January 14 is the first day of the Spring Festival travel season, which is estimated at forty days. The number of transport passengers is expected to reach more than 2.04 billion, more than anywhere in the world. Train tickets are limited in availability, but bathroom availability on trains may be even more limited. Passengers are rushing to buy adult diapers as a solution to the limited toilet availability on the trains.
January 29, 2006 is the New Year's Day according to the lunar calendar. Chinese Ministry of Railways announced that the Spring Festival travel season 2006 would start on January 14 and end on February 22. It expects the first peak in transportation to appear around January 20, with up to 3.43 million passengers traveling. It expects that 3.56 million passengers on the next peak day, January 25, 2006. An estimated total of 144 million railroad passengers will travel during this time. According to the transportation department's estimation, up to 1.855 billion passengers will travel this year, which accounts for 90 percent of national transportation volume. Waterways of major provinces expect 28 million travelers. In addition, 15 million are expected to take airplanes during this period.
During the Spring Festival travel season, the traveling is as hard as buying tickets. According to Guangdong's Yangcheng Evening News , to prepare for the long train rides, migrant workers in Shunde and Foshan, rush to stores to buy large amounts of diapers. Some supermarkets place various sizes of diapers in conspicuous places.
It is reported that migrant workers usually have to sit for dozens of hours on the trains when traveling home for the new year. The train is packed full of people, even the bathrooms are packed with standing passengers. Unable to use the bathroom when needed may be a very embarrassing situation, especially for a female passenger. Some travelers even buy two packages of adult diapers to avoid awkward and embarrassing situations.
An employee at a supermarket said that adult diapers are sold in very limited amounts other times of the year, but the Spring Festival travel season brings peak sales, and a small peak occurs again around New Year's day.