We are all guilty of it at one time or another, overpacking because we don’t want to deal with laundry, or feel uncertain about the weather, or just aren’t sure what to wear. Let’s debunk myth number one, how hard it will be to wash your clothes when you travel. Lighten your load, folks!

No matter where you go in the world, there is a way to do laundry. It might not be your way of doing it, whether that’s in a machine or sent to a drycleaner or wrung out in the bathroom sink. There is always a method to get it done, and your job is to figure out how to do it before you throw your closet in the suitcase and invite three friends over to sit on it to zip it shut.

Plan for Washing

On a recent trip, we first listed each place we planned to be. I don’t mean each exact site with a list of what we’d wear attached, but we knew generally what the weather would be and what kind of attire (casual, business, biz-cas) would be required. From this we had a general idea of what we’d bring and how many of each. A good rule of thumb – one of an item available to wear, one in the cleaning process, and a spare.

Next, we thought about how we could wash what we were bringing. On this trip (Costa Rica) we figured we could wash everything in the sink. On cruises, we pay for laundry service, and if we’re staying in one place for a long time, we’ve been known to hunt out laundromats if there is no in-house service.

Tips and Tricks

In the past, we put a small bottle of our regular liquid detergent in our toiletries kit for handwashing. This time, we found these great packets from Tide (shown here in a kit with a clothesline and sink stopper). Single use, enough to do 2 sinks full in each packet, light in weight – and do you know how many bathroom sinks in hotels no longer have drain closers??? (Plastic bags over the drain do in a pinch.)

Then we wring out the hand-washed items in towels (important if you want it to dry faster) and hang them up in the warmest, draftiest part of the place we’re staying. In this case, it happened to be on hangars on the towel bars of the bathroom under a huge ceiling fan. The towels were from the pool area, so they were extra big and absorbent, but in-room towels work just as well (hang those up to dry too for your next use).

What Can Go Wrong

What we didn’t plan for or fully “get” in Costa Rica was the humidity. For a full week, our opportunities to get anything to dry, period, were non-existent. Note to self for the future – check the weather and humidity forecasts!

The second issue was how little time we’d be in each location. On a two-night stay in one spot, we did a little bit of “required” (ahem) pieces, but they weren’t completely dry when we packed them in the suitcase less than 36 hours later. If your route is all single overnights, plan to bring more essentials and wear what you can for more than a single day.

The final massive fail comes when you drop something on your shirt, and it needs spot-treating. I am SO guilty of this, I often pack two sets of shirts just in case. Other things that stain your clothes include sunscreen, bug or bear repellent, and anything you’d spray on, like perfume. For these stained items, you’re best off waiting until you get home to address the special cleaning need.

That’s it, laundry on the road the easy way. Unless you want to spend your valuable travel time sitting in the laundromat, taking in the local scenery and color!