Traveling light in Europe - Summer heat and perspiration

My family and I are traveling to Europe this Summer and we really want to travel light. This will probably be easier for my wife and daughters but will be challenging for me I believe. I perspire profusely, and I'm worried that if I bring a very limited amount of clothing, that my shirts especially, will be so odorous, I'll offend fellow travelers on our tour and locals. Certainly, I want to have my shirts cleaned, but hotel laundry services always seem so expensive and the thought of spending precious vacation time in a laundromat is not appealing. Can any readers suggest ideas for how I can successfully travel lightly, keep my limited wardrobe clean, and yet not spend a small fortune on cleaning my clothes or precious hours in laundromats while on vacation? I'd appreciate it!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

I don't think there's any "secret" answer. Your options are: 1. Wash out shirts in the sink each night. If you wash out one a night, it doesn't take long, and if you roll them in a towel before hanging, they should be almost dry the next day (depending on the fabric, the local temperature and humidity level). Once, I washed out a shirt in London (100% cotton t-shirt), in September, and two days later it still wasn't fully dry! 2. Plan on doing them in a laundromat. 3. Use a drop off and pick up service at a laundry, where they charge by the kilo (called "service wash" in England). This need not be expensive, but you have to allow enough time. Once in Rome, I would needed 36 hours for this, and I was leaving in 24 hours, so I couldn't use it. 4. Pay a fortune to have them washed by a hotel (if you are staying in a fancy enough hotel that they offer this - I often stay in pensions that don't). 5. Bring more shirts. 6. Buy some shirts there. This works particularly well if you have some shirts that are on their last legs; you wear them once, then toss them and buy new ones. It also works if you were planning to buy shirts as souvenirs anyway.
7. Do none of the above, and be a bit more "fragrant."

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

Use ExOfficio Give-N-Go undershirts and Eddie Bauer Wrinkle Resistant Relaxed Fit shirts. The undershirts are treated with a silver solution to keep stink to a minimum. I can wear one two days. The Eddie Bauer shirts are 100% cotton permanent press. On a month and a half trip I take two undershirts (and skivvies) and four shirts. Both these garments easily dry over night when I wash them in a hotel sink. Use an inflatable hanger from Magellans. Let me know if I can help further.

Posted by James
Frisco
1783 posts

I like to travel with just carryon luggage when I can, and in the warmer months that pretty easy for me because while I bring a suit for the theater I limit the rest of my clothing to fishing clothing. You can get it from places like Bass Pro and Orvis. It is light weight vented nylon or nylon like fabric that wears well, is rugged but you can wash it in a sink, hang it and in an hour its dry. The exofficio under garments are a good match to it. The shirts are generally long sleeve with roll up tabs and buttons and the stuff usually comes with a stated spf which Isnt a bad idea if you spend a lot of time outside. You can pack four pairs of these trousers for less bulk and weight than one pair of jeans. Also remember that the Europeans are not as in love with air conditioning as we are. In the heat of the summer even the best of places may be warm by our standards.

Posted by melissa
Austin
799 posts

Go to Whole Earth Provision Company and Academy for the above mentioned brands. Also look at the Eddie Bauer and Columbia Sportswear shops in the outlets in San Marcos.
Ex Officio has a couple of wicking teeshirts, and Underarmor has some hightech cooling technology shirts, coolmax polos from Magellans..I carry powdered detergent and powdered "clorox 2" to hand wash clothes, but in a pinch hotel shampoo will clean clothes.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

Philip, The others have provided a good overview of the "usual" options. Using hotel laundry or "service wash" facilities will be the most expensive and may not fit the schedule of your tour. Laundromats are certainly a possibility, but may be hard to find in some places. As you'll be on a tour, it may be difficult to find the time to do laundry. Which tour are you taking? The easiest method would be to use "travel friendly" clothing from Tilley, Ex-Officio, Magellans or other companies and wash in the hotel room sink at night. Several companies offer small containers of concentrated laundry soap. After washing, wring the clothes in a dry towel and then hang to dry, and they'll hopefully be ready by the next morning. One point to note is that some hotels "frown" on guests washing clothes in the rooms. I also find that I have to do laundry frequently when travelling in hot weather, which includes the September. Happy travels!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Philip, we spent 26 days this summer in Europe, and it was HOT for 24 of those days. Hot and sweaty for sure.
We did laundry in a machine in an apartment we rented once. The rest of the time we sink washed, much like Harold outlined.

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
307 posts

I always lay out my socks, shirts, etc each night to air dry before wadding them up in the dirty clothes bag or back into my suitcase. This seems to allow me to "stretch" another days worth of wearing it without the piece of clothing becoming "odorous"

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

One thing's for sure: Depending on where you're visiting, plenty of locals will smell every bit as bad as you think you do. It's just a cultural thing, but you'll definitely notice a presence of strong BO on hot days, especially in tight quarters, such as a very busy cathedral, palace, Metro, train car, etc. (Versailles in July – good god...head for the gardens, because it's going to be hard to breathe in the château). I'm sure someone will respond to tell me how culturally insensitive I am, but the fact is that people in many places across Europe simply don't bathe or wash clothes as much as we do here & you'll notice it for sure. Also, don't worry about wearing shorts...do it if you want to in order to stay cooler. There's an oft-quoted myth around here that locals don't wear shorts, but that information is decades old and doesn't apply in 2013. So, unless we're talking about an Italian church with rules against shorts, you'll see them all over...maybe not as ubiquitous as here, but tons of folks wear them. Good golf shirts are made of "microfiber"...very light, cool, and super fast dry time after washing in sink. Check out microfiber tees and golf shirts. You don't need to spend a fortune...go to Marshall's, TJ Maxx, or equivalent.

Posted by Brad
Charlotte, NC, USA
214 posts

There is an alternative to hotel laundry or sitting in the laundromat. You can take your clothes to a laundry service, drop them off in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. It's cheap and it's a way to patronize a local business. I know that washing clothes in the sink is popular here, but for me it's a non-starter.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1519 posts

If you opt to do laundry in the sink, there's a product called Forever New. It can be found in lingerie departments in better department stores. You don't need much, and it cleans really well. I mean, what gets dirtier than undergarments? It's a powder that comes in different sizes and in packets, so you don't have to put it in your liquids bag. It doesn't smell too girly-I don't like that either. It smells similar to Ivory soap. Take plastic bags so that you can keep dirties away from clean, and damp away from dry.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7188 posts

I wash socks and underwear nightly in the sink (actually in a large zip-lock bag that I fill and drain in the sink). I usually add a t-shirt every couple of days, then do a major load of laundry at a laudromat every couple of weeks. It sounds like you need to wash a shirt nightly as well. No problem, just pick clothes that will wash and wear (and dry overnight). In hot weather, I also use antiperspirant on more than my underarms. Anywhere I sweat that isn't going to help me cool down - not least of all my feet (helps prevent blisters).

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Great suggestions so far. I would add, that if you're going to be on a tour, to pose this specific question to your tour company. They must deal with it a lot, and may have at least one location during the tour where you'll have access to laundry facilities or laundry services. Especially if the tour is more than a week long.

Posted by Philip
Austin, TX, USA
2 posts

For all of you who have posted here, thank you very much. There are many good ideas here and I appreciate it. I'll be able to take advantage of all your collective travel savvy.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

I second Karens recommendation of the product called "Forever New" . I brought a small container of that to Europe and it lasted the whole trip ( 26 days) with left overs. It comes in a small plastic container about the size and shape of a sample size of babypowder. As noted it can be packed in carryon as it is not a liquid, it disolves instantly , works well, and rinces our easily.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
744 posts

OK Michael - here it is: You're culturally insensitive.
You're also accurate but it's culturally insensitive to point that out. ;-)

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Stinky europeans may be a stereotype partially based in reality, but it doesn't mean that we as Americans have to give up our culturally superior hygiene standards. Patriotism, people! I accidentally forgot to pack underwear on my last (2 night/3 day) trip. I was thinking of you folks on the helpline as I washed my one pair each night but that's not an experience I really care to repeat. Underwear takes up almost no space in a suitcase. I think the idea of wearing old shirts there, throwing them out, and buying new ones isn't a bad one for this trip, it would certainly be cheaper than buying expensive special travel clothes online. But that's only if you enjoy shopping in another country as part of the experience, some people see it as a timewaster and don't want to deal with the hassle. In that case, try to source local laundry services for each city you're visiting near your hotel or public transit.

Posted by Lee
Dallas
898 posts

If you do the math you will find that hotel laundry service is a pittance in the context of your total trip cost. Take the easy way and spring for it. Alternatively, wash something every night. That's what a buddy and I did when we backpacked thru Europe 40 years ago for 3 months. That takes only a few minutes at the end of the day. Usually everything is dry in the morning.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1519 posts

Whoa, I just had an epiphany! We Americans like ice in our drinks, and we smell good. Europeans dislike ice, and smell bad. Excuse me while I go off to see if someone will fund a research trip to explore this further.

Posted by James
Frisco
1783 posts

That's right, you are in Austin. You can buy the stuff I use at Cabela's or Bass Pro. The stuff is pretty inexpensive. I tripped over a rock while fly fishing in the Guadalupe yesterday. I was dry in less than 30 minutes and it was barely above 70F. Another option, rent apartments for your trip. They are generally less expensive and you can find them with laundry machines. Oh, and Gig'em! If you ever make it to Budapest we make special rates for t-sips.

Posted by June
Edmonton, Alberta
250 posts

I just returned from a month long trip to Europe. I hand washed entire time with the help of " the scrubba" made specifically for laundry in hotels, hostels. Google it. I highly recommend it. A large neoprene type of bag, fill with water, a small bit of soap, roll up the top, let the air out with a specific spout, and jiggle the bag around to wash. Empty out bag, fill with rinse water, repeat. I always roll the washed clothes in my really thin quick dry towel, which I use at home every day to dry my hair. Worked super for me, did not take much time. I brought light clothes, some coolmax types, and sweaters to layer, as I was away in October. Have a great trip.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2464 posts

I used June's method but with an inexpensive 2.5 gallon ziploc bag, which doubled as a dirty laundry bag. One packet of travel-size woolite was enough for several items.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7188 posts

June sounds like she uses a similar technique to mine so I'll add another must pack item for me - a chamois. Rather than use the limited hotel towels or a travel towel (which works well for the first item you roll up and wring in it, then stays wet) I pack a chamois which takes out a ton of water then wrings practically dry so I can do as many clothes as I want. Hang it up afterward and it's dry and ready to pack in the morning. And one more... Get a moneybelt with plastic lined pockets or else put everything in zip-lock bags. Sweat can wreak havoc on anything paper in there. Yet one more... Fabreeze for those items you can't wash nightly. I usually pack a travel size bottle (anti-microbial) and use it when I need it.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8740 posts

Stinky is OK as long as they are not rude, James. ;->

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

RS preaches that one should see things as different, not as better or worse. While I agree with him on this point as it relates to many, many things, I do not agree that horrendous BO is something that must be accepted as simply different in the highly-developed world. Being clean and smelling pretty is much better than being dirty and smelling like an unkempt armpit. Seriously, has anyone ever thought, "Boy, I sure am appreciating that guy's musk today. How awesome is it that we get to smell him all the way to Versailles? Yay, I now know I'm in Paris because of this back door moment, and I really appreciate that BO!"? Things usually improve over time, though, in developed countries...orthodontists are discovered, soap is recognized as a good thing, etc. BTW, I don't want to paint with a broad brush. Of all the places I've been in Europe, I can think of only 3 countries off the top of my head where it's apparently something of a badge of honor to smell like a yak.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I just think stereotypes should be evaluated based on real, lived experiences. In my experience, the French as a whole are no more rude than other Western Europeans. As a whole, I do think you're a little more likely to experience a higher level of body odor while traveling in Europe than in North America. Not in a huge, gas-mask-necessitating sort of way. My theory is that Europeans are a little more "anti-chemical" and pro-natural products that we in North America are, which is laudable, but unfortunately, natural deodorants just don't seem to be terribly effective. I've heard Europeans claim that Americans are obsessed with bodily hygiene in a way that to them, borders on obsessive-compulsive and is a result of "advertising" (I've also heard Americans who could be described as "hippies" make the same complaint.) They sort of have a point (human society existed for a long time without products that we've only been using for several decades) but whatever, I'm an American and I hate b.o. as is my god-given right.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

Just stay in Germany, and you won't get any complaints. I don't think they even had deodorant until about 2005. LOL My serious suggestion is to leave Europe as soon as you can. (Some people have children in school limiting their dates.) As the Summer goes on, it just gets hotter and hotter. Their hotels are not as well air conditioned as properties in the U.S. and they even have timers on a/c in some Italian cities. Another suggestion is to head for cooler climates in the north, like the U.K., Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki. Italy in July is like Dallas on a really hot summer day. I prefer Europe in April and May, September and October. But realistically everyone cannot go at that time. I would especially avoid Europe in August, when everyone goes on holiday.

Posted by Debra
Celina, TX, USA
93 posts

So far you have many good suggestions on how to wash and what to wear. How about deodorant? There are many clinical strength brands available today. These are very helpful in limiting perspiration and underarm odor. They are readily available at any big box store or your local drug store chain.