This tip is as much about saving your sanity and making your life comfortable as it is about saving money. Personally, I won’t consider any place that doesn’t have a washing machine (for a longer stay). That’s just me. A dishwasher is a really nice perk but not a must-have. Lucky for us, our place has both.
A dishwasher is always nice to have. A washing machine makes sense for a trip that is longer than 2 weeks. Less than that and you can just pack for it. If you are going on a trip of more than 2 weeks, you will need to wash your clothes somehow. You can do so:
By hand in a sink (consider bringing a universal plug). This is fine but a bit tiresome when laundering clothes for seven. We’ve done it and it’s no problem but you probably don’t want to be doing this on an ongoing basis if you can score a washing machine.
At a laundromat. A hassle and very expensive. I’ve been checking the prices in Paris and it is around $10 for a large load and $2 for a cycle of drying but not sure how dry that would get a large load. Confession – I have NEVER EVER washed clothes at a laundromat so I am definitely no expert in this.
By having your clothes laundered. This is very popular in Vietnam. And cheap. Having your clothes laundered for 20, 000 Dong/kg ($1/kg) is pretty exciting at first but once you start thinking about it (which I don’t actually think a lot of tourists in Vietnam do) it raises a lot of questions. Like where are these clothes going? Like how clean is the water in which they are washing the clothes? Like do they just keep reusing it? Like do they wash your clothes with other peoples? If they do, how do they know whose is whose? Like why the variation in price from one place to the other? Do some places rinse the clothes and others don’t?
In Hanoi, it was so cheap to have clothes laundered but they smelt so strongly of detergent and we wondered how they had been washed. In Saigon, we stayed at a great hotel that included the laundering of 1 complete outfit per person per day. What a perk. My all time favourite hotel amenity. There, you would leave your outfit – underwear, pants, shirt in a basket and they would tag it with your room number (socks tagged together), then launder it and return it the same day. Presumably, that way they could wash your clothes with other people’s and then nothing would get lost. A very fine service. But given the choice, I would prefer –
Washing them myself in a washing machine in my apartment. I rest my case.
But of course I can’t stop talking so I’ll add a few points. On a short holiday no one wants to do laundry. On a longer trip, you do want to do laundry because your fashion is so limited and you need clean clothes. You are constantly searching for clean clothes to wear. Doing a load in the morning and hanging it up before you go out gives you clothing options for the next day. A friend of mine even launders all her family’s clothes before they go home so she has clean clothes to put away from the suitcases. Exciting as this seems, I would still rather enjoy my holiday and deal with the laundry when I get home.
After 5 weeks of backpacking, our washing machine sure has been busy. No dryer though so every surface in the apartment is strewn with freshly laundered damp clothing.
Another thing you really need if you want to save money while travelling is a kitchen. Even if you never cook, a kitchen is important for three reasons:
To have a place to sit and have a meal that is not out in a restaurant. When you have a kitchen, you can buy food and drinks at the grocery store for a ready meal and sit in the comfort of your own apartment. A meal of convenience foods for a family of seven can certainly be had for 35 euros ($56), a fraction of what it would cost in a restaurant. Also, parents of young children will agree that after a day out and about, going out for dinner with kids is way MORE stressful than just eating in.
To have a fridge to preserve leftovers from previous meals and to store things like yogurt.
To have a place to cook, for Pete’s sake. Cook some food and it will be delicious and you and your family will be happy. And it will cost you less than 35 euros (including 2.50 euros for an oyster knife)…
How do you find a place with a kitchen, you ask. Use the term “self-catering” when you are searching. This is a British term for “having a kitchen”. But be careful – avoid UK sites when booking travel or accommodation. The British pound is so strong compared to the dollar (US, Canadian, Australian) that costs will always be higher when going through UK businesses. Wherever possible, try to book directly through a person or business in the country you are booking for. I know – the Brits are everywhere and they make it so easy to book through them and when booking directly there is a language barrier and so much more searching to be done. Too true. But persevere and your pocketbook will thank you.
Now one last word from our sponsors. A very rare but nice perk to have, when renting a place, is use of a bicycle or two. Please don’t discount a property for lack of bikes or you will never find anything to rent but if you find a place that ticks all the boxes and it has a couple of bikes – jump on it! A bike is such a nice way to get around. I have been wanting a bike in Paris so much. I don’t want to spend 100/200/300/1000 euros on one but I really want one. In fact, I made several inquiries at a flea market recently. In fact, I was going on and on about it on a recent walk along the Canal St. Martin. In fact, I even went into a bike repair shop to inquire about used bikes. All of a sudden Fahbio pointed out a bike for me – complete with needles (look to the left of the bike). If I had a pressure washer I would have taken it. Despite the smell. It was a good bike.