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Hate Doing Laundry On Vacation? Here’s How To Do It Less

Hate Doing Laundry On Vacation? Here’s How To Do It Less

Doing laundry on vacation? I avoid it at all costs. I will pack 14 pairs of underwear on a 2-week vacation and not think twice about it.

But sometimes you can’t avoid it—you’ll just be gone too long, or you need to pack light, or you have a few kids and can’t possibly bring 14 pairs of knickers for everyone.

Here are eight tips from experienced family traveler on how to put laundry off as long as possible and how to do laundry on vacation without a lot of fuss when you can’t.

8 Tips for Doing Less Laundry on Vacation

Extend the time between laundry loads

Several travel writers advise accepting lower standards for clean clothes on the road than you might at home, if it means delaying laundry for another day or two.

Eric Stoen, the founder at Travel Babbo, takes extended trips of five weeks or more with his kids with “minimal clothes and minimal laundry.”

His trick: “The kids know we’re in ‘summer mode.’ That means that if it’s not visibly dirty or doesn’t smell you re-wear it.”

tide pens help you delay laundry on vacation by allowing you to spot-clean food stains in clothes

A few handy products to keep clothes fresh:

  • I always travel with a clothes refresher spray, which kills the bacteria that makes clothes smelly and adds a fresh scent. A few spritzes when I take clothes off at night extends their life considerably.
  • Stain removers like Tide To Go pens can remove small stains from otherwise clean clothes, extending their life.
  • Downy Wrinkle Releaser is handy for clothes that are clean but rumpled.

Hand-wash when you can

You can hand-wash small items like socks and underwear—usually the items that need washing the most— in your hotel room, but be prepared for them to take a day or two to dry, especially if you can’t hang them outside or by a window. Clothes take forever to dry in windowless hotel bathrooms.

Beth Henry, a flight attendant and the founder of Cloudsurfing Kids, says, “I like to bring travel-sized packets to wash lightweight clothes and delicates in the sink.” Bigger and sturdier items can go longer without being washed.

Wash your clothes, ring out as much water as possible, then roll them in a towel and press to eliminate as much excess water as you can before you hang them to dry.

colorful clothes pins on a clothesline.

You can also pack travel-size bottles Dr. Bronner’s unscented castile soap, and Tide makes travel packs specifically for washing things by hand.

I’ve learned to travel with a some travel dish detergent, which does an excellent job of getting out food stains, even grease. And it rinses out a sink more easily than laundry detergent.

Readers’ Pick: Resourceful FamiliesGo! readers recommend traveling with the Scrubba portable wash bag especially for longer trips or to places where washing machines might be scarce. It folds up into a pouch that fits in your hand!

Toss dirty clothing, water and detergent into the bag and fold it tightly closed. Move the bag around on a flat surface with your hand while nubs inside agitate and remove dirt and sweat. Then pour it all out into the sink and rinse.

Share the load! Teens and spouses can do their own hand-washing on vacation. And once I told my family they have to they became a lot neater and less profligate about deciding what’s dirty than when they know they can just pass it all off to me. Just make sure you have enough detergent to go around.

Pack clothes that are easy to wash

Kate Spiller, from Wild Tales Of, packs clothes that she finds easier to wash and dry. “Clothes made of things like lightweight performance fabrics or merino wool dry quickly. If you hand-wash them, they’ll dry overnight.”

pack clothes that dry quickly on clothesline for easy laundry on vacation

Avoid packing items that run, need a gentle cycle, or otherwise can’t be tossed in with a big pile of other clothes all at once.

Let someone else do the laundry for you

If you don’t want to sit around a Laundromat on vacation, and you’ll be in one place for at least two days, have someone else do your washing and folding for you.

LaundryHeap is a new service I recently discovered that I think is pretty cool and ideal for travel. You go to the website to schedule a pick-up for your laundry and dry cleaning. They wash, dry and fold it and return it to you in around in 24 hours.

The fees, which include the pick-up and return, aren’t much more than you would pay to drop the clothes off at a laundromat and less than you’d pay for a hotel’s laundry service.

They’re in six cities across the U.S. for the moment. You’ll also find them in Singapore, four Middle Eastern countries and in six countries in Europe, including four cities in the U.K. where it started.

a pile of folded laundry. letting someone else doing the washing and folding for you on vacation can help you enjoy your time away more.

If LaundryHeap isn’t available, dropping clothes at a laundromat is still better than having to hang out there and do it yourself.

In the U.S. plan to pay $1 to $3 a pound for drop-off service at a Laundromat, depending on where you are. This might not cost much more than paying for a coin-operated washer and dryer, and someone else does the work for you.

Jody Halstad, who runs Family Rambling, notes that laundry service is more expensive in Europe. “A launderette usually runs €30 or more for a large suitcase to be washed, dried and folded. I count it as a travel cost as it keeps me from wasting time.”

At a hotel you’ll pay per item for laundry, making the cost is on par with premium dry cleaning rates. I can say from experience that this will add up if you have a full load of clothes.

Plan laundry resources ahead

This is yet another reason to consider a vacation rental or home swap. There is a good chance there will be a washer/dryer in your unit or on the property.

sitting waiting for your laundry load to finish is the last thing you want to do on your vacation.

If there isn’t, it will be easier and cheaper to find a Laundromat or drop-off service in a residential neighborhood than in tourist central.

If you plan to wash clothes at a particular hotel confirm there are laundry facilities. “We ran into trouble on our trip to San Diego because the two hotels where I planned to do laundry didn’t have a laundry room,” says Karen Heffren, at Desert Chica. “We had to go out and search for a Laundromat.”

Karon Warren, at This Girl Travels, recently discovered that Staybridge Suites provides free washers and dryers to guests, a perk that makes it worth seeking out. “You just have to provide your own detergent.”

a pile of coins ready for the laundromat washing machine

Bring quarters for washing machines

Several writers say they pack a role of quarters for hotel or laundromat machines if they plan to use them, so they don’t have to worry about finding change.

Count on $1.50 to $3 a load. Larger Laundromats might have change machines and for these you’ll want small bills.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Detergent)

Everyone agrees the most expensive way to buy detergent is at the hotel or public laundromat, so bring your own.

seventh generation laundry pod are easy to travel with and good for the environment.

Dan Miller at Points With A Crew buys detergent pods like those from Gain, and Arm & Hammer. Seventh Generation comes in pods, too, in case you prefer something more earth friendly.

Even if they cost more than you would spend on washing liquid, they still less than buying a big bottle of detergent on the road. And you only pack what you need.

Put them in a small container or Ziploc, in case one leaks.

Hang-dry some things

Kath Race, owner of Family Travels USA, warns that at hotels, “The washers are usually small, and the dryers are really hot!”

This means less time waiting for clothes to dry. But it also means you’ll want to hang-dry clothes that will shrink in high heat (wool, linen, etc.) or items with elastic or high-tech fabrics to protect.

Some parents even pack a travel clothesline or extra hangers for hanging wet clothes or wet bathing suits in a hotel room.

pegless clothesline

Sally-Ann Brown from Toddlers on Tour, bought a pegless clothesline when she first began traveling and has sworn by it ever since.

These clotheslines have two pieces of cord twisted together. Tuck the corners of clothes into the twists so they won’t fall down or blow off your balcony.

Build your own travel laundry kit

  • Laundry freshening spray
  • A Tide pen or a small bottle of dish detergent to remove food stains
  • Small packets of laundry soap for hand-washing delicates
  • Detergent pods for the washing machine
  • Quarters for the washing machine
  • A regular or pegless portable clothes line.
  • A packing cube or Ziploc bag to organize it and contain any leaks or spills.
  • Knowledge of where you can do laundry or pay someone else to do it
  • A portable washing bag for extended or off-the-beaten-path vacations

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doing laundry on vacation is a sure way to kill the fun. here are 8 ways to put it off, farm it out or make it as easy as possible when you can't avoid it.

Photos: Feature (StockSnap via Canva);