Frugal Traveler

Laundry logistics for road warriors

December 15, 2012 

The secret to light packing for long-term travel lies with laundry. With wardrobe choices designed to go the distance, the logistics can be less challenging than you might think. Here are my top tips for tackling this tedious travel task.

Containment: Workout wear, odiferous socks and even damp swimsuits need to be compartmentalized and stored away from clean travel clothing until laundering becomes an option. For lightly soiled items, carrying a simple drawstring bag from the dollar store will do the trick. For a slightly stronger scent barrier, bread bags, grocery sacks and even the flat plastic receptacles hotel rooms make available for dry-cleaning services provide a free solution.

Water also needs to be contained in order to make the hand washing of intimates and other lightweight clothing a viable option. At a hotel with up-to-date plumbing fixtures, this is as simple as closing the sink or tub drain. Under more rustic conditions, you’ll need to get creative. One item I carry with me wherever I go is a universal sink stopper. Available for less than $5, it is a flat rubber disc that stops water flow regardless of drain size anywhere in the world. If you are taking your car on a camping trip and have to use water from an outdoor faucet in order to clean your clothes, then packing an inexpensive bucket in your vehicle can give you a laundry solution when you need it and organized trunk storage for loose items when you are on the highway.

Infrastructure: While tucking in a full-sized scrub brush can be problematic, packing a medium-bristled nail brush is a piece of cake. Provided you pack one that’s at least four to six rows wide, it should be large enough to get the job done when it comes to washing socks in the shower and scrubbing out cosmetic stains from the collar of your dress shirt. Your clothing choice can also play a critical role in laundry logistics. Having a few thinner items that can be rinsed out in a hotel sink and air-dried within hours can mean the difference between feeling fresh or frumpy when you get stranded unexpectedly overnight due to a canceled flight. Examples include quick-dry socks and undergarments, as well as high-performance base layers that can serve as moisture buffers between your skin and heavier items like dress slacks and cashmere sweaters.

Duration: Provided you’re vacationing in moderate, slightly-drier climes, major laundry mileage can be achieved with sturdier travel fabrics that can handle multiple wearings without losing their shape. Wool, wrinkle-resistant blouses and even denim can go the distance for up to a week, depending on your activity level and choice of layering options. Dark colors are also helpful, as you can maximize their duration by touching them up with baby wipes and compact lint brushes. If your trip requires you to wear white dress shirts at least part of the time, then packing Tide to Go pens, Shout wipes or travel-sized OxyClean stain spray can keep you as prepared as possible.

Resources: Some mid-range hotels provide complimentary laundry facilities. Packing individual pods of laundry detergent that you can purchase in larger packs at the grocery store costs less than the $1 soap packets in the travel section, and still keeps you prepared to take advantage of washing machine access when you have it. During longer trips, you will likely need a commercial laundry facility at some point. If you have enough extra outfits to wait a few days, you can even indulge in the drop-off service option as opposed to taking the time out of your day for self-service cleaning.

Myscha Theriault/McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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