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On the Road, Be Your Own Cloth-Diapering Self
Winter 2006

In the Fall 2005 issue of Real Diaper News, Heather Sanders wrote about “Vacationing With Cloth Diapers,” offering detailed advice on how you can travel with your baby in cloth diapers. For this issue, we asked RDA members to share their own experiences vacationing and traveling with cloth diapers.

We found that RDA members were concerned with reactions of their traveling companions and their hosts and with washing, but those who responded agreed that it was worth the extra work to keep their babies in cloth diapers.

They’re Watching You

RDA members reach out to educate those around them about cloth diapers. Think of traveling as an opportunity. Sometimes our efforts to show that cloth diapers are real diapers can be subtle, even unintentional. An effective way to advocate cloth diapers is to simply do what you do. No soapbox, no frills.

Real Diaper Circle Leader, Danielle Whittaker from Tennessee, told us about her experience traveling to the Florida Keys for a family reunion. “This was the one time I was considering using sposies, but thankfully my supportive dh [dear husband] said, ‘No ma’am, you put my son right back in those cloth thingys.’”

There they were, the whole extended family spread through just a few rooms while vacationing in the beautiful Florida Keys. No one could miss the cloth diapers in their midst. Danielle saw their strange looks and answered their remarks. They hadn’t seen diapers like Danielle’s pocket diapers before. But, the family learned from watching Danielle cloth diaper her son. Just by doing what she would normally do, without setting out to talk about diapers or change any minds, Danielle showed her family that cloth diapers are easy and normal, even away from home.

By the end of the trip, Danielle said the family agreed that new styles of cloth diapers were “so economical and parent friendly that it just makes sense to do it.” Not only were Danielle’s baby and husband happy, but she quietly lived the RDA mission “to make cloth diapering accessible and acceptable.” Using cloth diapers is normal. People need to see it to understand it.

Just do what you do. Cloth diaper you baby. The process is not so different away from home; it just takes some planning and preparation.

Check with Your Hosts

When you begin using cloth diapers, even before you add the challenges of being on the road, you need support. It helps, for example, if your spouse is as supportive as Danielle Whittaker’s husband was.

If you travel, you expand the circle of support that you need to use cloth diapers successfully. Be sure that the host, whether it’s grandma or a hotel in Costa Rica, can accommodate your needs. They don’t have to be as enthusiastic as you are, but you do need to work within any limits they set.

Laura Johnson from North Carolina, has in-laws who “discourage laundry in general at their house.” Laura’s solution is to wash diapers just before leaving home and to take every diaper she owns. “This keeps the baby in cloth as long as possible.” When she visits her own parents, they welcome her to wash diapers at their house. Don’t assume your host will fit your diapering routine. Just learn how you can best fit their expectations then adjust as you would with anything you do while you are a guest.

Even if you are hesitant to ask, your hosts may ask you themselves—especially if they are your parents or parents-in-law. You have probably already discussed your parenting choices with them, and they understand that you want to continue to do what you find best for your child. Karin Perlotto of Connecticut, was approached by her mother-in-law. “We were at my mother-in-law's house and she actually came to me, unsolicited, and told me that I should feel free to do cloth diaper laundry in her machine if I needed/wanted to. I thought that was just about the nicest thing.”

RDA Board member Marie DiCocco from Virginia has traveled all over Europe and the U.S. with a baby in diapers. “Any time we would visit family or friends, we simply took along our cloth diapers, because they were what we used, and it never occurred to us that it might be problematic.” If she was away more than a few days, she would ask to wash the diapers. Otherwise, she just kept them in a bag until she returned home.

You may decide to take a stand for cloth diapering. That is good. But, when you aren’t on home territory, you may find that you get more of what you want by gentle request than by demand. Just make sure that both you and your hosts know what to expect so your trip will go as smoothly as possible.

Here’s the Biggie: Washing

How do you wash diapers while traveling? It all depends on your trip. You may not wash at all.

If you normally use a laundromat, washing diapers while traveling might not be so different. If your host has a washing machine and is willing to let you use it, you are home free.

If you can’t find a way to wash the diapers away from home, maybe you can get them partway there by rinsing or a quick cleaning. Karin Perlotto of Connecticut, was didn’t want to impose on her generous mother-in-law, so she washed only wet diapers as a guest, leaving soiled diapers until she arrived home.

Once, when my family traveled with my husband on a business trip across several states, we made our own low-tech washer. We put water in a 5-gallon plastic bucket in the back of our rented truck with a little detergent and some Bac Out. We tossed dirty diapers into the bucket. The motion of driving agitated the diapers and started the cleaning process. We left the diapers in the bucket for a week then washed them when we arrived home.

So what if you don’t know how you are going to work out the details yet. I like to plan details like this on a trip, but serendipity might work with you. When better to have an adventure than when traveling the world? Marie DiCocco just happened to find a laundromat while on a trip to Toronto with her 15-month old daughter, so she washed diapers.

Marie has diapered on the road from Italy through Eastern Europe, then back to North America through Canada and the U.S. For the trip to Toronto, Marie “packed a good supply of my prefolds and flat diapers that I had recently bought. Each night, I would rinse out her diapers really well in the sink and hang them to dry over the towel bar of our bathroom. They'd be dry by morning, when I'd fold them and stick them in a plastic bag. This kept them from stinking.” Plan A was working fine, then Plan B worked even better.

“It was an easy process,” she said, “and it never occurred to me that people might consider it difficult.” It’s easy if you think it is. So much about diapering is in our own attitudes toward what we are doing. It might turn out better than you think.

Jennifer Moore Temple of Maine usually line-dries diapers, but she dried them by machine while staying with relatives. “Our daughter remembers the time we visited Aunt Kate and she got ‘fluffy didies.’” Happy diaper memories! More good news.

In the end, washing away from home doesn’t have to be a burden. Did you think it was going to be difficult to wash diapers at home before you did it? With experience and confidence, it turns out to be easy. You will probably find the same on the road. Survey your options before you leave, and let cloth diapering be part of the adventure.

Your Packing List

Once you have the traveling companions settled into the idea of cloth diapers and you have a plan for washing (or not), then comes the fun part. Pull out all of the diapers in your stash and look them over. That’s just for fun, but now you can more easily decide which diapers will work best on the road.

As you make your packing list, consider your particular needs.

  • Will your baby will be sitting or standing? In last issue’s article, Heather Sanders pointed out that a sitting baby compresses an absorbent diaper, making leaks more likely. Do you need more absorbent diapers than usual? Pack your most absorbent diapers.
  • How long will you have to wait between diaper changes? Remember that baby’s skin will stay healthier if you can change more often, but realize that you may not have the option to change as often as you do at home. If you will have long periods of confinement in a car or on a plane, you might want to use nighttime diapers even during the day. Savannah Rogers of Arizona prefers “to have the twins in fleece-lined, extra-absorbent diapers for the car trips, since they stay drier longer and we don't have to stop for diaper changes unnecessarily.”
  • How will you clean your baby’s bottom and your own hands? If you are camping, you probably won’t have running water. Try a spray bottle of water with a few drops of essential oil to spray on your cloth wipes. If you aren’t sure you will have hand-washing facilities available, keep on hand a travel-size bottle of antibacterial hand gel for emergencies. If you will be staying in a house or hotel, you can wash your hands easily, but don’t forget to provide for cleaning and hand washing during travel time.
  • Where will you store clean diapers? Storage depends how you are traveling. Danielle Whittaker carried a whole suitcase full of diapers to a resort. Savannah Rogers kept clean diapers in a laundry basket in her car. You probably won’t carry a suitcase or a laundry basket if you are hiking and camping. Can you leave most of the diapers in your hotel while you pack light for a day out? Let your travel plans dictate what you use for a diaper bag, a changing station, and transportation of the rest of your stash.
  • How will you store and carry wet and soiled diapers? A waterproof bag is essential if you need to leave the diapers in your diaper bag for long periods. If you are driving, any old bucket with a lid will do. Do your relatives have a bucket you can use so you don’t have to bring it with you? Savannah Rogers suggests you carry an extra plastic bag for soiled diapers. Keeping that bag inside your main waterproof bag gives a double layer between the smell and your traveling companions. Don’t forget a deodorant disk. Danielle Whittaker likes Pail Pals. “I usually leave one in my medium size Bummis tote and when I wash it I take it out and set it aside until the bag is dry.” The deodorant disks also left a fresh scent on everything in her suitcase. Bonus!
  • How will you wash the diapers, or WILL you wash the diapers? If you won’t be washing the diapers, try to find space to let them air out to avoid mold. You may want to rinse, if you can arrange it. When she had laundry facilities available, Marie DiCocco used “wonderful fitted diapers.” When she didn’t have access to a washing machine, she used prefolds and flat diapers. The diaper “was just as absorbent as a fitted. But the fact that it was thin made it ideal for washing in a sink and hanging up to dry.” If you will wash the diapers, you may want to pack your favorite laundry detergent. Avoid my shock of finding only grandma’s flowery laundry powder that made me sneeze every time I touched the clean diapers. Liquids rinse more easily, so you might consider taking liquid even if you normally use powder, just in case the washing machine you find isn’t as efficient as your own.
  • How will you dry diapers? If you will need to air-dry diapers, pack clothes pins. If you need to use a laundromat, bring quarters or coins of the local currency. You can contact your hotel to ask about wash and dry facilities and costs. I took 12 diapers to Europe for a 1-year old and a nighttime-diapered toddler. We had only a tiny European dryer available with less power than my dryer at home, but I washed and dried a load of diapers every morning before we went out. I took only quick dry diapers so they would dry easily in one cycle. I barely noticed the morning’s task.

Your own situation may be different as you travel, so think through your trip and prepare. Things may not go exactly as expected, so improvise.

The way you travel with cloth diapers will reflect the way you live every day at home. RDA business member Jennifer Moore Temple of Buzzie Bee is planning to take her baby to Guatemala City this spring to sign adoption papers for their newest family member, a 3-year old daughter. She plans to wash all diapers before she leaves Guatemala, then she will give them to the orphanage. That will both lighten the family’s load on the trip back home and help the orphanage, which uses cloth diapers. Jennifer hopes to continue a relationship with the orphanage, showing her support by sending cloth diapers and other goods.

Let your own experience guide you. Show others how easy and normal cloth diapers are while camping, at grandma’s house, on a road trip, flying overseas, or at a family reunion on the beach. Be your own cloth-diapering self.

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