if you play your cards right!

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Traveling with Cloth Diapers: It IS Possible

I’ve been exclusively cloth diapering ever since my baby was a week old.

Since then we’ve been to the beach, hiking in Patagonia, traveled with family in Texas for five weeks, and gone on a road trip through Argentina’s Northwestern desert.

With each trip, I’ve learned a little more about how to travel with cloth diapers.

There has been a lot of trial and error to discover what works for us.

This post is a complete guide to taking your cloth diapers on vacation, because if I can do it, you can do it.

Why take cloth diapers on vacation?

First, why even bother?

It’s a personal decision and I have three main reasons.

First, I’ve tried hard to reduce our waste and while zero waste is out of our reach, cloth diapers has always been one major way I try to help reduce our impact on the environment.

Secondly, after using them for so long my baby is very comfortable in them. I don’t want to risk rocking the boat with disposables. He prefers prefolds and flats to pockets, for example (he complains nonstop). And what about diaper rash? We never get it with cloth.

Thirdly, I never have to worry about hunting down diapers in remote towns (and we travel to the middle of nowhere quite often). It’s just less stress for me to have the cloth diapers and a baggie of detergent with us, we always have what we need.

But of course it doesn’t have to be 100% cloth all the time. If it’s too much for you, bring a pack of disposable or pick one up at your destination.

You can always go half and half to make things easier on yourself, God knows we work hard enough!

Don’t let cloth diapering ruin your vacation, we all deserve to relax and enjoy time with our families.

But I swear, it doesn’t need to be hard and ruin anything!

Let’s get to it…

NOTE: Of course, like everything with babies, each baby and family will be different as far as which cloth diapering system works best for them. I know this post can set anyone up for success if you take what works for us and tweak it to your circumstances and needs! Let me know later in the comments what worked for you!

What Diapering System Is Best For Traveling With Cloth Diapers?

After troubleshooting cloth diaper travel over the past year and a half I swear by flats.

At home, we use pre-folds but I now have a set of a dozen flats dedicated to travel.

They fold down compactly, taking up very little suitcase space, and they dry lightning fast.

Admittedly, after pre-folds, the jump to flats was an easy one. And if you’re not used to them this is definitely something you want to practice at home before taking them on the road.

It does take a bit of a learning curve to find the right fold for your baby. For what it’s worth, the airplane fold works great on my boy.

Tip for Flats Success: Fold the diapers before leaving each morning. Store them in your diaper bag that way and you’ll find they’re really not difficult to use on the go!

Of course, any diapering system can travel with you. It just depends on how much space you have in your bag and how you plan on getting them dry.

Just keep in mind that those hemp and bamboo diapers hold a lot of moisture. That blessing can also be a curse when it comes to hang-drying them in a humid beachfront hotel.

My Travel Diaper Packing List

I prefer to bring fewer diapers and wash daily.

On a recent trip, I brought a dozen flats and a few of these hemp fitted overnight diapers but could have gotten by with less.

After many cloth diaper vacations, here’s what I pack:

  • 8-10 flats (I use cotton ones like this Osocozy pack).
  • 2-3 fitted hemp diapers for overnight (But after our most recent trip, for humid destinations where they may not dry fully I might use a flat with a 2nd flat as a booster).
  • 6 diaper covers
  • Diaper liners
  • 2-3 Dry bags for day use out and about. I always bring more than I need because they’re also great for dirty clothes.
  • 1 pail liner with a zipper. The zipper is key, for road trips I use one of these to pack the diapers and toss in the trunk.

CLOTH DIAPERING AT THE AIRPORT? MY PRO TIP: The overflow tote.

I always pack an extra tote bag like this compact BAGGU bag in my carry-on. Inevitably, as my baby goes through diaper changes at the airport and en route, it gets hard to fit everything back in the tightly organized backpack/suitcase.

So I bust out the tote and use that as an extra carry-on for diapers. So far, no flight crew has given me any trouble about the extra bag. People tend to pity the tired mom traveling with a baby and they let it slide.

Liners Are Everything

At home, I don’t bother with diaper liners. My baby is as reliable as a clock so I know I’ll nearly always be home in the morning to deal with it.

But when traveling with cloth diapers, LINERS ARE LIFE.

I ALWAYS have a diaper liner in my baby’s diaper on vacation. It seriously reduces the workload.

At home, I have a shower sprayer by the toilet making things SO easy but on vacation, I’ve only been blessed with that luck once.

Get a roll of diaper liners like these and make room in your suitcase. It’s worth it.

You can also make your own by taking the cheapest pack of baby wipes and tossing them in the washing machine. I swear it works, it’s what I do (following this video tutorial). I ended up with a year’s supply of liners for less than a dollar.

NOTE: While they claim to be flushable, always throw them in the trash to avoid clogging any old pipes and septic systems.

Washing Cloth Diapers on Vacation

This largest and most important hurdle to clear is figuring out how to wash your cloth diapers while traveling.

Here are my solutions, we use them all depending on the vacation, our accommodation’s amenities, and my mood at the end of the day (if I’m honest).

Plan Your Accommodation Accordingly (A.K.A. Find a Washing Machine)

Keep your diapers at the forefront of your mind when you plan your vacations.

Obviously, having a washing machine is the ideal scenario.

When we spent two weeks at the beach near Buenos Aires, we rented a house with a washing machine. And since it was a road trip (a.k.a. endless trunk space) I was able to bring all the diapers I wanted.

I could essentially use cloth diapers exactly as I would at home. Nothing changed about our routine.

This is the goal! Unfortunately for me living in Argentina, washing machines are not common in vacation rentals.

When I search for accommodation, I always start with Airbnb and VRBO and filter the amenities for a washing machine.

If there aren’t any good options, I choose a VRBO or hotel with a bathtub over a shower, if possible. It’s easier for baby baths and also, to hand wash the diapers…

My cloth-diapered babe crawled all over Northwestern Argentina (and then I hand-washed the diapers at night!)

How to Hand Wash Cloth Diapers on Vacation

I know handwashing diapers on vacation may sound like masochism.

To be honest, I was hesitant to try handwashing diapers at all (for obvious reasons).

Lucky for me, one day my washing machine died and made the decision for me two weeks before a big Patagonia trip. Like it or not, I needed to figure out how to do it before vacation and truthfully, it wasn’t bad!

Soak & Wash In The Tub

On vacation, I usually try to wash our diapers every night so I don’t need to pack many and also so they don’t add up.

Unlike with a washing machine, I just find it easier to handwash fewer at a time than one big wash every few days.

My routine varies every day on each trip depending on how tired I am but basically, after the baby goes to sleep I fill the tub with the hottest water I can get and let the diapers soak for thirty minutes (This is a great time for a glass of wine, but that’s unrelated).

Our hotels usually have really hot water but if there’s a kettle sometimes I boil water and pour it on the soaking diapers to really do the job.

After half an hour I agitate the diapers a bit and empty the tub, fill, and repeat.

Usually, after a couple of soaks I do a very scientific sniff test and if I feel like it’s good to go I rinse them one at a time under the tub’s faucet under as hot of water as I can handle.

Then we wring them out (my husband can always get out way more water than I can) and we hang them all over the room and pray they dry by morning.

The Shower Pre-Soak Method

Another way to save time soaking the diapers is by leaving them in the tub or shower while we take our showers at the end of the day.

I step on them and help them get clean using my soap and hot water (and my shower water is nearly boiling so that doesn’t hurt).

It really does cut down on the work.

Just make sure to push them to the side if you’re using any conditioner.

The only downside to this method is having to finish diaper duty AFTER your relaxing shower (which is why I tend to leave them in the tub soaking and finish in the morning if I do this, relaxation wins!).

The Scrubba Bag

On our last trip, a 9-day road trip in the Argentine desert, I tried out using a Scrubba Bag to wash the diapers.

I saw campers recommend it for washing clothes at campsites and decided to give it a try.

My verdict? It was certainly helpful but at around $50 it isn’t cheap. If it’s out of your budget don’t feel like you have to have it.

I enjoyed it for the nights I was too tired to wash diapers after a long day on the road. I’d leave the diapers to soak all day without grossing out housekeeping.

It also made life easier when we only had a small shower and not a bigger tub but I still prefer to just soak them in a tub or while I shower.

But if the idea of touching soiled diapers with your hands grosses you out beyond repair, then definitely invest in a Scrubba!

The radiators in our mountain cabin in Patagonia made a world of difference in drying our cloth diapers on vacation.

Tips for Drying Cloth Diapers in Hotels and Rental Homes

Rental homes that have washing machines will usually have something to dry them with, like a clothes horse.

In hotels, you need to be a little more creative.

But really, it’s just that. Creativity.

And for us, it changes depending on the hotel or Airbnb and the weather (humid? good luck!).

Winter holidays are usually great because they come with a radiator to drape the diapers over.

A humid beach vacation had me finishing off thick hemp overnight diapers with my hairdryer in a pinch.

In hotels, I’ll drape them over the shower curtain rod and use clothes hangers but I find they’re usually still wet in the morning.

For our next trip, I’m going to get a travel clothesline like this (see below). I think it will allow me to hang them in a more open space and get more air on them to dry quicker.

Vacations with Cloth Diapers

I hope after reading this post that you feel confident to try out cloth diapers while traveling.

It’s not as scary (read: gross) as it sounds, I swear!

If you have any questions at all, as me in the comments. I always respond. And if you travel with your cloth diapers and have any trips, drop them below!

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