More than WHERE we travel, people tend to ask us most about HOW we get “normal life” chores done. The topic that comes up most is laundry. So, without further ado, here are our tips and tricks for getting our laundry done on the road.
First, we plan to do laundry for a trip that is one week or longer… or if we are going to the beach (or somewhere else that can get messy) for more than like a day. There are options for getting laundry done by services, and we have another article written about those that we will post shortly. Even on trips where we need to rely on services more from a timing perspective, here is what we always have with us to make sure our bases are covered, especially if you are traveling with kids, having ways to clean up when you are in a pinch (I’m apparently a magnet for kid vomit, unfortunately) suddenly can become a huge priority, and you don’t want to worry about hunting it all down at stores.
We’ve tried multiple different ways of bringing detergent, with varying levels of satisfaction previously. Now, we think we have hit the jackpot as we LOVE Detergent Strips. These strips come in sheets where you can tear off one or two at a time, throw them in your wash, or swish them around the water in your sink, and you are set to go! They come in a cardboard envelope that’s a bit smaller than a regular 8.5×11” piece of paper. This makes them not only great environmentally, but infinitely better for packing as they take up much less room, are lighter than other options, and don’t spill. We are so happy with these that they are now all we use, even when not traveling.
If you aren’t feeling ready to try detergent strips, this paragraph will cover our previous strategies and what worked and what didn’t. Previously, my go-to had been a 16oz bottle of Woolite as most of my sink-washing items are on the delicate side anyway, and it will work for large loads as well. This was a nice, smaller bottle so it was pretty easy to pack and carry and worked well for cleaning, though the downside was that we did have a few leaks here and there over the years.
We also tried using Tide Pods and Gain Flings. Both of these worked well and easily where we were going to be using washing machines more regularly, but I still wanted some detergent for the sink, so I would still pack my Woolite as well. The pods/flings can also get a bit sticky or just seem to be weakened in high heat (such as in our trunk for long, hot days.) We never had any issue with them disintegrating or breaking, but I definitely feared that we had come pretty close.
Since both of these detergent options come with more than you will likely need for any trip, we would just take out what we estimated we’d need (and we always round up a bit from that) and keep them in a Tupperware container to keep them contained and protected. The one we use for our summer trips is the tall one from this pack.
Clothesline / Hanging / Drying
A few years ago I found a great, elastic clothesline with attached hooks that we’ve used countless times (especially during the pandemic when we were wearing and washing face masks almost constantly!)
It’s not always easy to find areas from which to hang it taut, but if you don’t mind it sagging a little, I find it most helpful to hang it from the showerhead to a towel bar or on the shower curtain rod and it’ll do a great job hanging things so that any drips fall right into the tub. We’ve always found a way to hang it so far, but we do have to get a little creative sometimes.
Luckily, with the ends just being hooks you can wrap it around almost anything and clip it back onto itself so that helps a lot. I particularly love that the hooks are adjustable and have stoppers next to each one so you can set them as close or far away as you’d like, and they won’t slide if the line is at an angle or not fully taut.
For collecting our laundry, we always pack a foldable duffle bag. We use a 60L bag when we know we’ll have a lot of laundry adding up, but for shorter weekend trips or smaller needs, we’d choose a 40L bag. The bigger bags might be great if you are moving a kid to college or something, but do note that they will start getting a lot heavier above the 60L.
Bags like this are SO helpful for many different reasons, and best of all, they take up very little space when they are not in use and you are just packing or storing them. They are lightweight and washable as well. They are so helpful for containing all of your dirty laundry separate from clean clothes. We can then easily carry this to a laundromat or laundry room to use as a laundry basket. They’re particularly nice if you are going to do Fluff and Fold or some similar drop-off laundry service. You can easily drop everything off and then they can put all your clothes folded back in there when done, so it’s easy to clean up and doesn’t require any other bags.
Beyond laundry, we usually have a few extra bags like this which we will use for for shoes (to keep those away from our clothing when packing) or beach/pool-related needs, or bulky/soft cold-weather gear that we want to have easily accessible if we are going on an adventure up a mountain. They are also great if you end up buying souvenirs and just need a little extra space to get everything back home. As a side bonus, we’ve even used these (when filled with soft things like winter coats, etc.) as a barrier between the kids in the back seat and/or as a pillow for them to lean on or take a nap on.
For separates, delicates, or keeping socks together, we also bring a few of these, we also use one of these for keeping all of our laundry supplies together in one place.
While I love my clothesline, I often like having a few other hook options as well. I always have some S Hooks with us now, as they are great for hanging over almost anything anywhere when you need to hang something up. This may be laundry, but it could be lots of things. We will use these to hang jackets, purses, and even cooking utensils from the side of the grill! I bought these for traveling, but now we seem to find a million ways to use them throughout the year wherever we are!
Since I’ve found so many uses for my S Hooks, when I saw some different hook options, I decided to give them a try too. Specifically, I was preparing for a beach trip and wanted to come up with a possibly better way to hang our beach towels. Even when you can hang those over a balcony, I’m always worried they’ll fall or blow off. These hooks were fantastic! I now use these regularly as well. I love how easily they hang swim towels and I now use these at home as I find them better than just hanging a towel over a towel bar or the shower curtain rod.
These are also strong and can hold a lot of weight. We can clip these somewhere to hold a garbage bag if we are picnicking, storing a snack bag off the floor, clipping a tablecloth to a picnic table, or hanging towels on the balcony where they can be attached to something, or in a way, where I don’t have to worry about them sliding off over the side.
Okay, most parents have already learned the value of carrying a stain stick with you pretty much any time you leave the house, but they are certainly all that much more valuable when you are on the road. We really like the Tide To Go Stain Sticks. I keep one in my purse, one in the car, one in my husband’s backpack, and one with our toiletries. I may be overdoing it, but it feels inevitable that one or two of these will get lost or left behind somewhere when we are moving around often and/or over long periods of time.
A quick trip you can learn from our own mistakes is that there are some stains (specifically grease, we have learned) that may need something more, and what worked surprisingly well for us, was our dish detergent (which is one of the convenient things we always have with our Food & Cooking things.) Our personal favorite dish detergents for travel packing our Dawn and Palmolive.
At home, we use liquid fabric softener in our washer-dryer combo. On the road, we find it easier to pack a few great-smelling dryer sheets. Instead of taking the box, which will likely get knocked around and slowly destroyed, I switch these to a small travel bag and keep them in our small bag of laundry supplies. As a bonus, these can also be used to freshen up a room or a suitcase that is otherwise getting a bit stinky.
So, there you have it. I think that covers EVERYTHING when it comes to getting laundry done on the road. Hopefully, you found this helpful, but let us know if you have any questions. If you try these, or have other suggestions, please comment below as we are always on the lookout for continuing to improve our systems in any way possible!