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How to Travel Better with Packing Cubes

Basic packing cubes
Amazon

The dream of travel often neglects the real difficulties of living out of a suitcase. Even a perfectly planned vacation still requires you to fit everything in your bag. Packing cubes are a perfect way to keep things organized and fit it all in.

These neat tools deserve the hype they’ve been given—they’ll help you stay organized and bring everything you want to bring, without blowing your travel budget on new luggage.

Never heard of them, let alone tried them? Let’s take a quick look at how to use packing cubes to live your best travel life.

What Are Packing Cubes?

Packing cubes are effectively just small rectangular bags that fit inside a larger bag. Their cube shapes make them easy to stack and organize within your luggage—they’re like drawers for your suitcase.

The concept is deceptively simple but used correctly, and it can change the way you pack.

First, they keep things organized. They often have mesh insets so you can see what’s inside each cube. You can put your beachwear in one, your toiletries in another, and your underwear in a third. It’s up to you how you break it down, but this will save you the hassle of rummaging at the bottom of your suitcase for something you know you packed.

Packing cubes also compress your clothes into smaller shapes so that you can pack more. They help your clothes stay neat and folded, so they don’t wrinkle in transit. Finally, they protect your clothes during travel by keeping dirt and debris away—some designs are even water-resistant.

It’s Hip to Be Square: Putting Travel Cubes to Work

Ready to try packing with cubes? Use these tips to get the best results.

Choose Your Set

Packing cubes come in sets, and you can also buy a few sets to mix and match. Getting started is inexpensive too. You can grab the Amazon Basics set seen above for only $20, or if you’d like to look at more options, our sister-site Review Geek has the scoop on the best packing cubes.

Whatever set you get, however, it’s important to think about the size of your suitcase. You want to buy cubes that will fill up most of the space without many gaps left over. You may want to measure the dimensions of your bag to help you pick the right-sized cubes. This way, you can maximize your packing space.

Clothing folded neatly in a packing cube
sasimoto/Shutterstock.com

If you want to optimize your space even more, look for compression cubes. However, even regular packing cubes make it possible to squeeze lots of stuff in.

You can also buy both slim and regular packing cubes. The slim cubes help you fit more stuff into the spaces left over by the regular square cubes.

Organize Carefully

It doesn’t matter how you organize your packing cubes, as long as you separate things in a way that’s logical to you.

Maybe you’ll put all your tops in one cube and all your pants in another. Perhaps you’ll use one cube just for electronics. It’s often helpful to put larger items into large cubes, and smaller items into small ones. Keeping a separate cube for dirty clothes also works well.

The important thing is that you use clear categories, so you can quickly put things back where they belong when it’s time to head home. Your goal is to make unpacking and re-packing a breeze by having a specific place for everything.

Roll Your Clothes

To fit more into your packing cubes, roll your clothes rather than folding them flat. This system still keeps wrinkles out but reduces space by compressing the air out of each item.

Place your rolled clothes into your packing cube as tightly as possible, squeeze them down, and zip the cube shut.

Find More Space

For some people, the hardest part of travel is narrowing down what to bring (or lugging an extra bag around because you couldn’t decide). What if you could find more space in the same suitcase?

Packing cubes can help you do just that. Once you’ve filled and zipped a cube, feel around on the sides and corners for any unfilled pockets. If you find a bit of extra space, unzip the cube just enough to squeeze one more thing inside.

Since you’re compressing your clothes using cubes instead of your suitcase, you won’t need to worry about a broken zipper spilling your tightly-packed stuff all over the airport floor. Packing cubes are designed to be stuffed to the brim, but even if one were to break, your suitcase would keep the contents safe.

Ready to Give Packing Cubes a Try?

Sometimes, the simplest items can make the most significant difference. For frequent travelers, packing cubes are a holy grail: an inexpensive and easy way to organize better each time. You can find our top picks here.

There’s no right or wrong way to use travel cubes, but these tips will help you get started. Experiment with how you organize and arrange your cubes until you discover what works best. As you learn how to save time packing and unpacking, you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy your travels.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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