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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Travel Laundry Duties 10.8.11

To many of us, laundry is a four-letter word. We hate doing it at home and wouldn’t dream of doing it when we didn’t have to. Even though I can’t stand to do laundry every week (mostly, I just hate to hang it up and put it away), I always tell people to do it while on vacation. Am I just being a jerk and trying to ruin your trip? Not at all. I actually don’t mind washing clothes when I travel – probably because there is so little of it – and it helps me save money, too. And no, I’m not just telling you that to trick you. I take time out of my fun to wind down and clean some clothes every time I go on vacation. Don’t believe me? All these photos are my own.

So, how does it save money? Well, by taking less and doing laundry, I am able to pack all our clothing in a carry-on and not have to pay checked baggage fees. This can keep up to $35 in your pocket ($70 if you figure in having to check it on the way back, too) or more if you are a chronic overpacker and have to pay oversize and/or overweight fees any time you travel. Those fees can be up to $100 each way, on top of regular baggage fees, making it cost more than your airline ticket.

Do they have the kitchen sink in there, too?
We were just at the airport coming home last week and I noticed that 90% of the people checking in had several bags and most were HUGE. Either all these travelers thought they needed parkas and snowsuits to leave Hawaii, bought way too much stuff or have no idea how to pack for a trip that doesn’t require moving to another country. I mean, there are people every day that travel the globe with just a small bag full of belongings and do just fine. Why do these other people need to pack bags that wouldn’t fit in my car? I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why, but one thing is for sure, almost all of these travelers could have taken much less and been just fine.

Maybe they don’t know they can save so much money by packing fewer clothes and doing a load of wash once or twice while they are gone. There is a reason I tell you every time I post about packing light that you should mix and match your clothing. When everything coordinates, you can make more outfit combinations and take only a few key pieces.
See my sheet right on top of my laundry!

You don’t have to take up space in your 3-1-1 bag with laundry detergent either. One of my favorite products that I always have in my travel bag is Purex 3-in-1 sheets. They pack flat and are solid, so you can put them in any pocket in your bag. They are a detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheet in one, also, so you can use them in the washer, then transfer it with all your clothes directly to the dryer (if you are using it). It makes doing laundry way easy and it comes in scented and unscented varieties, in case, like me, you have sensitive skin.

Yup, we are having a GOOD TIME! (London)
You can always buy detergent anywhere you go, too, though you may pay more if you are in a touristy destination or have to try a new brand if you are going to a foreign country. Woolite has some great one-use packets that can be used in the sink or the washing machine. The same goes for Tide and other brand-name detergents. You can usually find them in the trial-size section of your discount or grocery store. I like to buy these types of things at Target.

Sometimes you will find yourself in a destination where there are no laundry facilities nearby or on-site (or it just isn’t cost-effective), and these are the times you will be washing your clothes in the bathroom sink or shower. If you only have powdered detergent with you, don’t worry. You CAN use it, but you can also use bar soap or shampoo to do it. If you know ahead of time that you will need to hand wash and can prepare for it, any of the packets above will work, but you can also purchase detergent leaves, like the ones from Travelon that you can purchase many places online. You will have to spend extra time rinsing the suds out and then wringing the clothing out, like a washer would do, or your clothes will take forever to dry. One of the best tips for getting as much water out of the clothes as possible is to squish them out real well and then roll up in a dry towel and stomp on it, so the water seeps into the towel.

A newly discovered (by me) product on the market that makes hand-washing a breeze is Soak Wash. It’s awesome because it requires no rinsing. I don’t know quite how it works, but it does. You can wash everything, wring it out, let dry and wear. It was developed for delicate items, like lingerie, that don’t hold up well when you scrunch it up or put it in the washing machine. Now, it’s a wonderful companion for travelers, because it makes the (sometimes tedious) task of hand-washing really easy, because the worst part of sink washing is rinsing the clothes before you can squish out the water and hang up. It can make it feel like it takes forever. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of me hand-washing clothes on the occasions I’ve had to, but trust me when I say that I have done this more than a few times and so has Eric. We did discover that you can multitask by bringing items with you into the shower and doing some scrubbing in between shampooing and conditioning. Otherwise, we just take a little time to do it in the evening while we’re winding down from a full travel day.

For those of you who DO have to hand-wash, you may want to purchase a laundry line. Not all rooms have hangers, a line in the shower or anywhere useful to hang your clothing, so my  travel bag also includes a durable braided rubber line. It doesn't require accessories, because you can easily hang the clothes by using the braids to hold them on. It stretches to 7 feet long and has velcro loops on each end, which makes it easy to hang on pretty much anything. Avoid the laundry lines with the suction cups, because 9 times out of 10, you will wake up to all your clean clothes in a pile on the floor, because one or both sides have un-sucked. Plus, you can only use them in the bathroom (when they work). The looped ends give you much more freedom and can hang out of the way of frequently used areas in your room.

There are my Purex sheets in one of the pockets
One of my other favorite travel accessories is a pop-up mesh laundry basket, like the EZ FoldR from Baijer. It folds up when not in use and then it pops open to hold a large amount of clothing. We use it everywhere as a hamper and then when it’s full (or we are running out of clean items), we grab it and do a load. The one we have is awesome, because it has wide, reinforced handles and 4 pockets, where you can stash your quarters, detergent and anything else you need (like a game or book to keep you busy). It is easy to carry whether your clothes are wet or dry. I like to keep spare quarters in mine at all times, so I don't have to worry about going to get change, too. If I don't need them for the washers, I can always use them to get a snack or soda from the vending machines!

During laundry time, Eric took advantage of the pool and I caught up on some reading!

I hope this helps you think of laundry as more of a travel adventure than a chore and it encourages you to bring less. While you may have to take an hour out of your whole trip to deal with dirty clothes, it really is worth it. We also discovered that if you travel with clothing specific for travel – lightweight, quick-drying clothing  you won't spend much time waiting for the dryer (our load was done in about 20 minutes) or will wake up to completely dry clothing you can wear! Just think of what you could spend that baggage fee money on while you're ON your trip.


  1. Un-sucked suction cups are the worst :) Thanks for the tips!

  2. I do laundry while traveling mainly because I hate packing - and I save! :-)

  3. LOL! Well, that's one way to do it! I do laundry, because I don't like to pay and also don't want to carry a heavy suitcase everywhere.

  4. I really hate doing laundry, but sometimes doing it while you travel can be the best. I love those little tide packets for shorter trips I just want to rinse out something small. I completely agree about packing everything that can mix and match. I usually follow my mom's code of packing. She selects one or two colors of clothes to bring and mixes and matches with whites, blacks and tans.


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