We just came back from a 9-day family vacation in the Okanagan where we used cloth diapers exclusively for our 17 month old. Even though we wouldn't have laundry access until day 5 of our trip, we didn't bring a single disposable diaper with us. This isn't as foolish as it initially sounds.
The first part of our trip involved a thoroughly enjoyable 4-night stay at Cathedral Lakes Lodge set by the shores of Quiniscoe Lake, at elevation 2070 meters or 6790 feet, in Cathedral Provincial Park. For those of you who live in or travel to British Columbia and have never heard of Cathedral Provincial Park, you need to make a visit to this alpine park! It does take a bit of effort to get to, but it is a jewel of a park and gives you relatively easy access to a network of spectacular alpine trails without the large crowds -- on one of my husband's morning hikes while the kids were sleeping in, he saw more mountain goats than people.
I expected that poopy diapers would be a bit of a challenge to deal with, so when we were resting in the cabin, we offered potty time in the hopes that our daughter would avail herself of the opportunity to relieve herself. Here is a picture of her on one such occasion:
We lined the diapers with flushable liners in order to make it easier to dispose of any solid waste into the toilet. As it turned out, our daughter did not poop until day 3, and it happened while we were out on a hike, a long way away from our cabin and any toilet--I knew something was up when I saw her squatting on the trail with her diaper on, looking rather strained. I let her finish, then quickly laid her down and took off her diaper before she had a chance to sit down on the poop and convert it from what my husband calls a "one wet wipe job" into a "three wet wipe job". I took the soiled diaper well off the trail (and away from any water source) and tossed the poop into a crevice tucked under a rotting log. Then I rolled up the diaper with the flushable liner and wipe (which all had only trace amounts of poop) and tucked everything into a wetbag. Phew. No mess, no stink.
By our fourth day at Cathedral, our large wetbag was full of dirty diapers. In one of the photos below, you can see our youngest daughter standing next to the full wet bag and rocking a Tots Bots all-in-one v. 2 (a hand-me-down from her big sister). We kept the wetbag sealed, and didn't really notice any smells emanating from the bag (the smell was not obvious until you opened the wetbag). We did not rinse any of the diapers prior to putting them in the wetbag.
The agitation in the top-loading machines seemed weak, so I decided to transfer the cloth diapers into a front loader to do the hot wash cycle. The front loaders cost $4 for a wash - yikes! That's the price you pay for washing in a resort town. I put in 2 tbsp of our laundry detergent (Nellie's Laundry Soda) and 2 tbsp of Oxiclean, selected the hot wash option, and let it run.
Both the front-loading and top-loading machines in the laundromat did not have an extra rinse option, and I did not want to pay another $4 for an extra rinse, so I had to make do with the single rinse. After the hot wash was done, I took the diapers out and did a sniff test. All of the diapers smelled clean, with the exception of two diapers which smelled a wee bit of ammonia-- good enough for now, since I could give those two diapers a deep clean when I got home.
After the wash was done, we threw the diapers into one of the large industrial dryers, inserted $2 worth of quarters, and let the dryer run for 30 minutes on medium heat. The diapers were not completely dry after 30 minutes, but we took them back to our accommodation and hung them on the backs of chairs to finish drying. They were dry in no time given the sweltering heat.
We continued on our trip, spending two nights in Penticton and two nights in Kamloops, before heading home. Apart from the one laundry visit in Penticton in the middle of our trip, we didn't have to do laundry again until we were home.
So, was travelling with cloth diapers more inconvenient than disposable diapers? Probably not. We did not have a single diaper leak on our trip. Instead of hauling a 9-day supply of Pampers and wet wipes with us, we brought with us roughly the equivalent (volume-wise) in cloth diapers and reusable wipes. As it turned out we could have made do with even less cloth diapers than we had brought with us. Instead of dumping a soiled disposable diaper into a garbage can, we dumped a soiled cloth diaper into our reusable wetbag. We did have to visit a laundromat in the middle of our trip, but by that time we were running low on clean clothes , so the laundromat visit was probably necessary anyway. And we minimized the inconvenience factor by visiting the laundromat over dinner time and having dinner at a restaurant across the street while the clothes and diapers were being washed.
We are planning to take our next family vacation a few months from now, and intend to also use cloth diapers exclusively on that trip (unless our daughter happens to be out of diapers by then). This time around, we will be sure to bring less diapers. Stay tuned...