If you travel frequently or for extended periods, you'll already know how much hassle and expense can be involved in simply washing your clothes.
Hotels love to overcharge for their in-house laundry service, but finding a laundromat can often be a time-consuming, confusing experience – especially in countries where you don't speak the language.
Take matters into your own hands by packing a few small extras, and you'll be able to have clean, dry clothes with little effort and even less cost.
Sheets of Laundry Soap
It's hard to wash anything without soap, and your clothes are no exception. With all the restrictions on liquids at airport security, you'll likely find it easier to carry your detergent in the form of dry sheets.
You simply remove a few sheets from the container with dry fingers, and drop them into the basin or bucket you'll be using to wash your clothes. The sheets quickly dissolve, leaving you with enough soapy water to wash a few day's worth of dirty clothes.
Camping stores or online retailers are the easiest places to find travel-sized sheets of laundry soap like this, which typically give you enough for around a dozen washes. You can also make your own, by cutting down larger sheets designed for standard washing machines.
I'm not sure whether it's an oversight, or a deliberate attempt to steer guests towards expensive laundry services, but it's becoming increasingly rare to find stoppers for the hand basins in hotel rooms.
Sure, in a pinch you can stuff a sock into the drain while you're doing your laundry, but it's not the most effective method. Instead, keep a universal flat rubber stopper in your suitcase, and use it wherever required.
They cost under five bucks online, or you can find them at any home hardware store.
Length of Thin Rope
Getting your clothes clean is one thing, but getting them dry is something else. Especially in hotel rooms and other places where it's hard to find places to hang clothes up, and that don't get much breeze or sunlight, it can take a very long time for hand-washed items to dry.
The last thing you want is to be packing damp clothing when you're checking out – it doesn't take long before things start smelling of mold and mildew.
Pack a length of thin rope (6-10 feet is a useful amount), and use it as a makeshift washing line as needed, inside or outside your room. You can buy dedicated travel clotheslines, but I just walked into an outdoor store and asked them to cut me off a length of thin line intended for camping and climbing use. It weighs almost nothing, takes up no space in my bag and won't fray or fall apart.
Throw a few clothes pins in your bag too – you'll use them more often than you think. If you can hang your clothes outdoors or in your hotel room window, the pins will keep them safe and secure, and avoid the need to retrieve them from halfway down the street. Even indoors, they'll stop heavier items from falling onto the floor and not drying properly while you're out exploring.
As a side benefit, you can also use them to secure hotel curtains, keeping them pulled tightly together and ensuring the sun doesn't wake you up hours ahead of schedule.
Inflatable Clothes Hangers
Speaking of multi-purpose items, two or three inflatable clothes hangers will also come in handy. As well as not having to deal with those irritating non-removable hangers in hotel wardrobes, you can use inflatable ones to hang wet clothes up on the shower curtain rail. Instead of dripping water all over the floor for hours, it'll fall into the bathtub instead. That's a much better idea.
Inflatable hangers take up minimal space most of the time, but are big and sturdy enough to hold wet jeans, shirts and towels when needed.