If you’re thinking to use packing cubes for travel but not sure why, or how, or even which ones to buy, this post is for you! From a skeptic to a believer, I’ll explain why we began using packing cubes, how to use them and why we don’t travel without packing cubes now!

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To be honest, at first I was a little wary to use packing cubes for travel. The way other travellers talked about them, they seemed too good to be true! They seemed like an added expense that we didn’t really need and they looked a bit bulkier than my usual way of packing rolled clothes. I’d also really only packed for myself though. But once I started packing for myself and small kids, I quickly realized how helpful it was to use packing cubes!

That first trip with kids, we improvised a bit and didn’t have actual packing cubes for travel. But after seeing how useful the improvised ones were, we bought a set from Amazon as soon as we returned home. Over the years, that original set of packing cubes has served us well but we have added on and now have three sets of packing cubes for travel (in three different colours – see our tip for staying organized below!).

What are packing cubes?

Packing Cubes are basically lightweight fabric bags with a zip closure that help you organize what you are packing. They come in different sizes and shapes to fit whatever you need to pack!

Why use packing cubes?

Packing cubes help you organize your things, and in turn organize your suitcase. While there are other reasons to use them, this is the main one.

Who doesn’t want an organized system to packing and unpacking?

Packing cubes help to organize clothes by style or by person, which makes packing easier when you are travelling as a family. They are easy to pull out of a suitcase and grab what you need instead of rifling through the whole suitcase. They also help everything stay in place and keeps things from rolling around or moving in your bag.  

We use different coloured packing cubes for each person, so if I need a piece of clothing for one kid, I can reach in the bag and grab his packing cube out without rummaging through everything that’s packed inside.

Different colours of packing cubes help keep you organized when travelling
Different coloured packing cubes for each person

Packing cubes also make it easy to pack and unpack. When you arrive at your accommodations, simply pull the packing cubes out of the suitcase or backpack and place them in the drawers. When you leave, the packing cubes go right back in the suitcase, which makes it easier to repack as well!

packing cubes for travel fir easily inside a suitcase, keeping everything neat and organized

 **Packing cubes are also great for storing travel related stuff when you’re NOT travelling. Think about those things you only use for travel – travel adaptors, travel sized shampoo and soap, travel first aid kit – instead of having to find them every time you start packing for your next trip, simply put them in a packing cube so they are ready to go!

How to Use Packing Cubes

There’s many ways to use packing cubes – there’s no right or wrong way, just do what works best for you!

Basically, decide how you want to organize, whether it’s by grouping types of clothes together or packing an outfit (or two) per packing cube, and then roll your clothes to fit inside. Rolling isn’t necessary but it does make it easier to fit everything in AND clothes tend to wrinkle less. Just my opinion though!

It's best to roll clothes when using packing cubes for travel

I find it easiest to organize by types of clothing. We each have a set of packing cubes and they are all a different colour (not necessary, I guess, but it sure is helpful when travelling as a family!).

The boys use two different sizes of packing cubes; the small one holds underwear, socks and pjs, while the medium one holds tees and shorts or pants.

Mine are similar, but the small size also holds a pair of workout shorts and sports bra in addition to the  underwear and socks. The medium size packing cube has dresses, tees, tanks and Capri shorts. I also use a large size packing cube that has pants and a sweater.

Sometimes though, it works best to organize by outfits. This is especially true if you are doing a road trip or only staying somewhere for one night. Pack an outfit or two for everyone inside one packing cube and instead of rifling through the whole suitcase or lugging the whole suitcase inside, we can simply grab the packing cube that we need.

(On a road trip, instead of taking a suitcase into the hotel every night, we use my carry-on bag , but any open top bag or duffel bag will work, and just stack the packing cubes so we can grab one or two easily.)

Once your packing cubes are filled, simply place them in your suitcase and you’re ready to go!

*Tip: If you use suitcases, fill the gaps between the bars at the bottom of your bag with a travel first aid kit, shoes or other things that don’t fit in your packing cubes .This allows the packing cubes to lay flat overtop and avoid having any wasted space.

What to consider when purchasing packing cubes?

Packing cubes come in different sizes, are made from different materials and can be found at a range of prices. All of these things can be important when choosing which set of packing cubes is right for you. Here are some things to consider:

Price

Prices will vary widely. And like many things, sometimes the price reflects what you get. You can find packing cubes anywhere now, even the dollar store! And while the dollar store ones will work (we have a set and they’re good to try out and see if you like packing cubes), they won’t last as long as a better quality set will.  

Size

Packing cubes come in a range of sizes. Most brands will sell a small, medium and large and they usually are sold as a set, but you can also find them individually. We find the small and medium work best for us, and even having a few of the small ones tend to pack better than the large one.

Material

You can find packing cubes made from a variety of materials, usually plastic, canvas or with a bit of mesh.
Plastic ones offer a bit more protection in case anything leaks or spills in your luggage but they don’t allow the clothes to breathe as well.

Packing cubes that have a bit of mesh allows things to breathe better and makes it easier to see things inside but the mesh has a chance of getting caught and torn.

Canvas packing cubes hold up better long term. They’re not as breathable as ones with mesh, but there is less risk of tearing.

How many packing cubes do you need?

While everyone’s packing style will be different, from our experience we’ve found that a small and medium work best for my school age kids. When they were toddlers and preschoolers, two small cubes or one medium packing cube fit all of their things.  For myself, I use a small, medium and large packing cube (and since the ones we bought come in sets of three, I use the extra large from the kids set for outerwear if we need it later in our trip).

In a medium cube, I can pack 5 t-shirts, 2 long sleeve shirts and two bottoms. The small cube fits 7 pairs of underwear, socks and one or two pairs of pj’s.

What are the best packing cubes?

The best packing cubes are the ones that you will use!

Everyone has a different preference – and you may have to try a few before finding the ones that work best for you!

While we haven’t tried every brand of packing cubes out there, we have tried a few different ones.

We started with a canvas and mesh set. I loved how you could see what was inside before opening them and they opened on two sides, keeping things firmly inside.

Mesh packing cubes for travel allow clothes to breathe a bit better

But then we discovered canvas compression packing cubes and that was a game changer for me. With the compression cubes, you can pack a bit more in there, then use the additional zipper to compress them a bit smaller.

We’ve tried a few different brands, and while they were all pretty similar, we ended up choosing the Gonex packing cubes to use. They’re fairly inexpensive and come in different colours, which was a huge bonus for me. We have three sets of these Gonex packing cubes in three different colours, one for each of us. Now you probably don’t need that many, and we only really use the small and medium of the set, but for me it was worth having the different colours. (We use the large ones for outerwear or to store things a set of clothes at the grandparents’ house.)

While packing cubes are available individually, most brands sell them as a set. You can buy different kinds of sets, some have three packing cubes of different sizes while others will have five to seven different sizes, sometimes including a toiletry bag or shoe bag. Which set you choose all depends on what you need!

Are packing cubes just for clothes?

No!

Packing cubes don’t have to be used only for clothes. While that’s what many people use them for, some people also use the small packing cubes for cables and chargers or other tech stuff. We don’t use a packing cube for that, as I have a fantastic electronics cord organizer bag that holds cables and SIM cards but you definitely could!

Many people also use a packing cube to hold dirty laundry (although when travelling with kids, I find an old pillowcase works best- the boys need a ‘laundry basket’ to put their dirty clothes in….).

Downsides of Using Packing Cubes

Honestly, there aren’t too many negative things to say about packing cubes. Sure, they’re an extra expense, but after using them for a few years, it’s an expense that’s well worth while!

Depending on your suitcase (or backpack), packing cubes may not fit perfectly. But you can always add that rolled sweater to fill in the gaps between packing cubes, or just use a few packing cubes and roll other clothes to fit around them.

It’s also definitely harder to get packing cubes in a large backpack that opens from the top, but we’ve recently upgraded to an Osprey Fairview backpack that opens more like a suitcase, making it easier to fit the packing cubes.

If you’re new to packing cubes, check out some options on Amazon! We love the Gonex ones, and you can find them here.

Shop on Amazon for these Packing Cubes for Travel:

13 Comments

  1. I bought some packing cubes after reading a blog post a few years ago and I don’t know how I traveled without them for so many years. They are especially helpful when sharing a suitcase. I love your idea of the different colors for each person, I’ll have to order some more and try it out on our next trip.

  2. I bought the ones made from recycled plastic. They are great, though I do wish they were true compression cubes, with double zips. I bought a set of those for my daughter and they are awesome.
    Using packing cubes we were able to pack everything we needed for a 4 night trip in a personal item carry- on.

    1. Recycled plastic sounds like a great idea – I’ll have to look for them!

  3. Great information!! And perfect timing!! We leave for Italy next week! Thank you! 😊

    1. Hope it helps! And have a great time!

  4. I love packing cubes! One day I was traveling with my mom, and she opened her suitcase, and much of her stuff came spilling out of it. I opened my bag and showed the privacy you could have when you open your bag in public. She was sold! Packing cubes are life. 🙂

  5. love this! easier to organize also like bringing extra empty just incase I needed one to put somethings. These colors are so nice!

  6. I love my packing cubes, can’t travel without them! It definitely helps organize packing and is a great way to keep dirty and clean clothes separate when traveling home.

    1. And keeping the dirty clothes separate is always a good idea!

  7. This is super helpful! I love my packing cubes, but am intrigued by the canvas ones that can add in some compression to get more packed inside! Thanks for the great tips!

    1. The compression cubes definitely help! They compress an inch or two, which is helpful but it also make the cube less flexible and harder to fit into certain areas of the suitcase.

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