Details, Details…A Few Things I Always Pack

my travel laundry kit

A few little travel essentials I never leave home without…

Clothing Care

Packing light usually means re-wearing pieces, which (depending on the length of your trip) may require a bit of laundering. While hotel laundries or spending a couple of hours at a laundromat are an option, I try to avoid either of those as much as possible. Unless your clothes get seriously soiled, sometimes a little freshening and spot cleaning are all that’s needed make a garment wearable for another day or four. I always travel with the following items in a little laundry kit:

  • Forever New Travel Packets. If you’re traveling carry-on, be sure to get the powder, not the liquid. 1/2 packet is enough for a sinkful of hand-washed items.
  • Janie Stick. Grease spots are the toughest to remove from fabrics. I’ve found this product gets them out 85% of the time.
  • Tide To Go pen. Red wine, coffee…this will get out those spots, or at least fade them enough to be unnoticeable.
  • Febreeze. Removes cigarette, perspiration, musty odors. (If you’ve ever been surrounded by chain smokers at a cafe, you know how annoying it is to realize your clothing has picked up the smell!) Spray until the garment is slightly damp, then hang in a spot with plenty of air circulation until dry. This counts as a liquid, so either include it in your carry-on liquids allowance, pack in a checked bag, or purchase once you get to your destination.
  • Microfiber travel towel. If you wash clothing in the hotel sink, this will help your items line dry faster. Just lay items flat on the towel, and roll up, squeezing as you go. The towel itself also dries quickly.
  • In a pinch, you can also use hotel shampoo (just a few drops) to hand wash clothing.

Odds & Ends

  • Zinc lozenges.* There are few things more annoying than coming down with a cold while you’re on vacation. These lozenges can help reduce the duration and intensity of a cold, and I’ll attest that I’ve actually avoided getting colds if I began dosing myself regularly at the first sign of a scratchy throat or nasal congestion.
  • Eye lubricant drops. I’ll use these a couple of times during long flights. Helps take the red eye out of the “Red Eye.” I like these single use droppers that take up almost no space in my TSA liquids bag.
  • Instant coffee packets. I know, I know, but in a pinch these are WAY better than the dishwater that some places serve up under the guise of “coffee.”
  • Friction block. Even the most well-broken-in shoes can sometimes start rubbing and irritating a new spot. I always carry this in my purse on sightseeing days; it can keep a blister from getting worse until I can apply a bandaid or some moleskin.

What travel essentials do you always pack?

*Be sure to check with a medical professional before taking any supplements or over-the-counter medications.

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  1. I second the Starbucks coffee packets! Pricey compared to some others but definitely the best instant I have found so far. I get mine at one of the “bulk” stores. I hate starting out my day with that dishwater stuff too so I keep a few packets of this coffee, some green tea bags and a dual-voltage immersion heater (with appropriate country plug adapter) inside a titanium mug in my carry-on. My mug came with a bright orange mesh sack so it’s easy to find and the whole kit weighs just a few ounces.

  2. I personally find Febreeze too strong. The Laundress (online store) makes a clothing freshener that is light, fresh, and doesn’t overwhelm the olfactory senses. I absolutely love Forever New! And the liquid version, Ovacion, in cold water will restore black clothes.

  3. Susan, as one who also travels a lot these are some great little travel tips, especially the fabreeze. Always enjoy your posts.

  4. I discovered (in desperation) that Neutrogena make-up remover wipes do an excellent job as a spot remover on clothes. And ditto on the Starbucks instant coffee packets.

    1. Yes! these makeup remover wipes are great for removing make up from a collar, deodorant white spots from dark clothes and even grass stains.

      1. Thanks for the tip about the makeup wipes. I travel with these but never thought to use it as a spot remover.

    2. Neutrogena make up remover wipes are also very handy to remove camel snot from your jeans should you find yourself in a desert, riding a camel. Trust me.

  5. I always bring Starbuck Via on my trips overseas. I can’t tell you how many times I can’t get a good cup of coffee. I also hand wash items in the sink and always bring a rubber sink stopper.

  6. There is no scientific evidence that zinc lozenges, or zinc in any other form can prevent or reduce the severity of a cold, and it has been studied. However, there is strong evidence that the use of zinc has caused a signifigant number of people to lose…sometimes permanently…their sense of smell and/or taste. I know two people who have experienced this, and in one case the loss of taste was very sudden, and lasted almost a year. People should know of this risk before deciding to take an unproven OTC medication.

    On the other hand, I have saved several trips with the friction sticks. Interestingly, a recent test with runners found that paper tape (the sort that is used to stick bandages) applied to the friction area is the most effective way to prevent blisters. Its downside is that it won’t stick to damp surfaces, such as the sweaty soles of feet, but it works well on the top of the feet, or the back of the heel.

  7. I hope you have a lovely trip! I feel I should point out that I, too, have the same Emme toiletries bag you carry, and I was told by Heathrow security that the zip-off bag was too large. They made me empty it and place my items in one of the zip-top bags they (thankfully) provide. I also travel light, and was just barely able to fit all of my items in their bag. Since the majority of my international travel is to London, I’ve had to employ a different bag. I was told that I could not return the bag since I had used it.

    1. Interesting. I’ve gone through Heathrow several times with mine and it’s never been questioned. I wonder if they’ve tightened up security or if it’s sometimes dependent on the whim of whoever is working that day…

      1. Probably a whim. And I have the WORST luck with security. They specifically said the dimensions were too large, by about two inches overall. And bless the Brits, they were apologetic and even brought out the measuring tape. Alas, too large per two agents. I’m going to try it again next year, and bring a Heathrow-approved back up just in case.

  8. We have found that visiting laundromats is a fun interlude on many trips. We get to chat with locals and see more residential neighborhoods. However it’s only my husband who brings things that ever require a washing machine. My things are hand washable and then I use hotel shampoo or soap.

  9. Great post, Susan, and thank you for sharing! I’ve always been a “light” traveller, and over the years, have been able to pare down my suitcase to one carry-on, no matter how long I’m going to be away from home. Some of my “must-haves” for air flight include many of your recommendations, along with these;; these great little brushes keep me feeling fresh and clean, especially after an overnight flight, and take up practically no room in my bag. I find these ear plugs more comfortable than the foam plugs, and actually stay in my ear during an overnight flight; Thanks again, and safe travels!

  10. Love the tips! Some I already use and some to add! Studied or not, I find zinc tablets help reduce symptoms or even stop a cold in its tracks. I use Downy Wrinkle Releaser rather than Febreze. It has a nice light scent to freshen clothes and also smooths wrinkles if you don’t have time to iron. Safe travels!

  11. I’ve never heard of that foot friction product. It sounds very cool. But $99.99?? That can’t be right…

  12. Thanks for the tips. I read (quite awhile back) from a travel-light site to bring some blow up balloons (dollar store) for washed items. E.G. hang the washed shirt/pants up and place the blown up balloon in-between the front and back allowing airflow between the layers. I do this and it does enable faster drying. I bring one of those small expanding travel clothes lines.
    I always bring a strap on the head flashlight (hands-free for an emergency, luckily have not had to use it) and a red felt valet that snaps together, folders flat in the suitcase. It is about 9 inches flat, square, very light and we place it near the hotel room door to corral (spelling?) room keys, car keys, sunglasses etc.
    Don’t you just love getting organized for travelling followed by……. Travelling !!!

    1. Instead of blow up balloons bring a couple of blow up travel hangers. I use the Travelon version. They separate the front and back of a shirt for quicker dry times. They also act as spare hangers – something I appreciate when I have to share a room with someone!
      My one “always bring” item is a small blister pack of Benedryl. I use it to combat jet lag. I take 1 or 2 tablets before I go to bed on the first few nights. They make me tired enough that I sleep through the night. After the 2nd night I’m usually shifted over.

  13. I also found zinc helped minimize my cold, but I am one of those people who permanently lost my great
    sense of smell! not worth it.

    1. The research I’ve read says that loss of olfactory function is linked only to the zinc nasal sprays, which are not recommended by the medical community. Was that what you used?

  14. I haven’t seen the Forever New in packets before. Use it all the time at home. Like you, I never leave home without my Zicam (Zinc). It will stop or shorten duration of a bug every time. Going to add a Tide stick next time I travel…good tip. I’m certain your Emme bag is full of things you’ll need! Have a blessed trip!

  15. Great ideas! We’re renovating some apartments for tourist rentals and we’re including a washing machine in each. They might get used only rarely, but we figure it’s a nice plus.
    As for stains, a great reference book is, “My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag…And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha,” by Jolie Kerr.

  16. Love these tips, thanks! I always travel with a tiny pot of Tiger Balm. I tend to get headaches, especially when traveling, and a bit of this on my forehead and neck helps quickly before headache medication kicks in. It has also been a travel saver in situations where other not-so-pleasant smells are overwhelming. It also works for neck aches, muscle aches and sinus pressure, etc. It has been around the world with me and I wouldn’t leave home without it!

  17. Great tips! We travel with many of the same products. I have one of the Janie spot cleaners that was my GRANDMOTHER’S (and I’m in my 60s)! It’s the greatest, and really works. I’m also a big believer in Tide to go. I always travel with several 2 gallon zip-lock bags. They serve so many purposes: they’ll hold a wine bottle for the trip home; they’re great for washing out socks and underwear- filled with some water and a bit of shampoo or body wash, sealed and swished around until clean; they’re also good for packing dirty laundry or muddy shoes.

    We love our dual voltage travel steamer:

    I got an Emme bag on your recommendation and it’s wonderful.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your packing list for this trip. We’re leaving for Paris in a few weeks and I’m currently planning my list. In contrast to yours, at this point I’m planning on taking mostly dresses!

  18. Got home from London/Portugal this afternoon, so this is all fresh in my mind! I love the Neutrogena makeup remover wipes, but never tried them as spot removers. I did bring Shout Wipes stain removers, which took out the chocolate stain on the white part of my black & white pants! I too bring Febreze and a couple of large ziploc bags (good for segregating dirty undies, for one thing). I also bring Olay face cleansing cloths, which seem a bit difficult to find lately…bought them on line. They are small disposable washcloths with the cleanser built in, excellent for washing your face without having to deal with the liquids.

    Speaking of which, having just been at Heathrow & Gatwick four times in the past week, I’ll say that their security seemed pretty strict….I’ve been told by American TSA agents that I no longer need to take the liquids bag out of the carryon. The guy at Gatwick was testy about that and my iPad, which we also don’t need to take out of the bag here in the US. Pulled me out & searched my bag thoroughly. Getting through the immigration line took forever, too; the woman three ahead of us was grilled for a good 30 minutes. Not sure if her documents were a mess, or if the guy was just a jerk.

    Also, wish I had remembered to bring my zinc lozenges. Got a slight cold and my ears felt like they were going to explode on the plane. And finally, got tired of fooling with my curling iron which only seems to work half the time with our adapter. Bought UK “curling tongs” at Boots for £20, which worked great, and I’m going to pick up a basic UK-to-Europe adapter for it. That should ensure adequate hair next time I’m in Europe!

    1. I agree our security precautions in the uk are very strict . That ‘jerk’ might save your life . I find it tiring , but reassuring

  19. Have you tried Febreeze Wrinkle Release. When I unpack I spritz all my close and brush with my hands. Within a few minutes the wrinkles are gone and the clothes are fresh smelling. Same size bottle as Fabreeze but with a little extra.

  20. Three or four wooden clothes pegs. If I wash clothes that refuse to stay on the hanger, they help. The pegs can also keep that sliver of sunlight from sneaking through your curtains.

    A small mesh laundry bag to keep laundry separate from my packing cubes. If I’m lucky enough to find a washing machine, this keep the delicates separate in the load.

    Also in my hand bag is a toothbrush and very tiny toothpaste. During a long trip it can make you feel human again.

  21. Thanks for the tips, Susan.
    Apropos delays, just back from Copenhagen to Gatwick trip.
    We allowed for plenty of time but CPH baggage drop and security were painfully slow (but agree with Wendy on the security thing), so we had to practically run to our gate after getting through security (these old legs don’t actually run!). No time to spend the DKR we’d saved for souvenirs either :-(. If travelling through CPH, allow yourself extra time as some missed our plane and we were delayed whilst bags were unloaded, so take off and landing slots needed rearranging, yet more delays.
    And I agree with Jill Ann, LDN GTW immigration queues are awful right now, so again allow for plenty of time … and visit the loo before you start queuing!!

  22. I travel with a pain med prescribed by my travel doctor- just try finding a dentist on a long holiday weekend, close to where you are. I use the Starbucks coffee too, even when visiting friends who don’t drink coffee.

    Your note about checking with a medical professional before taking an over the counter medication would get us an extremely stern lecture by our family physicians. I suppose you have to cover yourself?

    1. Sometimes OTC medications don’t play well with the prescription medications I’m taking, so I always send an e-mail to my doctor before trying something completely new. I don’t take a lot of either, so it’s not too difficult to check up on it.

  23. Hello Susan: This will seem like an odd thing to pack. I recently traveled to Ireland–my first international flight in 20 years. I packed some celery sticks in my snacks. We usually think of celery as needing to stay cold, but mine was fine a little warmed up. Since celery is mostly water, it was a very refreshing snack during and at the end of the long flight. Since it also is good for one and helps keep the intestines “lively”, it was an added bonus. After all the crackers and cheese and cookies, it tasted amazingly good. Mary F.

  24. Definitely the zinc and I also take a few packets of Emergen-C whenever I travel. The combination is killer…Usually also have some type of antihistamine or allergy capsules.

  25. I always have my Kindle, a cashmere wrap that can also double as a small blanket, 4 large velcro rollers (which when popped on top of the front and back section of hair and then blasted with a blow dryer can mimic a blowout), a mini Lysol for any issues in the hotel room with musty smells, Starbucks Via (we’re with you on this!), and Origins Peace of Mind lotion (a tiny little bottle that can be used as a peppermint aromatherapy for headaches. And i put a dab under my nose if a seat mate has on a strong perfume), my husband and I both have fragrance sensitivity and this cuts through a migraine-trigger cologne like you cannot believe.

  26. Hello, I know this is an older post, but I’m new to this blog. I’m enjoying the tips. When I travel, I always carry a pack of Clorox wipes (airplane tray tables are supposed to be ripe with all kinds of nasties), a small bottle of hand sanitizer, a few band aids, a few “instant buttons” in case of mishaps, and depending on the time of year, my wool wrap, or a lighter weight wrap, both of which can double as a blanket. I also bring a few snacks, like protein bars, nuts, and instant miso soup (from the Asian market). Depending on the destination, I may also bring certain favorite over-the-counter medicines that may be hard to find easily overseas (for digestive issues or indigestion, headaches). And of course, my tablet!!

  27. I love your blog! When traveling I always bring a large bag of Hall’s menthol cough drops. Not only do they help with a cold or cough, but they also help with masking smells and fighting motion sickness, both are my personal challenges.

    I prefer to bring Purell hand wipes over the liquids as I think they clean better and have more uses (seat trays).

    I always pack myself a little “toilet kit” which contains tissue or mini toilet paper roll, Purell hands wipes and cough drops. I always pop the cough drop in my mouth BEFORE I go to a questionable restroom, just to keep the smells and the gagging at bay. I keep it in a tiny ziploc bag that goes in my backpack or purse throughout my travels. This allows me to change the bags as they get questionable themselves. I put it in my pocket when on my way to the restroom. It pays to come to the loo prepared and has saved me many times!

  28. Responding as a working traveler – Purell or generic hand-sanitizer in the 2 oz. size is a must-have. Not only does it help keep the nastiness of air travel (or, in my working life, computer keyboards) at bay, the isopropyl alcohol-based sanitizer is as effective as Tide pens in removing makeup or other oily stains from clothing. Apply to a dry washcloth and rub, rotating the clean washcloth area and more sanitizer until the stain is gone.

    My go-to instant caffeine-in-a-measured-dose is Cafe’ Bustelo, added to the dishwater that passes for hotel coffee. It’s cheap and the combination tastes almost like something made to order.

    I have to do laundry on the road fairly often, as a consequence of trips which run a little longer than expected. Work can get very dirty, so I pack a Tide Pods detergent sachet in a screw-top Nalgene container. Once upon a time, Target had Tyvek shopping bags available for $1. I’m still using mine as an ultralight travel laundry bag – holds a full standard washer load of clothing, but folds as small as a handkerchief.

    Heavily-scented products are sometimes prohibited where I’m working (and not always welcome to fellow air travelers), so I haven’t tried Febreeze or its relatives.

    Also not mentioned above but very useful – a small bottle of Gorilla Super Glue. Broken purse/sandal straps, partially-torn fingernails, messy-but-superficial cuts and other potential catastrophes can be taken care of quickly. The Gorilla brand doesn’t set as quickly as the generics, but bonds a wider range of materials.

    The walking first-aid kit includes Band-Aid Blister Block bandages, SPF 50 sunblock stick, and antibiotic ointment. I haven’t tried the friction block and will definitely add this to my list.

    Since I do health-care IT work, there’s a wide range of mandatory vaccinations which might also benefit other travelers – influenza, shingles, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus, etc. Zinc and other naturopathic remedies never seemed to help me much in fending off whatever was going around, but YMMV.