Friday, August 22, 2008

Packing List: Laundry

Essential to travel is the issue of laundry. If you're going for longer than a weekend, do you pack light and wash a few things every or every other day in the room's sink or find laundry facilities along the way or use the hotel's laundry service? Or, do you pack heavy intending to return with a suitcase full of dirty clothes?

With airlines charging for checked luggage that used to fly free, and with Delta doubling the fee for the second checked bag from $25 to $50 last month, more air travelers are seeing the wisdom of packing light.

For road trippers, packing light makes it easier to haul everything to your room upstairs especially in large cities where cars are broken into for a pair of skates and a Bible or for dirty laundry on the back seat.

Here's what I pack for my laundry needs:

1. Flat rubber sink stopper. Not all sinks have working stoppers and the plastic stoppers I tried didn't seal leaking plugs. Does double-duty as a jar opener.

2. Detergent. Biodegradable Camp Soap by AGS Labs is gentle and doubles as body wash and shampoo.

3. Flexo-Line travel clothesline. This the best travel clothesline I've ever used and the only kind I've used since I gave up on the others over 15 years ago. Elastic clotheslines don't handle much weight, sag too much, and lose their elasticity too soon for me. Their suction cups don't hold reliably. Neither do those that have two twisted lines that are supposed to hold wet clothing but don't. Flexo-Line's three-strand, braided, rubber tubing is lightweight, packs small, and holds up to 12 lbs. of wet laundry securely without clothes pins.

4. Something to hold the other end of the Flexo-Line. If the bathroom door knob isn't feasible, you have to get creative. Here are some that I like:

a. My power suction hook has never failed me on smooth tub walls or tiles. It has a hook that folds down over a stiff cover to lock the suction cup in place, like a Snap Hook. Hooks with regular suction cups aren't reliable.

b. A climber's carabiner works with fixtures such as towel bars and does double duty as a theft deterrent device when clipped to your bag and the overhead rack on trains and other public transportation where snatch and run thieves prey.

c. A cheap stick pen is probably the smallest, lightest, and simplest. Just wrap the end of the Flexo-Line around anything stationary and stick the pen through to hold it. Zounds! It might actually double as a pen for your travel journal when not being used to hold your clothesline.

5. Bumps-B-Gone hanger(s). I pack one or two in a carry-on bag for air travel and the whole set of four for extended road trips. Rooms don't usually have enough hangers anyway, and many can't be used anywhere other than with the rod for which they were designed. Regular plastic or plastic-coated hangers leave unsightly bumps in the shoulders. Inflatable hangers are a waste of money because they don't support much wet weight and leak after a few uses. A Bumps-B-Gone hanger can be formed for whatever you want to hang on it, then straightened and laid on the bottom along the long side of a carry-on bag where it doesn't take up much room or folded in half if that works better for you.

6. Plastic pants/skirt hanger or a plastic hanger with clips to hang pants or a skirt (optional - I like to take them on road trips). Many motels have an iron and ironing board in the room or you may borrow them from the front desk, but it may be easier to steam out wrinkles while you take a hot shower when you have your own pants or skirt hanger with you. Otherwise, set up the Flexo-Line over the tub and stick a couple of places of the waistband through to let the wrinkles fall out after your shower. Also provides (an) extra hanger(s) when in rooms that don't have enough.

7. Travel hair dryer. This may be optional because several hotel and motel chains provide a hair dryer as an amenity. Frankly, I forgot to take mine on my last road trip and never missed it. A hair dryer also helps get rid of the last bit of dampness when you're in a hurry to wear something although sunshine and your body heat will take care of that soon enough during warm weather.

8. A small spray bottle (optional). Spray plain water on isolated wrinkles or set-in creases, hang, and let air-dry or use a hair dryer. I tried Downy Wrinkle Releaser during my last road trip and was disappointed because it did not perform any better than spraying with plain water. Also useful alone or with a hair dryer for sprucing up hat hair or a bedhead.

9. Woolite Gentle Care Drying Rack (optional). I use this for air-drying sweaters and other dry-flat articles on extended road trips during cool weather.

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