Travel Comment
Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Jim Eagles: That stinking feeling

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Travelling light and staying clean do not go hand-in-hand, laments Jim Eagles.
Many hotels no longer provide a clothes line for guests. Photo / Getty Images
Many hotels no longer provide a clothes line for guests. Photo / Getty Images

Much as I hate to wash my dirty linen in public I'm afraid the hotels of the world leave me no choice.

I've always taken a pride in travelling light - it makes it so much easier to get around - and especially since it became possible to replace my usual stack of travel books with a tablet, my bag has invariably been the smallest and lightest in any group.

A key tactic in achieving that is to take a minimal amount of clothes and to wash them every day. My standard routine on reaching the accommodation in the evening is to have a shower, giving my clothes for the day an initial rinse on the floor of the cabinet, and then to finish the job in the sink. But that is becoming increasingly difficult to do.

First, hotels make it hard to wash in the sink by either not providing a plug or installing one of those useless systems that require you to operate a metal lever to get the plug to open or close.

I don't think I've ever come across one that actually seals the sink, and it's quite tricky to wash your shirt when the soapy water is disappearing down the drain.

As a result, I now have to travel with one of those big floppy sink stoppers and even they sometimes have difficulty stopping the flow of water from those awful metal contraptions. I suppose hotels have gone that way because people kept nicking the plugs but given the number of times the metal systems break - at one hotel in Rome where we stayed for a week we had to ask for the plug to be fixed once or twice every day - I'm not sure it's really an economically sensible choice.

Second, more and more hotels have stopped providing cakes of soap and instead offer liquid soap in a plastic dispenser. Sure, you can wash yourself with the stuff - though I still prefer the old-fashioned cake - but it's far less effective for cleaning clothes ... especially if, as in a B&B I stayed at recently in Australia, the only soap dispenser is in the shower. Because of that I now have to take a cake of good old Sunlight soap for clothes, as well as a bar of toilet soap for myself. And, of course, the switch to liquid soap means it's no longer possible to take the used bits of soap with you (yes, I know that's possibly one reason why they've switched to the liquid stuff, but a tiny, secondhand cake of soap isn't much to ask, is it?).

Third, fewer and fewer hotels now provide a clothes line in the shower or even anything you can fasten a clothes line to.

I have, for some time, taken one of those expanding travel clothes lines with me, plus a few clothes pegs for larger items of clothing, but it's often very hard to erect it over the bath or shower to catch the drips. In one English pub I ended up with the line stretched from a bath tap, up round the shower rose, down the bath to the end of the shower curtain rail and round the corner to a coat hook.

What with having to squeeze in two cakes of soap, a sink stopper, clothes line and pegs, my little suitcase is getting heavier by the day.

I have managed to counter that by taking merino T-shirts and socks that are light and don't need so much washing because they absorb the sweaty smell. And if people sitting next to me in the train or plane don't like it, well, they can blame the tight-fisted hotels. Jim Eagles is a former Herald Travel Editor

- NZ Herald

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