Periods have no respect for your travel plans – so chances are you’ll be facing many trips while already on, or expecting, your period.
If you’re traveling on your period, a menstrual cup seems to be the ideal solution. It takes up minimal space in your luggage and will make your period more comfortable.
For example, frequent fliers can attest to how amazing it is to grab your cup and pack it for a trip, no matter the length, without having to fill your luggage with a box of tampons or a pack of pads!
Most female travelers that we have spoken to have said that they feel some anxiety around having a period whilst they travel. Not only can period aids be expensive and difficult to come by in certain locations, but they can also be a sizeable burden when all you’re carrying is a backpack.
It’s actually surprising how few women really know about the joys of traveling with a menstrual cup or who even think to consider it for their daily lives. It’s just something that’s not really talked about as with most “womanly things”, and that’s a damn shame. So we thought we’d put together a guide for other ladies possibly looking to make the switch. You can find it below.
What to pack? Your cup!
If you’re not already on your period on the day of your trip, you’ll want to PACK YOUR CUP! Even if you think your period won’t begin while you’re away, it’s still better to pack your cup just in case.
Experts say that traveling can wreak havoc on your body, your digestion, and your period may also be off track and show up earlier than expected.
Most menstrual cups come with a travel pouch or case when you purchase them brand new. You’ll want to pack your cup in something to protect it from getting dirty, but that is breathable, like a cotton pouch.
If you’re already on your period, then congrats! Your vagina is packing your cup. You will, however, want to bring your storage pouch in case your period ends, and you need a place to put the cup when it’s over that protects it.
Hotels, Air BnB’s, and family or friends can have varying styles of soaps available (most hotels only provide French-milled bar soaps), so you may want to pack your own soap of choice for cup cleansing in a TSA approved travel bottle for when you’re emptying and washing in the comfort of your home away from home.
A trip you’ve been planning for months can be ruined by simply not being prepared. We’re not talking about not booking your adventures or hotels on time, we’re talking PERIODS! So if you think your period might come during that hike to Machu Picchu, that surf trip to Bali, or just a casual camping trip 3 hours away from your home, make sure you have your period cup handy at all times!
Other items you may want to pack for the case your period comes include several pairs of period underwear, extra clean underwear of any variety, and/or individual cup wipes for cleaning on the go.
Why is the menstrual cup great for travelers?
You can keep the cup in for longer than tampons, without fear of leakage. In fact, you can keep them in for 10-12 hours (depending on flow) without fear of leaks or TSS. So no need to be seeking out clean bathrooms across the planet, like you would with tampons or pads.
You can wait until you get back to your hotel at night. Many women even prefer to empty the cup while in the shower so they can give the cup a good clean with water before reinserting.
It takes up less space in your backpack. Just think. One, small silicone cup? Or a bag full of tampons, pads, etc. I have wasted so much space carrying around these items, now I have a cup it fits neatly into our toiletry bag and takes up barely any space.
It can stay in all night without leaking – you just need to clean it out first thing in the morning.
You can wear it while swimming, playing sports – anything really (but not while having sex, that’s a no-no).
In airplane bathroom
If you’re traveling while on your period and that includes a flight, emptying your cup in the airplane bathroom can be a terrifying thought. Luckily, for most of us, a menstrual cup is ideal for flying because they can be worn 10-12 hours at a time.
If you’re a person who needs to empty more frequently or perhaps you are taking a long-haul flight that includes a necessity of emptying in air, it can be done – but, of course, carefully.
Airplane bathrooms are cramped, so depending on your size, it might be easiest to stand sideways when removing your cup, being extra careful not to drop it.
When dumping the blood, you should aim for right over the “trap door”, and avoid dumping the blood on the walls of the toilet. Airplane toilets differ from regular toilets, and any blood on the walls of the bowl may not “flush” away.
Remember, the water from the faucet in an airplane bathroom is not drinkable. Bacteria have been found in airplane tap water, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Hopefully, you remembered your cup wipes – but if not, just empty the cup and replace it without washing until you reach a bathroom on the ground. You can also wipe the cup with toilet paper the same way you would in a public restroom that is not 30,000 feet in the air.
Out in the wild
Going outside inevitably impacts the environment, whether all that remains are your footsteps—as Leave No Trace (LNT) would encourage—or you’re treating nature as your personal trash can and compost pile. And having your period while backpacking or camping only makes it harder to reduce that impact.
In accordance with Leave No Trace principles, don’t leave anything not created by your body—including tampons and toilet paper—in nature. Keep this in mind if you’re going on a trip where you won’t see a garbage can for a while, as you’ll have to carve out space and weight in your pack for used pads and tampons.
Reusable menstrual cups and period panties are more affordable, comfortable, and (in the long run) friendlier to the environment than disposables. Plus, while pads and tampons can fall out, get sweaty, or chafe, you won’t notice a cup except for when you’re emptying or reinserting it. Both reusable options will add less weight and take up less space in your pack, though period underwear can get uncomfortable if not washed properly.
As for what you can leave behind, it shouldn’t remain above ground for another person or animal to find. Always dig a six-to-eight-inch-deep hole at least 200 feet, or 70 big steps away, from a water source, dump all bodily fluids and the water used to clean your period supplies inside it, and fill it back in.
And don’t just throw period supplies into pit toilets. In comparing rates of decomposition, the closest thing to a tampon is a disposable diaper, which takes about 450 years. Even the organic or biodegradable kind still take a long time to break down. So if you leave a pad in a pit toilet, it could be found by animals. Or rangers would have to remove it, which is extremely difficult.
A menstrual cup is also great for the environment. It’s cost-effective – which is often a real concern for travelers – because it lasts for so long. You don’t have the hassle of having to find sanitary products in unfamiliar countries. It doesn’t take up much room in your backpack, unlike pads. As a bonus, for many women, it honestly has lessened their stomach cramps, to virtually non-existent.
While backpacking and hiking
You’ve got a great backpacking trip planned—but you know your period will start either right before or during the trip. What’s a gal to do?
After the first time backpacking with your period, you’ll realize it’s no big deal. And you can rest easy that the old notion that bears are attracted to menstrual blood turns out to be a myth. With a little preparation and knowledge, you won’t have to think twice about heading into the backcountry at any time of the month.
The reusable cup captures your menstrual flow, which means you need to insert it and later remove it to empty out its contents. Before inserting or removing the cup, be sure to wash your hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water. Empty the contents of the cup and bury it just like you would any other human waste in a cat hole, which you should dig six to eight inches deep and 200 feet away from any water sources.
If you’re on a glacier or in a sensitive area where you need to use bags for human waste, instead of digging a cat hole, empty the contents of the cup into the waste bag. Then re-insert the cup and wash your hands again.
After you empty out the cup, rinse it with clean water if possible, or wipe it out with tissue, and reinsert it. You can do this as often as you need to. Some women even pee on the cup to rinse it while on the trail, then wash it in camp.
You may prefer to use the cup only at night or only during the day. Typically, a cup can be boiled for a thorough cleaning. Most come with a small drawstring storage bag made of breathable cotton.
Above all, while you’re out on the trail, take care of yourself and stay clean. Store your cup properly and wash your hands frequently. If you prefer, use sanitary wipes to help keep yourself clean—just be sure to carry those out with your used supplies.
Once you reach civilization, dispose of your used sanitary items properly (if it’s the garbage bin at the trailhead, make sure it’s bear-proof). By keeping an eye on cleanliness, you’ll help avoid vaginal and urinary tract infections.
To clean your cup during the trip, wash it with warm water and soap if you can. If not, wipe it down with toilet paper and be sure to pack the toilet paper out. Do not use hand sanitizer to clean the cup because that can slowly degrade the silicone.
The cup needs to be stored in something breathable, so once your cycle is over you can keep it in the cotton pouch that comes with many cups or in another cotton or paper bag.
Chances are, even with the very best hygiene, you can’t keep your cup as perfectly clean as you do at home. So, once you’re back from your trip, be sure to give your cup another thorough cleaning with warm water and unscented, water-based soap.
Having a period while on the road is no longer a major issue or inconvenience. It allows you to travel with confidence and enjoy every day you’re on the road, without the need of having to take your period into consideration.
Since discovering the menstrual cup, many women haven’t gone back. It can not only make your periods bearable, but also makes many a hell of a lot easier to manage on the road. The reusable nature of the product means that you not only need to carry less in your backpack, but also that you are able to live in a more environmentally friendly way.
While it’s true that the menstrual cup may not be perfectly suitable for everyone, many traveling women found it was everything they had been looking for.
Convenient, comfortable and more sustainable, we think it is a must-have for every female traveler!