Ode to the Packing Cube
With Christmas and the New Year right around the corner, more and more people are dusting off that old suitcase and packing up for week or two away on holiday, to enjoy in a few festive traditions. For most of us the thought of packing enough belongings in a tiny suitcase and not to mention the baggage fees that airlines are charging, might cause another holiday tradition…anxiety and stress!
Well there might be a clever solution on the horizon and Jill Holzer is hear to share it with you.
I am very passionate about travel. Packing, not so much. For me, along with the excitement about embarking on a new adventure comes the realization that fills me with dread; I need to fit everything I want to bring for this trip into one 22-inch suitcase.
There is all sorts of advice out there about packing; the idea of packing smart was always there, but presented new challenges when the airlines starting charging for checked bags. To avoid those fees, many, many people dedicated themselves to packing in TSA-approved cabin size carry-on bags. Think about it- when was the last time you were on a flight when the overhead bins were not filled to capacity with those 22 inchers and you and had to compete for a spot? And a whole industry dedicated to traveling exclusively with carry-on luggage was born.
I have read lots of online advice on smart packing, and picked up many great ideas on how to master it, from employing the “rolling” method of packing, to recommendations on the “capsule wardrobe”, packing based on the climate at your destination(s), and activities you will be doing, to mixing and matching your clothes to maximize your choices, and the availability of cleverly packaged toiletries which adhere to the TSA liquid and gels rules (ready wipes for everything- sunscreen, makeup remover, insect repellant, deodorant to list a few). I have tried them all. I was particularly fond of the rolling method- you can really fit a lot more stuff in that bag, and keeps wrinkles to a minimum.
And it worked well for me, until my family and I went on one of those moving-from-place-to-place-vacations where you are living out of a suitcase because you are changing hotels every couple of nights. You see, when using this rolling method, your suitcase is organized by heaviest items on the bottom in one layer, following by rolling each subsequent layer of heaviest to least heavy until all your clothes are in. Sounds great, right? Well, yes, until you need to find that specific item, say those black shorts- but when you have a rolled black top and a black dress and black shorts, well, they don’t really look all that different when rolled! I found that I was digging through the entire suitcase just to find one item and then had to repack the whole bag just to get everything back in! So while this method really allows you to fit an amazing amount of stuff in your bag, there is no real organization of your stuff.
Enter packing cubes. They have been around for several years now but I paid little attention, thinking I didn’t need them, but while looking for some new packing tips for my latest trip, I came across a vlog which showed how organized these cubes can make your bag. Bingo. I had to try them. So I did some research and discovered that they are made by many different companies, and come in many different sizes and shapes and colors. So I ordered some. And they changed my life.
I can still roll my clothes. They actually allow you to fit more clothes than without them. And they are made of nylon, so they are extremely lightweight, so they don’t add any additional weight. They can be used in a variety of ways: 1) You can pack by item type i.e., shorts in one, tanks and tees in another, unmentionables in another (you get the picture). 2) You can pack a couple of outfits in each cube and then just grab that cube when you need it. They all have handles to carry them by. 3) If you share a suitcase with others, you can use different color cubes for each person. Even if you don’t share suitcases, you can still give each family member their own color cubes, so it’s easy to identify which belong to which person when you are at hotels. I don’t know about you, but when there are four of us in a small hotel room it’s easy to lose track of items, and the cubes keep things neat. 4) You can use them as “drawers” when your hotel doesn’t have any. They will keep your clothes dust free if you need to put the whole thing on a shelf or dresser or even the floor. 5) In addition to clothing, packing cubes are great for organizing things like electronics, hair tools, accessories, even toiletries. They have a partial mesh top so the contents can breathe and be easily identified.
Which sizes to pack with? That’s really a personal choice. They come in a variety of sizes, and you can buy your standard small- medium-large package, or you can buy a set of mediums, slim cubes, etc. In my experience, using medium and small cubes makes your packing more flexible, as the large cubes will generally take up a whole layer of the 22” suitcase. The sizes of the cubes vary a little depending on the manufacturer, but I find the medium cubes generally can fit quite a bit of stuff. There are several You Tube videos which show you how to pack the cubes to their best potential, but the gist of it is to start at it one end, zipper it about ¼ way around, and start putting in your rolled items, compressing the items and zipping as you go. Compressing actually allow you to fit more in and helps reduce wrinkling, however, if you do have items which are prone to wrinkling, you can also fold items in the cube instead of rolling them (but you should be asking yourself why you are packing things which wrinkle in the first place!). Once the cubes are filled, you can layer them on top of your shoes. They fit so nicely in a small suitcase, but you can also use them for backpacks, duffels, and tote bags, whatever. On my recent trip, I packed a small one for my overnight flight and threw it in my tote bag. It was great to just grab it to change my clothes after the flight. The possibilities are endless! I am a total convert. Can’t wait for my next trip!
Looking for some packing cubes? Here’s a good place to start: CLICK HERE