Packing Light Without Sacrifice

My parents’ 50th Anniversary trip is quickly approaching. Just when I have my mom ready to pack less than what she might normally, we hit a bump in the road: There aren’t many laundromats in Europe.

We’re not backpackers. We’re not the type of travelers who can strap a few items on our backs and explore an underdeveloped country for 2 months, wearing the same unlaundered shorts two weeks later.
We’re also not the 5-star hotel every night (unless Priceline comes through), bell hops taking care of the luggage, private car at the airport, there are people to do our laundry types.
We’re the types who want to travel in relaxed comfort, but still look for good values (no hostels), and need to pack light since we will be schlepping our own luggage. 

We’ll be gone 2+ weeks. She was all ready to pack 1 week of clothes, then wash them before they boarded their week-long river cruise. After all, that works when traveling in the U.S. But, a basic Google search of laundromats (wachsalon) in Basel, Switzerland, their departure point, shows possibly 1-2 actual laundromats (far away from the tourist highlights), not just laundry/dry cleaning services. And, one load (wash + dry) will cost around $20. Still, that’s less than paying for extra bags and definitely worth it if it means one less bag to lug around. (Yes, they can also have laundry done on the ship or in a hotel – $6 per shirt, $8 per trousers, etc.).

So, how do we balance traveling as light as we can while still having everything we need – including unwrinkled, clean clothes?

First of all, get over the idea that you have to wash your clothes after each wear. You don’t. (Exception: underwear. Please do.) With the help of a stain stick or wipe, you can wear those pants for 2-3 days before they need washed. And ladies, if you layer camisoles (which take up little to no space in your luggage), it will keep your shirts and sweaters fresher. Add a little Downy Wrinkle Releaser and a fabric refresher like Febreeze, and no one will know this is the 3rd time you wore that outfit on this trip. (Warning: don’t go heavy on the perfume or cologne as the scent lingers and goes stale.)

Now, I’m not advocating wearing the same outfit 3 days in a row. But, you can rotate your outfits, leaving the last one to air out while you are sightseeing. And definitely mix and match.

And, don’t ignore the best weapon in your arsenal to fight wardrobe overload – the bathroom sink.

Packing a small laundry kit can help you cut down on the number of clothes you pack. So, what’s in my kit?

Woolite Sink Packets

Lewis N. Clark Travel Laundry Kit, $9 at

There are 3 major brands selling sink packets: Woolite and Tide (both liquid, possible carry-on concern), and Travelon (dissolvable solid strips). I have sensitive skin and do not want to risk any breakout on vacation, so I take Woolite. Also, I know Woolite will be gentle on delicates.

If you are traveling Europe, be aware that many hotels sinks do not have stoppers; instead, they has a mesh screen. So, a thin, rubber stopper may be necessary. Luckily, Lewis N. Clark has put together a travel laundry kit with a stopper and enough sink packets to last for a few weeks (planning on one sink load every 2-3 nights).

Note: Be careful when you purchase travel laundry detergent. There is a difference between a sink packet and a one-load packet (meant for a machine).

Sea to Summit Clothesline

Sea to Summit Clothesline, $12.50 at

You’ve washed your bras and a few shirts in the sink. Now what? You might need a clothesline.

This little gem weighs next to nothing and is smaller than a travel pack of Kleenex. Much smaller.

Everything you need to hang clothes up in a hotel room, on a balcony, or between trees (for the campers out there) is included. Basically, inside the pouch is an 11-foot, paracord-like line – single strand at the ends, double strand otherwise. You hang your clothes by either draping them over the line, or by using the pre-strung beads to cinch/squeeze your clothes. One end of the line comes through the front of the pouch, with a hook. The hooks at each end are designed to also wrap around objects and hook back on the line, making this very versatile.

The line itself is not elastic like other brands, which is a good thing. Elastic lines may allow you stretch a small, packable line into a much longer line, but they can also be very difficult to hang – furniture slides, the elastic rebounds, etc.

 Carrying this laundry kit should allow me to pack (for 17 days) 3-4 bras, 3-5 pair of underwear, 3-5 camis, 4 pair of pants, 4 shirts, 2 sweaters, 1 sweatshirt, 1 workout outfit, 1 set pajamas.
(I say “should” because I always have good intentions.)

If you have any suggestions for other useful travel laundry products, please leave a comment.



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