A Post For The Ladies: Dealing with Periods while Travelling

Let’s not go round the houses: a good portion of the population menstruates. Don’t be ashamed, don’t speak of it in awkward hushed tones: we bleed- and so what?

Menstruating while travelling poses its own little problems however:

1. There isn’t always a place to dispose of sanitary products and sometimes you have no choice but to carry used ones around with you until you find a bin. Don’t even think about flushing them either- the toilets in a lot of countries can’t even handle toilet paper!

2. It’s sometimes difficult to find sanitary products. Tampons aren’t easy to get hold of in some places.

3. Carrying around a couple of months’ supply adds a lot of bulk to your rucksack.

I propose an alternative: The Menstrual Cup.

Mooncup UK
Mooncup UK

Here are two popular brands: Mooncup and Divacup.

Mooncup is British, costs something like £20 and comes in two sizes: A (for women who are over 30 years of age or have given birth vaginally) and B (for women under 30 and who haven’t given birth vaginally).

Divacup is American and cost $25 on Amazon last time I checked. There are Pre-Birth and Post-Birth varieties.

There are also several other brands and disposal versions of the mentrual cup. I use a Mooncup size B, which comes with its own little cotton storage bag. Google “menstrual cup” and you’ll find a wealth of information and advice.

Basically, it’s a little cup made of medical-grade silicon which sits quietly in your vagina and collects blood for you.

They’re all used in the same way: you fold it up, place it in the vagina and then empty it when it needs emptying. No fibres get left in there if you accidentally take it out too early, and if you place it in there correctly, you won’t feel it at all. Don’t be afraid. It will fit, it won’t be uncomfortable, and you will want to spread the word.


Menstrual Cup Pros Menstrual Cup Cons
You don’t need a bin: you empty the blood into the toilet, rinse the cup (making sure to clear the little holes around the rim which help you to break the suction seal during removal) and then reinsert. Yes, you do have to stick your fingers into your vagina to remove it.
You can empty it anywhere. Menstrual cups are magical when hiking.  Bring a bottle of water with you if you’re outside or in a cubicle without a sink to rinse it. Yes, you do have to confront your blood a bit more than you do with tampons and pads- but come on ladies, being afraid of your own body is an insult to your magnificence. Don’t demean your body by being uncomfortable with one of its processes.
No Toxic Shock Syndrome: the cup can be left in and changed as infrequently as twice a day, depending on your flow.
Holds 3x as much liquid as a tampon.
The cup weighs a few grams and takes up a tiny amount of space.
It’s good for the environment and reduces landfill waste.
Cheaper in the long run- a £20/$25 initial investment will give you many years of use. One menstrual cup does cost a lot more than a pack of tampons- but you can reuse that one cup every month for years!
You can go swimming with it! No weird reddish-liquid leakage, and no string!
No smell, no stickiness, you can’t feel it inside you.When it’s full, you will be able to feel it and will know to change it soonish. You will only realise a tampon is full when it starts leaking! It takes a little practice to insert and place it right- but the exact same argument can be made against tampons.Also some women’s pelvic muscles may be too strong, which can cause the cup to travel too far up the vagina and cause discomfort. I haven’t personally come across anyone with this problem though.

I have gone cycling, running, swimming, climbed trees, hiked, danced and moved furniture around with my mooncup. I will never go back to the bush-league world of tampons and pads.

I finish with this feminist diatribe against period shame!


  1. THIS IS THE BEST POST I HAVE READ IN A WHILE! You sincerely get all caps for that:) Have you tried both the Diva cup and the Moon cup? Which do you prefer?

    • Thank you!

      I haven’t tried the Diva Cup, but I think it’s very similar to the Moon Cup (the shape of the Diva Cup is slightly longer, but otherwise I couldn’t see any difference). Other cups are slightly smaller/taller too, but the difference really is negligible. There are a couple of comparison pictures online if you wanted to check them out (http://menstrualcups.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/more-cup-photos/ -scroll down to ‘Small Cups’).

      If a baby can squeeze its way out of the vagina, a little menstrual cup will fit in there just fine! It can take a little while to get used to, but definitely stick with it unless it’s causing serious pain. Once you learn how to position it correctly (it personally took me two tries and after that I was set) you won’t even notice it’s there.

      The instructions I got with my cup were very good too, lots of nice simple diagrams and explanations.

  2. What a great idea. I don’t remember much about the inconvenience back on my 9 week camping tour in central Europe in the late 1970s but I daresay there were problem days.

  3. When I studied abroad I had a friend that used it but I didn’t look into it further. Seems like a great alternative!

    Love the video, too: On. point.

  4. Reblogged this on jdtcreates and commented:
    I admit that I’m a bit squeamish to things relating to menstruation but the post is too important and useful to women to not reblog to my potential viewers as well.

  5. Oh, I am so far beyond that, and I so wish that it was available for me in my very younger days. I remember the “matress pads” so unfondly and the metal hooks to hold them in place. I also remember the tampons for us that wanted to use them as “virgins”. Life is good for my younger generation, but not a good as it is going to be. Bless you for being so open. It was not so in my day.

    • So very true. Women might complain about modern sanitary products, but they were bulkier and more uncomfortable in days past. That market is a growing one and I’m hoping that will mean tampons/pads/cups/etc. get better.

      Also I’m very glad that things have moved forward enough that we can talk about this sort of thing. That being said, the sex ed lessons I had were terrible, and I only learned about menstrual cups through the internet accidentally.

  6. I’m so glad there are people out there talking about this! I have had far too many mishaps while traveling it’s stupid. I need to get on board with this Diva cup, thanks for the advice

  7. Great post! These are also more eco-friendly than the traditional options, if I may add. I haven’t gotten around to using a menstruation cup myself and can’t say that I’m eager to – but maybe the day will come when I’ll be less squeamish. 🙂

  8. Thank you for writing this post– I’ve been debating buying one for a while, but always wanted to hear a traveler’s testimonial! There is nothing quite like looking around the bathroom and seeing no trashcan to fill a girl with panic!

  9. I’ve really been wanting to try one of these for a while now, still scared about it though! My problem is I am currently living in China as an ESL teacher. I am running low on my stash of tampons and this sounds like a great alternative! Thanks for this post!

  10. I am currently studying abroad in Athens and in the area where I live, there are only 2 small supermarkets that have their generic brands and sometimes they have “ALWAYS” but once they run out of them, it takes about 2 or 3 weeks for them to restock! But thanks to you, I might’ve found the solution to my problems. I just started my blog which isn’t in any similar to yours, but if you want to check it out, I would appreciate it.

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