How to do Laundry while Travelling

As the thermometer dips lower and lower and the white stuff is beginning to stick around, many Canadians are thinking about travelling south for a mid-winter break. Perhaps you are lucky enough to be going on a trip this winter yourself. When it comes time to packing your suitcase or carry-on, you might not be thinking about doing any laundry, but with a little planning, doing some laundry while you're on vacation can be a simple task that can save you money and avoid extra baggage fees because this lets you pack a lot fewer clothes.

Woman and Man walking on Dock with suitcases
Photo by Ibrahim Asad

For our 15-day family trip to the UK this past summer we packed pretty light, only bringing carry-on bags plus one checked bag for the whole family. I smartly figured I'd be able to hand-wash some clothes in the hotel sink, but when I saw the sink of our hotel room I quickly realized that my plan was foiled because it didn't have a stopper in it! Plus there was really nowhere simple to hang the clothes as the bathroom only had a small shower stall instead of a tub with a curtain rod. The hotel also didn't have any guest laundry facilities, so off to the nearest laundromat we went. I was shocked to discover it would cost £5 just for one load of laundry! The laundromat also didn't have one of those detergent vending machines and we would have had to go to a grocery store first to purchase laundry detergent, but luckily I had brought my own. In hindsight, I learned a few things about doing laundry while travelling.

Laundromat in London

Photo by Claudia Froome

Lesson Number One

Prepare! Find out what kind of amenities your hotel / accommodations has. Is there a guest laundry? Is there a proper sink with a stopper? Is there a laundromat in the neighborhood? Do some research about nearby amenities or where you'll be staying. This way you can be prepared ahead of time. You may want to pack a laundry soap bar or a small package of powder laundry detergent. Be sure to store any powder detergent in your checked bag, not in your carry-on bag. Check with your airline to see what you can and cannot bring in your carry-on and checked luggage.

What to pack for doing some laundry when going on a trip
  Photo by Claudia Froome

Lesson Number Two

Improvise! Be ready to know how to hand-wash some clothes in a pinch. What if your hotel guest laundry is busy and you don't want to spend your precious vacation time waiting for the machines to do their thing? What if the local laundromat is closed for maintenance or some other unforeseen circumstance? Hand-washing a few clothes is pretty simple. I ended up using a plastic shopping bag - because our hotel basin didn't have a stopper. Put a small amount of laundry detergent or laundry soap in the bag, add some water, then add the item(s) you need to wash, and voila! You've just made yourself a very simple hand-washing device for doing laundry. Then gently swish the bag back and forth in the washbasin for about 5 minutes. Empty the water into the sink, and squeeze any excess water out of the bag. Now add more water into the bag and keep swishing the bag back and forth to rinse out the laundry soap. Remove the clean laundry from the bag and roll it up in a towel to squeeze out as much water as possible. Now hang the item wherever possible. You could even bring along a small laundry line for hang-drying your clothes.

laundry hanging on clotheslines between buildings

Photo by Mali Maeder

Lesson Number Three

Keep in mind how long things actually take to dry, depending on the climate of your vacation spot. If you're travelling to an arid climate, it will take about a day to hang-dry a hand-washed item, however, in a humid climate laundry can easily take two days to dry, even during warm or hot days. So make sure you wash your undies before you're on your last pair.

Woman walking in airport with suitcase
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi

Other Travel Laundry Tips
  • Keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean clothes. Store the dirty clothes in a dry-bag.
  • Put an eco-friendly dryer sheet or a lavender sachet in your suitcase to keep the bag and your clean clothes from smelling funky. This will also aid in deterring creepy-crawly hitchhikers from climbing into your bag.
  • Pack more dark clothes instead of light-colored or white clothes.
  • Pack fabrics that dry quickly, like merino wool or polyester. I love wearing cotton, but it's not great for travelling because it takes longer to dry and wrinkles easily.
  • A top can be worn more than once, as long as it doesn't smell.
  • Depending on the length of your trip, jeans really don't need to be washed while you're travelling.
Woman jumping wearing small backpack
Photo by Sebastian Voortman

Just remember to pack light, don't sweat it, and have fun. Safe travels!

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