Are you headed out on a long vacation but have limited room in your suitcase? Or perhaps you are traveling with children who most likely will get dirty? If so, then chances are that at some point during your travels, you will need to do laundry. Yes, laundry is far from one of the more exciting and adventurous part of travel. But sometimes it is necessary to wash clothes when traveling! Whether you are flying or driving, Buddy and I are sharing 4 ways to do laundry while traveling.
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Why do laundry while traveling?
I can hear some of my friends and family members asking, “Why would you want to do laundry on vacation?” I know, I know. It sounds dreadful, but there might be a few reasons to choose to do laundry while traveling. Here’s why!
First of all, it isn’t actually that bad. Especially if you choose option #4, which may be the best way to do laundry while traveling. Second, if you prefer traveling light, whether to avoid lugging around heavy suitcases or to save money on those checked bag fees, you may want to consider washing clothes while on the road.
Buddy and I are a carry-on only family, with one exception. And that exception is when Buddy flies solo as an unaccompanied minor. Other than that, we only pack what we carry with us. And when we travel overseas, we do not bring luggage with wheels (hello cobblestone!). We only carry backpacks. This means that we are limited space in our luggage to pack lots of clothes that we frequently do laundry while traveling.
How to wash clothes while traveling by plane
1. Book a place with a washer and dryer
Booking an Airbnb or Vrbo with access to a washer and dryer is a great way to do dirty laundry as you travel. If the washing machine and dryer is in your rental, you can do you own laundry as you wind down after a long day of site seeing. Likewise, if the washer and dryer is in the apartment or home where you are staying, you can do laundry while cooking a meal. In the case that you are a traveler who likes adventuring to the local market and preparing a few dinners yourself during your travels, of course.
Best of all, some accommodations may have laundry detergent on site. However, if your you may need to go to a local store and get your own laundry detergent if there is none available.
Some accommodations may have washers, but not dryers. For example, in Guanjuato, the Vrbo we stayed in had a washing machine but no dryer. So, we ended up hanging clothes outdoors to air dry.
If the washer and dryer in your rental is in the basement or in another part of the building, unfortunately, you may need to carve a bit more time out of one of your days to do laundry. But that may not necessarily be a bad thing. It might be nice to sit down with a good book and rest after a few days of travel and exploring.
Staying in accommodations with an in-house washer and dryer is my preferred way of doing laundry with Buddy and when I travel for work and live out of a carry-on suitcase for weeks and weeks. I make sure to research and book Airbnbs, Vrbos, or even hotels with coin operated laundry facilities to accommodate my laundry needs!
What to bring
In general, accommodations like Airbnbs and Vrbos usually the in-house laundry facilities usually also have laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets available to use. For hotels with coin-operated machines, usually, laundry detergent is available for purchase.
When I know that I will be doing laundry on the road, I do not bring any supplies with me other than my mesh laundry bags to keep my dirty laundry separate from my clean clothes. I us these as my travel laundry bag and always travel with them. These are especially helpful when washing delicates on the go!
2. Visit the local laundromat
If booking accommodations in a place with an in-house washer and dryer is not an option, the next best thing is finding a local laundromat. Unfortunately, this does require a bit more of a time commitment and planning on site. But all in all, it will take less than half a day of travel time.
We have visited the local laundromat a few times during our travels. In Málaga, we packed up our dirty clothes into our backpacks and headed to the laundromat down the street and a short walk from the hotel. Buddy spent some time exploring the plaza in front of the laundromat while Sal and I did laundry. It was nice packing up our backpacks with clean clothes right out of the dryer.
What to bring
When visiting a local laundromat, you will need local currency to purchase laundry detergent and pay to operate the washing machines and dryers. In the U.S., this will most likely mean coins, specifically quarters.
3. Hand wash your clothes in your hotel room, right from the sink!
Sometimes your travel schedule is jam packed and it is not possible to carve out even a few hours of time to do laundry. In this case, you may need to hand wash laundry in the hotel room sink.
While it isn’t glamorous, or necessarily fun, it is an easy way to get smaller items such as socks, underwear, and the like, clean in a pinch. Washing clothes in the hotel sink and leaving the wet clothes out to dry overnight (and hoping they do indeed dry!) is a good way to save time and money while doing laundry when traveling.
We washed our undergarments and socks in the hotel sink during a 10-day trip to Paris and London. During that trip, our itinerary was so full that we did not have time to visit a laundromat. Although some of Buddy’s wet clothes, like his wool socks, took a bit more time to dry than we would have hoped, it was a the option for doing laundry while traveling that worked best for us at that time.
What to bring
When I know that we will need to handwash laundry while traveling, I bring my own laundry detergent. Usually, I cut a small piece of a Zote White Laundry bar soap, wrap it in a washcloth, and pack it in my carry-on. But I also heard great things about Sink Suds. I just prefer to travel with bar soaps.
4. Use you hotel’s laundry services
If you are staying in a hotel that offers laundry services, this is a convenient and easy option for doing laundry while traveling. While it is less time consuming, it can also be a bit pricey. It is important to plan your budget accordingly.
Buddy and I have used the hotel laundry services twice. Once when attending a wedding in Hermosillo, México. Although we only used the service to have Buddy and Sal’s suits pressed. The other time we used a hotel laundry service was at a hotel in Albuquerque after we spent 4 days camping in the nearby mountains and desperately needed clean clothes.
Although this is not my go-to option, I do have a friend also travels carry-on only. This friend treats herself to hotel laundry services every time she travels. She says it is worth every penny to have her clothes arrived folded clean and neatly pressed.
What to bring
Doing laundry on road trips
The options for doing laundry while traveling on road trips are essentially the same options as doing laundry while traveling by plane!
Just a few things to note.
In general, when traveling by car, you may have more space to bring larger suitcases. In a car, there are no size restrictions for luggage, and you can travel with gallons and gallons of liquids. However, for various reasons, when embarking on a road trip, you still may want to pack light. If you do, this means you may also be doing laundry while on your road trip.
When Buddy and I travel by car, we still pack light. This is because we when we take road trips, we are usually headed on a camping trip and most of the space in the car is packed full of camping gear and the like. This leaves us with little space for large suitcases.
If you find yourself traveling light on a road trip, here are three tips for doing laundry while traveling by car.
1. Bring a laundry bag
If you have the space, opt for a large laundry bag. A laundry bag is a good way to keep the dirty clothes separate from the clean clothes. On a road trip, it is easy to toss this bag in the back of the car and add laundry to it as the days go by.
We use this mesh laundry bag and it is big enough to fit the clothes for the three of us for about 5 days. When we travel as a family, this is our travel laundry bag. I prefer mesh because it is breathable. I am not a big fan of the smells that can come from a less breathable laundry bag.
2. Pack a roll of quarters
Bring a roll of coins for the washing machines. If you are traveling in the U.S., may mean going to the bank and getting a roll of quarters to take with you on your trip. The roll of quarters can be used to operate the machines as well as buy laundry detergent, fabric softener, laundry soap, and other necessities at the laundromat.
3. Do your research ahead of time
Do your research and look for local laundromats ahead of time, especially in rural areas. In the U.S., most truck stops such as Love’s have laundromats. This is a good option in case you are no able to find a local laundromat nearby. However, if you are doing laundry at a truck stop, truckers get priority.
Buddy’s thoughts on doing laundry while traveling
Okay, for a road trip what we do is we stop at a local laundromat.
In South Dakota, we stopped at a local laundromat and we did all our laundry. It is like going to your local laundromat at home, if you do that. You just buy your laundry soap, put your clothes in, do the washing, do the drying. Make sure you have the money you need.
For flying it’s a little different. If you are taking a long trip, it’s kind of like the same thing as a road trip, but you don’t have to go to your local laundromat. This is because your hotel might have a laundry room, or your Airbnb might also have a washer and dryer combination. So, you can do your laundry there and wear your clothes again until you get home. Then you wash your clothes at home.
When I go to my grandma’s, she already has a washing machine there. I pack clothes for half of my trip and do the washing at her house. I usually don’t take a laundry bag or laundry soap to my grandma’s house because she has that there for me already.
Buddy brings up a good point. If we are traveling with carry-ons only and do laundry when traveling, how much do we pack?
In general, we pack four ensembles in our carry-ons plus the clothes we wear on the plane or in the car in the case of road trips. If we are flying, we usually wear our heavier clothes on the plane to save space in our carry-ons. This makes a total of five travel outfits. On a 10-day trip, we are looking to do laundry about half-way through.
For longer trips, we go shopping during our trip. We have bought everything, from socks, pants, sweatshirts, skirts, shirts, bags, and shoes. It is always fun to come home with a new item in your wardrobe! We always pack an extra empty bag for any extra clothes or souvenirs that we purchase along the way. Buddy will carry this bag back with him on the plane as his carry-on.
Do you do laundry on the road? If so, what is your preferred option for doing laundry while traveling? Let us know in the comments!
Do you have questions about family travel or traveling with teens? Feel free to reach out! We are happy to chat and share our experiences! We look forward to connecting with you.
If you enjoyed reading this, check out these blog posts!
- 15 Important Must Have Items For Your Carry-on When Flying With Kids
- 10 Packing Tips for Teens Traveling Alone from a Teen who Travels (and his Mom)
- Travel Made Easy: What to Pack for a Trip to Scotland
And check out the Movement Postcard for this week. Featuring the second dance film “Tornado Siren” conceived and directed solely by Buddy.
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