Almost daily, people ask us for tips on how to avoid overpacking. Or, they send us happy emails about how they’re headed on a trip with two pairs of Bluffworks pants, to which we could reply, might it be it possible with one?
But packing light is easier said than done. We’ve noticed that one key tactic that makes a big difference and is often overlooked is doing laundry while traveling.
A short trip of a few days doesn’t require washing clothes. A week-long trip can go either way. If your trip will last over 10 days, laundry is a very good friend for a savvy packer.
But laundry isn’t always something people plan – or pack – for. Why not?
It could be resistance to figuring out one more thing on your trip.
It could be concern over cost, or damage to your clothes. But breaking news: people successfully do laundry all around the world.
Most likely, the reason you haven’t really considered it is because you don’t want to do laundry during a trip, where time is in short supply.
But, with a little help, we think we can make it easier for you to do laundry on the road and develop your own approach to packing light when you travel.
How to Do Laundry on the Road
Once you have your laundry system worked out, you will see a dramatic effect on your packing.
So here’s how we do it:
1. Embrace the reality of laundry
If you were to set off on a six month adventure, there would be no question that you’d need to do laundry. Alternately, for a three day trip, you can easily get away without a wash. It’s those slightly longer trips where you can either bring more clothes or tackle laundry in an effort to pack light.
Our suggestion is to embrace doing laundry on the road. And, one of our biggest arguments for doing so is this: it’s hard to go nonstop everyday of a long trip.
We all need to rest, and doing laundry can provide a few moments of helpful downtime that you can use to better plan your next move, answer email from back home, or just slow down. And it usually falls at the ideal time, right in the middle of your trip.
Anything that has the potential to help you pack lighter and make your trip more enjoyable is a win-win.
2. Plan for it
To make the process easy once you’re on the ground, think about how you’ll get your laundry done in advance. Do you plan to leverage a hotel service, laundromat, washer in your Airbnb, local service, etc?
Sometimes the best thing is to access on-the-ground information as soon as you land. Other times, you can do the research before you’ve even left. It may depend on whether your destination has robust resources online or not.
The trick is to be creative about how you ferret out the details, especially once you’re there. Don’t hesitate to ask almost anyone for advice – your concierge, host, another traveler, or service providers like a taxi driver or hotel housekeeper.
I’ve had people literally take my laundry home with them, and return it the next day. I got my clothes washed, and they made a little money on the side.
Considering it in advance will reduce anxiety, helping you make peace with how it’s going to get done and accounting for it in your schedule (and packing list).
3. Assess your options
There are tradeoffs between the various ways you can get your clothes cleaned.
Hotel service is often the most convenient, but can be expensive. But here’s the thing - it just might be worth it. It’s funny how we are so emotionally resistant to paying for certain things (like laundry) but may not think twice about the same sum of money for something else fleeting (drinks at the bar). If you’re in a position to spend on hotel laundry, I suggest you consider the lightness it can bring to your entire trip, at just a small extra percent of your total vacation cost.
Self-serve laundromats are the economical traveler’s choice. If one is conveniently located, it can be an easy way to quickly get the job done in a few hours, without having to wait for the turnaround required by a service. The trick is in finding the laundromat. They’re usually there, in all but the most exclusive neighborhoods. You just have to look – or ask.
Laundry service aka when someone does it for you is not uncommon, even in a laundromat. And other businesses – like a tailor, or even a convenience store – may do it too, especially in smaller cities or less developed places where individuals and businesses offer a range of services. If you’re in a modern city, you might luck out in the other direction and find an app or online service for laundry pickup and delivery.
Sink washing is the hardcore traveler’s friend, and the people who embrace it are passionate about having complete control of when their clothes are clean (and often traveling very light). It takes so little effort that you can consider it a no-brainer for small things like socks and underwear – you can usually wash these while you shower, adding barely any extra time or effort to get them clean.
Pair those small, easy to wash essentials with odor-resistant and wrinkle-free travel clothes (like our shirts, pants, blazer, etc) that you can wear again and again, and it may be more feasible than you think to get by with this washing method on your trip.
You can also wash your entire kit in the sink. Dry time is often the main issue, with the main factors being the weight and bulk of the garments, and the local climate. Our Customer Service team recently field tested a few Bluffworks pieces with a bathroom wash & hang dry. Our Meridian Shirt and Original, Chino, and Gramercy Pants all passed the overnight dry test, with the Chinos taking the cake for fastest drying in only a few hours.
Laundry Comparison Chart, by Cost
4. Keep an eye on the details
Laundry should be the same everywhere, right? After all, the goal is simply to get your same clothes back, with less dirt. But there are a few factors to consider to avoid being disappointed or surprised by the differences of doing laundry away from home.
Machine / method: Ask how your clothes will be washed, as commercial treatments for things like sheets in a hotel can fry your clothes. The safest approach for most garments is typically a cold wash and hang dry, though a warm wash and tumble dry will do more for dirt and wrinkles.
Local water: There’s not much you can do about this, but in some locations the quality of water can affect how your clothes come clean. Hard water (with more minerals, like calcium and iron) doesn’t work as well with powdered detergents, which can lead to chalky soap streaks or faded clothing. Some places may even add a water softener to a clothes wash.
Soap: This may matter to you because of allergy or scent preferences. Pack a small baggie of powder or 3 oz of liquid travel laundry detergent if you are particularly sensitive or want to use yours from home. (This can also save an extra errand and small cost if you’re washing clothes in your sink or at a laundromat.)
Care: Pay attention to how washer-friendly particular garments are. If you’re packing with the laundry plan in mind, it should be part of your process to ensure that most of your garments are machine-washable at minimum. Which brings us to…
5. Pack the right travel clothes
Here’s the thing, if you can rewear your travel clothes, you can both pack light and need to do laundry less frequently. Why not, right?
Everything Bluffworks designs is wrinkle-resistant, machine-washable, and lightweight so you can spend more time on your adventure, and less time on care. We prioritize comfort and style alongside those technical features, so they’re clothes you look good in and actually want to wear.
For example, our Threshold Performance T-Shirt can be worn several times and – thanks to its wrinkle-resistant, antimicrobial, and moisture-wicking properties – nobody can tell. Our Gramercy Blazer, comes out of a bag presentable and wrinkle-free, and it pairs with our Gramercy Pants for a suit that looks great and never needs to be dry-cleaned (in fact, it shouldn’t be).
For women, this fall we are releasing a women’s lightweight travel blazer, matching pants, plus a dress and blouse. This will be our first capsule wardrobe of women’s travel clothes. They’ll be machine-washable, wrinkle-resistant, anti-odor, soft, and stylish enough to be a part of any journey. (Read more about our women’s line here.)
If you’re still hesitating and wondering, “how do I know what to bring?” or, “will I have everything I need?” consult our approach on what to bring to help you become a packing pro.
The main benefit of doing laundry when traveling is being able to pack lighter. Combine that with versatile travel clothes that do double duty across multiple settings and rewearing, and you are well on your way to a personalized lightweight packing system.
When faced with a laundry challenge of my own, my favorite trick is to look around and think to myself, “How do local people get laundry done here?”
There’s always an answer. You just have to find it… and that just might become part of the adventure.