Friday, January 27, 2017

Long Term Travel: How to Pack / Doing Laundry in a Hotel

It's Week 4 in our Planning a Back Roads Road Trip series, and we're here to talk about packing your bags to make sure you're prepared for whatever weather comes your way, plus doing laundry on the road when the need arises.

48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel

When you're setting out on a long trip, you want to make sure you have everything you'll need without having excess stuff to lug around.  Especially if you're traveling as seasons are changing, you'll need to pack a variety of clothing to make sure you're prepared, regardless of what kind of weather you encounter along the way.

48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Cool day at Bryce Canyon National Park.  Within minutes after this picture was taken, 

the sky opened up and we were hit by a hail storm.

Timing from our trip was fortunate as spring is a great time to travel, both crowd-wise and weather-wise.  Kids were still in school so family vacation season hadn't yet begun, flowers were starting to bloom, and in much of the country, it was quite pleasant.  The Northeast in May was cold, wet, and uncomfortable, but nearly everywhere else, most days were nice enough that we didn't need a a coat.

48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Our visit to Acadia National Park in mid-May was so cold it required four layers: 
t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, and ski jacket.  And I was still cold.

Being from the South, we're used to wearing t-shirts and shorts more or less from March to November (even this January, long sleeves and gloves haven't seen the light of day for the past few weeks!), so packing for a cross-country road trip from March to June was an interesting challenge.

48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
It was damp and chilly at the Santa Monica Pier in early April.
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel

For the most part, we were very well prepared.  But from the time we left Virginia, all along the East coast to Maine, and across to Michigan (where we saw snow flurries in May!!), we did not have enough of the proper attire to keep us warm day after day.  

48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Freezing cold 5k in Detroit in late May.  It snowed before the race started!  
At home, I would have been wearing a tanktop and still would have been hot.

We got tired of wearing the same 2-3 long-sleeve shirts over and over, sometimes layering them when one wasn't enough.  They started to show signs of being worn for days in a row, so in Freeport, Maine, we stopped in at the L.L.Bean flagship store and bought a few additional winter clothes.  We also met my uncle for dinner in his town in Maine and were able to do some shopping at the store where he works.  The timing was fortunate as at both stores, their cold-weather clothing was on clearance racks!

48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
L.L.Bean's flagship store in Freeport, Maine

Pack your bags!
Always check the weather before you begin tossing clothes in your suitcase to make sure you'll have what you need.  That being said, weather can be unpredictable and it's always a good idea to include a few additional items to make sure you're prepared for any weather that may come your way:
  • Rain or shine
    • You don't want to miss out on touring a city on foot just because it's a little wet.  Put a rain jacket or poncho and umbrella(s) somewhere in your car where you can access them easily if needed but where they're not in the way of your daily needs.  A good pair of boots will keep your feet dry on rainy days, so pack a pair of comfortable ones you can wear if needed (it felt so weird to me to wear boots in May!).  Nobody wants to walk around in a pair of sloshy tennis shoes!
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Turtleneck, vest, scarf, and rain jacket on a bone-chilling 
damp day at the DuPont Mansion in Delaware.
  • Dress in layers
    • You'll notice in most of our photos that I wore a lot of layers during our travels.  Layering a cardigan and scarf over a short- or long-sleeved shirt was helpful on cool or breezy days so I could adjust as necessary.  For the guys, a fleece vest adds some warmth on a cool day and is less cumbersome to carry around than a coat if you get warm.
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Wearing the same outfit in NYC a few days after our visit to DuPont.  Getting tired 
of wearing the same clothes...But wearing a different scarf adds some variety.

48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Wearing layers at Valley Forge National Park.
  • Don't forget a warm coat!  
    • Even if you think you won't need it, PACK IT!  If you're traveling in warm weather, tuck it under a seat where it won't bother you; you'll be glad you have it on that random cold day.  Bonus points if your rain jacket can double as your warm coat!  (You might have noticed, I couldn't make a decision and threw about 4 jackets in the back of the car - but I wore them all!)
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
So cold at the Easternmost lighthouse in the US that I couldn't stand up straight.
Lubec, Maine
  • Pants and shorts
    • On an unseasonably cool day in the summer, you might find you wish you had a pair of pants, and on a surprisingly warm day in the middle winter, it feels so good to walk around in the sunshine in a pair of shorts!  Pack one of each, depending on what time of year you're traveling.  
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
My jeans got way more wear than I had anticipated.  
Our visit to Death Valley gave them a little break.
  • Long and short sleeves
    • The same goes for your top half: pack a variety of sleeve lengths, making sure you can mix and match!
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Layering a cardigan over a sleeveless shirt kept me comfortable
walking around San Antonio on a sunny March day.
  • Scarf/hat/gloves
    • See above photo regarding scarves.  They're great for an extra bit of warmth, especially early in the morning, and are easy to tie around a purse strap when you warm up.
    • If you're traveling in the peak of summer, hats and gloves are unlikely to ever see the light of day, but for 8 or 9 months out of the year, you might find you want them in higher elevations or northern states.
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Keeping my ears warm on the Macinack Island Ferry, Michigan.
  • Shoes
    • As mentioned above, a pair of boots is a good idea for keeping feet warm and dry, but for sunny, clear days, you'll want a pair of comfortable shoes for walking.  I tend to get blisters or foot cramps very easily when wearing sandals for long periods of walking and usually wind up having to switch over to running shoes, which of course, scream, "I'm a tourist!"  I was fortunate to find these Keds a few weeks before we began our trip and loved them so much I wore them out and have since bought a second pair.  They are cute and comfortable - some days we walked over 10 miles, and I never had a problem!
    • To avoid blisters, make sure you wear any new shoes for a week or so before you leave to break them in if you will be doing a lot of walking on your trip.
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Such great little shoes!  
Tampa, FL

To create more space for your clothes, pack your makeup and toiletries as though you're flying and need to fit everything into a carry-on bag.  Keep it simple; your photos will keep your secret, and the additional space will allow for necessities like clothing and shoes.

  • Use small bottles for shampoo and conditioner.  Unless you're traveling for a very long time, 3-oz. bottles should provide you with enough to keep your hair clean and shiny.  If necessary, you can always replenish your shampoo and conditioner with hotel miniatures (some hotels use brands like Pantene or Bath and Body Works, so snatch these up when they're available).
  • Pack your curling iron/straightener, but leave your hairdryer at home.  The majority of hotels provide decent hairdryers for guest use.  Most of the time, I found great hairdryers, but in a few older hotels, I was stuck with 1250-watt versions, which required a few extra minutes of drying time.
  • Include only the necessities in a small makeup bag.  You don't need four eyeshadows and three lipsticks.
Since a road trip requires that one travel in a vehicle - whether it's your own car or a rental - there is plenty of space to just throw in an extra suitcase if you can't decide exactly what you'll need.  Just remember that whatever you pack must be lugged in to and out of every hotel in every city - so do your best to ensure you're only packing the essentials!

Dirty Laundry
Now that your suitcase is packed, you're almost there!  But your clothes will eventually wind up dirty if you're traveling for long enough, and if you don't want to walk around the country smelling like a dirty hamper, you'll have to do laundry somewhere.  Many chain hotels have laundry facilities that guests can use for a small charge.  Here are my tips for doing laundry in a hotel:

48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel

I packed all of the following in a small Rubbermaid container so I would be prepared on Laundry Days.  The rest of the time, it was stashed out of the way in the backseat.

  • Quarters: Put quarters in a used medicine bottle to use for the washer and dryer.  You can always get change at the front desk, but you may find yourself waiting for someone to check in before you're able to get your quarters from the front desk staff.
  • Laundry detergent:  Take your own small container of laundry powder or liquid and a few sheets of fabric softener.  These are available in vending machines at most hotels with laundry rooms, but they are exorbitantly priced, you're better off providing your own.
  • Pop-up hamper:  Include a small pop-up hamper for transporting your clothes to and from the laundry room, then fold it flat when you're finished and put it back in the car until you need to be clean again.
  • Delicates bag(s):  You don't want to lose half of your socks to the dryer monster or drop your unmentionables on the way back to your room!  Put all your small clothing items in these bags to keep them all in one place.
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
This laundry facility at this hotel didn't have an option 
for purchasing detergent or softener on site.

While you're at it...
  • DON'T OVERFILL THE HOTEL WASHER OR DRYER.  It's probably smaller than the one you have at home.  When I washed our clothes in Detroit, I made this mistake and even after two cycles in the dryer, our clothes still weren't dry.  We hung them on every available surface overnight, and a few were still damp the next morning.  We draped those across the pop-up hamper in the car during the day and overnight at our next hotel, and they were finally dry about 36 hours later.  It sounds a little far-fetched, but I am not kidding.
48 No Interstate: Long-Term Travel: How to Pack & Doing Laundry in a Hotel
Our hotel room became a clothesline.
Detroit, MI
  • Check the dryer filter before you dry your clothes.  Who knows when it was last cleaned out?
  • Set aside several hours for laundry.  Remember that you may have to wait for the machine, which will add some time to laundry day.  While you're waiting to switch your clothes over to the dryer, it's a good time to relax and watch a movie, plan the next few days of your trip, use the hotel exercise room or pool, or take a short nap.
  • Set a timer.  You're sharing a laundry space, so this is considerate to other guests and it will keep you from losing road trip time while your clothes sit there waiting for you to move them.  At the hotels where I did laundry, there were signs stating how long the washer and dryer cycles would take, so I used the timer on my phone.
We hope these suggestions will help you as you plan your travels; we'd love to hear your tips in the Comments section below!

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  1. This is a great post, and very helpful! I am dying to take a road trip one day, but I am not sure about adventuring with all backroads. Good luck! Visiting you again this week from #WeekendWanderlust. -Kayla,

    1. Thanks for visiting again, Kayla! You can always ease into back roads travel. Taking an alternate route in a familiar area to a place you would usually travel to on the interstate is a great way to try the back roads for the first time. We've traveled to visit family this way when Thanksgiving and Christmas bring heavy traffic to the interstate and have a much more enjoyable trip that way. :-)

  2. Where was the best laundry room in the US?

    1. That's a toughie! The best one is my own. :-)
      But as far as hotels go, I have experience with 4 or 5. Can't remember which hotel any of them are in, though!

  3. I love the tips about doing the laundry. It is not one of the best parts of travel but we all come up against having to do it eventually.

    1. It's definitely not fun when you'd rather be out exploring! But yes, it becomes a necessity eventually.

  4. Thank you for including our second home! I remember your visit looked so happy then.. Liverpool car packing has since been discovered and many Europeans and Americans are settling there now..