A Little Review… This is Why Traveling Ladies Use A Diva Cup (Menstrual Cup)

How to handle your period while traveling.Confession 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, you might want to move along now. But that said, you also may find this menstrual cup review helpful for your girlfriend or wife. Certainly every traveling lady should read it — so forward it your travel-loving female friends.

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 to handle my period while traveling. She said I needed to but it immediately so that I could practice with it before I started traveling long-term. I was skeptical. I had assumed that 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. She said it is the best way to handle your period while you travel.

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 from my local healthfood store. Then, I had a rough start to using the menstrual cup and almost gave up entirely. Within just one period, I had figured it out. It started working after I spent a couple of days practicing. Since then, nearly a decade later, I’ve never looked back to the days of schlepping around pads and tampons.

What is a Diva Cup?

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!

How do Menstrual Cups Work?

I won’t get overly graphic here — there are many sites that explain the how of the cup better than I could possibly. At the most basic, however, a menstrual cup is a small rounded cup made of medical-grade silicon. The cup holds about an ounce of liquid — more or less depending on the brand and size that you select. It’s about the size of a shot glass. The premise of the entire thing is that you fold the cup in half and insert it much like you would a tampon. Once inserted, the cup opens into the full circle again and then forms a seal. With a tampon, the cotton absorbs the blood. In this case, the seal insures that your blood is collected in the cup (which again, is about the size of a shot glass, so you are simply collecting it in there like you would a small flexible cup).

Then you tug the base of the cup while you are over a toilet, then you tip the cup into the toilet and flush. You wipe or rinse it out and reinsert. In this way, you actually have only one thing that you need. You don’t need a new pad or tampon, and you don’t have something to dispose of afterwards. Your period is disposed of into the toilet.

So, lots of women are different shapes and sizes, but the nature of the silicon means that the various brands tend to work for most women. Some cups have a wider circular rim to ensure that you can form a strong seal if you’ve had birthed a child. Some cups are shorter for women with shorter vaginal canals. But generally, they all tend to be very similar in size, shape, and they all work on the same exact premise of creating a seal so that the blood flows into the cup and can then be dumped into a toilet or down a sink.

If you need more information, 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 outine 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
Lily
Duchess
Athena
Blossom
Lena
Femmy Cycle (for Teens)

Diva Cups are brilliant and anyone comfortable with their body should give it a try. But beyond anyone, I consider it essential for women travelers, truly  :-)

And don’t take my word for it — look around online. There many women have gone on the record 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. I am tall with a long vaginal canal and have tried other brands, but I stick with the Diva Cup. (I do carry the Lily compact as a backup because it collapses down tiny. I have the larger size in both cups since I am over 30 and each brand respectively recommends the size 2/B ).
  • 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.

If there is ever anything that I can do to help, please do reach out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and let’s talk about how we can make your travel dream a reality.

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141 Responses to A Little Review… This is Why Traveling Ladies Use A Diva Cup (Menstrual Cup)

  1. Guest November 2, 2016 at 12:31 am #

    I was interested in menstrual cups, so I decided to try one. I bought it a month ago and couldn’t get it to work properly, so I decided to wait and watch more videos on folding techniques. Now I am on day three of using it, and so far so good. It is something new, and taking it out is still awkward, but I do like the convenience of not having to change it every four hours. I highly recommend doing research on it before hand and watching insertion and removal videos. Try it out before a period so you get the hang of it, and hopefully you will be satisfied with it.

    • Shannon O'Donnell November 2, 2016 at 5:36 am #

      It can be really tricky at first, but once you find the folding technique that works best for you, it’s such a better alternative to the other options out there. Hope that it’s smooth sailing for you from here on out!

  2. Casey September 28, 2016 at 11:07 pm #

    It is uncomfortable especially for me, who hasn’t had sexual escapades yet, much less children.. So to me if you are fairly tight down there, it wouldn’t be very comfortable fit..I’m in my early 20s gave it a try, I didn’t like it, it wasn’t the mess or anything that turned me away from it was just how it fit, since I haven’t been very sexual with my body as of yet, it just feels kind of awkward and distracting. Though kudos to those who like it and get it to work well. I might try it again when I’m older.

    • Shannon O'Donnell September 29, 2016 at 12:11 am #

      Sorry to hear that it didn’t work well for you. They have smaller cups too, and one called FemmyCycle actually has a teen size that might work better for you. I understand that it can be a little odd at first to use one, it’s a bit more invasive than using a tampon. I hope you find one that fits in the future, they work really well once you have a good size and fit for your body.

  3. Erin Vogel August 3, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

    Yup, it’s the best little invention ever in my opinion! And I’m not shy about telling everyone I know or meet all about it – my friends get all the TMI details and advice, and I feel a little crazy but I rave about how it’s not only way more convenient, safe, etc., but also how fascinating it is to actually SEE your period. I take all my friends to the tampon aisle to show them where it is, and advise any women standing nearby to try it out. Also, when at REI I have been known to give the full sales speech to women standing awkwardly in front of the Diva Cup box. LOL. It truly is the best though – for travel, for hiking and backpacking, for swimming and boating, for pool parties and days at the spa, for white pants/shorts/skirts any day of the month or year. Just yes. :)

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 4, 2016 at 9:42 am #

      Thanks for sharing your own experience Erin. I have to give you mad props, I have never yet pulled someone over in the shopping aisle, but I do see the merits. I wish everyone was shouting it out from the rooftops. Such a fantastic way to handle the period and I’ve yet to meet anyone who tries it for a few months and goes back to pads and tampons. It’s just better in every way. Cheers and thanks for popping into the site! :)

  4. Elsa July 24, 2016 at 2:18 am #

    Hi!
    First of all, thank you for this article!
    It comforts me reading that is was difficult at the beginning… (I’ve just bought it and used it on one period).

    HOWEVER, I was wondering how do you sterilize the cup when traveling?
    I love to travel too, but after I bought my cup I realized that BOILING it on the road is the one thing I could consider a downside.
    I’ll truly appreciate to hear (read) about your experience on is matter.
    Thanks a lot, Elsa.

    • Shannon O'Donnell July 24, 2016 at 6:17 am #

      Excellent question, I actually don’t boil my cup very often, once a year, maybe twice. I find that the other methods are better for the cup according to some, and better for cleaning on the road. The Diva Cup site says to boil, but the Keeper, the other huge brand, actually says that it’s not good for the cup long-term (http://keeper.com/learn-more/cleaning-your-cups/). My method has always been to carry a small jar of mild, fragrance free soap and use that only on my cup. And if I am in a shared housing situation like a hostel, or even a hotel where I can’t get to the kitchen, I will boil a cup of water (looks to others like I am making tea), add a bit of soap, and let it soak. Even that doesn’t have to happen all of the time if you are regularly washing with the mild soap. Silicone doesn’t harbor bacteria easily, so make sure the air holes on the top are clean and after that it’s *super* low maintenance. :)

      • Elsa July 24, 2016 at 10:48 pm #

        Thank you very much for your useful advices!
        The link doesn’t work but I googled it and found the article!
        There’s nothing better for abolishing doubts than the actual experience of someone; thank you for sharing yours.
        Love, Elsa.

  5. Elena May 24, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    Third month using the diva cup….. first 2 months i wore a pad i was so scared i would leak, and i did until i learned what to listen for sometimes you dont hear or feel that “pop” so i decided to use rubber gloves each time just to get a better grip of the cup when twisting it, i twist it until the bottom rounds out a bit more and after turning It i pushed it in and pulled a little till i feel a suction. Then i know i wont leak , first time i was in the bathroom putting this on i was in for almost an hour, frustrated trying to find which fold is best, im sticking with the c fold, and im in and out of the bathroom in less then 5 minutes. The freedom i have now with the cup is amazing, fishing for hours on a pier no bathroom,… im ok, driving four hours away on my 3rd day of my period…. im ok…. my husband laying his head on my inner thigh while watching tv… no problem ,no period smell… im thoroughly sold and will not go back to pads or tampons.

    • Shannon O'Donnell May 24, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience Elena. Like you, I had a lot of issues those first two months while I figured out how to twist and pop it out. You describe to a tee what I do as well, with the little push and twist until you can feel that there is some suction. I am so glad that it’s working for you now!

  6. sharonodneal March 4, 2016 at 2:55 am #

    Great post…Thank you for sharing such informative ideas.

  7. Evie December 4, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

    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?

    • Shannon O'Donnell December 4, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

      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 December 4, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

        Thanks so much!

  8. Stacey December 3, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    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.

    • Shannon O'Donnell December 3, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

      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. :)

  9. Tara Jean November 26, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    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?

    • Shannon O'Donnell November 27, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

      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. :)

  10. Lisa Tran October 20, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    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?

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 21, 2015 at 1:29 am #

      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. :)

  11. diva October 19, 2015 at 1:52 am #

    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.

  12. Shannon O'Donnell September 25, 2015 at 4:14 am #

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

  13. Jackie September 25, 2015 at 12:18 am #

    I LOVE Diva Cups…they’re great for the environment, as well as way cheaper than buying tampons each month. My favorite thing however is that I don’t need to change them constantly. Here are 49 reasons why I love them:

    http://reusablemenstrualcup.com/why-menstrual-cups/49-reasons-you-need-a-menstrual-cup-today/

  14. Casey July 24, 2015 at 1:21 am #

    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

    • Shannon O'Donnell July 24, 2015 at 9:14 am #

      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.

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