Looking at those fantastic images of families frolicking around the world without a care in the world? What they don’t show you is that travelling with a family can be hard work, especially if you are trying to save a buck or two to make all of this travel a reality. You might be on holiday but some things you can never escape and the laundry is one of them. In this respect you have two options, pay someone else to do it which works well in cheap countries where your also keeping someone in a job where there is no social security payments, or you can do it yourself to save even more dollars in cheap countries or a lot of dollars in a Western country. In Vietnam, it is very cheap to pay someone else to do it and there are laundry services everywhere so I didn’t bother with hand washing and put it into the hands of a ‘professional’. Sometimes you will wonder if you’ll ever see your clothes again but instead are invited in for a drink and introduced to whole extended family, which is a wonderful cultural experience.
However, on a recent trip to South Africa we were often in remote camps inside Kruger National Park where there were no washing machines or people to pay to do it. To make this experience less stressful while on the road I have listed a guide for doing laundry while travelling to make life easier especially when you have a tight schedule and constantly on the move. Obviously the younger your children are, the more this chore falls upon the parents. When they are older they can be encouraged to do their own ‘washing’ during ablution time making the trip more enjoyable for the Guardians of the Passports. Of course what is second nature to an adult isn’t necessarily so for a teenager. The fine art of actual hand washing can seem like rocket science to a millennial. That is, dunking and rubbing in a water holding receptacle such as a basin, in water containing a small amount of detergent in it. Then rinsing it out in the same water holding receptacle, then wringing out excess moisture before hanging out, then how to hang out for maximum drying speed and then how to remember where you hung it i.e. on the balcony on a rail or behind the door so you remember to pack it for your next location.
Doing laundry while travelling is mastered through trial and error. However, if this is your first time travelling as a family, then look no further as I have documented everything for you.
Firstly, we need to get down to basics and this starts with the sorts of clothes you should be buying and/or preparing and packing in the first instance. The first rule whilst doing laundry on the run is that it is no place for fashionistas so here are my tips to keep in mind when packing is paramount:
- Light weight
- Colour coordination
- Crease resistance
- Quick drying fabric
- Items with lots of pockets
- Cultural sensitivity
The clothes will need to provide you and your family with comfort for the duration of your trip including the flight. My body always seems to bloat during a flight and I have yet to meet anyone who has not gained weight, other than a bout of sickness, after a holiday. Remember, comfort and practicality prevails over fashion.
Planning for a 3 day turn around with everyone’s wardrobe means everything you pack needs to be highly versatile so everything will need to perform more than one function. For instance, a sarong can be used down the beach or for covering up at temples, mosques or churches. Consider whether the items can be mixed up to be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Can the items be used to layer for colder climates?
Pack clothes that are not only light weight but compact as you will be lugging your case or back pack around in and out of cars, trains, airports, taxis, boats, buses and believe me, it will get heavier and heavier. I always like to buy one or two souvenir T-shirts whilst on holiday so bear this in mind in order to be extra frugal with your packing.
For those suppressed fashionsitas out there, there’s some good news as you will be required to have the few things you pack to be colour coordinated as well. However, consider packing darker colours as you can get away with that sauce stain from lunch and still look fresh for the evening meal.
Need to go out for a special meal or a celebration? If you’re in budget accommodation, quite often there won’t be an iron so your clothes need to be mostly crease resistant as well.
Doing laundry while travelling can be tough but drying your laundry on the run can be challenging, especially if travelling in cooler weather, so packing quick drying items is vital. First rule of thumb here is not to pack your favourite jeans, not only do they weight a lot, they take an age to dry. The same applies for a towel if you need to take one. Pack a microfibre towel. It is highly absorbent, quick drying, yet folds up to a fraction of the size of a normal towel. You can pick up one for $4 in the sport section at Kmart. The towel can also be used to soak up excess moisture out of a drying garment buy rolling it up tightly with the garment.
Make sure your clothing has lots of large, easy access pockets. This serves several purposes your wallet/purse is less likely to fall out or be pick pocketed. Pockets in shirts can hold loose change or sunglasses and are easier to get to if sitting.
Bear in mind the customs of the countries you’ll be visiting. Islamic countries will require your legs to be covered at all times and perhaps your head as well.
TIP: Pack old clothes in case they get stolen or you can just give them or throw them away at the end of your trip.
My pair of Columbia pants fit into all of these categories. They are comfortable as has a small amount of elasticity in the waist band, can be converted to shorts by zipping off the lower leg, they are lightweight, dark in colour, crease resistant, quick drying, lots of deep and zip close pockets. My Kathmandu down jacket that stuffs into a sack and doubles up as a travel pillows with loads of pockets. It also stays fairly cool when the weather heats up again during the day.
Items to pack in order to do your laundry and drying with a minimum of fuss:
- A separate bag to keep your dirty laundry in and all your other laundry supplies.
- A small zip lock bag filled with washing detergent.
- A universal sink plug for hand washing in a basin which often don’t have plugs.
- An Aloksok Bag. This is essentially a compact manual washing machine. Renowned for its durability and waterproofness, the bags are able to withstand a lot of pressure and it’s also very lightweight. They come in many sizes, but I use a 16″ x 24″ (40.5cm x 61cm) size. Fill it with hot water and a small amount of detergent. Mix everything up by hand for 5 minutes and then zip up the bag and allow your clothing to soak in the soapy water for another 10 minutes. Rinse the suds out with a fresh batch of water. These are versatile as they can also be used to keep your items waterproof i.e. camera on a canoe trip or keeps clothes that aren’t quite dry separate from your dry clothes until you reach your next destination.
- Two pegless clothes lines that can be hooked together if required.
- A 4 to 5 metre length of light weight rope for areas where the pegless clothes line won’t go. The rope also comes in handy for other things.
My personal favourite drying method is draping the family’s laundry all through the cargo hold of a hire car to get the maximum amount of sunshine whilst on the road. Nothing like airing our clean laundry in public!
Please have a look at my Travel Gear page for the products I like to use to make my life easier when travelling light.
That just about covers it but if you have any more suggestions then I’d love to hear them!