Flying with Cloth Diapers

Guest post by Jessica Menon.

I have flown on over 50 international flight segments to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and South America with my now fourteen month old daughter since she was six weeks old.  I’ll admit that although I am a committed cloth diaper user, most of the time earlier on I have opted to use disposable diapers for our flight journeys.  Some journeys have been over thirty hours long with two stopovers, and the thought of hauling around soiled cloth diapers in my carry-on for the trip just seemed…heavy.

However, there are several reasons why I more recently have opted to use cloth diapers on long flights.  First, when I fly to many developing places in the world such as India, I know that trash invariably ends up in river beds, and I have huge guilt around tossing soiled disposable diapers on the plane, not knowing exactly where they will end up.  Second, since I use cloth diapers 100% of the time at home, I already have all the supplies I need, and buying disposable diapers and wipes just for a journey is a hassle for me.  Lastly, I’ve found that it’s just not that big of a deal to bring along the cloth for the trip.

When my daughter was a newborn, she went through about 20 diapers a day.  The mere bulk of bringing along 20 or more cloth diapers depending on the length of a flight journey was a bit impractical when she was younger, and I never did try flying with that number of cloth diapers in my carry-on when she was that age.  Now that she is a toddler, she goes through less than half of that, and packing 10 cloth diapers in my carry-on is a bit more realistic to me.

Now when I pack my carry-on for a long flight, I pack enough cloth diapers to last the length of the journey plus three extra, which typically ends up being around 10-12 diapers for a 24 hour journey with my fourteen month old.  This can get bulky in the diaper bag, so I choose cloth diaper brands to travel with that are slimmer in size.  I also use two compression sacks to save space; these are frequently used by hikers/ campers to squeeze down sleeping bags and bulky coats to tiny rock-hard sizes.  I pack all the clean diapers in one sack, and have a spare one handy where I put all the dirty used diapers.  On shorter domestic flights, or road trips, which are 2- 5 hours long, I pack 4-5 cloth diapers, and generally don’t need compression sacks to keep the bulk down.

I pack an equal number of small cloth diaper wet/dry bags (10-12), put each used cloth diaper and cloth wipe in one wet/dry bag, and then place the bag with the dirty diaper into the dirty diaper compression sack.  This also keeps the dirty diapers, and the smell, contained, for the journey and through security checks.  Once I’ve arrived at my destination, everything in the dirty bag simply gets dumped in the wash.

In addition to the cloth diapers, wet bags, and compression sacks, I also pack 15 cloth wipes that I keep moistened with plain water in another small wet bag so they are moist and ready to use wherever I am.  I’ve also opted for using flushable disposable wipes while on the go, but I’ve found that using cloth wipes is just as easy since I’m already tossing dirty diapers into the wet bags.  I do use flushable disposable liners that I toss in the toilet if one is nearby, and if there isn’t, I just keep it with the diaper in the wet bag and dispose of it once I reach my destination.

It did at first seem much simpler and easier to just use disposable diapers when traveling with my baby, but as a regular cloth diaper user, flying with cloth diapers is not much different than hauling around cloth diapers and wet bags on outings to the park.  It’s easier logistically for me not having to worry about buying disposable diapers before a trip, and I’m accustomed to it.  One thing that I have never grown accustomed to, though, is the smell upon opening that dirty diaper sack at the end of the trip!

For more on traveling with cloth diapers or traveling with babies, please visit my blog:


About Jessica Menon

I’m a mom with a fourteen month old, Veda, and I travel internationally for work frequently. Although my husband and I have a home in Chicago, we spend 80 to 90% of our time traveling out of the country. I am not a medical doctor or expert of any kind; I am just a mom with lots of experience traveling internationally to developing countries while pregnant and with an infant/ toddler. I personally find that breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and the Dr. Sears attachment parenting approach works best for us. That means I do my best to ensure I am emotionally and physically connecting with my baby, and that I respond to the unique needs of my baby, and not to a schedule or clock. This works really well for me and my family, and I find it is especially compatible with international travel, which requires flexibility, adaptation, and mutual understanding with my child.

View all posts by Jessica Menon

15 Responses to “Flying with Cloth Diapers”

  1. Pania Says:

    I know this is a super old post, but I was wondering, did you ever have any issues going through customs with dirty diapers? I’ve done cloth on domestic flights and loved it, but can’t decided if we should do it flying to Europe…


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      The best thing you could do is call the airline. I don’t think you would have any problems. But that would let you know for sure.


  2. SoftCrunchyMom Says:

    Thanks for the post, I have been using the GroVia system for travel and use the disposable liners as a compromise, but for the next trip I may try all cloth. It’s funny as soon as we get in the door the first thing I do is put him in a cloth diaper!


  3. Jessie S. Says:

    Thanks for your post! You must have some great tips on how to keep a baby entertained for long trips in the car/plane and I’d LOVE to hear them since I’ll be traveling cross country in a couple weeks with a 1 1/2 year old and a 6 week old!


    • Jessica Menon Says:

      Hi Jessie!

      Sorry I didn’t respond until now as I’ve been traveling. You are brave for traveling across the country with a 1 1/2 year old and a 6 week old! Please check out my website at for tips on traveling with babies. The 6 week old will probably sleep a lot and be a piece of cake! A one and half year old is BUSY!

      My number one tip is to relax and accept that the trip is going to take longer than it would without two little munchkins (especially by car)- enjoy the journey!

      Do you breastfeed? This is a great way to calm babies and toddlers on the plane, and in the backseat of the car. I’ve perfected the art of leaning over onto the car seat while the car is still moving and feeding baby on the go without having to stop. It’s not always comfortable, but it can keep us moving.

      Do you have a baby wrap? It would be great to use on a long plane ride for the little one to keep him/ her cozy!

      I try to bring along enough travel friendly toys and books to keep my toddler engaged. I like finger puppets, bendy toys by Melissa & Doug, and magnadoodle (she loves to draw but eats crayons- she can’t eat magnadoodle!!). I have considered buying an ipad or kindle with toddler books/ games for my daughter, but haven’t done that yet. I have friends that have and that keeps their toddlers entertained for hours.

      Check out my blog for more tips on things to do on planes- compliment of the plane!

      And to keep baby happy while flying:

      Have a great trip!


      • SMiaVS Says:

        I realize this is an old post, but PLEASE don’t let time constraints trump the safety of you or your child. Breastfeeding in a moving vehicle is dangerous, period. Either you’re not properly restrained or the baby isn’t and neither is worth the risk. Leaning over the carseat could cause serious injury to your child if you were to get into an accident while you were breastfeeding. No travel timetable is worth the risk. Getting to your destination on time shouldn’t take precedence over your safety or the safety of your children.


  4. Shannon Says:

    I wish I had been that brave on our last trip. We never have blow-outs with cloth, but had several with the disposables. Thanks to the lovely woman in the Orlando airport who helped me clean up Callum, who had poop from his shoulders to his knees!


  5. Jessica Menon Says:

    Hi Katherine,

    Thanks for sharing! Yes, every time I travel I still go through the internal struggle of cloth or disposable, but every time I realize cloth will actually make my life easier in the end :).

    Definitely check out compression sacks, which are also useful for packing your AI2s in your checked luggage (saves on space in your checked bag):

    Have a great trip next week!



  6. Crystal Says:

    Great article! We do use bambo disposable dipes ( bought from amazon and they are from the Netherlands) but once each destination use cloth. When stay in hotel I wash in the sink and bring travel size Purex free and clear detergent to wash with ( we use that soap at home on dipes) and dry with air conditioner/ heater in room over night. Or go to laundry mat. Cloth is my addiction!!!!


    • Jessica Menon Says:

      Hi Crystal,

      That’s a good idea to use an air conditioner/ heater to speed up the drying process. I wonder if a hair dryer would come in handy in a pinch? I’m in South Africa now and my cloth diapers are being washed in a machine by the staff, but they’re returning them to me damp and taking too long to dry completely!


  7. Julie Kanter Says:

    I’d like to ask the writer a few more questions about what you do with the cloth diapers once you get where you are traveling to? I have taken trips with both my cloth and disposables, and now, sadly, I buy disposables for all my trips with my 13 month old now. It’s not the plane ride that is the biggest barrier to me, it is how to care for the diapers later on? No place is going to have my cloth diaper safe detergent, so I would need to pack that. When you travel, you don’t always stay in places with your own washer and pretty much never with your own dryer. Where do you wash? Do you ask your host or hire someone in the streets of India to wash for you? And then how do you get the drying done? Even if I wash prefolds at night and hang them, they aren’t dry by morning, and then when you are on the go traveling, I have not wanted to pack up damp diapers, then they will mold, then I can never get that out, etc….. I’d really like to know your system for caring for the diapers when you are away, because I haven’t been creative enough to figure it out yet :)


    • Jessica Menon Says:

      Hi Julie,

      I understand your struggle, and in the beginning I wasn’t very creative and reverted to disposable a few times. Please check out a recent blog posted here that I wrote “How to Wash Cloth Diapers in a Foreign Country” here:

      Also check out “How to Pack Cloth Diapers for Long Travel”:

      I always bring my own powdered Charlie’s Soap along with me to wash the diapers.

      In the first link above I talk about different ways to wash diapers depending on your situation. I didn’t directly address needing to pack up damp diapers and go, though. In India it tends to be humid and often takes more than 1 day to dry. I usually try to wash 1.5 days before going somewhere and haul the dirty ones used with me in a compression sack and clean them at my next destination. If it’s a short trip (less than 3-4 hours) I’ll try to dry them as much over night and then hang them up to finish drying as soon as I get there.

      You might also consider getting diapers that dry more quickly. I notice that my Fuzzi Buns inserts take almost twice as long to dry then my Happy Heinys. Pre-folds might not be the best option for travel without a dryer.

      You might also consider using a hybrid diaper for travel where you can use cloth/ reusable inserts most of the time, but when you are traveling or before could use biodegradable/ disposable inserts- check out gdiapers if you’re interested in this option.

      I hope this helps!



  8. Katherine Valenzuela Says:

    I agree! Flying with cloth was very easy. Thanks for sharing a about the compression sacks. I will look into that. Its funny I’ve flown with cloth before but for our trip next week was considering disposables and I don’t know why! Then I thought as soon as we land we have to find a store that sells grovia or nature baby care disposables….blablabla. that’s the last thing I wanna do when we land! And I’m not packing 140 disposables for my two one year olds in my luggage! That would take up more room then my AI2s….anyway. thanks for sharing :-)


  9. Brandy Says:

    I have actually never flown before, but those tips would be wonderful for car travel too.


    • Jessica Menon Says:

      Hi Brandy,

      Yes, thanks for pointing that out. I have traveled many tips on longer (3-6 hour) road trips with my babe using cloth diapers. It’s actually much easier than flying with cloth travels because I can just keep my usual large cloth laundry bag in the trunk and throw the dirty diapers in there, and don’t have to worry about stuffing them into my carry-on. It’s definitely super easy to travel with cloth on the road- thanks for pointing that out!


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