Lost Bags Go To Heaven – Auction Heaven

If you have access to the Travel Channel, the network has introduced a new reality show called Baggage Battles. If you think the show is about bag reviews or which brand of carry-on is better, you’re in for a surprise.

Baggage Battles features three teams of “savvy auction specialists” who travel around the world to attend auctions, where they bid on pieces of unclaimed luggage left at the airports. The concept is similar to Storage Wars from the A&E network. Except instead of abandoned storage lockers, the show’s “auction specialists” bid on lost and unclaimed luggage—bidding “blind” without knowing the contents they are bidding on.

The Travel Channel website describes the show this way:

Ever wonder what happens to your lost luggage? Travel Channel provides a glimpse into the very profitable business of bidding, buying and reselling unclaimed property in the new original series Baggage Battles, premiering with a special one-hour season opener featuring back-to-back episodes on Wednesday, April 11, 10|9c. The half-hour series follows 3 teams of savvy “auction specialists” who travel to some of the most important and unknown auctions where their bids are based on sight unseen instincts. The season premiere will kick off at Miami International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, and then the auction pros will jump across “The Pond” to London.

Baggage Battles features 3 teams of savvy “auction specialists”: Laurence and Sally Martin, a married couple, have been in the antique business for over 20 years co-owning Studio Antiques in El Segundo, CA. Mark Meyer is a young entrepreneur and owner of Long Island, New York’s The Nifty Thrifty store. And, Billy Leroy is the owner of the iconic Billy’s Antiques and Props, one of the last eclectic props and antique stores in NYC. With dozens of auctions to visit, thousands of bags to explore, and millions of dollars at stake, these auction specialists need both skill and luck to hit the jackpot. They don’t know if it’s junk or a jackpot until they win the bid and open the suitcase.

Like Storage Wars, you might enjoy watching the bidders as they bid against each other, come up with sniping strategies, and share in their joy or crushing disappointment as they discover what they’ve bought.

Season 1 covers New Jersey, Los Angeles, Scotland, Miami, London, Indianapolis, and Atlanta. Not all of the locales sell lost luggage from airports, they are all “lost baggage.”

That said, I think if I watch this show, I will end up giggling most of the time at all the things people pack in their check-ins!

You can catch new episodes on Wednesdays at 10:00 pm (9:00 Central).

Tom Bihn Synapse: An Ultralight Carry-On Challenge

As you can imagine, it’s a very rare trip where I need to check any luggage in. For the last few years, I’ve been using a Tri-Star or Western Flyer convertible travelpack from Seattle-based bag maker Tom Bihn.

With my upcoming nine-day vacation to Japan, I assumed I’d use one of those bags. However a month ago, a saw a forum post over at Tom Bihn’s that I found intriguing. Although many of the forum members share their packing lists or photos of their Tom Bihn bags, the thread started by member LauraA, who proudly proclaimed on the thread title, “My beautiful new SYNAPSE arrived today! I ‘practice packed’ it for a two week trip!

A red Dyneema nylon Synapse. Photo courtesy of TomBihn.com

While traveling with just a carryon for a two-week trip is nothing new, her thread title exuded excitement, and piqued my interest. In her post, she shared a detailed packing list, as well as several photos showing exactly how she was planning on packing such a small backpack.

All of a sudden, her excitement rubbed off on me, and I decided I’d challenge myself by going “ultralight” for the Japan trip myself.

As with a previous trip (when we went to Europe) when we were challenged to travel extra-lightly, I knew I had to be extremely efficient with the space I had. It took a bit of debating in my own head, I believe I’ve been able to pack my steel Dyneema nylon Synapse backpack for my trip, as well!

My Synapse backpack (at the top of the photo) next to the various things that I will carry in it. Photo by Lani Teshima.

The contents of the Synapse, as shown in the photo, are:

  • Synapse
  • iPad (1st gen), in Apple case
  • Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube containing the bulk of my clothes, which contains:
    • 2 short-sleeve T-shirts
    • 1 pair lightweight capri denim pants
    • 1 pair lightweight black capris
    • 2 crinkle-fabric travel shirts
    • 1 Salux wash cloth
  • Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Half Cube, which contains a pair of MBT open-toed sandals
  • Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Quarter Cube, which contains my underwear (2 pairs of panties, 1 bra)
  • My 3-1-1 kit
  • Eagle Creek Packable Tote bag (in case I buy some stuff in Japan that can’t fit*
  • Tom Bihn Solar Travel Tray
  • Tom Bihn Small Clear Organizer Pouch as my make-up kit
  • Inflatable foot rest
  • Tom Bihn Small Solar Organizer Pouch for my Sennheiser noise cancelling folding headphones
  • Adventure Medic first aid kit

As I mentioned in my post in LauraA’s thread, some notes:

You don’t see any chargers for the iPad because I’m carrying that in my “purse,” which for this trip will be a matching steel Dyneema Packing Cube Shoulder Bag.

Took a bit of work to get all my makeup to fit in a small organizer rather than the Kit or even a clear pouch. The trick was to move my eyeshadow from its big clunky case into a contact lens case (I found instructions online). It snaps shut and is waterproof, which makes it perfect for preventing any eyeshadow from flaking out.

I tested the Eagle Creek Tote Bag, and it will easily fit my PCSB in it. But it’s really only as big as one of those ladies’ tote bag purses, so if I need, I can carry that with my Synapse on my flight home.

The inflatable foot rest is a real splurge. I also have a small folding plastic one I got from Magellan’s a while go and I may choose to take that instead (it slides into the front pocket of the PCSB real easily), but the inflatable one is so much more comfortable. I typically am ok with just compression socks, but we’re flying direct to Japan and I’d really like to be able to sit comfortably on the flight.

This packing light cuts a few corners, and was easier to put together because I don’t plan on doing anything fancy (like formal dinners) or extreme sports. I’m not even taking a bathing suit, or any sort of towel.

Product details:

  • Synapse backpack, available in either 1000 denire Cordura with Dyneema nylon lining, or all-Dyneema.
  • Dimensions are 16″ x 11.5″ x 7.9″; 410 x 290 x 200mm . Volume: 19 liters (1160 cu.in.)
  • Weight: 1 pound 9 ounces (Cordura)
  • Price: $130.00
  • Typically available in several colors; check the product web page for color availability.

Fodor’s iPhone Travel Apps Now Free

Random House, publisher of the popular Fodor’s series of travel guides, has gone beyond offering simple electronic version so their books, and now offers standalone applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. They currently offer the following large cities:

Stop what you’re doing, and go download them now—because while they’re not a bad deal for a travel guide at $5.99, they went on sale today, and are completely free! Just make sure to download them soon; I don’t know how long this promotion will be going for.

Paperback versions of these city guides run around $15, while their e-book versions are around $10 each. If you’re the type to want to browse through a paper version, this app will serve to augment them nicely.

That said, these apps are comprehensive, standalone apps with complete information for your destination. They’re unlike many so-called travel guide apps that are just teasers that require you to buy a full or paper version, or guides designed by marketing departments and which are filled with listings for advertisement sponsors. Arm yourself with one of these Fodor’s apps and you can actually get around like a bona fide traveler.

One outstanding feature you will appreciate is the ability to download the maps to your device in advance. Between this, and the fact that you install all the content as part of the app’s installation, means that you can use an iPod Touch or non-3G iPad to navigate around without the need for a cell (or even wi-fi) connection. This is great for international travelers who don’t want to pay for (or do not have the ability to get) overseas data packages. Some large cities, like San Francisco, are notorious for poor reception, so having all the data in advance is very helpful.

Other helpful features:

  • Field notes – whatever page you’re on, you have the ability to add your own comments. You can also access your entire list of  “field notes,” so you don’t have to return to the venue’s app page to retrieve your notes.
  • “Subway” map – for some cities, there is a page just for transit maps (although the link from the main view calls them all “subway” maps). The San Francisco app offers a transit map that includes all public lines within the city. The map is extraordinarily complicated, but you can stretch out the view and decipher the details. Keep in mind, however, that the map only covers the city itself, so for example, the San Francisco transit map only shows the BART line in the city (although BART itself travels to the East Bay). Oddly enough, the London app does not offer a link to the London Underground map.
  • “Fodor’s Choice” – basically Fodor’s “best of the best” list for the city, it offers a nice sample of iconic and famous locations, making it easy to pick a few to visit if you are short on time.
  • Features – is a list of lists, with entries such as “What the locals do,” “great souvenirs,” or “what to eat,” offering visitors a way to pick a theme. This particular section is a hidden gem, since I’m not sure their printed guides have information condensed in this way. The San Francisco edition includes top walking tours, for example, which is a great way to see the city.
  • Travel Tips – consists of the basics about a city that you would normally find in a paper book’s preface or intro section, it covers things like weather and safety.

Finally, if you do have data coverage while you’re using this app, you can do some things like find out how close you are to a particular attraction, get directions to a nearby restaurant, and for some restaurants, even make a reservation online.

A big nod of thanks to moriond at the Tom Bihn forums for posting about the sale. Thanks moriond!

Looking for Empty Small Bottles?

I was recently in search of a very special kind of plastic bottle to use for my travels. Specifically, I wanted a pump dispenser for a plastic bottle with a capacity of no more than two ounces. And I wanted the dispenser to be the smaller kind you find for serum bottles, where you can put a cap over it to avoid accidentally pressing the pump when it’s in your toiletry kit. I also wanted an opaque bottle so I could decant some sunscreen lotion into it.

I found a few serum pump bottles on eBay, but they were capless (you close them shut by twisting them), which I wanted to avoid because I wanted to avoid any chance of accidental spillage in my toiletry bag.

After looking high and low, I finally found one that fit the bill. The eBay seller was packing it in groups of 4 bottles, which worked for me. They showed up today, and they’re just what I’m looking for.

…but I also noticed something else in the packing: A teeny tiny little plastic bottle with a threaded cap. No bigger than a little sample perfume bottle (I’ll be surprised if it holds more than 10 grams). The thing is, it was a little gift bonus and the seller had put it in its own little plastic baggie with a label that said “Free gift for you!”

The thing couldn’t have cost them but a few pennies, but it was a really nice gesture. That’s the kind of customer service that separates you from the rest, right? So I got curious, and went to look for other products they might be selling on eBay.

I get to their eBay store, and I see this:

“Hi, I’m Pat. My wife Willie & I have been traveling in our RV since 2002 and LOVE it. Willie is AGORAPHOBIC. So RV travel allows her to have her home, i.e. safe place, with her at all times AND enjoy her life. Our eBay biz makes this possible!”

Wow. Can you imagine being willing to change the way you live completely to help your partner better cope with their life challenges this way? They’ve apparently been doing this for 10 years; that’s pretty impressive! And it’s great that they’ve found a way to be able to fund their nomadic lifestyle. As it turns out, most of what they sell are empty travel-sized bottles and containers. Their description:

“We carry empty containers for travel, cosmetics packaging and samples. We specialize in travel size, sample size little plastic jars, lip balm containers, plastic dispensing bottles, mini spray bottles / atomizers, mini treatment pumps, disposable applicators, and tamper seals.”

I’m sold. I’ve never recommended an eBay seller outside of eBay before, but I’m recommending these folks, who go by the eBay name “BlueBonnetBeautySupplies2010.” Since this is their main venue, their prices are pretty set, and their inventory seems pretty stable. You don’t have to use a sniping service like Auction Sniper to try to snatch items at the last moment; they have set prices and you just use the Buy It Now option. They sell multiples of the same products so you can buy however many you want. Best of all, they don’t charge extra for shipping.

If you’re looking for little pump bottles and spray bottles to decant your liquids into for your travels, give their auctions a look.

Check out their auctions here: Bluebonnet Beauty Supplies

Pros and Cons of Hard-Sided Rolling Uprights

Recently, a reader named Heather posted the following comment on one of my earlier posts:

Thanks for all the advice. A poster on Lonely Planets directed me to your interesting site, and I’ve just been having a browse around. They were right – great site! I’m planning on treating myself to a new carry-on suitcase for all my travels during 2012, and I’ve seen a cute [hard-sided rolling upright] “Rockland“—do you know anything about them? Worth having?

I began writing a response to her, and realized a lot of what I was saying could apply to anyone looking at getting a hard-sided rolling upright suitcase.

With a hard-sided rolling upright, you’re dealing with two primary components: That the case is a rolling upright, and that it has a hard shell. Let’s tackle the rolling upright one first.

Evaluating the rolling upright

You really cannot go to an airport these days without seeing rolling uprights everywhere. It really is the suitcase of the 21st century. These days, it’s a bit of a challenge to find travelers who don’t use one of these. Next time you’re at the airport, take a look. Those who don’t have a rolling upright? Business travelers who are traveling very lightly, with maybe just a laptop case or a small carry-on; women who only have their purse; young people who didn’t purchased any travel gear, but who are traveling with a nondescript backpack or shoulder bag; and the occasional in-touch-with-nature type with a backpack designed for hiking.

For getting around in an airport, you really can’t beat a rolling upright. It makes sense that the first rolling upright was designed by an airline pilot. If all you’re doing is driving to work (the airport), rolling your case down a smooth concourse, and then stashing your case in a reserved spot on the plane for airline crew, it makes sense to go with a rolling upright.

There are some down sides to rolling uprights. Primarily, if you plan on doing any significant walking on sidewalks, cobblestones, unpaved roads, dirt paths, or will need to carry it up or down stairs, all of a sudden that rolling upright isn’t nearly such a breeze.

Check the size of the wheels. The larger the wheels, the more stable the case will be over uneven terrain. How easily does the case turn? Does it flip when it rolls over stones? How easy is it to pull it up a staircase? Does the belly of the case scrape along the edge of each step? Is the handle long enough that you can go up the steps without being hunched over? Does it have a short extra handlebar so you can just pick the whole thing up? Is there a way to clip a shoulder strap onto your rolling upright?

In addition, the handle’s telescoping mechanism typically adds quite a bit of heft to your bag. How is your upper-arm strength? Find out how much an upright weighs, then calculate the total weight after you add your things in it… then see how nimble you can be in the tight space of an airplane aisle as you pick up your rolling upright. Imagine first pulling it up to set it on an aisle seat, and then basically doing a shoulder raise holding your rolling upright. Do you have the strength to do this for a case that might weigh 20 to 30 pounds?

Don’t forget to inspect the internal compartment of the rolling upright as well. Some cases have the telescoping handle mechanism on the outside of the case, while others give you a smooth outer line because everything’s on the inside. While the latter looks nicer, it also cuts into the amount of packing space you have.

Wheeled bags are a true modern convenience. For older people and those with bad backs, the advantages of a rolling upright trump its weaknesses.

If you’re spritely and able-bodied, however, and you travel off the beaten path—using the train from the airport to get to your hotel, traveling to less developed destinations, or even choosing to take the stairs over an escalator—then your choice isn’t so cut and dry.

Deciding on a hardshell

Heather was thinking of not only a rolling upright, but also a hard-sided model, and wanted my opinion.

Hard-sided rolling uprights have an added benefit of protecting fragile items you might pack in your case.  They will also probably fare better as a check-in; baggage handlers have been known to toss bags around; a hard-sided one offers more protection. However how does it fare as a carry-on?

In my opinion, any hard-sided is probably best reserved for larger check-in cases rather than carry-ons, and here are some reasons why:

  • Since a hard-sided case has no give or flexibility, it might be tougher to squeeze it into the overhead bin if your flight is very full. Airline crew may then ask you go gate-check your case.
  • Many hard-sided rolling uprights keep the telescoping handle mechanism on the interior, in order to keep a smooth exterior silhouette. This means you sacrifice internal non-expandable space, or you might have to contend with odd bumps on the inside as you pack.
  • Unless you get a very small case, it will likely not fit in the under the seat in front of you. This means that…
  • You will likely not be able to access anything inside your hard-sided rolling upright during the flight, especially since opening the case will likely require a substantial amount of floor space since you can’t just unzip a small opening to stick your hand in to retrieve something (for example, your 3-1-1 toiletry kit, or your medicine kit).
  • Even if you only pack half of the case, the hard shell means your case will still take up just as much room as when it’s full.
  • You might run into space issues at your lodging—even after unpacking your case and stashing your stuff in the dresser drawers, you are still stuck with this case. Will your room have a closet you can use? This might be particularly challenging if you are traveling with another person who also has a hard-sided case, and/or you are traveling on a cruise ship, where space is a luxury (some soft-sided rolling uprights, once emptied, can be squished down and stashed under the bed in your hotel room).

If you still want to test out a hardshell case, I encourage you to go to a luggage store to check the models out in person. Test the zippers, snaps, the weight, how easily the handlebar scopes in and out, how easily the handlebar locks in place (and whether it accidentally scopes back in), how easy the case turns, etc. And don’t let the hovering sales person intimidate you. You might even want to jot down the models they have, then go home and look for online reviews to see what other people say—check for actual customer reviews and not just reviews from news sites or travel experts who are just doing a quick review based on a new product. You want to find reviews from people who said they actually traveled with the item, and writes honest feedback about what their experience was like. Places like Amazon and eBags allows customers to write personal reviews.

Finally, if you find a model you really like online, make sure whoever you buy it from has a very good return policy. Shopping for suitcases sight unseen is really tough, especially if the website doesn’t offer multiple photos from multiple angles, so you might want to go with sites like eBags or L.L.Bean that offer free return shipping. It’s one thing to pay $15 for them to ship it to you; another for you to have to pay another $15 just to send back an item you decide you don’t even want.

Swimming upstream with a soft-sided bag

All that said, my personal preference is to go with a soft-sided bag that you can carry as a shoulder bag or a backpack (with hideaway straps). In a pinch, these can even be squished into the underseat area in front of your seat, so that you never have to worry about being asked to gate-check your carry-on on a very full flight.

Sometimes I feel like salmon swimming upstream, but across all these years of travel, I’ve come to believe that the convertible travel pack is the way to go. On those occasions where I know I have to run to catch the BART train, being able to hustle wearing my carry-on as a backpack makes all the difference in the world.

There are a surprising number of manufacturers that make these soft-sided convertible travel packs—from the big companies like Eagle Creek, Patagonia, L.L.Bean, and Jansport, to the smaller boutique manufacturers like Red Oxx, Rick Steves, and Tough Traveler.

My personal favorite is Seattle-based Tom Bihn. Tom personally designs and revises each product offering, and he has a local staff that sews the items right there in Seattle. The quality of his bags are top-notch, and I’ve never had any of his items fall apart on me—the fabric never frays, the zippers never bust open. He has a small but very loyal following (try visiting the discussion forum at his tombihn.com website), and although you can buy cheaper priced bags, his bags aren’t expensive if you consider their longevity. If you do a search, you’ll find that I’ve reviewed quite a few of his products over the years.

…regardless. Rolling uprights have their rightful place in the luggage world. Hard-shell rolling uprights are a special niche. It’s not one I would personally recommend, but if you go into it eyes wide open, and take your time testing out the cases, and are willing to deal with its many disadvantages, in the end, it means you found a case that works for you! In that case, all I can say is…

happy travels!

Quick Tip: How to Keep the Travel Toiletries Flowing

Do you pack your 3-1-1 toiletry kit with small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, only to find that you can only realistically use half the bottles, because the last half decides to cling to the bottom of the bottle? This happens pretty often, especially with really thick gels or hair conditioner.

Here’s a handy tip: as you use the product from the bottles, add a bit of water in them while you’re still in the shower so you wind up with about half the bottle filled with this water mix.. You don’t need to fill the bottles to the brim; just enough to shake the bottles and get the water to loosen things up. By the time you’re ready for the next day’s shower, the gel, shampoo, or conditioner will have loosened up.

After a few uses from a full bottle, start doing this. Just make sure to shake things up right away.  Eventually, you’ll end up with about  half a bottle of very diluted product, at which point you can just use the entire contents for a single shower. What you’ll have left will be an empty bottle that’s almost already clean on the inside. Either toss it away, or refill it with more product. This way, you’ll never run into a stubborn dollop stuck on the bottom, and you can get the most mileage out of your travel-sized bottle.

Happy travels!

Pack Lightly With Burt’s Bees

One of my cardinal rules for packing light is to decant your liquids into smaller containers. After all (especially if it involves traveling within, in, and out of the U.S.), the Transportation Security Administration still has its 3-1-1 rule—3 fluid ounces per bottle in a a 1-liter transparent resealable bag per 1 traveler—which means that if you want to travel without checking in your luggage, you have no choice but to restrict your liquids.

I realize however, that not everyone likes dealing with pouring goop into smaller containers (although if you want to give it a try, I’ve got some instructions here). For one thing, it’s a hassle. It requires extra planning in advance, shopping for small bottles (and hoping they don’t leak), using labels so you don’t accidentally try to brush your teeth with hair conditioner.

If you’re the type to just pick up sample- or travel-sized bottles at the store but have been dissatisfied with the options available to you, you might want to check out Burt’s Bees.

Burt’s Bees started out selling beeswax candles almost 30 years ago, and has since expanded to offer lip balms, moisturizers, and even toothpaste (apparently they’ve moved well past just using beeswax). They’ve always marketed themselves as an environmentally and health-conscious alternative, which means you’re probably more familiar with them if you do your shopping at health food stores.

A few years ago, however, Burt’s Bees went through a major expansion, so you can now find their products in most large retail outlets (including box stores like Target and WalMart).

For our purposes, though, what you want to know is that Burt’s Bees offers travel-sized versions of almost all of their items right on their website. Go to their website and type “travel” in their search field (or just click here), and the results yield about a couple dozen products. If you like their products, this is a fantastic way to pick and choose what you want to pack in your 3-1-1 kit.

Now… they may all say “travel,” but not all of the products are travel-friendly. For example, they offer a travel-sized bar of peppermint soap. That may smell nice, but I have yet to find a hotel that doesn’t offer even just a basic bar of soap… so for pack-light purposes, I wouldn’t recommend getting it. There are other products that are pretty specialized, like cuticle creme, that I’m really going to suggest you not bother packing. You may as well get your nails trimmed or go to a salon right before your trip, and not worry about taking along such extras.

A travel-sized bottle of Burt’s Bees body wash.

Some products, though, I would highly recommend. They offer a travel-sized tin of hand salve that is wonderful. It’s not a cream, but a very thick salve so you don’t have to worry about it leaking… and it’s a great way to keep your nails and fingers from drying out while you fly. It has a very light hint of eucalyptus that I personally find very refreshing.

I am also a fan of their peppermint and rosemary body wash. It’s not too strongly scented, and fragrance is both invigorating and soothing at the same time; perfect for a nice shower after a day of sightseeing.

One final note: You won’t find it by searching for “travel,” but Burt’s Bees has one product line that I really love—and it’s finally knocked off Blistex Lip Tone as my top pick for a travel-friendly tinted lip balm.

A tube of Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm.

The line is their new Tinted Lip Balm line. If you’re already familiar with their lip gloss or lip shimmer and weren’t too keen on them (I’m no fan of putting liquid goop on my lips; the stuff never lasts… and I’m not a fan of glitter or shimmer on my lips as I’m no longer 14), their Tinted Lip Balm is worth a serious look-see. They run around $7.00 and are in your standard lip balm tube… and it means you can put it on liberally without using a mirror. By being both a lip tint and a lip balm, it does double-duty, which means you have one less item to pack. And that means it gets my seal of approval!

Travel laundry soap recommendation #2: Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets

A few years ago, I reviewed and recommended a laundry soap called Charlie’s Soap. Charlie’s Soap continues to be on the top of my list for hand washing your clothing on the road, but there’s another laundry soap I can also recommend.

The product is called Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets, and since this is made by soap manufacturer Dial, they are available in most supermarkets in the laundry aisle.

A box of Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets, next to a 20-ounce bottle of soda for size comparison.

If you’re familiar with laundry dryer sheets Purex laundry sheets use a similar concept. Instead of tossing this in the dryer with your clothes, however, you actually toss it into the washing machine from the beginning. When your wash is ready to go into the dryer, you just move the Purex laundry sheet in with your clothes.

A couple of sheets taken out of the box.

These Purex laundry sheets offer maximum convenience when you’re traveling. Both the soap and conditioner/anti-static portion is infused in the sheet. There are no liquids or flakes to fall off of these sheets. Most convenient of all is that these are sized to fit into a quart-sized resealable zip baggie. This allows you to take the laundry sheets out of the box and travel with several sheets in your carry-on. It even packs completely flat, so it will take up almost no room in your bag.

You can easily pack several sheets of Purex laundry sheets into a quart-sized Ziploc bag.

There are a couple of considerations:

  • These laundry sheets only work for washing machines. They are not an option if you plan on using your hotel sink for handwashing your clothes.
  • The box shown here is their “Pure and Clean” version, which has no noticeable fragrance. Purex offers two other variations: “Spring Oasis” and “Tropical Escape.” Both of these are very strongly scented, and my personal preference is to go with the unscented version.
  • These laundry sheets are best when you’re ready for one big load of laundry, which means it’s more convenient if you’re traveling with a partner, or a family. You’re less likely to need to do a whole load at once if you’re traveling solo, since you’re less likely to carry so much clothing (especially if you know how to travel light!).
  • There is no easy way to use just a portion of the laundry sheet, so even if you have a very small load, you will use up a whole sheet.
  • These laundry sheets fit the plain quart-sized Ziploc bags, but will not fit in Ziploc’s pleated zippered baggies (which are not as tall as the regular quart-sized version).
  • These laundry sheets are not cheap. A box of 22 sheets costs around $10 each, quite expensive when you compare it to liquid laundry detergent. As an example, a two-bottle set of 50-ounce bottles of Tide laundry detergent goes for $15.00 at Amazon, and is good for a total of 64 loads, making these Purex laundry sheets at least twice as expensive (and I suspect you can buy liquid laundry detergent at your local supermarket at prices far better than from Amazon). The price difference is considerable when compared to a container of Charlie’s Soap, which for $12 lasts 80 loads.

Overall, even with these caveats, I believe Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets are a great option. You can’t beat their convenience and packability. If they are a little bit of a stretch for your budget, keep your eye out for smaller trial-size packages with just a few sheets in them. Otherwise, buy a small box and reserve them just for your travels.