Travelling with Cloth

Taking your cloth nappies on holiday with you? Insanity? Maybe not.

Now realistically travelling with cloth isn’t for everyone. For some people, the freedom and ease of using disposables on holiday is definitely the right choice. But what if bub develops nappy rash in disposables? Or you really don’t want to spend the extra money? Or maybe you just really like a challenge? Or maybe you just don’t like disposables? If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on to find out how to use modern cloth nappies while travelling.

Let’s start by travelling back in time to July 2017. I have a 5-month-old, we’re going to Europe in a few weeks for my friend’s wedding and I’m talking to mum about our plans. “You’ll do disposable of course, right?” I replied that I would but that evening the comment kept lingering… Did I have to? Surely washing machines exist in Europe?

A few days later I was talking to my friend Jess. She’d been commuting between Canberra and Brisbane to be with her husband since their baby was born and was my most seasoned baby-travelling-with friend who did cloth. She had been using disposables when she travelled and had had one too many blowouts on a plane. Jess had been halfway to Canberra, with a poo-covered baby, receiving disapproving looks from air hostesses when she swore off disposables. From then on Jess flew with her reusable nappies instead and realised it wasn’t that hard. When I spoke to her, her advice was “Stick to what you know. Don’t try something different while you’re already in a stressful situation”. And that stuck with me, what do I know? Cloth.

So here is a collection of tips on how to use modern cloth nappies while travelling. I’ve included some things we did that worked well and some I wish I had done better. Learn from my mistakes!

How many do you take?
Before you leave pay attention to how many nappies you’re using at home so you have a guide on what to take. Count what comes out of the laundry and divide by how many days your wash cycle is so you have an idea of what you’re using in a day. Add two more per day for good measure and then work out how often you want to wash on your holiday. It’s a good idea to get your itinerary and mark wash days to check everything matches up ok.

Where are you staying?
If you’re staying with friends or family life is easy. Double check they’re ok with it (just to be polite), see if they have a dryer or good weather, and ask if they can buy you some laundry powder.

If you’re staying at a hotel or Air BnB call ahead and check the exact laundry set up. We got caught out with a hotel that said they had laundry facilities. They didn’t, they sent it out. Well, theoretically they sent it out. They said they would send it out the next day… and the next… and the next...

(Funny story, we panicked we would run out of nappies and bought a pack of disposables but only ended up using one of our emergency ones we brought from home with us, so we came home with a whole pack of unopened French disposable nappies.)

Dirty nappies
As always with reusable nappies, poo removal is an important topic. If you child’s poo rolls off obviously life is wonderful. When we travelled our little one was still exclusively breastfed so we had to think poo removal. At home, we use a sprayer. My friend Jess suggested using a hairbrush. Running water and bit of “brushing” worked a treat. Speaking of "treat", I would pre-treat poo nappies while travelling. Chances are your wash conditions won’t be as perfect as home so a little stain pre-treatment wouldn’t go astray. Try to find a stick stain treatment so it’s not a liquid you’re dealing with. I found the Sard Wonder Stain Remover Stick worked really well for me.

Depending on where you’re staying and what your laundry access is a shower or bath pre-rinse isn’t a bad idea. Use hot water and a little detergent and swish or stomp around, then rinse.

Our extra large wetbags are perfect for laundry bags. Take two at least.  Three or 4 might make life easier. Keep wet stuff wet and dry stuff dry. This way even dirty nappies can just be bundled up and put in a suitcase.

One of the biggest issues with cloth while travelling is drying time, especially if you’re moving around a lot. Unless you’re staying at someone’s house and they have a washing line and good weather a dryer is a necessity in my opinion. Using a dryer also means you need to take fewer nappies.

Take a few quick drying options with you in case you run close to the wire. Flats and prefolds would be perfect for this.

Laundromats aren’t scary
We tried a laundromat as a last ditch effort after the hotel kept not sending our laundry out and discovered they’re actually pretty awesome. Their machines are bigger and work quicker than home machines. Unlike my dryer at home that takes 2.5 hours to dry my nappies, this industrial-sized one took 45 minutes. I stayed at the hotel and entertained bub and my husband went out to do the nappies. I asked for his advice to add to this blog and he said, “Bring a book.”

Taking cloth on planes is no more difficult than taking it to the park or shopping centre. Just make sure you have plenty of wetbags and scout out the bathrooms (depending on the plane some are easier to use than others). We found a backpack good because it fit down the aisles easier than a side bag. One compartment was clean nappies, another was accessories and the third had one of the extra large wetbags lining it for dirty nappies. The plane is easy because you’re just storing not rinsing or anything and if you’re used to cloth don’t change things up when you’re in a different environment. At the very least use a cover over disposables, they contain poosplosions so much better!

Final thoughts

  • Bring your own detergent, I measured out exactly how much I needed and put it in ziplock bags. Or if you’re staying with friends/family check what they use and see if they can buy you some detergent if there's isn't a high-quality detergent. Not knowing machines and loading etc means that having a really good detergent is more important than ever.
  • My personal opinion is I wouldn’t do cloth if I was travelling alone. I think it would be very hard to get them washed on holiday without a co-parent or helper (like a grandparent or friend). Unless of course you’re staying in ideal conditions: at a house well-equipped with a washer/dryer and you’re not moving too often.
  • A great bonus I found with reusable nappies on holiday is I was able to take fewer clothes for everyone. I packed a capsule wardrobe and didn’t need to bring many clothes even though we were doing different seasons purely because we were washing so often. We packed so efficiently we were actually well under our weight limit even with bringing our nappies. (Note: if you’re bringing home dirty nappies remember they weigh more!)
  • Depending on how well you’re able to wash them while you’re away you may want to “reset” your nappies when you get home with a few 60° washes, a dilute bleach soak, overnight Napisan and Vanish soak or a 95° wash on INSERTS ONLY.

So there you go, my top tips for travelling with cloth. In conclusion, don’t feel pressured to use cloth, you’re not a bad person for wanting to make life easier on holiday, but if you want to travel with your cloth nappies for whatever reason it’s totally doable. And look at these cute photos of Candies on holiday!

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