It’s the eternal dilemma: You don’t want to have to check luggage, but you just don’t know how you can get through a long trip with only the clothes you can fit in a carry-on bag. You could always try to wash the clothes and re-wear them, but sometimes it’s difficult to figure out how to do your laundry when you’re away from home, trying to enjoy a vacation. How do you manage to clean clothes while on the road?
Thankfully, some journeying geniuses have shared their tips for how to travel and keep a supply of clean clothes as you go!
Take Advantage of Hotel Services
This is probably the most expensive option for laundering your clothes as you go, but it’s also the simplest. Most full-service hotels offer laundry services that are performed at the hotel or contracted out. These services typically include washing, drying, hanging, folding, and even dry cleaning. You will find a laundry bag in your room and a form to fill out that will include the rates charged. Some hotels offer same day service, but with others, you may have to wait 24 hours for your clean laundry to be returned. These services usually charge by the item, not the load, and can be quite expensive.
While finding a local laundromat will cost you much less, hotel service laundry is more convenient and doesn’t take time away from the fun of your trip, so the choice depends on whether your budget or your time is most important on this particular trip.
When traveling outside of the US, you will find that laundry services are much less expensive in some countries, such as Southeast Asia and India.
Another option is to book your accommodation in a place that offers self-service laundry options. Some hotels have in-house laundry areas that are convenient and nowhere near as costly as laundry services. Great front load washing machines can wash larger loads than top-loaders, so you may be able to wash all of your travel clothes in one quick cycle, making this a cheap and convenient way to keep clothes clean while traveling. Most cruise ships and good RV campgrounds will also have self-service washers and dryers.
One travel-pro tip is to pack no white clothes at all during travel. This adds ultra-convenience and saves you money because you can wash everything together in one load—also, whites definitely soil faster and more noticeably than darker colors.
It’s also an option to find Airbnb homes to stay in during travel. Many of them are less expensive than hotel rooms and include access to a washer and dryer that aren’t coin-operated, making this a budget-friendly option.
Find Local Laundry Services
Another option for getting laundry clean while traveling is to find local laundry services at your destination where you can drop off laundry to have it done for you to be picked up later. This is almost as convenient as hotel in-service laundry, and much less expensive, though it costs more than self-service laundry facilities.
Solving the Laundry Quandary by Hand-washing in Hotel Bathrooms
Hand-washing is always an option during travel as long as you are staying in a room with a bathroom with a sink or tub. You also need soap. You can find travel-sized envelopes of dry laundry detergent in the sample section of department stores for traveling. If you don’t have laundry or dish detergent, you can use shampoo or bath soap in a pinch. Just fill the sink or tub with warm, soapy water. In a sink, you may only be able to wash one item at a time, but in the tub, you can throw items of similar colors into the soapy water together, which gives the dirt and stains more time to soak. Gently swirl each item through the soapy water and scrub out any tough stains by rubbing the fabric together or scrubbing with a hotel washcloth.
After washing, drain the water and rinse each item under warm running water until the water runs clear. Then wring them out as thoroughly as possible and shake them to untwist them. For heavy, slow-drying items such as denim, wool, or cotton, you can speed up the drying process by laying the item on a towel and then tightly rolling the towel. This will allow the towel to soak up excess water.
While some travelers pack a travel clothesline, you can also simply use the shower curtain rod, any hooks in the room, and even the ends of drapery rods and chair backs. Hanging items near open windows or over air vents and AC units will help to speed the drying process. Or, if you have a room with a balcony, you can air-dry your clothes over a balcony rail and enjoy the smell of fresh air on your clean clothes.
Solving the Outdoor Laundry Quandary
If you are camping and there are no laundry facilities, like when you are roughing it in a tent in the wilderness, you can do your handwashing in natural water supplies, as long as you use an environmentally-friendly laundry soap. Camping supply stores will carry these products. Some of them are all-in-one biodegradable soaps for dishes, laundry, and shampoo and are safe for wildlife and aquatic environments.
Always be sure to bring along an empty plastic bag for keeping dirty laundry separated from clean clothes. You can buy special travel laundry bags (some of these are really cute!) or you can bring one or two Aloksak bags. These come in packs and are like giant Ziploc bags.
Some savvy travelers actually use these not only for storing dirty clothes but also for washing them while traveling. You can use an Aloksak bag to wash clothes by putting soap and water inside the bag, then adding dirty clothes and sealing it. Let the clothes soak for about ten minutes and then use your hands to knead the clothing through the bag. Then drain the bag and refill to rinse, or rinse clothing in the sink, wring them out, shake, and hang to dry.
A great bonus tip is to soak a cotton ball in your favorite essential oil and keep this inside your travel laundry bag. This helps keep dirty laundry from accumulating a bad odor during travel. Happy trails!