Using packing cubes is one of the most popular travel tips that you’ll hear from travel experts – travel agents, travel writers, etc. Lightweight, reasonably priced, and easy to pack, packing cubes are a good idea for any traveler and are one of the best ways to keep things organized in both large suitcases and your carry-on bag.
I resisted purchasing them for a long time but now can’t go on a vacation without them. Once you use your first packing cube, you’ll realize they really can help you stay organized and pack more items in your bag.
Whether you already own a packing cube system or are considering making a purchase, here’s everything you need to know, including how to use packing cubes. If you are already a convert, let us know in the comments!
Once you try them, you’ll definitely consider them an essential travel product and they will be one of your favorite travel accessories and travel organizational tools.
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Why and How To Use Packing Cubes For Travel
What Are Packing Cubes?
Packing cubes are fabric bags that can be packed up with your clothes and tossed into your suitcase or carry-on bag. They typically have a mesh top or mesh panel so that you can easily see through them, and are available in a variety of sizes and colors.
Packing cubes are typically made of thin fabrics, are reusable, and can be washed between trips. They are also usually fairly inexpensive and can be purchased in a variety of places.
Once you pack them up, they can be easily added to your suitcase. In addition, you can usually take them right from your suitcase to the dresser drawers in your hotel room. That way, your clothing will never directly touch the hotel drawers and it’s a big time saver.
Why Should You Use Packing Cubes?
This incredibly popular piece of travel gear is essential for a variety of reasons – whether you are checking a bag or just carrying on your luggage. They can also be used for road trips – for all of the same reasons listed below.
- Packing cubes can operate like a compression bag – everything, including bulky items, gets pushed together more compactly, so you’ll have more room for your belongings. Not all packing cubes are compression bags, however. You’ll need to look specifically for compression packing cubes if that’s the functionality you are looking for.
- Cubes can be purchased in multiple colors. That makes it easier to easily separate clothing for different family members. Get a different color for each person in your family, and designate that their color.
- Cubes can also be used to separate out outfits for different portions of your vacation on long trips. For instance, when we traveled on our Adventures by Disney trip to England and France, we stayed in three different hotels. I only pulled out the packing cubes I needed for each stay, making it much easier to pack and unpack.
- If they are packed correctly, packing cubes can keep your clothes looking wrinkle-free so you won’t have to worry about ironing on your vacation.
- Packing cubes can be taken right from your suitcase and put directly in the dresser drawers in your hotel room. That not only makes it quicker to unpack, it also makes it more sanitary since the clothes you are wearing aren’t touching the drawers directly.
- A packing cube can also be used for dirty clothes so that you can separate clean from dirty laundry in your suitcase.
- Small items, like power cords, can be held in the small cube.
- The cubes themselves don’t take up much space or add extra weight.
- Once you are home, you can wash them and store them until your next family vacation.
How to Use Packing Cubes
Before purchasing, decide how you want to use your packing cubes. If you want to create outfits, you’ll probably want to purchase several in the same size.
Some of the best packing cubes come in sets of different sizes, however. In addition, you may want to get different colors for each member of your family so that everything will stay organized.
Once you are ready to pack, get your packing list ready and start pulling out the clothes you need. If you have several different sizes of bags, you’ll want to put larger items like pants, dresses, and skirts in the largest size. Socks and underwear usually fit perfectly in the small packing cube.
For multi-hotel trips, put together outfits of tops, bottoms, and underwear and put those in each of the travel cubes. For our Paris trip, I was able to get two to three full outfits in each of the largest packing bags.
It’s best to roll your clothing tightly before placing it in the bag. That way, the cubes will act as compression cubes and you’ll be able to get more into your suitcase and you’ll save luggage space.
If you are checking bags, you may want to place one large cube with several outfits in your carry-on luggage in case your luggage is lost. Choose the packing cube that contains the outfits you need for the beginning part of your trip.
For bigger trips, I find that I need about 4-5 packing cubes of different sizes. If we have more than one checked bag, I evenly distribute the cubes from each family member among the bags.
That way, if one bag is lost, everyone will at least have some clothing for more than one day. That has worked to our benefit on the few occasions that our luggage was lost over the past few years.
Once I’m at my destination, I’ll typically unpack and hang my dresses and pants. Shorts, shirts, bathing suits, and underwear stay in the cube and are placed in one or two drawers.
If your packing cube set comes with a shoe bag, be sure to pack more than just a pair of shoes in the bag, otherwise, you’ll have wasted space.
As items get dirty, I’ll place them in a laundry bag. If there are laundry facilities at my destination, I always try to make sure I’m going home with clean clothes.
Otherwise, I’ll put the dirty items back in packing cubes for the trip home – keep anything clean in a separate cube. If I’m on a multi-hotel trip, I try to put all the dirty clothes in one suitcase so we know that we won’t need to open that one again until we get home.
Where to Buy Packing Cubes?
You can find a set of packing cubes at any store that sells travel gear. Look for companies that have several sizes in one package, with the option to purchase more.
You’ll also want to find some that have different colors – at least enough colors for every family member to have their own. Most starter sets will come with at least a small cube, a medium cube, and a large cube.
After using packing cubes for many different vacations, I’ve found that I prefer bags in one size. It’s just easier for me to use a consistent size.
Read reviews before purchasing to ensure that the bags are durable and will hold up for multiple trips. In general, you want something that is lightweight but will last a while.
One of the most reasonably priced sets that I’ve seen is from Amazon. This Amazon Basics set includes four bags (in different sizes) and comes in six different colors.
There’s also another set that is similar but with additional color options. Neither of these two sets are marketed as compression packing cubes.
Some sets will include a laundry bag and others include shoe bags. These are nice extras but are definitely not essential. You can always purchase these items separately if you need them.
If you are looking specifically for something that has extra compression, I really love the set from Calpak. It comes in a variety of colors, including limited edition colors and patterns. You can also get them in different sizes. You can get $25 off a purchase of $150 or more at this link.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can either fold or roll. I find that rolling my clothes helps eliminate wrinkles and makes more clothes fit in the cube.
Keep in mind that even if you can fit more in your bag, you’ll still need to fit within the airlines’ weight limits if you are flying. If you are already filling your bag, you may not need the extra compression space.
Compression bags are great, however, if you are taking a road trip.
They can be. It really depends on how much you use them. I have an expensive set and a cheaper set and both have held up well.
Mesh packing cubes have great ventilation and you are able to see what’s inside. However, the mesh doesn’t do a great job of compression. So it really depends on what you are looking for.
Absolutely. Even if I am checking a bag, I’ll put at least one packing cube in my carry-on bag so that I have some clothes in case my luggage gets lost.
More Packing Tips Resources: Looking for more packing tips and recommendations? Here are all of our posts including packing lists, product recommendations, and ideas for specific trips.