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How to pack when changing hotels every 2 nights?

We’re going to Ireland for 2 weeks next month. There are 3 of us traveling and we’ll all have carry-on bags. Usually we stay for 3 to 5 nights at a hotel. This time we’re only staying 2 nights at each location. I’m a bit at a loss on how to best pack and manage unpacking and re-packing our luggage with each transition. I thought about bringing a dirty laundry bag, but we’ll be traveling by public transportation for the first several days. Any thoughts on how to keep somewhat organized at each stop? I considered sharing luggage between us — each person putting 2 days worth of clothes in each suitcase, so that we only unpack one at each stop. But that seems difficult with managing to evolving weather conditions. We’d inevitably need something out of another bag. Is this not as big of a deal as I’m thinking it may be?

Posted by
3450 posts

I don't think it's a huge deal. Parking cubes or mesh bags for things that don't need to stay folded help. It prevents a lot of rummaging around in layers of clothing if some things are grouped and contained in bags. You might be able to wear mix and match clothes for a week then hit up a laundromat before week two if you are worried about the bigger things drying overnight after a sink wash.

Edit: bTW, I never unpack in a hotel and rarely hang things up. My carry on is my one "dresser drawer". And at the end of week two the only clothes you should have left in your suitcase are dirty clothes that you take home and dump into your familiar washing machine. I take a pillowcase sized dirty clothes bag that isolates my accumulating dirty clothes as we travel.

Posted by
8 posts

We were just on a tour with two-night stays and the people who used packing cubes loved them. I am getting them for my next trip. My suitcase was organized for the first day or two, but not so much after that. I think the packing cubes would have helped a lot. There were two of us and we didn't get to do laundry on the tour; toward the end of the trip we put all of the dirty laundry in a large plastic bag in one suitcase and used the other for the clothes we planned to wear for the remaining days. Like Mona above, we didn't unpack at each stop. The biggest problem I had was finding things in the smaller back packs we carried. They had many zippered compartments and it seemed I had to always unzip half of the compartments every time I needed something; a better plan at the start would have probably helped.

Have fun!

Posted by
1833 posts

Hi glo, packing cubes are great. I put my tops in one, underwear and socks in another, etc. Some people pack an entire day’s outfit (or two) in each cube. Works well to keep things organized. Have fun in Ireland! Pack a rain coat and a second pair of shoes. We were there last June and it rained almost every day. Beautiful (green!) country.

Posted by
3505 posts

Agree with Donna-One of my friends used a different packing cube for each day's outfits and loved it-you could put 2 days in one cube. @ctesposito, I take my packing list as both a paper copy and a photo on my phone to help me be disciplined in replacing items in the correct location.

Posted by
2765 posts

To me an important factor is not to stuff each suitcase too full. A neatly packed bag using all sorts of space saving strategies to squeeze out every square inch is very difficult to recreate with dirty laundry, still-damp items, and the occasional purchase. Better to have each bag have some room.

A dirty laundry bag is a good idea if you can swing it - if each person has a carry on and a daybag then that would be tough. But if you have 3 carry ons and 2 day bags, the 3rd person could carry the dirty laundry backpack. Rotate who gets the dirty laundry bag.

Posted by
4544 posts

We typically only stay places 2-3 days. The key is packing cubes and don't stuff the suitcase so full that it is challenging to close it with every move. It is quicker for each of us to have our own suitcase that we keep organized. I always carry the plastic store bags and fill with dirty clothes as we go.

Posted by
489 posts

Good question.

We just spent 28 days in 13 different beds. Most time 1-2 nights, then a few 4 nights.
Packing cubes are how I do this type of travel. I start out with bottoms and tops in 2 different cubes, undies in one smaller cube and accessories in another smaller cube. I have the hanging toiletries bag that goes in last and comes out first. I hardly ever unpack that, so I never leave things and can make repacking quick.
I hang up the outfit I will wear for the next day (hoping wrinkles drop out, but also take a small travel spray of wrinkle release which also refreshes). After a couple of days when I have clothes that should be washed ... then I move those clothes to one of the larger cubes and keep them separate from those clothes that are fresher. Pack a few drier sheets for the less than clean clothes and perhaps a plastic bag.
I never unpack if the time is less than 3 nights, i.e., less chance of forgetting anything.
I find RS travel elastic clothes line indispensable and watch quick drying socks and undies and let them dry over night. hopefully you will have those great heated towel racks, that makes drying clothes so easy!

Posted by
8897 posts

Packing cubes are the answer. It is not difficult to move every few days. I never unpack my suitcase for two weeks or less of travel.

Posted by
10436 posts

Realize you will need to wear things two-or-three times without washing -- except for the underthings you should do the first night you are in a place so you are only carting along a few "smalls" that need a sink-wash at the next stop. One pacing cube for clean items, one for those you will wear again, and a separate one (or a zippered compartment on your suitcase) for anything you fear may contaminate the clean items. As mentioned above, do not overpack. I could do this with a carry-on case, three bottoms, 4 tops, a cardigan and a light rain jacket. No more than 2 pairs of shoes.

See if you can find a laundromat close by where you can drop off your stuff for the business to clean for you and pick it up later. It's well worth the expense. Enjoy your day and retrieve your stuff later. We often do this when traveling. We see it as just a travel expense. Ditto on packing cubes. My favorite cube brand is ebags.com - Ebags value set. If you are going to pack for two days at a time in a cube - I recommend the medium cubes for women. Roll your clothes like little logs and line them up in a cube. Saves a lot of space. The slimline cubes are good for socks and undies. Slimlines are also good for loose items like travel brochures, luggage locks, etc..
Go WOLVERINES! (I'm a wolverine myself.)

Posted by
7406 posts

Rick Steve's packing list is good for all occasions. We follow it religously, and just finished a 3 week trip with my wife in a wheelchair. I towed one carryon and had one carryon backpack. No problem.

Posted by
31 posts

Last year we spent 35 days in Europe and never visited a laundromat. We washed our clothes in the sink and hung them to dry. We also used the packing cubes as others have mentioned. This makes it easy to know what you are looking for. We only brought our RS carryon bags and my wife managed to have over 20 tops, pants, dresses, etc. This trip she is packing lighter but her bag was still under the weight limit for European carry-on. Enjoy your trip and pack smart.

Posted by
415 posts

Bring dryer sheets. I always put dryer sheets in my suitcase so everything smells nice. I also put a loose one in the small plastic grocery bag containing dirty cloths.

Posted by
3777 posts

I agree with what Laurel said. "Realize you will need to wear things two-or-three times without washing -- except for the underthings you should do the first night you are in a place so you are only carting along a few "smalls" that need a sink-wash at the next stop. ... do not overpack. I could do this with a carry-on case, three bottoms, 4 tops, a cardigan and a light rain jacket. No more than 2 pairs of shoes."

Sounds like my basic "pack for a week no matter how long the trip" packing list, including what I'm wearing. Being a stubborn and somewhat slow learner, I finally had to admit that I typically used only 4 of the 6 or 8 tops I'd usually take. I also had to admit that I really didn't need a third bra and shapewear camisole, and that 2 pair of compression socks are enough.

Our Navy vet daughter taught us something about dirty laundry -- fold it, roll it or whatever before putting it into a bag so that it doesn't take up so much space.

I'm a fan of compression packing cubes. They take out the air out (volume), but not the weight. I have these Eagle Creek Pack-it Specter Compression Cubes in 3 hard-to-leave-behind colors: blue, red and green. I've even used them for some toiletry items. Zipping them down makes those oddly shaped things cozy up to each other on their own.

Posted by
22491 posts

I was thinking about this very question yesterday before reading the initial post, because I hate the time I spend taking clothes out of my suitcase, hanging them up, and then putting them back when it's time to move on. And I have very few 1- and 2-night stops.

I came to the conclusion that rolling tops, bottoms and dresses and placing them in non-compresion cubes would be best, because it would be easy to retrieve the desired individual item. My practice of folding all the tops together, etc., means they all have to come out of the suitcase even for an overnight stop. This is a do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do comment, because the one time I tried rolling, I had more wrinkles than with my semi-bundle method. I'm still working on building a complete selection of clothes that come out of a suitcase in wearable condition.

I wouldn't want to pack individual outfits in separate cubes, because the bottoms definitely get worn more than once, I do a lot of mix-and-matching, and I don't plan what I'll wear earlier than the night before because I want to choose the most weather-appropriate combination that's clean and dry at the moment. I don't see how a separate cube for each day would work for me on a trip longer than 5 to 7 days, and then only if the weather was highly predictable.

I do use and love a compression cube for undies, etc. I don't take the time to compress it unless space in my bag gets tight. I use a simple plastic bag for dirty laundry, but a compression bag sounds like a good idea if luggage space is an issue. Since I do my own laundry, dirty clothes don't hang around very long, and I haven't had a problem with odor.

Posted by
11012 posts

I’m a packing cube user as well. I’ll add that I have a ziplock bag in each cube for dirty clothes. I do sink wash but if I’m just staying 1 night I’ll skip washing unders that night and just pop them in to the ziplock. I try to time my shirt wearing so that I’m re-wearing a shirt after a one nighter.

If you get packing cubes do some trial packs with them several weeks ahead of travel.

Posted by
983 posts

Although I have a wealth of packing cubes, I have found that I mostly prefer using the larger ziploc bags found in the luggage section at Walmart. I can easily see what is in each cube and since I use a backpack, my clothes are protected when caught in the rain. Another plus is that I can sit on the baggie while zipping it closed and compress it, which makes it easier to shove my backpack into the small overhead of commuter planes. Packing cubes or baggies, organization is key to swift traveling. Rolling shirts makes it easy to retrieve them without taking everything out of the baggie/cube. Pants I fold triple with the knee over the waist band so I don't have a big crease at knee level. I leave everything in the baggies/cubes and only take out what I need for the day. I place two grocery plastic bags in my backpack for dirty laundry but really only need one as I make sure I do laundry as soon as I hit the hotel where I will be staying two days. I also pack two shirt hangers and one clip hanger so I can hang my clothes around the room to dry. I also test the drying time of my clothes at home, not taking anything that takes more than 1.5 days to dry. Should you need to hand wash heavier items, after wringing it out, roll it in a towel and stomp on it, shake out wrinkles, and then hang to dry. Have a fun trip!

Posted by
653 posts

I'm enjoying this discussion. When it comes to foreign travel, not that I take more than one such trip a year these days, my trips seem to alternate between a long stay in one place and moving around every few days. I'm playing with ideas for a trip this fall and not sure which type it will be. I'm saving a link to this discussion for all the useful ideas. I use packing cubes, rarely pack things I don't end up wearing or using, but the bag can get chaotic if I'm moving around a lot. I'm open to anything that can make unpacking/repacking less of a PITA!

That said, this is how I roll (though I hand wash most lingerie):

See if you can find a laundromat close by where you can drop off your
stuff for the business to clean for you and pick it up later. It's
well worth the expense. Enjoy your day and retrieve your stuff later.
We often do this when traveling. We see it as just a travel expense.

Yep, a travel expense that I don't mind paying, to end a good day exploring by picking up a bag full of clean clothes. Sweet!

But, I don't always drop off the laundry. Last year when I was in the same London hotel for 9 nights, late in the trip I found a launderette around the corner and spent a couple of hours there one morning washing/drying my clothes. I didn't mind. The weather was horrid that morning, I was tired from overdoing the sightseeing and tramping around, and I needed a little quiet and rest. I got talking to a couple who were also tourists doing laundry, which helped pass the time, and I enjoyed sitting there with a cup of coffee, watching the street life through the windows as people went about their morning.

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you for all of the great tips! It seems that packing cubes are the way to go. I have a set that I bought for a 2-week trip last year, but found I could pack more in my suitcase without them (rolling method). I do use one of the small narrow ones for things like cords and outlet adapters. I think a couple of the medium size will do it for clothes. We'll have access to laundry facilities a couple times during the trip through a B&B laundry service, and self-serve in an AirBnB. But we have a good stretch of 6 days before we can do laundry for the first time. Love the idea of putting a dryer sheet in the bag to keep things smelling fresh (especially for the teenager).

Posted by
630 posts

For our 12 day trip to the UK next week, we each have three packing cubes/folders in our bag and will work out of those. We are changing locations about every three days. We have programmed a "laundry stop" in one of the towns if needed. Found a full service laundry that will wash and fold 16 lbs for about £10. As for inclement weather we each have a light rain jacket and fleece if needed. I have noticed that our rule of "Pack half as much as you think you'll need, but twice as much money" has changed to include planning on having some laundry done along the way.

Posted by
3751 posts

Since you have traveling companions consider this. Even with carry on bags always put some of your stuff in their bags and have them do the same. Carry on bags are sometimes gate checked regardless of size or weight. If one of the bags is gate checked and goes on it's own vacation, that person will still be able to get until it catches up without doing an emergency shopping run. I realize it may be a bit inconvenient to get things redistributed at the first hotel, but it is something to consider. We've been on several trips when some of our fellow travelers had to go without luggage for a couple of days. Just food for thought.

Posted by
7339 posts

I use packing cubes (and roll things into them), but usually save and use a plastic shopping bag for dirty laundry. That bag goes back into my carryon, but I won't confuse it with clean clothes. I don't unpack anything but the specific clothes I am going to use while there, even if its more than 2 nights.

We take one empty duffle bag that becomes storage for souvenirs and eventually, that is checked on the way home, with the remainder of dirty laundry.

Posted by
3450 posts

Disclaimer since I suggested packing cubes or mesh bags: I don't own or use packing cubes. I don't think I'd care for unzipping and looking through those things for similar colored tops, etc. I like my pants and tops in their own stacks so I can flip through them and see their colors better. I bought a couple of drawstring bags they sell in the laundry area of the housewares section of some stores to put my undies in so I can stuff them in anywhere. Another surprise "bonus" of my new hard shell carry on is that when it's opened, I now function as though I have two "drawers" instead of one. The shallow side for undies, Pjs, toiletries and the extra pair of shoes. The slightly deeper side for my wardrobe choices of the day.

I also assumed that packing cubes are slightly rigid, take up a little space and are an expense I didn't want. If any Sacramento people have a couple you could bring to our August meeting I'd be curious to smush them around a little.

I still think that for someone struggling without much of a system, packing cubes might help. Those of you who use them, do you have most everything in your suitcase organized with cubes or just 1-3 key categories?

Posted by
3777 posts

"I also assumed that packing cubes are slightly rigid, take up a little space and are an expense I didn't want."

In the case of the Eagle Creek compression cubes I mentioned above, your first 2 assumptions are false. The 3rd may be true for you, but for me they are well worth the cost. Each time I use them, they become cheaper per use.

"Those of you who use them, do you have most everything in your suitcase organized with cubes or just 1-3 key categories?"

I use them for everything I can possibly use them for, including some things that might be surprising. There has been much discussion about the virtues of rolling vs. folding. I must be a klutzy roller because every time I've rolled instead of folding, the clothes have taken up more space even when compressed and come out more wrinkled!

Posted by
653 posts

I agree with Lo: the packing cubes I use are completely un-stiffened fabric. They weigh very little and depending on how full they are and what's inside them, are very squishable inside my suitcase. I have the eBags regular (non-compression) ones: https://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/packing-cubes-3pc-set/13032?productid=949922 - I also have some of the long skinny ones. I've used them for, as best I can recall,nearly ten years. Usually after a trip I'll run them through the washing machine and air dry them. They are still in great condition.

I don't use packing cubes for absolutely everything in my suitcase, but seem to use them for more things every trip. If I'm checking a bag, I'll put a change of clothes (at a minimum undies, sox, shirt) into a small cube and stash it in my carry-on. The "main" suitcases (22" or 24") I tend to use already have some compartments built in. I tend to use more cubes when carrying my 22" bag which has no separate compartments.

Posted by
3493 posts

Well to start, I don't unpack at every stop.

I have toiletries in a bag that I pull out at every stop. Same for medications (which also includes chargers for my electronics). I then pull out a change of clothes. That's it. Everything else stays in the suitcase unless it will definitely be used at that stop (umbrella, jacket, swimsuit, and so on).

I do carry a super sized Zip top bag designed to hold clothes which has a one way value allowing you to squeeze out as much air as you can. I stuff my dirty clothes in there and place that back into my luggage before leaving. I then take that bag to a laundromat when it is time to wash, or place the items into the hotel laundry bag if the hotel will be doing my washing. The plastic keeps anything wet or smelly separated from the remainder of the contents in the bag.

Posted by
5697 posts

Medium packing cube for all my shirts and underwear -- tshirts rolled, others laid folded on top, all zipped together so I only need to pull out one cube to "unpack". On this trip, pants were rolled (and hung in the closet when we were in one location for 4+ days).

Posted by
10436 posts

Lo I love those packing cubes, too! Rick Steves' are heavy and though the Eagle Creek ones seem wimpy, the are flexible and hold a lot. I use them for a travel "medical" kit, cords, a few cosmetics: the list is endless. Well worth the price and I wash them along with the other laundry every couple of weeks.

Posted by
18553 posts

If you are concerned about unpacking and repacking, it's probably a sign that you are packing too much.

I never worry about having dirty clothes in my suitcase, because, except for slacks, I wash my clothes out every night. Early on, I carefully assembled a travel wardrobe of quick dry clothes (cotton-polyester blend golf shirts and underwear). When washed in hot water and well wrung out, they dry overnight. I carry a Ziploc bag just in case they are still damp when I repack, but so far that has never happened.

I use "drip dry hangers" (clothes pins with a hook on the end) for underware and inflatable hangers for the shirts (to keep the sides apart so they dry). I developed my system over my first trips to Europe; I've used it since for at least 7 trips of over 100 days. I once made a trip of 10 stops in 13 nights and it worked well.

Washing every night allows me to pack a bare minimum of clothes. In addition to what I am wearing, 2 extra slacks, 2 extra underwear sets, and four extra shirts. I also bring (probably) a sweater to wear under my jacket on cold days and a pair of shorts, maybe a swim suit.

I like the concept of packing cubes, but not their size. I think all of my clothes would fit in one packing cube. My four folded shirts go flat in a Tide washing bag; my underwear in a small mesh bag. My slacks, etc, go flat on the bottom of my bag. When ever thing else is taken out of the bag, they are accessible.

Posted by
161 posts

Lots of great hints in this thread! I would like to mention, though, that for people who are sensitive to fragrances (such as my asthmatic self), the lingering smell of dryer sheets is much more powerful and carries farther than you might think. I can smell dryer-sheet-treated clothes from several feet away, and find that clothing that has been so treated needs to be washed more than once to eliminate the smell. Maybe someone can suggest a fragrance-free alternative.

Posted by
7339 posts

michele, the alternative is not to use dryer sheets at all. Their impact on wrinkles seems moot in the context of traveling in this style, and their scent is the one of the primary reasons people use them.

Posted by
16 posts

Are there advantages of compression packing cubes over compression plastic bags? I've used 2 1/2 gallon zip locks (Amazon) but last trip I used the compression bags and found them superior. I like being able to see what's in the bags and it looks like you can't do that with the cubes.
Once we get to the country we're visiting, we use our Rick Steves Hideaway tote for an "overnite bag", packing our travel blankets, toiletries, pillows, pajamas and electronic chargers. Leaves extra room in our suitcases and it's easy to bungee strap it onto our rolling suitcases.

Posted by
16 posts

Are there advantages of compression packing cubes over compression plastic bags? I've used 2 1/2 gallon zip locks (Amazon) but last trip I used the compression bags and found them superior. I like being able to see what's in the bags and it looks like you can't do that with the cubes.
Once we get to the country we're visiting, we use our Rick Steves Hideaway tote for an "overnite bag", packing our travel blankets, toiletries, pillows, pajamas and electronic chargers. Leaves extra room in our suitcases and it's easy to bungee strap it onto our rolling suitcases.

Posted by
3505 posts

I haven't tried them, but Travel Fashion girl has some designed to remain in the carryon luggage instead of unloading the packing cubes into drawers at the hotel. Looked like they might be useful in your situation. And wow-I just looked at that site and she has suggestions for what to pack for a number of different destinations.

Posted by
11012 posts

"I haven't tried them, but Travel Fashion girl has some designed to use in the carryon luggage"

I used these on my recent 5 week trip to England and Scotland. I did 2 RS tours during this time so was often moving every other night with a couple of one-night stays thrown in. I thought they worked really well and often just left them in my suitcase, zipper opening up, slotted into my suitcase on their long sides. It was especially handy for my underwear/pj cube but I could also get my tee shirts in and out of them fairly easily.

I really, really liked them and was surprised they worked so much better for me than the Eagle Creek Compression cubes I've used for years. They probably weigh a few ounces more but unless you are into "competitive light packing", lol, it may not make much difference to you. I have no connection with TFG, just am a happy consumer of this product.

For me, it required a bit of practice ahead of my trip to be able to pack them efficiently and I load them differently than the flatter Eagle Creek cubes.

Posted by
3505 posts

With regards to plastic bags versus cubes, I confess that to me, the cubes just look so much neater than bags. I'm into "competitive light packing" only in competition with myself to see how adequately I can pack with just a carryon and a personal item, and when using a backpack instead of a rolling bag, weight does matter to me.

Posted by
2362 posts

I really like the packing cubes--I never unpack, have one for socks/undies/nightie, another for tops and the biggest one has spare jeans and other tops/light sweater. I also like compression bags for organization the same way-- though they are harder to access items. I bring a couple of plastic clip hangers and wash socks and undies each night, they are always dry in the morning, same with tops. Jeans get switched every 3 days or so--generally they dry overnight, but if you're worried about that then plan to wash pants the first night you arrive somewhere. I won't wear tops twice if I've been sweaty, just don't want to be that smelly person on a crowded bus.

Posted by
8897 posts

I never unpack unless I am in one place dor two weeks at least. I can’t imagine why you would do that. I only remove the packing cube at each hotel room with my underwear in it.