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A Little Review … A Diva Cup (Menstrual Cup) for Traveling Ladies

Diva Cup Review PhotoConfession time, I wanted to review the Diva Cup for ages but I hesitated out of fear of alienating readers. But really, I also didn’t want my cheeks to flame red with embarrassment as I write this personal post — you’re about to get to know me in a whole new way. The time has come though. My love for the Diva Cup means it’s time to share a bit more about how I handle my period on the road, and why you should consider it too. First though, a resounding warning:

Men, though you might want to move along now, you also may find this review helpful for your girlfriend or wife. Certainly every traveling lady should read it, so perhaps just forward it on to a traveling lady you know, and then move along.

Let’s get started with the beginnings. I was in the throes of planning my round the world trip when my cousin implored me to immediately buy a Diva Cup and start practicing with this thing during my period to take care of my monthly visits on the road.  I was skeptical. I assumed I would just use tampons on the road since — that’s what I had used for years. But, her endorsement was enthusiastic and her reasoning sound.

The Initial Verdict?

The Diva Cup is the most useful thing I pack when I travel. It gives me the confidence to go straight from a long bus ride to an epic hiking adventures. It never leaks. I’m never forced to schelp tampons nor dig holes to bury my pads. It just works.

The Diva Cup is one of the most useful things I took on my trip around the world.

I bought one and then I had a rough start to using the menstrual cup and almost gave up entirely. Then, I figured it out. It just started working after I spent a couple periods practicing. I’ve never looked back to the days of schlepping around pads and tampons.

The What?

If you’ve never heard of this thing before, you’re likely baffled. A Diva Cup is an eco-friendly “natural feminine hygiene alternative.” This specific cup falls under the larger umbrella of silicone menstrual cups (yup, there are several different brands of these things). The various cups all have some different sizing, shapes, and colors, but they all work the same way.

Basically, it’s these are medical-grade silicone cups that collects your menstrual fluid. When it’s inserted correctly, the rim of the cup forms a seal against your vaginal canal. Once sealed, it takes care of business. The menstrual fluid flows into the cup, then you just pull it gently and dump the liquid into the toilet or sink. These cups fully replace tampons and pads. In fact, I have never bought a package of pads since I switched over. Well… except that one time when my best friend’s dog ate my Diva Cup. Keep ’em tucked somewhere safe!

The How?

I won’t get overly graphic here — there are many sites that explain the how of the cup better than I could possibly. And if you’re wondering about the fit, the buying instructions for the Diva Cup outline the nitty-gritty details on if you need the A or B size, it has pictures of the cup, and instructions too. And stick around to the the end of the post where I share the hilarious and helpful reviews women have posted, as well as the other brands that work well for women of differing statures.

5 Reasons I love the Diva Cup for Traveling:

wearing the cup1. It can be worn for 12 hours at a time.
Traveling on a budget and in developing countries meant a lot of time on public transportation, with my Diva Cup I was safe for the never-ending 10+ hour bus rides. And when I was trekking, the last thing I wanted to do was dig holes and bury tampons during all-day treks—hooray for my Diva Cup! It’s completely safe to have in for up to 12 hours because there’s no risk for TSS like with tampons.

2. You can wear it before your period.
If I knew that I might start my period in the middle of a 10+ hour bus ride, I could use my Diva Cup before my period even started because it’s not drying like a tampon (and drying out can be a big issue with those, so menstrual cups are just nicer for your vagina). Bottom line, it saved me from some potentially embarrassing situations on treks like bleeding through clothes or wild animals digging up bloody materials.

3. It’s designed for any activity.
The site touts that you can do any of the following: swimming, aerobics, cycling, traveling, dancing, hiking, biking, running, camping. You can. Each and everyone without a worry. It liberated me from trying to plan major outdoor activities on non-period days because I knew I could head out on that six hour bike ride without searching out a clean bathroom and I knew it would give an embarrassing leak at precisely the wrong time.

4. You never have to buy other hygiene products.
I read horror stories about the availability of menstrual products before leaving on my round the world trip—some women even resort to bringing a full supply for their travels (hard to do when you’re on the road for a year!). This is literally the only thing I had to bring (well, soap too) and I knew I was never going to find myself hunting for sanitary products in a remote village in Nepal.

Diva Cup 5. It’s green travel and oh-so good for the environment.
So many of the countries I visited don’t have effective waste management systems in place; it made me feel good to not contribute to that problem and lighten my eco-footprint just a tad. The cup is reusable for a decade (unless your dog eats it) and there is nothing else you have to buy to use with it. Plus the non-BPA medical-grade silicone is far safer for your lady-parts than the surfactants, adhesives, and additives they use in tampons and pads.

DOWNSIDES:
I love this product and I have no shame in touting the fabulous qualities of the product. But, be warned, there is a learning curve to using the Diva Cup. It took me until my third period of using it to have no leaking and messiness… and I cursed it the whole time during my first two months. This hilarious Hairpin article is a good read. Or you can check out the many, many thousands of often frank and sometimes wince-worthy reviews on Amazon. Though it was rough going at first, now I’m converted. I truly, wholly believe that menstrual cups are one of the best investments for female travelers.

Tips & Thoughts on Using Diva Cups

  • Try it out before your trip! You’ll be thankful that you’re in your own clean bathroom while you discover the learning curve.
  • Bring a mild soap. I brought a small container plain body soap for use as a body wash and a cup wash, or you can buy a mild wash from the company itself too.
  • It’s not for the squeamish. You do have to get a little more “invasive” then you do with tampons if you catch my drift. You will be all up in your own business, to be frank. But you’ll also learn to understand your cycle better and get pretty good at using the cup without much issue.
  • That “twist” the instructions mention is the most important part of the process—that’s what ensures you have a good seal.
  • When they tell you it sits lower than a tampon, it’s SO true. Really low, make sure it pops open, then twist — it’s like magic. But, you definitely have to practice before it becomes second nature.
  • Buy at your local co-op or natural foods store instead, or online — at last check they sell for less than $35, which is far less than the close to $200 annually women spend on feminine hygiene products.

Major Cup Brands:

Diva
Lunette

Keeper
Mooncup
Lilly
Dutchess
Athena
Blossom
Lena
Femmy Cycle (for Teens)

I think Diva Cups are brilliant and anyone who is comfortable with their body should give it a try. But beyond anyone, I consider it essential for women RTW travelers, truly  :-)
And don’t take my word for it—look around online, there are a lot of women who have talked about their love (and learning curve) with menstrual cups. And very important is that once you get a Diva Cup, check out these links below for extra tips from women who have figured it out, they’re normally right on with their suggestions and the cup comes with some very explicit tips and pictorial instructions too! There are tricks to help it work better, and some brands are better for petite women.

Brands & Resources

  • The major contenders you should consider are the Diva Cup or the Lunette. Consensus seems to say that the Lunette works well for petite women and/or those with a short vaginal canal or low cervix.
  • Menstrual Cups.org: Good information on the wide range of options.
  • Menstrual Cup Info: Heaps of information to help you decide which cup might be a good fit for your body type.
  • An Ode to the Diva Cup: A hilarious article on the Hairpin with some advice and tips in the article, as well as the comments. I cried tears of laughter at her recounting of her conversion to menstrual cups — I have had those convos too. 

Shoot me an email if you have any other questions, or better yet, leave a comment. And if you’ve tried the Diva Cup, share your experience in the comments! If you haven’t tried it yet, just go poke around the Diva Cup page, read the reviews, see what it’s all about.

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  • Dana

    Ok so I just recently found out I have PCOS which causes me to bleed literally 25 days a month (no joke) one or two days in between where my body loves me and I don’t bleed like a gutted pig. Is it safe to use that long?

    • Yes! Much safer than using tampons that frequently. It’s medical grade silicon, so it’s similar to the type of silicone they use in breast implants that live inside peoples’ bodies for decades with no harm. Do your research, naturally, as I am not a doctor, but the Diva Cup website says it’s tested as safe for long-term use so long as you keep it clean and sterilized via boiling often. Good luck!

  • J Murray

    Just to bring up a point that is outlined on the DivaCup site; they mention NOT to use oil soaps (Dr Bronner’s in an oil/castile soap), as it breaks down the silicone. Just thought you should know.:)

    • That is a fantastic point, thank you for letting me know, I will change the post now!

  • CanGirl

    Is bringing one Diva Cup enough for the RTW? Should I bring an extra, just in case? How do you often boil it?

    • One should last so long as you don’t lose it, they are made to last for maaaany years. I had mine for 6+ years now and it’s still fine. I actually just bought a new one last month because I needed the bigger size, but not because there was anything wrong with it. For boiling, I usually do it once a month. After every period I wash it really well with the mild soap and then boil it vigorously for 5 minutes. You can do it as often or few times as makes you comfortable. If I couldn’t get a stove for a couple months on the road, I didn’t sweat it. Good luck!

  • Tina Siegel

    I’m glad your experience been better than mine. I was initially very enthusiastic about the cup, even though – like you, and everyone else who uses it – there was a learning curve. Even once I figured it all out, though, the cup fell far short of expectations (and it’s own claims, frankly). I have a heavy flow, which is why I wanted to try it. I loved the idea of only dealing with it twice a day. That is emphatically NOT what happened. I have to empty my cup six to eight times a day, and it’s a difficult, messy process (particularly in a public washroom). I’ve gone back to tampons – they’re just much easier.

    • I am sorry to hear that it didn’t end up working out for you. I agree that doing it up to eight times a day would be a lot to handle considering the increased mess. I know some women report using it has lightened their periods, but it sounds like even a little lighter wouldn’t make a difference or make it worth it. Thanks for weighing in and sharing your personal experience with it! It’s important to recognize that even if you really want it to, it just might now work right for all people.

      • Tina Siegel

        I haven’t given up yet. I’m looking at other menstrual cups that can hold more. Maybe that will make a difference. =)

  • Amanda

    Hi! I’ve been thinking about getting the Diva Cup for a while now for my travels, I’m just worried about the risk of infection with the bad drinking water in parts of Asia. I’m heading to Nepal too (as I know you mentioned in the article). Was it okay for you to use the water to wash your Diva Cup? Any other travelers use it while traveling in developing countries?! Thank you! :)

    • That’s a good question Amanda. I used the local tap water in nearly every place I visited. But I did sometimes just wipe it out and wait until I could use clean water. That’s one of the great things about the cups — they tell you that if you are in a pinch, you can just wipe it clean with toilet paper and then wash it later. Usually you will be staying in places with at least running water, so if you have to use a sketchy bathroom, you can wait and wash it later. I know a lot of travelers who use the same method and have never had an issue.

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  • Casey

    I’m travelling in a few days and I was wondering if it was comfortable or anything to change your cup on the plane?
    How was it getting through security?
    I’ve read a few things online and I’m starting to get a bit worried

    • It’s made of medical grade silicon and therefor not a problem in security checks. None at all. As for changing it on the plane, no one knows what you do in the bathroom — there is a sink, toilet paper, and a toilet, you have everything you need right there. It’s a cinch on the plane. As easy as any alternatives.

  • Areed! I can’t imagine going back to changing them every handful of hours like you have to with tampons.

  • diva

    to my surprise we finally have found a solution to my long vacation trips off home. i did not expect that there is something that could be done for my time of the week. great work. thank you.

  • Lisa Tran

    Love this idea! I am planning a 2 month trip to SE Asia, and this seems like a great solution to my monthly needs. Only problem I am having with buying one is how do I determine what size to buy?

    • There are some helpful guides that list out the sizes of the cups and their lengths (I linked to them at the bottom of the post), but those only really help if you have an understanding of your vaginal canal. In general you are choosing two things, the width of the cup so that it will open wide enough and form a circular suction in your vaginal canal, and the length — these two things vary with each cup. For shorter statured people, sometimes they have a shorter canal and the Diva Cup is too long. Petite friends have reported that they prefer the Lunette. I love my Diva Cup and they tell you that if you’ve had a child or are over 30 you need the model 2 (which is a bit bigger circumference). I have the model 1 because I bought it before I was 30 and it still fits well. Think of your relationship with tampons as a guide (can you use them, can you take a super, etc). Then go read on some of those forums for more tips on selecting the right brand and size. They have a LOT of great info. You may have to buy more than one if the first is just not forming a good suction, but I promise it’s a good investment to figure it out! I would never go back. :)

  • Tara Jean

    Thanks for the awesome article!!
    The one thing I’m a little concerned about is how I’m going to wash it.
    I will mainly be staying in hostels with shared bathrooms, where the sink is open to everyone.
    How is it you avoided washing it with onlookers?

    • Glad you’re planning to use it on your travels! It’s actually not so tough on the road — easier than I expected. I also stayed in hostels with shared bathrooms, but you will find that there are often at least one bathroom in the place with a private setup. Or a handicap stall. And guesthouses in Asia will have small private bathrooms as the norm because they are retrofitted as communal living spaces. And if there is truly no discreet way to get to a sink, you can wipe it with toilet paper and clean it next time. I did this on hikes and places without a sink. Because it can last 10-12 hours (after your heavy day), you aren’t changing it every time you use the bathroom, like you would usually do with tampons. I usually change it three – four times on my heaviest day, then twice a day after that and it’s never been an issue. Hope that helps assuage your concerns! Between the long time it can stay in, and the ability to just wipe it clean with TP when needed, you will manage for sure. Also, if I can’t find a way to boil it, sometimes I would boil a cup of water, take it to a more secluded area and then let it soak in boiling water. :)

  • Stacey

    I tried the Diva cup and it is the most convenient female product I have every used. I will never buy tampons or pads again. The diva cup is a little pricey, but it save you from buying any other product every again. I didn’t t have to worry about embarrassing leakage. I did not need to wear a pad to prevent leaks from a tampon. I admit it is difficult to use at first, but once you learn the proper insertion method it is very easy. I wish this was invented years ago.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience Stacy! I know it’s so overwhelming for some people to think about the switch, but once you’re used to it there is just no going back. :)

  • Evie

    I am about to set out on a 5 month trip to Southeast Asia and Australia. The bulk of my trip will be spent in Thailand. I am really interested in trying the Diva Cup, I have heard so many amazing things about it. The question I have that no one seems to be able to answer is if it is safe to clean with water in developing countries. I know in many places over there the water is unsafe to drink, does that make a difference in cleaning/ the use of your Diva Cup? Is it safe to clean it with the water there?

    • Good question. The water will be safe to clean it with in Thailand (in most places, probably not if you are in a rural village), you can usually brush your teeth with the water in Thailand and be fine so the same is true for the Diva Cup (but you’ll drink filtered water). If I was in a sketchy situation with no running water I just wiped it clean with toilet paper. Other than that, I cleaned with water and soap and never had issues and I’ve used it in 40+ developing countries. You are only changing it twice a day usually for 5-7 days, so the instances where it’s sketchy are few, and you can use bottled water if the tap water is truly gnarly (rarely). Hope that helps!

      • Evie

        Thanks so much!

  • sharonodneal

    Great post…Thank you for sharing such informative ideas.