When packing for a trip, you have two options when it comes to having enough supply of clean clothes. You either pack enough clothes to last you the whole trip or you can pack less and do your laundry while traveling.
For weekend trips and other shorter trips, the former option is easy enough – you throw some shirts, underwear, and so on in your suitcase and you’re good to go. When it comes to two- or three-week-long or even longer trips, it’s a different story, though.
Sure, you could take a the full trip’s supply with you – assuming you even have that many clothes in your wardrobe – but do you really want to carry around more and more dirty clothes for weeks? Likely not. Likely, you want to pack just a couple of sets of clothes and do laundry instead.
Keep reading to learn more about the three ways to get laundry done (if you don’t have access to a washing machine) while traveling and about making your own travel laundry kit.
Three Ways to Get Laundry Done While Traveling
The three ways to get laundry done while traveling include hand washing your clothes in your hotel room, using your hotel’s laundry service, or using a laundromat. Each of these methods has its pros and cons which I’ll talk about below – and which one you choose will boil down to your individual preference, budget, and so on.
If you happen to know any other good methods of keeping your clothes clean on the road, please share it with us in the comments section below.
Now, let’s jump into the details!
Hand Washing Your Clothes in a Hotel Room
While nowadays, we take washing machines and dryers for granted, getting access to one while on the road is not always easy. As such, one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to get your clothes clean while travelling is to simply hand wash them.
Washing clothes by hand is hard work, there is no denying.
First, you must fill your sink with warm water. Add just a dash of detergent as a cleaning agent. Don’t make the water too hot as it could cause the color to bleed.
Next, place your dirty clothes in the water and give them a gentle spin wash (literally swirl them in the water using your hands). If there are any particular stubborn stains, rub some detergent into them and scrub the items thoroughly.
Once swirled and scrubbed, allow your clothes to soak in the washing solution. Five minutes should be adequate unless you have made a mess, in which case allow 30. Finally, drain the water, and run your clothes under a running tap to remove excess detergent and suds.
Once you have washed your clothes, dry them. To remove most of the water, wring each item of clothing out. Next, give them a good shake and lay them out flat to retain their shape and avoid creases. You can hang them on a balcony or radiator to speed up the process.
I haven’t done much hand washing on the road. That being said, I have hand washed in the past. I usually bring a small pack of detergent powder with me (I prefer powder not to have to worry about taking it out at security). I also usually lay my clothes to dry within wardrobes using coat hangers which are often available in hotel rooms.
Hand washing is cheap. The only expense you have is a small bottle or pack of detergent that you need to buy. Hand washing your clothes is also fairly convenient – you don’t even have to leave your room to take care of it. Finally, you have full control over the process – unless you mess up, there is no chance your clothes can be stolen or damaged in any way.
The main problem with hand washing clothes is that it is time-consuming. If you are stuck for time then you simply may not be able to sit in your room washing your dirty clothes. And, you might not have enough time for your clothes to completely dry (you can use hairdryer to “speed the process up in case of emergency”). Furthermore, hand washing requires a decent amount of space to dry your clothes which might be an issue if you stay in small hotel rooms or, especially, hostel rooms. Last but not least, depending on the amount of clothes you need to wash, hand washing can be tiring – directing your energy from exploring a new city to getting your clothes cleaned.
Using Your Hotel’s Laundry Service
Second, there’s the easy option using a hotel laundry service. Many establishments will provide a laundry service at an additional cost. The price can vary greatly depending on the hotel you are staying at (in rare cases it might be free). Furthermore, the quality of the laundry service can vary as a result as well. That said, as long as you are staying at a decent hotel and are not washing any “sensitive” pieces, you should be fine.
Getting your laundry done by the hotel is as easy and convenient as it gets.
Usually, there will be an information pack in your room (oftentimes found in a file on the room’s desk or in the desk drawer). Besides offering information about the laundry service and its cost, you will also usually find a form to fill out – specifying your room number, number of pieces to be washed, etc. And, there might also be a laundry bag in which you are expected to put your clothes.
Once you get the “paperwork” done and the clothes are stuffed in the bag, either hang it on the door handle outside your room or call the room service and they will come and collect it.
Also, if you can’t find the information pack or are unsure about the process or pricing, just ring up the front desk and they’ll help you.
Given that I generally travel on shorter trips, I don’t often use hotel laundry services. But earlier this year, I gave it a shot at Hotel Jen in Hong Kong. While I had some detergent with me, I found the price – 25 USD for a big bag of laundry with unlimited items – to be fairly reasonable.
And, sure enough, it was a good decision – I could spend an afternoon exploring Hong Kong rather than washing my clothes, and when I got back to my room, the bag was there again, instead, this time the clothes were fresh and clean.
Using a hotel laundry service is easy as it required very little effort on your side. Simply place your clothes in the specified bag, call the front desk, let the hotel do the rest of the work, and enjoy your day.
On the flip side, if you are traveling on a budget, a hotel laundry service may not be suitable. Although 25 USD might not seem like a large sum, it still could pay for a nice lunch at your destination. And, oftentimes the fee is more than that. Moreover, you are trusting someone else with your clothes – there is no guarantee that they will return to you as you left them (although, as mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t worry about that too much).
Using a Laundromat
If you are looking for something between hand washing your clothes and using hotel’s laundry services, finding a laundromat might be an answer. While you will have to do some of the “heavy lifting” yourself, the actual washing and drying will be done for you by the machine.
First, search for a laundromat in the area you are in. If you are lucky, there might be one in your hotel or hostel (many business hotels in Japan have laundromats for example). Alternatively, Google “laundromat in [area name]” and see what pops up.
Once you have your destination, bag your clothes and take them to the laundromat. In most cases, you will have to wash the clothes yourself using their machines (you might need coins to pay). In some cases, you may be able to pay a little extra and get it done for you.
If you are washing, simply wait for the washing to be complete and then use the tumble dryers. Alternatively, if you are paying for an all-inclusive service, simply return at the designated time to collect your washing.
While I haven’t used a laundromat during my travels before, hearing from others, the main advice was to always check the reviews of a laundromat before heading to one. While I wouldn’t worry about that too much if you are using your hotel’s one, it’s definitely a sound piece of advice if you are venturing out into the town to find one.
Also, no matter what laundromat you choose, never leave your washing machine unattended. You don’t want all of your travel clothes stolen just because you popped across the road to buy a coffee.
Using a laundromat is generally quite a bit cheaper than using a hotel laundry service – this is one of the main benefits. Moreover, you have a greater level of control as you can physically watch your clothes being washed. Using a local laundromat might also give you an insight into the local culture and make for a good travel experience.
The downside to using a local laundromat is that you have to find one first. Furthermore, you have to physically take your clothes to the store – this could mean paying for a taxi or public transport which are both additional expenses.
How to Make Your Own Travel Laundry Kit
If you want to hand wash your clothes in your hotel room (or use a laundromat), a travel laundry kit is must-have. It can save you great amount of time and effort that you would otherwise have to put into sourcing the items locally. What is more, all you really need are less than ten items all of which can fit in a plastic laundry bag.
Here are some of the items you will want to include:
Bag for your laundry kit – There’s no right or wrong here – there’s no such thing as a specialized laundry kit bag. You can either use plastic Ziploc bags if you are looking for something simple and even disposable, or you can get a nice cosmetics bag. The only criteria is that everything that follows on this list fits inside the bag you choose.
Laundry bag – This is the bag that you will put your dirty clothes in and take your clean clothes back to the hotel in. You can either get a reusable laundry bag or simply use a large plastic bag that you put in your regular backpack.
Portable clothesline – This is to help the drying process if you have limited space. All it needs to be is a length of line with attachments so you can fix it to something in your hotel room or hostel dorm. Something like the iSuperb pack of 2 portable clotheslines is perfect.
Laundry detergent – You can either get pods, powder or liquid to use as laundry detergent. For travel, I suggest powder, though, as that way you can avoid any potential issues at security should you decide to carry your laundry kit on.
Tide Pen – If you have any tough stains then a Tide Pen can work wonders. This is basically a stain removal pen – you rub it onto a tough stain and it should help remove it. It’s small and compact, and can easily fit inside your travel laundry bag.
Fabric softener – Softener is good to have when you are hand washing your clothes. You can simply add a little bit of it into your warm water to help remove stains and freshen up your clothes.
The above list covers pretty much everything you will need to get laundry done on the road. One last item I’m going to mention for your consideration, though, are travel bottles designed to fit the carry on limits which you can fill with the fabric softener or liquid detergent you have at home.
As you can see above, there are basically three ways to get your clothes washed while on the road – hand washing, using your hotel’s laundry service, and using a local laundromat.
The one you will go with will depend on both your budget as well as where you are staying. In general, for small amounts of clothes, I recommend simply hand washing them. For washing larger quantities, if it won’t hurt your budget, getting it done using the hotel’s laundry service is certainly very convenient. Otherwise, looking for a local laundromat is an option.
In either case, if you decide to hand wash your clothes or use a laundromat, make sure you put together a travel laundry kit before leaving your home to save yourself time on the road.