Most travelers don’t think about clean clothes while traveling. On an extended trip, they must
“Recycle” is a word experienced travelers never want to hear. It isn’t because they hate the environment. They like clean clothes while traveling. Recycling means that you’re out of clean clothes while you’re on the road and that you’ll either have to do the laundry or wear the same thing again.
And maybe again.
Clean clothes while traveling means taking advantage of opportunities
Your choices for doing laundry while traveling aren’t always that great. Hotel laundry services are ridiculously expensive. Who pays $7 to clean a shirt? Laundromats are often far away. And DIY laundry in the sink is, well, messy.
As someone who lives on the road, I feel your pain. So does Jennifer Zwicky, a travel agent from Stuart, Fla. A client tried to do her laundry in the sink on a recent cruise and hung a dress on the balcony to dry. A few hours later, it was gone.
Lesson learned? “Be careful what you put out to dry on your balcony,” Zwicky says, “You may find that your couture is gone with the wind.”
The laundry habits of leisure travelers are a dirty little secret
There are no reliable surveys on the subject, and travelers don’t talk about it. But at a time like this, when everyone’s pinching pennies, maybe it’s time for a little openness — and a few insider strategies to wear clean clothes while traveling.
For a stress-free trip, you’re better off solving the problem before it becomes one. For a short vacation, pack enough clothes so that you have something to wear every day of your trip. Consider bringing quick-dry fabrics created especially for travelers. Pack a laundry bag to separate dirty clothes from clean ones.
“I plan my daily wardrobe on a spreadsheet, so I only pack enough,” says Candy Adams, a trade show consultant from Vista, Calif. “On the way home, the suitcase is filled with my dirty clothes.”
“A laundromat is another option. If it’s not near my hotel, I cross-check the location against a crime map to make sure it’s in a safe neighborhood,” Adams noted.
Michael Kelly, a retired electrical engineer from Palm Desert, Calif., likes the laundromats in Europe. They’re usually clean, and the people who run them are helpful. “While waiting for the wash and dry cycles to complete, we spend our time updating journals, editing photos or popping into a nearby bar or cafe for a quick drink or meal,” he says.
Washing laundry in a sink is my last resort. Planning ahead is best
If no laundry facility is available, you can always try washing your clothes in the sink. Susan Stevens, a retired publicist from Lakeside, Mich., has made it a ritual. She buys a small bottle of dish detergent at a convenience store when she arrives. “Then I hand-wash and hang the clean clothes up in the shower or on the balcony,” she says.
“The sink is our last resort,” says Grant Sinclair, a professional traveler who blogs about his adventures at Our Wander-Filled Life. But sometimes, it’s unavoidable. He recommends packing two items: a sink stopper and a clothesline.
Planning ahead helps, too. “To avoid a laundry emergency, we typically like to start thinking about doing a wash about two to three days before we run out of clothes,” says Michael Rozenblit, a global nomad who blogs at The World Was Here First. He thinks ahead to have clean clothes while traveling.
That’s not always possible. I recently spent two weeks on the road with my three teenagers, riding a train from Barcelona to Nice, France. None of our hotels had laundry facilities, and our schedule was so jam-packed with activities that we didn’t have a spare moment to find a laundromat. I didn’t have the budget to buy new clothes, which left us with one choice.
That’s right — recycling.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher’s articles here.