Keeping the clothes clean: laundry abroad

When choosing a vacation rental or hotel abroad, finding one with a washing machine can really make a difference.  But as we discovered in France, European washing machines are anything but American-sized.  Enjoy the writings and photography of guest writer, Anita Wells, as she shares her experiences with keeping the family’s clothes clean across Europe.

One of the biggest challenges traveling with six people for 85 days is the laundry situation. We took six carry-ons, so we had to be very judicious in our packing and clothing choices (no denim, for instance). Our packing selection was quick dry, athletic fabric clothing for a range of weather (hot summer in Greece and Italy, wet and cold autumn in Estonia, Russia, Scotland) and activities (swimming, attending church, athletics). Our teenage girls were less than thrilled with their summer wardrobe options, which was a challenge, but the type of clothes we packed was also critical to our success.

We tried to stay in places with laundry facilities, but even then that often meant one little washer with a five hour cycle, and hanging things out to dry. One appreciates the Tuscan sun and Cretan breeze so much more than the damp Welsh air for those purposes! We ended up losing things to laundry accidents, shedding unneeded warm clothing at various charity donation shops, throwing away broken shoes, and buying a few needed replacements as we went.

All in all it was mostly successful, and we especially appreciated the REI Kuhl brand clothing that we’d brought. Next time, I’d make sure every single item was washed and worn prior to packing. I found that of our suitcases, the hard case ones worked and balanced much better than the others, and was extremely glad we’d chosen the ultra lightweight suitcases with 360 rolling wheels. You can purchase many items abroad, but I was super grateful to have packed the Rick Steves braided rubber clothesline and travel detergent sheets (who knew you could do laundry by stomping on clothes in the shower if desperate?).

Anita in the Scottish Highlands


Traveling with her family, Anita Wells is known for organizing logistics and laundry.  However, her true delights abroad are scenic coastlines, charming European villages, and finding ancestral homes.

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