When we told people that we were planning to use cloth diapers on our two-week trip to Toronto and the Caribbean, there were a few intimations from friends and family that we might be nuts. Well, I am pleased to report that over the course of four flights, almost 40 hours of transit time, and 13 days away from home, we did not use a single disposable diaper!
Travelling with cloth diapers is a viable option, and can be surprisingly easy — as long as you have ready access to laundry facilities. Of course nobody wants to spend their vacation hanging out in a laundromat, or even worse, hand-washing soiled diapers! 🙂
In our case, because we stayed with family in Toronto, and in apartment style accommodations in the Caribbean, we always had a washing machine and dryer close at hand. We have been using cloth diapers since Oliver’s birth, so we have the whole laundry process down to a rather efficient art — about five minutes’ actual work per load of laundry, if we share the duties of diaper stuffing and wipes folding.
In retrospect, the only change we might make in future is to buy a small package of disposables for use on long stretches of transit, for example, on Sunday, when we travelled for 16 consecutive hours. Cloth diapers are bulkier than their disposable counterparts, and there simply wasn’t enough room in the carry-on diaper bag to accommodate the “one diaper for every two hours of travel, plus two extras” that most travel experts recommend. And as our journey progressed, the diaper bag became increasingly heavy (wet diapers) and more awkwardly packed (diapers shoved in a wet bag instead of neatly rolled or folded). This was not a problem on our relatively short trips from Vancouver to Toronto and Toronto to the Caribbean. On the plus side, at least we never had to worry about the prospect of a messy blowout while stuck in an airplane or taxi.
That aside, the rest was easy. We packed a two-day supply of diapers (24, including the ones in our carry-on bag), a stack of cloth wipes, two diaper pail liners, three small wet bags, three waterproof change pads and a small baggie of Rockin’ Green laundry detergent. We washed the diaper laundry every second day, just as we do at home.
For extended travel, it is imperative that no dirty diapers are left at home, so I washed a load of diaper laundry as close to our departure as practicable, then placed the two subsequent dirty diapers into a wet bag and packed them into Oliver’s suitcase. Yes, you read that correctly: I packed soiled and wet diapers into our luggage.
We found from previous experience that pocket diapers take up less luggage space when the liners and shells are separated. The liners stack neatly in a pile and the shells can be squished into various spaces amongst clothing and other items.
We improvised a diaper pail and wipes container from an empty recycling bin and a plastic food container at my folks’ house in Toronto. In the Caribbean, we simply hung the diaper pail liner from a doorknob and stashed the wet wipes in a mixing bowl from the kitchen. Even without a lidded container, the humidity kept them sufficiently wet.
The advantages to bringing our cloth diapers were numerous.
For starters, we would not have been able to pack enough disposables to see us through our entire trip, and would have had to purchase diapers soon upon arrival in the Caribbean. Since our resort was 40 minutes’ drive from the grocery store (and a US$70 car rental or return cab fare to get there), diaper shopping would have been a rather inconvenient and costly endeavour. Not to mention the fact that a small 32-pack of Pampers sells for a whopping $92 EC (about US$34)!!
Because of the hot, humid climate, Oliver developed a little bit of diaper rash in the first few days. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been had his bum been clad in plastic instead of cloth. Since we could wash our diapers and weren’t worried about running out, we simply changed him more frequently and the rash cleared right up.
Finally, for what it’s worth, cloth diapers look cute. Oliver spent most of his days in either just a diaper, or a diaper with a t-shirt/onesie, and we never felt badly about taking him to restaurants or out in public without any bottoms.
This was our second experience with extended air travel and cloth diapers, and it only served to confirm what we already knew: we can totally live without disposables.