On short trips, it's easy to pack enough clothing to last for the entire journey, but longer trips present a challenge. You could, of course, bring a fresh outfit for every day of the trip, but packing too many suitcases might result in extra checked baggage fees from airlines, problems with tour group baggage limits (many tour operators permit only one suitcase per person) or a too-full trunk. The alternative, of course, is doing laundry at least once while you are on vacation. Depending on where you travel, you may have access to one or more of these clothes-washing options:
Coin-Operated Laundry (Laundromat)
Most coin-operated laundries work the same way. Customers use coin-operated washing machines and dryers to wash their clothes. Some coin-operated laundries sell detergent and fabric softener, while others require you to bring your own. Similarly, some coin-operated laundries have a change machine or a manager's desk where you can obtain coins, while others do not. If you know you will be washing clothes during your trip, consider bringing a small amount of detergent from home (the detergent "capsules" travel especially well, although they need to be packed in your checked baggage if you travel by air) and start accumulating coins for your coin-operated laundry visit right away. Tip: Most large cruise ships have self-service laundry facilities.
In places where coin-operated laundries are not available, you may be able to find a laundry service. Laundry services often charge either by weight (per pound or kilogram) or by the load. In hotels and on cruise ships, laundry services charge per item of clothing; on a small ship or river cruise, this pay-by-the-piece service may be your only option. Be sure to separate your loads by color and water temperature before you drop off your clothing for washing.
Wash by Hand
If your laundry needs are minimal, you can hand wash the few items that get dirty. Bring a travel clothesline (unless you know your hotel has one in the shower), clothespins and a small amount of laundry detergent. Be very careful about hanging your clothes to dry so that you do not damage anything in your room.
Many youth hostels have coin-operated washers and dryers. If you stay in a youth hostel, you can take advantage of this opportunity to wash your clothes. Be aware that the washing machines and dryers are well-used; the dryers, in particular, may take a very long time to dry your clothes.
Military Hotel or Base
Military bases and lodging facilities typically offer access to washers and dryers. If you are active duty or retired military or traveling with someone who is, you may be able to wash your clothes on base at some point during your trip.
Buy Clothing While You Travel
Some people enjoy shopping enough to visit department stores during their travels. If you are one of these people and have enough time and money to shop, consider adding a few new items to your wardrobe instead of washing clothes. Remember to save all of your receipts; you will need them when you go through customs on your way home.
Travel Laundry Tips
- Allow plenty of time for the washing and drying processes if you use a coin-operated washing machine and / or dryer, particularly in Europe.
- Wash cycles on many European washing machines are extremely long (up to two hours long, in fact).
- Carry a few clothespins if you plan to do any hand laundry.
- There is a free Android app available for travelers who need to find a laundry.
- Remember to bring powdered or capsule-form detergent or detergent sheets, found in camping supply departments, not liquid detergent, if you travel by air.