Whether it’s for two days, two weeks, or two months, I’ve been traveling with a solitary school-sized backpack for years now and the freedom it brings is amazing:

  • It’s easy to explore and have adventures even when between rooms and/or on the road.
  • It’s easy to walk for miles if needed and stairs are a piece of cake.
  • the weight and size of luggage never factors into sight-seeing or travel decisions.
  • I never have to pay for or worry about lost checked luggage, or running out of overhead bin space because it fits underneath the seat.
Jim and I travel with backpacks, which made riding bicycles to catch a flight out of a small airport in the mountain west no problem.
Jim and I travel with backpacks, which made riding bicycles to catch a flight out of a small airport in the mountain west no problem.

There are two fundamental ideas behind obtaining this freedom and packing light: 1. pare everything down to the essentials, and 2. plan to do laundry as you travel. Although some might see doing laundry while traveling a chore, the freedoms it affords far outweighs any inconvenience.

On long trips I like to use a laundromat because it gives me the chance to slow down and take a break from the busy schedule of sight-seeing. Laundromats are great places to experience a place like a local — you might even get some inside tips on things to do or places to visit from the people you might meet. When I don’t want to slow down, I find a laundromat that offers drop-off service.

Laundromat in central LA.

To be even more economic with my time and money, I often do wash in the sink of my room and let it hang dry. I started this before I was a flight attendant, and it comes in super handy on the job all the time.

Step one:

Plug your sink. One of my essential traveling items is a universal drain plug for sinks that have leaky or missing drain stops. It takes up almost no room and is very light.

This universal stop is made of rubber, thin, and floppy. I have used it in countless room sinks across the world while washing on the go.

Step two:

Fill sink with clothes and desired temperature of water. (Hot for whites, cold for brights/delicates). If the room has a coffee maker or microwave, I will sometimes use that to make extra hot water for my whites.

Adding warm water to clothes.

Step three:

Add detergent. If I’m traveling for several weeks, I’ll usually bring my own detergent. If traveling by air from the US, powder detergents work best, so you don’t have to worry about the airport security 3.4 oz liquid rule for carry-ons. However, on my overnights for work I’ll often just use the shampoo that is complimentary with the hotel. Hair and fabric share many qualities, so it’s not surprising shampoo works great as a laundry detergent.

Shampoo works great as laundry detergent.

Step four:

Swish laundry around a little bit, then let it sit and soak. I usually let mine soak for about 30 min.

Adding some more water with the shampoo “detergent”

Step five:

Drain sink, and rinse clothes under running faucet.

Step Six:

Wring out clothes to get majority of water out.

Step Seven:

Hang to dry. Depending on what type of accommodation you are staying in, you might have to get a little bit creative. As a flight attendant, my company usually puts me up in business class airport hotels that have hangers. Wood hangers can leave a stain on wet clothes, so I always use the metal clasps. When I’m traveling for leisure, I’m often staying in hostels, B&Bs, and budget-oriented accommodations that usually don’t include hangers. So I bring a light-weight camping rope made from nylon and create a line for clothes to dry on.

Sometimes It takes some work to find a place where you can find something to hang on. The groove on the inside track of this sliding door worked nicely. I’ve also used lamps, window frames, bed posts, ironing boards, edges of desks, etc. Get creative!

Voila! It’s that easy.

Here are a few tips I have found come in handy for me:

I usually give my clothes at least 12 hours to dry. If I’m only staying one night at a place, I’ll do the wash right when I check in, to allow maximum dry time. Also, be aware of how humid/arid it is where you are trying this out because that will affect the dry time.

If your room comes with any sort of air ventilation — windows that open, a fan, heater, or AC — try to hang clothes in the air current.

Placing my uniform over the AC vent on a slatted bench while the AC unit is on helps it to dry even faster.

Also, I’d recommend obeying any signs that dictate where or where not to hang laundry.

Hanging clothes on emergency sprinkler system in ceiling will cause flooding according to this cautionary placards in one of my hotel rooms a couple weeks ago.

And finally, make sure whether you are using hangers or tying a line, that you won’t be causing any damage to the property or furnishings of where you are staying. It is always best to be a gracious guest.

— Laura Rowley


Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.


  1. We have the same universal sink plug! For months Mark and I debated which was the correct side of the plug to have facing up in the sink. Looking at your picture, it looks like we finally have our answer…I was right! 🙂

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