Tuesday Travel Tools: Packing Cubes

What is a Packing Cube?

I own these exact ones, in this same blue/teal of course!

A packing cube is a simple fabric “cube” used to organize the items in your luggage.

Why I Recommend Packing Cubes

Packing cubes for Merida
everything I packed for a week in Merida, before (left) and after (right) packing cube organization

There’s no cheaper, simpler, or easier way to keep your bag organized.

I never really thought I needed packing cubes (I was more of a spacesaver bag kinda girl for my clothes, and I would just stuff accessories and non-clothes items into side pockets), but I’m a total convert because of how organized packing cubes really do keep your stuff.

They are especially useful if you’re heading on a long trip and will be bouncing between climates or activities that have two very different clothing requirements.

I pack my clothes in one (or two, if I’m going to need two different types of clothes) medium-sized packing cubes. I have other smaller cubes and fabric pouches for toiletries, camera gear (I don’t travel with a dedicated camera bag) and miscellaneous “electronic-related stuff” like chargers.

Having things in cubes/pouches makes it easier to stay organized, and you can keep things packed that you won’t be using at that particular stage of the trip (especially useful if you multiple trip legs).

Tips for Traveling with Packing Cubes

Toiletry cube
everything in my toiletry packing cube

Packing for separate climates/activities:

When I spent a month between Israel and Europe (Ireland, Sweden, Latvia, and Lithuania), I used two different packing cubes to keep these two very different clothing sets separate and neat. The clothes I used in Europe were heavier and thicker (a pair of skinny jeans, a pair of long leggings, layerable sweaters, etc), while in Israel I wore dresses and tanktops (which I also used in Europe, but layered with sweaters and leggings) and shorts.

This system also worked for my trip to Peru (between cold and chilly weather near Arequipa looking for Andean condors, or the heat of Huacachina and Paracas).

I’ll be using a similar system on an upcoming trip to the American Southwest, but with clothes split between “Adventure” and “Relaxation”. “Adventure” clothes will be for hiking, tubing, outdoor activities, while “Relaxation” clothes will be cute sundresses, comfy shorts and tops for wine tasting, etc.

Packing a toiletry cube

Packing a toiletry cube is my one biggest piece of organizational advice.

Put your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, face wash, etc in a smaller cube, and always pack this cube on the top of your bag along with a rolled set of lightweight PJs. If your plane gets in late and you’re exhausted, or you’re forced to make an unexpected overnight layover, nothing will make you love yourself more than being able to just grab your toiletry pack off the top of your bag. You’ll be able to change into PJs, brush your teeth and wash your face, and hit the sack without tearing your whole bag apart. After a long day of transit, even the smallest tasks can seem like torture, especially searching a messily-packed bag.

After spending too many grumpy late nights scrounging around my bag for a toothbrush in one pocket, and PJs in a spacesaver bag with the rest of my clothes, and face wash who knows where, I finally learned my lesson.


Other ideas

  • Pack an empty cube or bag that will be used for dirty laundry
  • Roll your outfits together for easy grab-and-go dressing (for example: roll a sports bra, shorts, and tank top together for the day you’ll be hiking, and roll a sundress and sweater with jewelry for the day you’ll spend at a winery, etc) *note: this works best if you won’t be re-wearing clothes, or if you DO plan on re-wearing clothes (you can use a Scrubba to do wash on-the-go) but still want to plan out a few outfits

Downsides of Packing Cubes

Packing cubesseriously though, how nice and neat does this bag look?

I really can’t think of any downsides. Does there always have to be a downside?

There’s a wide variety of packing cubes, including those that compress (perfect for you overpackers!), for every type of packing situation.

Other options

Spacesaver bag

Before I went nuts for packing cubes, I was all about spacesaver bags. They are lightweight, they compress your clothes and save space (duh, right?), and most are waterproof.

This works great if you’re planning to stay at one location for most of your trip, so that you can fully unpack all of your clothes. Spacesaver bags aren’t great for trips with multiple stops when you don’t want to unpack everything; if you don’t fully unpack, you’re digging through a whole bag of clothes to find what you’re looking for.

Pin it for Later: Why You Need Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes Top Travel Tool

Do you use packing cubes to organize when you travel? Any tips?


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

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