Traveling Abroad with Cloth Diapers

Travel with Cloth Diapers

I finally took the leap and traveled abroad with cloth diapers last month. I took a small stash with the intent to cloth diaper part time since I knew it would be a more laid back visit than in the past without as much sightseeing or long excursions since we did not have my husband to show around. Because I was traveling alone with the kids and am pregnant I was limiting myself to one large check in, one rolling carry-on, a backpack and a purse. Not a lot of room for extra things.

We only brought a few outfits each since we would be able to do laundry at my parent’s home and I went back and forth in my mind as I packed for the trip whether bringing cloth was a good idea. After all traveling abroad was a pretty good time to use a convenience product like disposables. I have always been a believer that disposable diapers and inserts have their time and place and had used them in my previous visits over the years. Yet as one of my last trips to see my parents before they move to the U.S. this spring, I really wanted to give cloth diapering a try. After all, I had the unique opportunity to have family abroad as opposed to staying in a hotel where washing would be more complicated.

In the end I packed two one size covers, a stack of all-in-two inserts, two all-in-one diapers, a handful of flushable liners and a wetbag. All-in-two diapers are by far the most compact choice for packing in tight spaces, and I figured it might be easier to thoroughly wash them in my parent’s ridiculously high efficiency washer. I brought a package of greener disposable diapers to use on the flight in my carry on and left my cloth diapers in my check-in luggage, since going through customs with a wetbag full of dirty diapers may not be the best idea. Overall I tried to prepare for what I could, but there were some obstacles that made cloth diapering while traveling a little more cumbersome.


Little tummies may not be able to handle all of the eating out, different foods or holiday spreads that often come with travel. I tried to pack some familiar munchies, but again with limited luggage space we ran out quickly and turned to similar alternatives that we could get locally or new toddler-friendly options. Regardless, the dairy was a little different, he tried many new foods and with his sleep schedule and routine thrown off, he suffered from diarrhea and loose stools frequently during our visit. This made for some pretty messy diapers and with the frequent “overboard” stools that result with all-in-two style diapers I should have brought more covers and remembered to use the flushable liners more often.

Different Washing Machine

Fiddling with the water and laundry settings that work best for your diapers take long enough to figure out at home, and an unfamiliar washing machine during a short stay will present some obstacles. I learned how to add more water to the cycle and a few other things, but my mother did not even know how to use her machine besides the “omakase” or “leave it to the machine” setting. I definitely could have used a lot more water and the all-in-one diapers were particularly hard to clean. With a small washer and lots of other loads of laundry to clean I did not figure out a routine and setting I liked best for my diapers during our visit, but if you are traveling it should be expected that you will not have a good handle on the washers you use. So plan for this, and expect to do a thorough rewashing or stripping once you get home.

Needy Children

Mommy amnesia and irrational hopefulness sneak up on me all of the time. I think I will have more time to myself when visiting family, but what always seems to happen is that I have less time to myself, I am more tired and the kids are clingy and needier than ever. Consequently, cloth diapering while I was abroad felt significantly more exhausting than at home where I have a pretty smooth routine. I was still able to cloth diaper part time, but probably only a third of the time as opposed to half or even two-thirds of the time as I had hoped. Changes in routine affect kids and moms alike!

Regardless of some of the unexpected, I was still pleased to be able to finally bring a stack of cloth diapers in my international travels. I think that it is inevitable that you will have some shoulda coulda wouldas after the fact, but I definitely learned a number of things that will be useful for the future. What are the biggest obstacles for you when traveling with cloth?

{If you enjoyed reading Traveling Abroad with Cloth Diapers I would be tickled pink if you left a comment. To read more about my green(er) parenting aspirations, advice and adventures be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed or get updates via email.}


By Emi Stapler. I am a cloth diaper advocate, green parenting blogger, mother of three and a military wife who enjoys sharing my motherhood adventures and advice. Follow me at The Cloth Diaper Report on Facebook, Twitter @TheCDReport , Google +, Pinterest and Instagram.

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  1. I have never traveled abroad with a baby, so I can’t speak to that. But we have traveled stateside with Doctor D in diapers. the couple of times we used sposies, we had some major blow-outs. I travel with just prefolds and flats, and the overnight diapers (those are pockets with a particular set of inserts I know work and aren’t too bulky). We were even looking at backpacking last weekend and planned on cloth diapers (but it didn’t work out due to colds and very cold weather…. bummer). Especially since you have to pack out everything (toilet paper, diapers) using cloth isn’t much more work while backpacking than sposies (maybe even easier, I’ll let you know when I get a chance to figure it out.)

    And a thought on using flats, especially. They the easiest to clean and even doing them by hand is an option (unlike the pockets and such which need much more agitation.) And they dry quickly even on a line.

    • I would definitely consider flats for next time I travel abroad (I have always wanted an excuse to get some of those adorable Swaddlebees flats prints!) and would love to see pics of cloth diapers drying on your next backpacking trip!


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