To Cube or Not To Cube? Revelations on Packing Cubes

When I first used packing cubes, my motives were for one reason and one reason only. I wanted to bring more without taking up the extra space. I would load up packing cubes until they seemed more like packing bowling balls, heavy and cumbersome. At times I worried they would burst open due to the overloading. As these cubes ended up being more of a hindrance, I wrote off packing cubes, concluding they were actually space hoarders and that simple and careful placement of items in a bag could allow you to bring more instead.

As I prepare to spend three months in Europe this summer, I am packing cube reformed. By reevaluating their purpose and with the help of proper execution, packing cubes can save a great deal of space and keep you organized in the process. However, not every trip is designed for packing cubes. To cube or not to cube? Here’s how I determine if packing cubes are needed.

Packing cubes

Staying Put or Making Multiple Stops?

If you are staying in one place on your travels, packing cubes aren’t necessarily essential. In my case, I will be packing up and moving every few days or weeks. To avoid the unpacking and repacking every time I open my bag in a new locale, packing cubes will help keep me organized and pack up a lot quicker. When you need to be organized due to all of your stopping and starting on the road, packing cubes are essential. Usually my bag looks like a volcanic eruption if I am packing up every few days without packing cubes. My hope is that after three months, the inside of my bag will look as it did when I packed it the first time.

Quick Weekend Getaway or Lengthy Adventure?

When I travel for quick weekends away, seldom do I need packing cubes. I resolve that I shouldn’t be packing that much to need set spaces to store everything. However, for my 80 plus days in Europe, I know that packing cubes will be essential. Long trips call for better organization and also more clothing. I have a cube assigned for each item of clothing such as shirts, dresses, underwear and bottoms. Due to the length of my trip, if I didn’t have organized spaces for each item, my bag would be a disaster.

Packing Minimalist or Over-packer?

Packing cubes 1

I am frequently guilty of over-packing. While I have gotten better over the years, going from packing four suitcases to study abroad in Italy to one suitcase for the same amount of time now, I am frequently packing more than I need or should bring. Packing cubes are certainly not intended for overloading. If they are, they won’t save you space in the long run. Those who can pack like minimalists, packing cubes are easy to use. For an over-packer, packing cubes might force you to remove half of what you intended to pack. While I was naive in the beginning to think a packing cube could help me bring more, they can’t be overloaded to work effectively.

Other Tips and Tricks on Packing Cubes

Once I determined that my upcoming trip to Europe called for packing cubes, I did discover a few other areas to consider when using these suitcase organizers. First and foremost, I had a hard time justifying the price on some packing cube brands. They are just somewhat flimsy looking containers. Why should they cost $30 a cube? In the end, I ordered two sets of packing cubes, lending me 6 cubes for my trip for about $40. So far, these cheaper cubes look just like the more expensive options.

I also found the bigger the cube, the less useful it becomes. I am sticking to smaller cubes so that they will fit into my bag in little empty and awkward pockets of space. Before you purchase packing cubes, be sure to get out the tape measure and actually see what sizes you are ordering. Sometimes a cube described as medium in size is actually longer than the width of your suitcase.

Packing cubes 2

Do you use packing cubes when you travel? What scenarios do you find they work best for and in what situations should you leave them at home?

Comments

  1. says

    I’ll be using packing cubes for my upcoming trip to Europe. I’ll be there for 2 weeks and will have a washer/dryer at both apartments.
    My game plan is to roll the clothes and line them in the cubes that way rather than laying them flat. I am not sure if it’ll help me utilize the space better but we’ll see. It’ll be both my first time using cubes and first time carrying on a suitcase.

    Where are you heading to?!

  2. Louise says

    My boyfriend and I used cubes in our month long trip around China and Japan. We both had a cube in our carryon story act as a first night bag (pjs, toothbrush, outfit for the next day) and have extra undies etc if our bags were lost. I used my other cubes to separate clothes into tops and bottoms. I had a separate cube for underthings that had a mesh section for clean/dirty. On the way home I used them to pack souvenirs. I think you definitely get a lot more use out of the smaller ones. I’ll be using them again for a domestic trip next month. So useful!

  3. says

    I’m heading to Southeast Asia in 8 weeks and I am feeling somewhat underprepared (!) but I feel like these cubes might bring some much needed organisation to my life…fingers crossed :)

  4. says

    We have some older cubes that are clear plastic and some that are at least opaque. I much prefer being able to see (at least sort of) what’s in my cubes as opposed to the colored ones that give me no hint as to what I’ve stuffed in there. We go more with mesh bags now for that reason. And I agree, most of them are ridiculously priced.

  5. says

    I had the same issues with cubes and am finally coming around to them again. The large cube that came in my set is totally useless, but I love the small and medium ones. I actually use them when I am taking weekend trips as well. I usually just take 1 or 2 and use them to separate undergarments and workout clothes, with the rest of my clothes just getting tossed in my bag.

  6. says

    I’m all about the packing cubes. (And various sized laundry bags also work well for that matter!) I mainly use them to stay organized. My suitcase used to be a complete mess by day 2 before I started using them. It’s also a good way to keep track of what’s clean and what’s ready to be worn.

  7. says

    I used packing cubes for my 2 month trip to Europe. While i’m not sure they saved me much space (they were fairly large/awkward), it was a dream to keep all my stuff organized.

  8. Alice says

    I bought packing cubes a few months ago, intending to use them for my upcoming monthlong trip all over Europe. I have used them so much on many short and long trips that I just bought more. My favorite ones are the e-bags slim cubes. They work best for me. I find that the large and medium ones are a little awkward to fill up. Three slim ebags fit perfectly into half of my hard sided 20 inch bag. Basically all my clothing I plan on bringing fits into half my suitcase, it’s just wonderful!

  9. says

    I’m seriously tempted by packing cubes but as a messy packer and chronic overpacker I’m still not completely convinced… Very good informative article though!

  10. says

    Great read! I didn’t bring any cubes when I travelled throughout Europe for a month. Really wish I had brought them! Would have kept things much more organized. As I head out in a couple weeks to Costa Rica – I will have a few small packing cubes along with me!

  11. says

    These are on my list of things to buy for my trip. I’m heading to Central America for 11-12 months next year so I think they’re a necessity. I was planning on getting a set of 3 but maybe I should get 2 sets instead?

  12. Jackie says

    I have been using Dot&Dot packing cubes for a while now and I love how organized my luggage looks! I also find my things easily. I use them for short and long trips especially when I’m sharing luggage space with my husband.

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