If you are dreaming of places to go for vacation, ready to get back in the air for business trips or planning the ultimate road trip, up your travel efficiency by giving packing cubes a try.
They will organize your clothing and gear, maximize space in your suitcase or carry-on and provide you with an improved method to have everything you need at your fingertips on your trip.
What Sizes of Packing Cubes Do I Need?
The use of packing cubes is all about efficiency, so your size needs are dependent on how you want to organize your clothing and travel needs. There are three organizational styles to consider.
Group Like Items
The most common method is to group like items together. This is when you will want to use a packing cube set in graduated sizes. This allows you to put your bottoms in one larger cube, your tops in a medium-size one and your lingerie in the smallest one.
Day by Day
However, you might consider organizing your packing by day and put one or more outfits together in a cube.
If you know you are going to be at multiple locations for a trip, you could put three outfits together in one cube for one location, and then put other outfits for the second part of your trip in another. This is where multiples of one size work well.
Organize by Function
Another great way to use your cubes is to organize your suitcase by function. This is especially handy if your trip includes both business and pleasure.
You can stow your workout clothing or swimwear in one cube, your work attire in another and your after-hours outfits in a third. Both graduated sizes and cubes of the same size can work with this style of organization.
Packing cubes come in a variety of options for all of your travel needs from packing cube sets to compression cubes to mesh top to all ripstop nylon.
Whatever packing cube option you go with they are all ultralight and will make packing and unpacking much easier!
How Should I Pack the Cubes?
Whatever organization style you choose, it’s helpful to begin packing your bulky items first using the largest packing cube.
Roll it Up
Many travel veterans promote the concept of rolling clothes to reduce wrinkles. Rolling will minimize wrinkles, but more importantly, rolling and using the cubes together will maximize what you can take in your suitcase.
To roll a bulkier item like jeans, simply fold them lengthwise, smooth the legs and begin rolling at the waistband, smoothing the fabric as you go.
Medium-weight synthetic fabrics work best for rolling, but items such as dresses and skirts can also be rolled.
Use the same technique: fold the item lengthwise, roll from the top and smooth as you go.
Pack Right Away
Pack each item as soon as you roll it. Open the cube and put the rolled item at one end.
Roll your second item and put it in the cube, pushing firmly on the clothing so that you are creating space for your next item. Don’t be afraid to exert pressure because if your items are firmly in place and don’t shift around, your wrinkles will be minimized.
Zipper Right Away
As you place items in the cube, move the zipper along to close it. This gives your cube more structure and helps to hold your items in place. Keep your finger underneath the zipper as you move it so that you do not catch any of your clothing in it. Once you have packed your cube, you can fold any smaller, delicate items and place them right on top of your rolled clothing in the cube.
Once you’ve packed your clothing, check your cubes for space, especially at the corners.
This space works great for tucking in a pouch for your extra chargers, jewelry, scarves or socks. Each cube packet should be a firm package of clothing when you are done.
Features to Look for in Packing Cubes
Now that you know the benefits of using packing cubes let’s identify some differentiating features.
Bags should have some mesh openings for ventilation. During travel, clothes can get stale smelling and the mesh will provide that added airflow to keep things fresher.
Your cubes should have a handle for easy movement in and out of your suitcase, but the handle should not take up any room. The best choice is one that lies completely flat against the cube and is firmly stitched at both ends.
The most important quality feature to look for in cubes is a durable zipper with good size metal pulls. If you are maximizing what you put into your cubes, you don’t want the zippers to let you down! Look for cubes that have two zipper pulls so you can access the compartment from either side.
If you really want to maximize packing space, look at cubes that feature a separate compression zipper. This allows you to force out the air from your cubes, creating more space in your suitcase.
Make sure your cube is washable, so that you can throw it in the laundry or wash by hand and extend its life when it gets dirty.
Let’s Get Started
Once your cubes are packed, lay them in the bottom of your suitcase. Take advantage of their non-structured nature and wedge them in close to each other, trying to make a level surface for your remaining items.
Before packing anything on top of your cubes, slide in any flat shoes or sandals by putting them between the cubes and the sides of the suitcase. Your clothes are already protected in the cubes, so no shoe bag required!
Business suits or formal evening wear are generally not candidates for a cube. However, there is a handy, space-saving way to pack these items. Put the item on a hanger and cover it with a thin plastic bag like a dry-cleaning bag. Lay the item on a flat surface and smooth the plastic, folding in the excess plastic at the edges. Then fold the item into thirds and place it in your suitcase on top of the cubes. This method keeps those special items nearly wrinkle-free and ready to hang up when you arrive at your destination.
Packing cubes work well for both checked bags as well as carry on luggage.
A terrific advantage to cubes when checking luggage is that in the case of bad weather, even if your bag sits on the tarmac in the rain, you have minimized the chances of finding wet clothing in your suitcase when you unpack. Many veteran business travelers have had this experience due to flight delays or changing planes, and a soggy suitcase is no fun!
The Best Packing Cubes
Now that you know the different packing methods and tips, you can select the best packing cubes for your travel needs. Here are some top-rated packing cube sets available on Amazon.
Eagle Creek makes a variety of different packing cubes and organizer sets. This Eagle Creek Pack-it Specter Compression Cube Set comes with two cubes. One is 14 x 10 inches, and the other is a 'half cube' that measures at 10 x 7 inches. Both have a 1-inch depth.
These specter cubes come in a variety of colors and prints, are water-resistant and provide extra compression with the two zipper design.
If you are looking for compression packing cubes that come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the TravelWise Packing Cube System is a great option. This 5-piece packing cube set comes with 2 large cubes, 2 medium cubes and 1 small cube.
These packing cubes come with a mesh top so it is easy to see all of your belongings without opening up each individual packing cube.
The Amazonbasics packing cubes come in a pack of 4 with 1 large cube, 1 medium cube, 1 small cube and 1 slim rectangle cube. This packing cube system has double zippers for easy access and a handle to easier grab it out of any carry-on or packed bag.
This is also a great packing cube system because it has a slim packing cube, which can be used as a toiletry bag, an electronic bag or any other little travel gear or travel accessories you want to pack.
At Your Destination
Packing cubes are very convenient if your trip involves multiple destinations, whether you have organized your clothing by type or function.
When you arrive at your hotel, leave your items in the cubes and put them in the drawers. When it’s time to move on to the next destination, you have considerably reduced your time for repacking.
Cubes also come in handy when it’s time to organize your dirty laundry. You can consolidate unworn, clean clothing in a cube, and use another cube to hold your dirty clothes when it’s time to pack up to go home.
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In addition to packing cubes, there are a few other travel helpers that might interest you.
If your travel requires you to wear dress shirts, invest in a folding sleeve like this one from Eagle Creek. This will protect your shirt collars, reduce wrinkles and give you space to put in a tie if that’s required for your trip.
You may want to protect your dressy shoes and heels by using a shoe bag. These complement the use of packing cubes because the cubes give you space in your suitcase to lay the shoe bag on top of them and keep you from having to wedge your shoes around your clothing. Here is an option to consider.
To avoid melting your suitcase contents and burning your hands, a specialty cover or envelope for curling irons and flat irons is a timesaver when repacking—no more waiting for your styling tool to cool down.
You may be tired of arriving at your destination with frayed or tangled cords or missing chargers, so consider the use of an electronics organizer like this one from BAGSMART.
If you choose not to use your empty cubes for your laundry, consider an expanding laundry bag like this one from Miamica. It starts out as a small square for packing and then opens up to hold your dirty clothes, keeping them well separated from your clean items.
Once you’ve used the cubes a few times, you will not want to go back to your old way of packing.
There truly isn’t a better way to get everything you need in a small space, and at the same time, assure that your clothing travels with minimal wrinkles and wear and tear.
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