Travel smarter, not harder. That’s the approach if you want to up your packing game. But what’s the secret sauce? How do you keep those meticulously folded clothes from ending up in a disheveled mess upon arrival? Packing cubes. They are small, but mighty essentials to have in your travel toolbelt. And they can make a world of difference. But, are packing cubes worth it for everyone?
What are packing cubes?
Packing cubes are rectangular bags designed to keep your belongings tidy and compact. Not only do they keep your clothes organized, but they also allow you to fit more into your suitcase. Most packing cubes are lightweight, making them easy to carry along and store when not in use. So, who can benefit the most from packing cubes?
Exhibit A. This is a real-life example of how our kids approach unpacking. It looks like a scene from The Hangover. Except, luckily, there’s no tiger hiding out in the bathroom and no one lost a tooth (at least that I know of). Give them free rein over their suitcase and chaos ensues. That’s where packing cubes come in. They can help the most disorganized person stay organized.
Benefits of Using Packing Cubes
To be honest, I never understood the purpose of packing cubes. Your suitcase holds your belongings. What more do you need? Well, it turns out, they are useful. And these are some of their benefits:
- Each item has its designated place. Put all your socks in one packing cube, your shirts in another, and well, you get the idea. No more rummaging through your suitcase to find what you need. “I know I packed it. I know it’s in here somewhere”. Find the packing cube that holds similar items and voila – less time, less energy.
- Maximize the available space in your suitcase. The goal with any travel is to use the smallest-sized suitcase that will accommodate your needs. By neatly compressing your clothes, you can fit significantly more items into your luggage. Just through simple organization, you can get away with a smaller suitcase and still take what you want. Often this saves you from bringing a checked bag when flying and allows you to carry on.
- Keep your clothes wrinkle-free. With separate compartments for different types of clothing, such as shirts, pants, and underwear, you can avoid the dreaded mess that often occurs. No more worrying about arriving at your destination only to find your clothes all crumpled. Packing cubes keep everything tidy and wrinkle free-ish.
- Unpacking is a breeze. Instead of unpacking your entire suitcase to find a specific item, you can simply pull out the appropriate packing cube. It saves time but also keeps your hotel room tidy throughout your stay.
Types of Packing Cubes
When it comes to packing cubes, you have some choices to make. Different types of packing cubes cater to individual packing needs and preferences. The classic rectangular-shaped packing cube comes in various sizes and is perfect for organizing clothes, shoes, and accessories. They can be easily stacked or arranged in your suitcase to maximize space.
Another type of packing cube is the compression cube. These cubes feature an additional zipper that compresses the contents, allowing you to fit even more into a smaller space. Compression cubes are perfect for travelers who want to pack efficiently while minimizing the size of their luggage. With these cubes, you can save space without compromising on the number of items you bring.
And then there are the specialty packing cubes. These come in handy for things like shoes, toiletries, or electronics. They typically have compartments or pockets tailored to the specific items, keeping them separate from the rest of your things. It’s useful not only for organization but also prevents any leaks or damages if your suitcase gets tossed around during travel.
How to Choose the Right Packing Cubes for Your Needs
Because packing cubes come in a variety of sizes and materials, here are some considerations:
1. Size: How big is your suitcase and how much clothing do you typically bring? This will help you choose the appropriate size of packing cubes to fit your requirements.
2. Material: Look for lightweight and durable materials. Nylon and polyester are popular choices as they are both lightweight and water-resistant, keeping your clothes fresh and dry.
3. Compartments: Do you prefer to keep everything separate and organized? Socks in one cube, pants in another? Or do you have a ton of shirts and you need one big packing cube? Think about how you want to organize your suitcase and choose packing cubes that fit those needs.
If you are new to packing cubes and not really sure what’ll work best, I suggest getting a variety of sizes. Choosing a packing cube set with multiple sizes will give you some versatility.
How to Pack with Packing Cubes
Packing is just one of those things we all know how to do, right? When we first started traveling, I just threw my things into a bag and that was that. Three kids and many wrinkly shirts later, I’ve realized packing is an art. If you decide to give packing cubes a try, here’s the general formula we use:
1. Sort your clothes: Separate your clothing into categories such as tops, bottoms, underwear, and socks. This will make it easier to pack them into different cubes.
2. Roll or fold your clothes: Depending on your preference (and this one is controversial), roll or fold your clothes to fit them neatly into the packing cubes. Rolling is a popular method to save space and limit wrinkles.
3. Pack by category: To stay organized during your trip, group similar items together. This will make it easier to locate specific items when you need them.
4. Fill the cubes: After all your clothes are separated, put the biggest piles into the biggest bags. This is where the first step of sorting can really pay off.
5. Zip up and compress: Once filled, zip up the packing cubes, ensuring they are securely closed. If you are using compression cubes, use the additional zipper to compress the contents and save space.
6. Arrange in your suitcase: Arrange the packing cubes in your suitcase, using the space as efficiently as possible. Here’s where your engineering degree comes in handy. Kidding. But your Tetris skills – maybe. Stack them or place them side by side. Keep playing around with it until your cubes fit together like a neat little puzzle.
Extra Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Packing Cubes
Here are some tips to stretch your space even further:
- Use color-coded cubes: Assign different colors to different family members. This way you won’t mix up your cubes when traveling with multiple people. Find a brand that offers packing cubes in a variety of colors.
- Utilize the top compartment: Some suitcases have a separate compartment on top. Use this space to store additional packing cubes, making them easily accessible on travel day and creating more space.
- Pack a spare cube: Consider packing an empty packing cube for dirty laundry. This will keep your clean clothes separate from the dirty ones. And it’s a gamechanger.
- Use packing cube accessories: Some sets come with laundry bags, shoe bags, and toiletry kits. Think about purchasing a multi-purpose packing cube set to store electronics, makeup, etc.
- Roll smaller items within larger ones: To save even more space, roll smaller items like socks and underwear within larger clothing items like t-shirts or jeans.
Packing Cube Alternatives
Packing cubes can revolutionize your travel life, but they aren’t the only tool out there. Here are a few alternatives:
- Vacuum-sealed bags: Vacuum-sealed bags are perfect for maximizing space and protecting your clothes from moisture. By removing the air from the bag, you can significantly reduce the size of your packed items. Think of it as using a food saver but for clothes.
- Packing folders: Packing folders are for those that need a little extra reassurance their clothes will stay wrinkle-free. If you have formalwear, packing folders can offer a nice solution.
- Garment Bags: When a traditional suitcase just won’t do, garment bags to the rescue. They are great for things like suits, dresses, and winter coats. All the clothes that you can’t squeeze into your bag no matter how hard you try.
Do Packing Cubes Work for Kids and Babies?
Yes! When packing for the whole family, conserving space is completely necessary. After all, you’ll be dragging all those bags with you throughout the journey. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your kids will actually carry their own bags. Been there! By using packing cubes, you can slim down the amount of bags you’ll need for the kiddos. And here are our favorite hacks for the littlest ones in the fam.
- Outfit Bundling: Pair outfits together and place them in a single cube. This way, you only need to grab one cube each day. Even better, your kids can grab a cube and get themselves ready in the morning. You can even get day-of-the-week packing cubes for kids and babies.
- Utilize Dead Spaces: Fill any gaps or dead spaces within the suitcase with small items like socks or accessories. Gotta use every inch of space to your advantage.
- Toiletries: Use a separate packing cube for your kid’s medicines, toothbrush, sunscreen, etc. Another way to stay organized and contain any spills.
- Snacks and Toys: Bring a bag to store snacks and small toys for easy access during the trip. It’ll prevent them from getting lost in the suitcase. Because that’s just not good for anybody.
- Use a Wet/Dry Bag: Big supporters of the wet/dry bag here. Kids tend to be…messy. And you’ll never regret having one. Diapers, dirty clothes, wet swimsuit. Whatever it is – this is where you put it. Gallon-sized Ziploc bags can also do the trick.
Is it easier to pack with packing cubes?
In most cases, yes, packing cubes will ease the process of packing. In a way they force you to organize and categorize your things, making packing more efficient. You’ll also be able to squeeze more into your suitcase and thus, less frustration trying to squash your suitcase shut. Plus, they simplify packing back up when you are leaving your destination. And once you get a system down, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep.
I was a total nonbeliever. Until I finally gave in to see if the hype was real. And packing cubes really can help. Not to sound completely dramatic about it. They aren’t going to change your life in most cases. But they will help you to stay organized and fit more in your suitcase. And in my opinion, they are every bit worth it.