While packing a heavy set of bed sheets in your suitcase might seem a bit extreme, some travelers do bring their own linens with them when they travel. There are several reasons why you might want to do the same.
Allergies / Skin Sensitivity
Travelers with allergies to bleach, perfumes or soaps sometimes cannot use hotel sheets or cruise ship bed linens because the sheets and pillowcases are washed in strong detergent that induces contact dermatitis. It is far easier to bring bed linens from home, washed in the laundry detergent of your choice, than to endure a skin rash.
Cottage / Houseboat / RV Rental
While hotels and cruise ships provide bed linens, owners of vacation cottages, houseboats, and recreational vehicles usually do not. Find out whether you will need to bring your own bed linens when you make your reservation, and be sure to inquire about bed sizes. (Tip: European beds are sized differently than American beds. You may have to bring sheets that are too large and tuck excess fabric under the mattress.)
Some travelers choose flannel or jersey sheets and pillowcases because those fabrics provide extra warmth. This is especially important if you prefer not to sleep under your hotel's bedspread and blankets.
Bedbug infestations are big news, and some travelers believe that their own bed linens, because they are clean, will protect them from bedbug bites. This is not true. Your own sheets and pillowcases are guaranteed to be clean, provided you have washed them. If your hotel room has bedbugs, you will be bitten regardless of which bed linens you use.
You might want to bring your own bed linens to a hotel you have never stayed at, just in case something has gone wrong and the hotel sheets are dirty or torn. Of course, nearly all hotels and cruise lines strive to provide clean, comfortable beds, but if worrying about hotel or cruise ship bed linens will ruin your vacation, packing your own sheets and pillowcases is a good idea.
Sometimes having all the comforts of home can make a vacation even more relaxing. If you enjoy sleeping between satin sheets or have developed an addiction to Egyptian cotton bed linens, you might just get more rest if you bring your own bedding on your trip.
Alternatives to Packing Your Own Bed Linens
If you are sensitive or allergic to laundry detergents and fabric softeners, consider washing the hotel or cruise ship bed linens with detergents you can tolerate on the first day of your trip. You can pack liquid detergent in your carry-on bag as long as it is stored in three-ounce bottles. You can also pack liquid detergent in your checked baggage if you take precautions against leakage. Laundry detergent pods are a great alternative to liquid detergent and are easy to pack. Remember to put the detergent pod into the washing machine with your bed linens rather than in the pouring tray on top of the commercial washing machine.
On an ocean cruise, self-service laundry facilities are usually available. On land, consider staying at a hotel that offers self-service laundry to its guests, or look up laundromat addresses before you leave home. (Tip: Many river cruise ships do not have self-service laundry facilities on board.)
Another way to cope with bed linen issues is to buy new sheets and pillowcases at your destination. Consider this option if you are staying on another continent and do not have appropriately-sized sheets for your hotel or stateroom bed, if you do not have room in your suitcase for bed linens or if bringing bed linens from home will make your suitcase heavy enough to trigger an extra charge from your airline.
Alternatively, you can buy a silk sleep sack and pillowcase. They will effectively protect you from contact with hotel sheets. Sleep sacks pack small and weigh next to nothing, so they are a good alternative for travelers who must deal with luggage restrictions.
Hostels, the Bed Linens Exception
If you enjoy staying at youth hostels, be prepared to use their bed linens regardless of your preferences. Because the bedbug crisis has intensified in recent years, the majority of youth hostels do not allow guests to use their own sleep sacks, sleeping bags or bed sheets. If you are unable to sleep between any sheets but your own, skip the hostel and stay at a hotel or bed and breakfast inn.