Packing cubes — they’re one of those travel accessories that tends to turn normal travelers into evangelists. People who love them, love them. People who don’t…have probably never heard of them!
So the big question is, are packing cubes worth it?
I land firmly on the pro-packing cube side. I love them so much, in fact, that the phrase “packing cubes have literally changed my life” has actually come out of my mouth. (And that “literally” was sincerely — and non-hyperbolically — meant.)
What Are Packing Cubes, Exactly?
Packing cubes are pretty much exactly what they sound like: little cubes made from lightweight fabric. They’re not usually cubes; most are rectangular (because that’s what shape your clothes are when you fold them). Usually, they feature a top lid or a side opening that zips open and closed. You put your clothes in the cube, zip it shut, and pop it into your suitcase.
Benefits of Packing Cubes
The biggest benefit of packing cubes, in my opinion, is simple — they keep your bag organized. Have you ever opened your suitcase, only to find a jumbled mess of clothes and socks? Obviously, because no matter how neatly you pack, loose items get messed up. Doesn’t matter if you’re a roller or a flat-packer; the second you rummage around looking for an item, everything goes to hell.
That is where packing cubes can be a game-changer. They keep everything organized and in place, so your suitcase looks deliciously neat. If you need a shirt, all you have to do is zip open a cube, pull out the shirt you want, and close the zipper. No mess! Plus, since your clothes stay in place, they’re less likely to get gross and wrinkled.
Speaking of organization — my favorite part of packing cubes is that you always, always know where to find what you want. No digging around to find that single sock or the right shirt. Why? It’s right in its designated cube.
Do you unpack when you get to a hotel or Airbnb? We don’t. But now, with packing cubes, that’s taken care of. You can just take out the cubes, set them on the dresser, and be done with it. Whether you’re traveling for a week or a year, this is so, so handy.
Do Packing Cubes Actually Save Space in a Suitcase?
This one is a little harder to answer. The answer is: maybe? You can get compression-style packing cubes, which squash all of the air out of your clothing. Those certainly save space, but they’re also more likely to wrinkle your clothes.
When it comes to space-saving, I think the biggest benefit of packing cubes is that they create neat little blocks. Your clothes don’t slip around, so you can just fit them in like a game of Tetris. That makes it easier to see how much space is less and use it efficiently for shoes, jackets, etc.
My Favorite Packing Cubes
First of all, let’s make one thing clear: Pretty much any packing cube will do. T.J. Maxx always has a supply. The ones you find at WalMart are also just fine. So, when you see things online saying that any type of packing cube is THE best, don’t stress! You do not have to pay $40 for a packing cube when a $10 model will do just fine.
I’m currently using packing cubes from MyTagAlongs. I got them at T.J. Maxx about a year ago. I HATE the blue and neon green color in the picture above, but the packing cubes themselves have been great. Full disclosure, though: I stuff those things until they are bulging, and they are starting to rip. If you’re not on the road full-time, though, they’d be perfect.
The white packing cube in the photos above is from this Tripped packing cube set. It’s a compression packing cube, so it’s a good choice if you’re an over-packer. I prefer the full-zip top for my clothes, though, so I only use one cube from this set. These cubes are longer and narrower, so they’re great for bras, swimsuits, etc. A similar option is this Eagle Creek Spectre packing cube. In comparison to the MyTagAlongs cubes, these have not shown any signs of wear — but then, I don’t stuff them nearly as full so they’re probably about equal.
If you’re looking for a full set, I recommend these affordable BAGAIL packing cubes. For something that will probably last longer (or withstand more), this Eagle Creek set and large packing cube are super durable and give you tons of space.
How Many Packing Cubes do I Need?
That depends on the size of your suitcase. I travel with this 21-inch Samsonite Aspire suitcase, and I use four different packing cubes. The tiny one has socks and underwear, the white one has bras and swimsuits, the medium one has running clothes and pajamas, and the big one has everything else.
As you can see from the photos at the top of this post, I don’t put everything in the cubes. I like to leave shoes, a rain jacket, makeup bag, and pajamas loose. That way, I can grab them quickly after a tiring day of travel. If I only have a quick overnight somewhere, I’ll also leave out clothes for the next day so I don’t have to break into the packing cubes.
To be honest, I hate that my current packing cubes don’t match. If you’re also a weirdo about coordination and color, I think this HiDay packing cube set is just gorgeous (and super affordable!).
The Best Way to Pack Packing Cubes
Obviously, there’s no one best way — but this is what I’ve found to work best.
- First: you can roll or flat-pack your packing cubes. I prefer flat-packing. Just fold your clothes to approximately the size of the cube, stack them inside, and zip the cube shut. Why is flat better? When you remove an item, the general shape and size stay intact. If the clothes are rolled and you remove one item, it causes the rest to shift and sag and unroll.
- Organize your clothes. To really maximize the glorious organizing power of packing cubes, you need to segment your clothes into groups. I put socks and underwear in one small cube, bras and tights in another, running clothes/pajamas in a slightly larger one, and normal clothes in the biggest one.
- Choose different sizes or colors. Once you have your groups of clothes, it’s time to put them into different cubes. I like to use different sizes; you could also get packing cubes in different colors. That way, you always know which bag to reach for.
So, to recap: packing cubes are definitely worth it — they are, hands down, my favorite and most useful travel product!