Confession: I Was Using Packing Cubes All Wrong
For months, this writer tried rolling and stuffing outfits into packing cubes before shoving them into her suitcase. She couldn’t figure out how they worked as space saver, and just couldn't get onboard with them—then, on a three-week trip around Asia, they saved her. Here’s exactly how she uses packing cubes now.
When my mom first bought me packing cubes as a Christmas gift, I didn’t really understand them. To be honest, they sat in my closet for a very long time before I attempted to use them. I should have attempted to use them for other great storage hacks but alas, I didn’t … we all have those gifts right?
Finally, I let the guilt win and I used the packing cubes on a trip—I don’t even remember to where. All I can remember is how much I the packing cubes confused me! After that, I attempted to use them haphazardly on future trips, but didn’t fully commit to the packing cube trend until a three-week trip to Asia, and it was only when I fully committed to a packing cube system that I learned to love them. Here’s why.
Packing Cubes Make Compartalization Organization a Breeze
When it comes to packing my suitcase, I’m a little obsessive. I tend to rearrange my suitcase multiple times on a trip, ensuring it’s as organized as possible. So, when I learned I’d be visiting three different areas of Asia, requiring three different wardrobes, I decided that I needed to compartmentalize, and that’s when I dug out the packing cubes, grateful I had them.
Packing cubes come in all shapes in sizes. So, I organized my two medium sized cubes, as well as my smaller sized cube, according to my destinations: Beach clothes for my visit to Thailand’s islands, city attire for Beijing, and hiking clothes for a few nights in Yangshao's rice terraces.
As I started to lay out my chosen clothing on my bed, I realized I had never been able to make packing cubes work in the past because there was no method to my madness. I simply rolled all my clothes into them, not utilizing the pockets of space they sometimes create, not picking the right cubes for my type of trip, nor compressing them to fit even more items of clothing or accessories. Phew, I was glad for these cubes this time around!
How I Organized My Packing Cubes
In my beach-weather cube, I packed in my cover ups and linen dresses by rolling them in neat rows, arranging them as close together as possible. Once I had my entire week’s wardrobe in the cube, I packed my scrunched swimsuits around the neat rows of outfits. Last but not least, I added a thin straw purse on top of this all, shut the cover, pressed out all the air out of the cube and zipped it up.
That’s it! I did the same for my hiking wardrobe—admittedly easier considering it primarily consisted of leggings and sports tops—with my sports bra and socks now taking up the remaining room on the outer edges of the cube. Then for my city wardrobe, I replaced that straw beach purse with a thin black clutch.
How to Fit Packing Cubes into Your Luggage
So, then came the time to fit the cubes into my bag. This is when I used to get frazzled because, admittedly, when you do place the cubes in your bag, they take up the entire suitcase. But, if you compress them enough, you’re able to fit shoes on top (even better if you place them in their own packing bag) and then wedge any smaller packing sacks with remaining accessories into extra spaces around the cubes. Don’t get flustered on your first time with packing cubes, they do take some finagling, but you’ll quickly learn exactly the right configuration for your specific travel gear.
Once you’ve got your bag packed, it will be the most compact, organized suitcase of your life. You’ll be so proud you may not even want to unpack it upon arriving at your destination. But trust me, this is when packing cubes really shine.
Upon reaching your accommodation, you can pick out the cube of choice, hang up all your clothing (or if you’re moving hotels throughout your stay, just take out one or two outfits) without disturbing the rest of your suitcase. In fact, now that I use packing cubes, I save so much time by not rearranging my suitcase time and time again as I used to do.
All too often a squished bag of dirty clothes accumulates and takes up more space than necessary when traveling. Once you’re done wearing something, if it’s dirty, I recommend not crumpling it into a ball, but rather using a plastic or canvas bag to roll it up and place it back in the cube, or use a packing cube with separate clean and dirty compartment. If you keep the rolling technique, you can maintain that level of organization in your suitcase until you get home. Clean/dirty cubes ensure the unused, clean clothes remain just that—clean—so you can quickly identify the unworn outfits to either use on the remainder of your trip, or when you get back home, the dirty clothes to pluck out and throw in the wash.
Seriously, why are packing cubes still flying under the radar?! They are, dare I say, a traveler’s life saver—regardless of how stylish or simple your packing techniques are, once you give them a real try—no half-heartedness like my first attempts—you’re going to love them. And you’re going to thank me!
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By Jillian Dara on September 9, 2019
Jillian is a travel and culture journalist whose appreciation for travel stemmed from growing up in Bermuda. She has also lived in Santiago, London, Boston, and New York City. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, USA Today, Jetsetter, The Huffington Post, VICE Munchies. Follow her on Instagram @jilliandara.