How to prevent Travel Fail! (at least as it pertains to laundry)

Chad and I recently got back from three blissful weeks in California, going from the Youtube conference in Palm Springs to Santa Monica, to San Diego, Carmel, and Napa. We squeezed in loads of R&R, time with friends, and good meals; there might have been some wine consumed. In any case, it reminded me that it would be a good time to talk to you about planning ahead for a long trip, to make sure that you don’t run out of clean things to wear or look like you slept in your favorite blouse.

Laundry Lifeline

For some of the trip, we were in an Air B&B that we deliberately booked because it had a washer and dryer. This can be a great option for longer trips, especially if it’s at the halfway point, so you can plan to wash everything you brought with you and have a fresh suitcase for the rest of your stay. Hotels often offer laundry service, but you’ll often pay a lot for them. But did you ever notice a free option that they almost all have? Look in the bathtub, and you’ll see a retractable clothesline for when you want to wash something in the sink and hang it up—as I had to on that night that I went sea kayaking. Without wearing a bathing suit. I was soaked through in about 2 seconds, so by the time it was over, I knew I’d have to change clothes to make it through the rest of the day. Enter that clothesline, the perfect place to dry everything off.

Have Detergent, Will Travel

If your hotel room doesn’t have a clothesline, you can always use the luggage rack or the towel bars in the bathroom to hang stuff to dry. If you do ever have to launder something yourself on a trip, the gift shop in many hotels carries tiny single-dose laundry detergents; but in a pinch, you can use the hotel shampoo!

Stick It To Stains

It’s a good idea to travel with a stain stick—they make pen-sized purse options, but even a full-size one is not too big to toss into your luggage. Ours came in really handy on the night that a certain someone was eating a drippy sandwich in his best dress shirt.

Gathering Laundry? It’s In the Bag

I love having a dirty laundry bag going when I’m in a hotel room, rather than look at a sad pile of dirty clothes on the floor. There’s usually one in the closet that I nab immediately. But since your clothes might be in there for a while, you’ll want to prevent the bag from starting to stink. Pack a dryer sheet in a zipper bag that you can pop in there, or else… wait for it… a baking soda sachet!

Unpack Clothes Immediately

Let’s Unpack This

It’s a great idea to unpack when you arrive. Really, do it right when you arrive, as part of your ritual of taking in your new surroundings, because as the trip wears on, it can be hard to motivate to do it (“But we’re already halfway through the trip… there are only 3 more days to the trip…”) But it pays off immensely. Your clothes will be in better shape, and finding what you need will always be a cinch, rather than pawing through a disorganized mess (because that tee that you want—you know it’s always trapped at the bottom). And actually, if you’ve never done it, you’ll marvel at how amazing it is—having a whole chest of drawers and a huge empty closet to just arrange 3 weeks’ worth of stuff is just so extravagantly roomy, it will make your travel wardrobe feel like some sort of cool capsule collection.

…and For the Win

For those of you ready to take your travel organizing to the next level, consider a travel steamer. It is small, but it makes such a huge difference—it means you can pack your favorite fancy stuff and actually look amazing when you wear it, not disheveled and sad.

Bon voyage!

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  1. I would love some ideas to deal with my garage.

    It gets so much usage: my husband runs his tile business, my 2 boys store their bikes + supplies, I store all holiday decorations, we store garage sale items, the laundry room is there, and we have a trailer for the motorcycles.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  2. I travel a lot with my job and am always looking for good ideas! I have a toiletries bag that I keep stocked with travel sized products that I like – including travel-size Tide detergent; Always have a box of fabric softeners in my luggage – when unpacking throw a couple in the drawers, and if I have to do laundry don’t have to buy them; hotel laundry bags are good for packing things for laundry to take home .. am still working on rolling clothes for more efficient packing! Really enjoy all of your cleaning ideas!

  3. When you said free clothes dryer my brain went to free laundering in the tub!!!! Is that suggested? Even possible just to launder your clothes in the sink or tub instead of paying for the laundry service? We are heading to Salt Lake City, UT for a convention in early September and haven’t traveled since our honeymoon 10 years ago. We can use all the advise we can get. Thanks Melissa!

  4. When we go somewhere we know we will be in a pool – especially with kids – I pack a few plastic pant hangers, the kind with clips. Then, I can hang a bunch of suits on the shower rail overnight to dry AND have room to shower!

  5. For washing an item or 2 by hand, I’d think bar soap would be better than any liquid — unless you think merely soaking in a detergent solution is sufficient, and you have time to tie up a sink with that. With a cake of soap & running water, you can get it done faster.

    The real problem is drying. Air circulation in a hotel bathroom is poor, and you might not have a balcony. And if you can get access to a dryer, why wouldn’t you also use a washer?


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