Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to Travel with Cloth Diapers

When Peter was three weeks old, we drove 3000 miles in five days. Being new parents who had been told it is impractical and gross to travel with cloth diapers, we bought a pack of disposables. By the end of the first day, we vowed we would never again travel with a baby without cloth diapers! Peter was leaking left, right, and center.* We bought a smaller size and a "better" brand. Still leaked. The number of disposable wipes needed to clean one tiny bottom was rather astounding. And in our travels with cloth, nothing has compared to the STINK of wet disposables.

Since that trip, Peter has been to various areas in New York, to Boston, and made two trips to Iowa. We've driven every trip and used cloth diapers. So how does it work? Here's my strategy:

The "in-car" Diaper Bag

  • 1 diaper insert/prefold for every two hours between departure and arrival that day.
  • 1 washcloth per diaper insert, plus one extra.
  • 1 or 2 clean outfits, depending on your child.
  • 1 or 2 extra diaper covers, depending on your child.
  • 1 travel-sized wet bag.
  • 1 travel changing pad (often included with a diaper bag).

The "Master" Diaper Bag (I use a large backpack)

  • 1 regular size wet bag, large enough to hold all the diapers you are bringing.
  • Enough diapers for 2.5 to 3 days: inserts and covers.
  • 3 hemp soakers for night diapering.
  • 1 washcloth per each diaper insert, plus a couple more.
  • Laundry detergent, pre-measured and stored in a plastic baggie or resealable container, enough to do a load every three days. (If you're going through customs, skip the bag of white powder. Plastic containers look less suspicious!) :-)

During the day, you only need to be able to access the in-car diaper bag. Bring this one into the restroom (if you're fortunate enough to find one with a changing table) or just spread out the changing pad on the back seat. If the baby is tiny enough and you have a stiff privacy screen on your hatchback, you can use that. :-)
Peter at 3 weeks, in a parking lot in Arkansas
At the end of the day, dump the contents of the travel-sized wet bag into the big one. Put baby's night diaper on and toss the dirty one into the big wet bag. Twist the top of the big one closed and put it at the bottom of your Master diaper bag. Restock your in-car diaper bag. From the Master bag, lay out a clean insert and cover for the morning.

As needed, do laundry (wet bags included) and start again. When we have traveled, we've always been going to see family who have a washer and dryer in their home. If you will be staying at a hotel, you may want to call ahead to ask about laundry facilities. You can read more here about washing cloth diapers at a laundromat.

At home, we usually use pocket diapers. When we travel, we use two-in-one diapers by SoftBum (generously donated to us by Lucy and her mama!). If space is an issue, I definitely recommend two-in-ones or prefolds with covers. All-in-ones and pocket diapers are significantly more bulky.

Make sure you have some clean diapers waiting for you at home. You don't want to finally get home and have to do laundry immediately!

*Fun Fact: Peter has pooped through a cloth diaper exactly once. Regrettably, it was onto a couch at church.


  1. Excellent information! I use cotton prefolds with microfleece liners and Bummis covers. I have tons so I only have to do laundry every 5 or so days.

    Wow. Your son has travelled more in 10 months than I have in my whole life!

  2. How do you control the stink? If I go too long, the room starts to smell a bit. :-/

    He certainly is a professional traveler at this point! Unfortunately, the Texas trip was for my uncle's funeral and the two Iowa trips were to say goodbye to my Grandpa and then attend his funeral. So not happy trips, although it has been worth it to be with my family.