Doing laundry while traveling

People often ask me, "How do you pack for a three week (or month) trip?".  My answer is always the the same.  Pack for one week and do laundry just like if you were at home. You can hand wash things in the sink.  Quick dry clothes work well for this.  But, there's nothing that beats the feeling of a freshly tumble-dried shirt when you've been on the road for two weeks.

Most hostels have a washer and dryer.  This is great other than maybe having to wait for other people to finish.  If you are in a hotel though it is a different ball game.   Hotels usually have a "laundry service" which means they'll do your laundry and charge you by the piece.  For example, maybe seven euros to wash a pair of pants, two euros for a pair of socks, etc.  Just not worth it in most instances.

The hotel front desk staff almost always knows where a local "self-service laundry" place is if you ask.  They will first tell you about the hotel's laundry service, of course.  But, they know it is expensive.

Only once has a hotel not known where a self-service laundry place was and that was in Porto, Portugal.  Even then, the front desk guy got on Google and found us one about a mile away.  The concept of self-service laundromats is just not popular in Portugal.  But, they do have them.

We were totally confused and not sure how to do our laundry the first time we used one of these places.  Sometimes the instructions are only written in the local language.  Generally, someone there will help you.  Just ask anyone.  They obviously know how to use the machines and have time until their load is done!  :-)

In general though, this is how the systems work at the self-service laundry places I've visited.

  1. Put your clothes in (dryer and washer typically work the same way)
  2. Close the machine door
  3. Note the number of the machine (check the top left or right corner of the machine)
  4. Go to the pay station put some money in and press the number of the machine.  If you get change back, bonus!
    1. For dryers:  If it is a standard 10 minute cycle and you want 20 minutes just do the pay station piece twice before going to the next step.
  5. Go back to the machine and press the start button
  6. Wait.
    1. Washers tend to take between 45 minutes to an hour
    2. Dryers usually go in 10 or 15 minute increments.  I've rarely had to use more than 20 minutes to get the clothes dry.

Look around while you are waiting.  A lot of times the laundry place will have baskets that you can use when swapping your clothes from the washer to the dryer or from the dryer to the folding table.   I did not notice these at first.  The baskets really come in handy so you don't drop socks and underwear on the floor.

I will do a separate post to list some of the places I've had good luck with.  As I find other places, I hope to update the post with new self-service laundry places along with any gotchas.

Until next time...