Hi Kate and everyone thinking about this -
In answer to your questions, I used a little potty not the toilet. I chose this approach so that we could have potties all over the house - I bought the cheap ones at Ikea ($3 each I think) and had several at home, as well as at grandparents. (I've also seen a similar design made out of biodegradable corn composite, an option if you are trying to limit plastic.) This meant that going potty was not a "special event" that required interrupting what they were doing for a trip down the hall - they were simply put on it or they climbed on themselves for a few moments here and there constantly throughout the day. It was much easier for #2
who saw #1
going and wanted to copy. He was reliably clean and "out of diapers" so to speak by 13 months, even before he could walk.
For nighttime, we did use diapers but as often as possible we used ones that could be easily pulled up and down (stretchy fleece covers are good for this). The key to keeping nighttimes dry is to figure out what time they wet at (by checking diapers often, or by tracking misses) and take them to the toilet about 1/2 hour before it happens. It took a while to figure this out so DS1 was in diapers at night for much longer (3.5 I think). DS2 was out of them by 2 years. I am lucky in that my boys don't wake up when we take them. Now they are 5 and 3 and we rarely take them anymore, I just do if I feel that they had a lot to drink that evening.
In my experience, EC is definitely not more work than diapers. Though I love cloth diapers and even like sewing them myself, I hate changing diapers with a passion. I hate the laundry and I especially hate having to stop what we're doing twenty times a day to go change a diaper mid-play. EC allows the day to flow more smoothly I find. I had no problem going diaper-free at grandparents' or friends' houses - we didn't make a big deal about it or preach about it, just stripped down and most of the time nobody really notices. We also got really lucky when DS had to go to daycare for a short while, from 11 -17 months. We chose a Montessori centre that just so happened to support early potty learning. Not really EC but even babies were just in padded underwear and taken on a regular schedule. They had miniature real toilets, so cute! It was very gentle and respectful I thought. I wouldn't choose care based on this alone but it was a great bonus, probably rare unfortunately.
A few random thoughts and caveats - living in a cold climate does make things trickier, we used diapers under snow suits and for extended outings to the library, museum, etc. I also used more diapers for the first 3-6 months or so, and gradually did more EC as my babies became more expressive and were able to sit by themselves. Taking a hybrid approach worked very well for us so I didn't let my commitment to EC keep us housebound or anything like that. We also live in a small crunchy town where kids going naked and peeing outside is no problem at all. We did have some regressions, and still do occasionally at night time, however all kids (and adults!) will have occasional regressions in all sorts of aspects of their development, no matter what diapers they use, foods they eat, how we parent, whatever...
The biggest challenge I encountered with EC was making it work with baby wearing during the day. DS2 needed to be carried to sleep for a long time and I've had my clothes soaked many, many times! I picked up an extra Ergo so that I could rotate when one needed washing. Have you come across any tips related to baby wearing?