Pack more clothes or do laundry while you travel?

Here’s a little unsolicited travel advice: When you check into the Beverly Hills Peninsula Hotel, don’t ask about the laundry facilities.

I made that mistake recently, and I still cringe when I think about it. We’d spent the day touring Venice Beach and the Ballona Wetlands, and it had been six long days on the road with no access to a washing machine.

My family of five must have looked like beach bums when we checked into the five-star resort. I tried to hide behind the bellman pushing the cart full of our duffels and grocery bags, on the way to our room. As the elevator doors closed behind us I asked him, in a matter-of-fact way, “Where can I do laundry?”

“We have a world-class 24 hour cleaning service for your convenience,” he said with pride.

Laundry and travel. Never have two things caused more friction, except maybe kids and travel. Perfect!

Yet, every time I travel I’m faced with the same problem – should I pack more clothes or just plan to do laundry? If I pack less I’m going to have set aside at least two hours and find a coin laundry unless we’re staying at a vacation rental. If I pack more, we may have to pay to check our bags.

Now, the 24 hour laundry service wasn’t really what I had in mind. I’m a bit thrifty when it comes to washing a weeks worth of clothes for five people. I wanted a regular old coin laundry. In fact I’d always planned to do laundry when we traveled especially in the days when the kids were still in preschool, though I have to admit at that point in our trip I was getting a little tired of having to interrupt our travels to spend and hour or so at the suds and duds.

What else could I do? It’s not as though we could pack enough clothes for our whole ten-day trip. Right?

But what if I’m wrong? Maybe the time I’d save by packing a few extra shirts, socks and underwear would be worth it. And really, instead of planning to stop every third day to wash, we could go longer and only slip in a load when needed.

I wondered what that might be like. More importantly, I wondered what that might smell like. Wait, isn’t that kind of icky? I travel with one piece of luggage for all my clothes. Wouldn’t the dirty ones eventually start to stink out the clean ones? Otherwise I’d need an extra duffel dedicated to laundry to keep all our dirty apparel separated from the clean.

“Next time we’re packing for ten days and if you mess up your clothes tough luck.” I announced to my kids, who at the time aged 3, 5 and 7. I got the feeling they didn’t really believe my ultimatum.

But a few months later it was time to test out the pack more method. We’d booked the family on an Adventures by Disney tour through Italy and right there in the handbook they tell you to pack enough clothes for the whole tour.

Needless to say, we didn’t make it. By the time we’d traveled from Rome to Tuscany we were in dire straights. In the end I left family with only their bathing suits at the villa and hiked into the closest town with that large duffel of dirty clothes, then commandeered the one machine available.

It was so worth it. I felt like the superstar when I arrived back at our pad and the kids cheered, “Alright! Clean clothes!”

A few of our companions discreetly asked where I’d found the laundromat so I knew we weren’t the only ones who needed to wash. And I guess we should be happy that we’d been so active over the past few days that we had a need to clean up.

So maybe it’s impossible to avoid doing laundry on the road no matter how long the trip. That doesn’t mean I don’t still live in hope.

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