Periods often mean plastic and panicked dashes to the bathroom. Neither of those things are enjoyable at the best of times and when you add travelling to that list, things can get a bit tricky.
Making travel planet-friendly is a big challenge but one thing that we can always strive to do is minimise our waste, and that includes when we have our periods. Travelling with your period has the added challenge of figuring out how you can minimise menstrual product changes (aka public bathroom searching) and pack light. It's a happy coincidence then that plastic-free period products also happen to be minimal, light and easy to use!
During recent travels 1MW community member Lexi and staff member Emily put two popular planet-friendly period products to the travel test and here's what they found.
Emily finds out if menstrual cups are the perfect travel tool
My period was due on my holiday departure day and surely enough it arrived as my plane took off. A plane ride with your period is usually a bit of a wobbly experience. Don't quote me on the science of this but flying through the air at thousands of kilometres an hour does something weird to your flow. And stepping over others to make it to the bathroom (out of necessity and leakage freakage) is just a pain for everyone involved. This time, I just popped my Ruby Cup in and all my period problems disappeared - no leaking, I was comfortable and I could keep it in for 12 hours, a dream come true!
The fact that menstrual cups can stay in for 12 hours was one of the big selling points when I first switched from tampons. And it's also one of the reasons why they're so great for travelling! I spent all day exploring Osaka without worrying about finding a toilet or keeping tabs on when I needed to change my tampon. While public bathrooms and shopping centres were easily found during my travels in Japan, it's not always the case and it can add discomfort and stress on top of your period. And when I took a day trip involving a 6 hour return trip, 5 trains and 2 ferries, my menstrual cup was a true blessing - not having to worry about where I could next change my tampon meant that travelling could be about discovering a new city not the next public bathroom. Depending on where in the world you are, it can also be less than ideal to change products in some bathrooms - particularly if they are a bit run down and dirty which is where you can find yourself when you're desperate.
Using my Ruby Cup also meant that I didn't need to carry around a bunch of menstrual products or try to navigate Japanese pads. Menstrual products and access to them also changes between countries and can make your period harder than it needs to be - as someone who has no idea how to use an applicator I found this out the hard way.
Ruby Cup also have a very handy cup cleaner called Ruby Clean, which was just the cherry on the top of cake - it made my life so easy! I use it to sterilise my cup at the end of my period. It's a collapsible little silicon pot that you pop your cup into, fill with water and put in the microwave for sterilisation in minutes. (You can also use an oven if there's no microwave available!) Afterwards, it just needs a rinse and then 100% dried out before you fold it back down. During my period I empty my cup every 12 hours and rinse it with hot water. Often I do this in the shower but sometimes I just use the bathroom sink.
[Emily's Ruby Clean (with water and cup inside) sterilising her cup in the microwave]
Not everyone can use menstrual cups and they're also not comfortable for some people, but if you can use them, then I cannot rave about them enough. When I use my menstrual cup I never leak and I never feel it either. If you've got a heavier flow you can always try a bigger cup size or pair it with some period undies.
Check out the Ruby Cup and Ruby Clean here.
Lexi goes plastic-free with period undies
Contrary to how most people plan for a holiday, I spent hours researching the best plastic- free period options before leaving home. Not because I was worried about not finding my favourite brand of tampon or pad - simply because a year on the road meant getting periods in uncomfortable locations; where perhaps no option was available or worse the local garbage disposal was somewhat lacking (or non-existent meaning: rubbish is burnt). I don't believe my periods necessarily need to contribute to our ever present single-use waste problem (and I'm lucky enough to be able to access and use period reusables) so, I sought alternatives.
My first thought was to give a menstrual cup a go. I'd heard both horror and rave stories about people's experiences and needless to say; I'd googled all possible situations women had gotten themselves into - and more importantly - how they got out of them! Admittedly it took me a few goes to navigate myself around the cup, but after a while, you begin to work with your body and I eventually found, it's well worth persevering for.
But I wasn't done, I wanted to explore all the options before settling on one and it wasn't until a friend recommended Modibodi (period proof undies) that I thought I'd give them a go. It certainly seemed like the less invasive option and a great alternative. Afterall, each month isn't always the same for me, so I figured more options would suit more situations.
So, after selecting a pair, I eagerly awaited delivery of my undies and my period to give them a try. At first, I didn't really know how much liquid they could take and was nervous to say the least. I was worried it would leak or worse overflow or worse still: become really unhygienic.
But actually, all those fears fell to the wayside once I started wearing them. I felt safe, for the first time in a long time. No leaks, no overflow (no need for sticky wings!!) and it actually felt more hygienic than a pad because there were no artificial perfumes or synthetic fibres.
In all honesty, I was a little worried about how and where I would wash my undies along the way, particularly when my travel plans often meant not staying in one place for long. After anxiously searching the ModiBodi FAQs I was so relieved at how simple they were to clean. You literally give them a rinse in cold water and then pop them in the wash like normal, even the pairs for 'heavy absorbency'. Thankfully most airbnb's have laundry facilities so it was seriously too easy.
Now, the only problem I had was that I only had one pair! So, with four pairs now, I can at least see through a whole period without feeling like I need plastic pads 'just in case' (full disclosure: I do mix it up with a menstrual cup for my plastic-free period, depending on what I'm feeling).
So far, I'm two periods into a 12-period trip abroad and I have to say, I haven't looked back. I'm more comfortable, less reliant on supermarkets or convenience stores, and most importantly leaving less of an impact on the planet. Now that's pretty cool. Period.
Check out Modibodi period and leak proof underwear here.
By Lexi Connors & Emily Contador-Kelsall
Lexi Connors is your ultimate wanderlust enthusiast with an incurable case of curiosity and a deep passion for action on climate change. Whether it's surfing in Mexico, hiking the Himalayas, motorcycling around India, trekking the Kokoda trail, skiing in New Zealand, Volcano boarding in Nicaragua, snorkelling in Costa Rica or just kicking back here in Sydney she's always intrigued and always learning. You can read more of her work on her travel blog here!
Emily is one of 1MW's amazing content creators. She is passionate about sustainable living and loves discovering new planet-friendly innovations. There's nothing she loves more than photographing a new city or scoring the perfect op shop find!