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I'd love to buy some detergent here, if only the store was open
Ah! This Place Probably Sells Detergent!  Oh, but It Closed 10 Minutes Ago...

Laundry is a never-ending challenge while traveling with a big family. And finding detergent in another country isn't always as simple as it would seem.  Here are our tips for locating the key ingredient to clean clothes for your big family while traveling...

As we covered in a prior post, handling the laundry situation is a constant chore when traveling with a big family. So having access to a washing machine and some way to dry clothes is essential...

But You Can't Wash without Detergent...
Many thoughtful hosts of apartment rentals in other countries will provide your family with at least a small amount of laundry detergent, perhaps enough to do one or two loads on the day of your arrival, or perhaps an entire box or bottle. Or maybe the prior guest thoughtfully left some behind for the next guest.

Lost and in Search of Something Specific...
If not, you're going to find yourself arriving to a new city, tired, probably a little cranky, and ready for a nice shower and a nap, but wait, nope, not so fast!  Everyone is wearing their last clean outfit. None of you can even shower yet because you don't have anything clean to put on. So, the very first thing after arrival, one of you is going to go straight back out to the street and go on a quest to locate and buy laundry detergent! Now, let's see here...where exactly might the stores around here be located? And what sort of stores here might sell laundry detergent?


One "Closed" Sign After Another...
And are those stores open right now, or did they close a few minutes ago because it's after 5:00 pm on a weekday? Or maybe today is Sunday, and this town only has two grocery stores and they both are closed all day every Sunday! Or maybe it's a national holiday you weren't expecting, and all the stores closed all day for the holiday. We've encountered every one of those situations while traveling - sometimes two in a row!

Wandering the Aisles...
But let's say you find a grocery store that's open - wonderful!  Now, where in this store would they put the laundry detergent? Is it near the soap? No...  Oh, here by the shampoo? No... Here's some medicine and stuff, is it here? Nope! Hey that banana milk looks pretty good. Ah, cookies! Wait what did I come here for? Right right, detergent. Where would that be? Hmm, ah, yes, okay yes yes yes it's right here by the baby diapers! Victory!

Suspiciously Bright Shirts...
Wait... they have 5 kinds of detergent or products that look like it, and some of these might involve a whole lot of bleach. Why is that shirt on the box so white that it sparkles with a flash of light? Is this bleach?! Or detergent with bleach? And everything is written in a language you don't know how to read. Well, uh...good luck!

Help for the Helpless...
Actually, I've found that in every store in every country, somebody will take pity on the poor fool - me - who can't read a simple box of detergent, and will kindly give me some advice as to which product will wash our clothes without bleaching them.

Or, failing that - if you find yourself somewhere so remote that truly no one speaks your language, even a little bit - just whip out your trusty smart phone (assuming you remembered to charge it back up before venturing on this quest) and use an online translator...if you have a signal.

Try typing "bleach" in your language, then asking the phone to translate that into French, or Thai, or Khmer, as the case may be. Then at least you know which undesirable ingredient you might want to avoid on the detergent options.

You Can't Buy it with a Grin and a Wink...
Now, you've made your selection and just have to make your purchase. Hopefully you remembered to get some of the local currency somewhere before you came to the store...right? Because you're going to need money to buy detergent, I don't care how handsome or pretty you are. They aren't giving the stuff away.

I realize you've only been in this country for 2 hours, but, here you are in a store. Surely you didn't come all the way to the store with no money? You did? Okay, well, surely they take credit cards? Maybe? No? Or have an ATM? Okay that's fine, no ATM inside, but is there is an ATM within a ten-minute walk? Great, now let's go get that cash and come back to the store afterward.

Victory is Mine!  For Now!
Eventually, resources finally gathered, you can make your purchase, and return to your rental as the triumphant hero-parent who has solved the critical problem of the lack of detergent, and now, what's more, you've got that severe shortage of detergent problem all solved for the rest of the trip! Right?

Enter the Forces of Transportation Security...
No, no...you don't have this problem solved for very long. I'm so sorry. It turns out that the very next time you get on a plane, your small, innocent box of detergent will be confiscated as a potentially "corrosive substance" and discarded into a trash bin before your very eyes! All it ever wanted to do was help clean clothes, and now it's gone...

You know you're going to need detergent about 2 hours from now, when you arrive to another country. But do they care?

They do not.  And no, your apoplectic stutters, your blubbering, and your sense of crushing disappointment will not stop airport security from throwing away your prized laundry detergent. So, when you finish your next travel day and first arrive to your rental in a new place, probably already tired, a little cranky, and in serious need of a shower and maybe a nap, well, guess what you're going to go out and find before settling in?

Tip for Multi-Country Journeys
A friend who once lived in Europe advised us to buy "all in one" detergent sheets before traveling. I didn't make the time to track these down before that trip, but they definitely would have made traveling so much easier! They are similar to fabric softener sheets, but they include detergent too, so they go in with the wash.

They are a "dry" form of detergent so, at least theoretically, they shouldn't present a problem when traveling. Thanks!  I'll definitely try to find some of those next time!


More Soon!
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What About You?
Do you bring your own detergent, or wait till you get there? Have you found the perfect solution?

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