As part of my travel advice column (just kidding) I would like to share another of my travel tips that help me along as I travel on a long term basis. Let’s take a look at one of the essentials – keeping your clothes clean and ready to wear when you need it, while keeping the laundry cleaning efforts easy and cheap.
Unless you are embarking on a less than a week long trip, chances are you will need to get your laundry washed. If you are a long term traveler like me, you will be in need of ongoing laundry cleaning service so unless you can provide yourself with an easy and cheap way to wash your own clothes, you may be stuck with costly and inconvenient options of using hotel laundry services or worse.
As a backpacker, you will likely try to keep the size of your luggage as small as possible so you don’t have to haul it around in sweat like a mule. I keep mine down as much as possible by limiting the number of clothes article to no more than three of the same type. But it comes at a price – you quickly run out of clean clothes to wear. And if you also happen to be in a tropical country during wet season when temperatures reach 40 Degrees Celsius and humidity is near 100%, you may be forced to change clothes twice or more times a day. How do I deal with such situations?
I was my clothes each time I shower.
It’s as simple as that. Each time you get a chance to take a shower, grab a handful of your clothes with you and after you are done lathering your body, apply some of the soap (no problem using the same soap you use on yourself) to your clothes and give them a nice rub. Depending on the size and number of your clothes, this could only take a couple extra minutes or could add a quarter of hour to your total shower time, but if you do it regularly, it will be a quick and easy thing to do and you will always have clean clothes.
Then when you get a chance and have actual washing machine available – go ahead, make use of it and have all of your clothes properly washed and rinsed. But many areas, especially when it comes to third world countries don’t have coin operate laundry facilities so options are few and if they exist, they are pricey. Giving your sweat drenched t-shirt and underwear a quick rub while you’re having a shower can avoid running out of clothes and having to deal with big pile of them at once. There’s nothing like having to have a “laundry day” while you’re on the road.
The main advantage of laundry cleaning while you are showering is that dirty laundry won’t pile up on you. Washing your entire load in one sitting is a daunting job. Doing it a couple of pieces at a time turns it into “not a big deal”. It’s very cheap and easy and if you make a habit of it and instantly go through your backpack to pick soiled clothes prior to hitting a shower, your traveling will be more enjoyable and you will always have clothes available no matter what occasion pops up.
Another advantage of laundry cleaning in small chunks while you shower is that you will be able to dry it in your room wherever it is you are staying at the moment. You won’t need an outdoor laundry line – just use bed posts, window sill, chairs, door knobs, coat hooks, etc. Every room has more than enough options to hang a small load of washed laundry dry.
An important thing to remember – as a long term traveler on the road, never ask permissions to wash your laundry in the shower. Simply take a few articles in the shower with you and wash it. Many hostels offer laundry services often at an extremely high per kilo price. Having to pay $4 for 4kg of laundry (small load) is truly a lot and it requires you to hand your soiled underwear to a person you don’t know. But it’s an easy stream of income for any hostel so it’s to be expected that they will want to discourage all of their guests from doing their own laundry and will want you to use their overpriced services instead. Asking for permission to do your laundry in the shower room can result in a “No!” so they can get a chance to make money off of you.
You don’t have to be a traveler on a budget. Avoiding payment for ridiculously overpriced services does not necessarily mean you are cheap. It simply means that you are smart. Add to it the fact that do it yourself laundry cleaning can be done on the cheap and on the easy, so why consider overpriced options? Just do it the way I do – while you’re showering or find your own way that works best for you and use the money saved for something worthwhile. Smart travelers know little tricks that get them by for free or for cheap and don’t get fooled by artificially inflated price tags from institutions that like to take advantage of unsavvy travelers.