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Packing Cube Strategies

I’m curious what everyone’s strategies are for using packing cubes. Do you pack by the day in each cube or do you pack like items together? Which one is easier to manage?

Posted by
10334 posts

I pack items together- large for pants and anything else bulky and two small ones, one for shirts and one for underclothes. I take longer trips so one per day wouldn’t work for me.

Posted by
4 posts

I pack like items together. It makes it easy to find things. Electronics in one cube, personal care stuff (toothpaste, sunscreen, etc) in another, and so on. Also I've found it helpful to make a rule to immediately zip a cube closed when taking something out, even if I will return it to the cube in a few minutes. Otherwise I get distracted and then when I reach it to get the cube everything falls out.

Posted by
8808 posts

Items together.

Clothes ( blouses, socks and underwear, jeans and/or slacks )


Electronic chords, battery chargers.

Posted by
852 posts

Well, generally, I use compression cubes and do the below:

  1. Pants
  2. Tops
  3. Socks, undies, pjs
  4. Carryon cube - one extra pair of pants, one or two tops, plus extra underwear/socks, packed in carryon, just in case luggage is lost if I choose to check.
Posted by
7393 posts

Think about what’s most important to you.

Pack by day:

  • You want to wake up in the morning and have everything you are wearing (or maybe just underwear & shirt) all in one spot.
  • Maybe you are a late riser and need to hurry first thing in the morning.
  • You are okay refilling each of your packing cubes by day as you wash items.
  • You know immediately how many days of clothes you have left before needing to wash.

Pack by category:

  • You have brought clothes you want to mix & match or layer. You want to choose in the morning what you want to put together for an outfit.
  • An advantage to this method is that you can see when you have pulled out your last socks or underwear and need to wash something today! : )
  • This method doesn’t require the same number of sets of underwear as clothing items.

I use less packing cubes now because of the design of my current backpack, but I packed by category with my previous suitcase.

Posted by
5035 posts

Because I mix and match outfits, I pack like items together. And my trips are long enough that I could never have enough clothes to pack individual days. Plus, some items can be worn a few days before they need washing. Other items need washing after only one use.

I am NOT a morning person. And my brain doesn't really function until I've had a couple cups of coffee. To make my mornings easier, I lay out my clothes for the next day before I go to bed.

Posted by
2856 posts

I pack by clothes category and fold clothes not roll. There’s no “best” way to use cubes. Do what works for you. Sometimes it’s trial and error.

I found Sharper Image packing cubes at TJ MAXX several years ago. I like their small cubes better than RS small cubes; same size but an inch thinner, but I use the RS large cube. I don’t like compression bags, prefer cubes that hold their shape.

Small cube for leggings and sleep shorts and tank.
Another small cube for undies and socks.
Large cube for shirts, spare sweater, knee brace.
3-zip nylon bags, now discontinued, hold miscellaneous things, drugs, etc.
A Travelon zipped mesh bag for electronics.
And the RS Classic bath bag holds bath things.

Posted by
453 posts

I use packing cubes for categories as well. I have many different sizes of packing cubes that I have collected over the years in a lot of different sizes and configurations. Which packing cube I use depends on the type of carry-on that I am bringing, activities planned, length of trip and the weather. For example, on my most recent trip, I used a small 5" x 5" packing cube that I purchased at TJ Maxx for holding a rain hat, cold weather hat and a pair of gloves. And a large down parka was packed in a medium Ebags packing cube. Tops and pants each went into a medium Eagle Creek thin packing cube, etc.

I purchased two compression bags and don't really used them often. I find that they get weird lumps and bumps when compressed that make them harder for me to efficiently pack.

Posted by
6619 posts

Items together, for most of the reasons given above. If I had a cube for each day I'd need a lot more cubes, and to be able to plan clothes a lot more carefully than I do.

Posted by
1489 posts

I do categories as well. I use compression cubes for underwear, socks and shirts. RS cubes for pants.

Posted by
3932 posts

I also divide by category. My cousin does her’s by day, but she puts each day’s outfit in a ziplock. Her trips are usually 10 days max.

Posted by
27352 posts

Usually the first thing I do when I check into a new hotel is hang up my blouses, because they tend to come out of the suitcase looking rumpled. I spritz them with water if they need it, or I may dip one or two of them in water and hang them in the shower is the fabric is less than ideal for travel. I also hang up my slacks (two pairs since I'm wearing one), so it wouldn't make any sense for me to pack by day.

Posted by
217 posts

Like many of the others, I pack by category. I also keep track of how soon I need to do laundry by keeping clean (ish) clothes in the cubes and clothes ready for washing outside the cubes.

Posted by
991 posts

I also pack by category. One for bottoms, one for tops, one for underclothes, a toiletries kit and an electronics bag. The categories help me to stay organized and know where things are. If I’m in the same place for a few days I’ll take the cubes out of the suitcase and they are like nice little drawers. I rewear things and mix and match, so by day wouldn’t work for me.

Posted by
158 posts

I pack like items together, I would find it hard to pack by the day as there are items - like pants - that I will wear several days. I keep a separate laundry bag for items waiting to be washed.

Posted by
2856 posts

I use a free promo string backpack as a laundry bag. It has a front zip pocket that holds laundry soap sheet, hangers, sink plug. Dirty clothes lay flat in the bag. The whole thing lays flat in the suitcase so it takes no more room than when the clothes were clean in their packing cubes.
I wear pants a couple days but change shirts daily (and underwear of course). I hand wash every couple days allowing two days drying time just in case something is slow to dry.

Posted by
14157 posts

I only pack by days if I am going to leave my suitcase somewhere and just be gone for a night or two. For instance, on a Rick Steves Italy tour, some spend 2 nights in Venice mid-tour. Hauling a suitcase on a packed vaporetto is a pain so I have always just taken in a day pack with a packing cube with a couple of clean shirts, undies, pjs, toiletries. Then the first night after we've left Venice, I re-assemble my cubes into categories.

I also started doing what someone upthread mentioned...have an emergency cube when I'm starting my first flight that I can pull out in case my carry on gets gate-checked.

I also agree that it takes a few trips to decide what method might work best for you! I've tried flat fold, rolling, Marie Kondo fold, bundle packing and assorted packing cubes so I know what works best for me and my light packing strategy.

IF you are just starting out, do weigh each of your packing cubes or if you are buying new, be aware of the weight of the cubes. I have had to ditch my favorite cubes in favor of something lighter....2+oz per cube to 5/8 oz per cube.

Posted by
127 posts

I am with most, and use packing cubes according to category. When first traveling, I thought it was enough to just get everything stuffed into my suitcase. Later I realized it didn't do me much good, unless i could quickly find the item I was looking for. I suspect I will never go back to packing without the handy cubes.

Posted by
160 posts

I pack by category and I use small packing cubes. One for pants, one for tops, one for undergarments and PJs, and one emergency shirt and underwear in my personal item. I roll my clothes, although bulky items get folded. I also reroll my dirty clothes. I carry grocery store produce bags and my dirty clothes get folded, put in the bag and then back in the packing cube.

Posted by
85 posts

Horsewoofie- great idea on the promo string backpack idea. I have lots of those and had never thought to use for the dirty laundry with supplies. Awesome, thanks!

Posted by
26 posts

I plan what I think I will wear each day, depending on the activities for that day. With that general plan in mind, I usually pack days 1-4 in cubes. While I do wear some things twice, changing what I wear together, I don’t usually do so until after day four, so I only pack days 1-4 in cubes by day, the rest by type.

I like to have a plan for my clothes by day. This helps me to be very deliberate in my packing. I can change my mind and remain flexible, but I know what I have and when it can be washed, especially if I’m changing locations or have very early morning departures.

Planning and packing are part of the fun of traveling for me - that’s why I haunt this forum :)

Dirty Laundry bags to add to above tips.
I use either a couple of plastic grocery store bags; or, the free promo cinch bags (mentioned by horsewoofie) that my husband’s asic shoes come in; or, Rick Steve small cylinder packable duffle.
I really like the RS small cylinder duffle. Packs into itself, becomes a small square. Also, when fully packed with dirty laundry - still fits in my rolling carry-on bag or travel backpacks or my Vera Bradley totes.
If you need instructions on how to fold-up the duffle into itself - just ask. I would be glad to post about it.
I “cracked the code.”

Posted by
8 posts

I pack with a combination of ensemble cubes and category cubes.

  • Arrival cube has sleeping kit (longjohns, Patagonia zip neck) and next day’s outfit (only a shirt, socks, if the transit pants are still clean)
  • Then cubes by type of clothing such as underwear and socks, tops and bottoms.
  • When I was splitting time between sophisticated urban center and beach, I’d have a beach outfit cube - tee shirt, shorts, white socks, Tevas.
  • Finally I just stuff in my fleece, casual jacket, rain shell (sized-up Houdini) wherever there’s dead space.
  • If there are too many cubes there’s a potential for wasted space, since even rolling up stuff to fit cubes tightly there’s still empty corners, gaps, crevices.
  • But we all need a plan or we’ll waste too much time and stress completely unpacking. I mean that’s the key point, right, living out of our bags instead of repeatedly setting up drawers of stuff?
Posted by
14157 posts

@MWebb - I like the idea of an "Arrival Cube" especially if for some reason you are arriving later in the day or at night.

Posted by
6823 posts

Pam, I like the idea of naming packing cubes! What would be your favorite names?

Posted by
14157 posts

"Pam, I like the idea of naming packing cubes! What would be your favorite names?"

Well, laughing, according to the posts in another thread I might have to name one the "Stinky Shirt Cube"!! (And thank you for pushing me over the top to 14,000 posts. Yeesh...get a life Pam!)

Posted by
8808 posts

As far as naming packing cubes I’d go for:

Dr Who ( jammies, underwear, socks)
Jaws ( medicines )
Topper ( blouses, tees, sweaters )
St Elsewhere ( slacks, jeans, shorts )
All That Jazz ( Electronics )

Posted by
899 posts

Basically by category but it changes from trip to trip and even mid-trip. Sometimes regular folding, sometimes Marie Kondo. Rarely rolling.

I started with an Amazon Basics set which I like especially the long narrow cube. Then bought some compression cubes that didn't fully zip open for putting things into. Took forever to pack and zip. Ended up poofed up in the center which leaves air space around. Will still use for things like a fleece or puffer. Then a different travel company gifted us a set of compression cubes that fully open so they're easy to load smoothly and compress flat. Sadly I don't know the brand.

Posted by
1420 posts

I just returned from 2 back to back domestic trips ( Oklahoma city and bus trip to Nashville) if I get on top of stuff I might write trip reports. )
Anyway, bus trip was 5 nights in 4 different hotels so I leaned on packing cubes, and actually had plenty of room in my old 30 inch black roller bag .

I have 2 cubes that are just slightly bigger than a ream of paper, and two that are half that size. They can be gently hand washed. I started with a large one empty, clean shirts in one and clean undies in a small one, some random bits in the other small one. I used the other big one as a reposisitory for shirts as they were worn once, and plastic grocery bag for worn undies/socks. I had a total of three pairs of capris and a spare pair of shoes that were each in a plastic grocery bag with a spare pair of socks tucked in.
FYI I had a pair of pj's and a spare niteshirt. I also had 2 one gallon zip lock bags to corral spare snacks, brochures, etc. Having everything contained did help with the endless hotel changing

Posted by
721 posts

I organize mostly by category and somewhat by day.

For my main packing, I go by category --- a medium cube for pants and big stuff, a small cube for shirts (usually with an x-small featherweight cube for underwear nested inside), and a small cube for doodads (laundry supplies, art supplies, and non-clothing items).

I pack a small overnight cube with a shirt, underwear and sleepwear. I use the overnight cube in my carryon (yes, I check my luggage), and for one night stays.

Posted by
3932 posts

After I wear a shirt 2x, I repackit in my cube inside out. That way I know I wore it twice already.

Posted by
23 posts

I pack like items in the same cube.

I have a small cube that's for underthings, socks, a set of workout clothes, and a single drawstring pouch with jewelry. Then I do a large compression cube with sweaters folded on the bottom, t-shirts and dress shirts rolled and lined up on top. Finally, for long and/or more formal trips, I'll do an extra cube with extra pants, a blazer, and maybe a dress. I also have a cable cube for tech, where I carry a mini-USB, USB-C, a few USB-to-outlet bricks, a converter plug, and a foldable wireless charging station (

My cubes are a bit flimsy and wouldn't likely hold up in the wash, so I keep shoes wrapped in a plastic shopping bag and snag a laundry bag from my first hotel to hold dirty clothes.

Posted by
14157 posts

@Amygee - Do you find that it takes longer to charge your items on that wireless docking station? I ask because someone on a RS tour had one but he said it took too long. Also, will your phone charge in it's case? I have a new car which has a wireless charging pad but apparently my phone case is too thick so it won't charge on it.

Posted by
23 posts

@Pam Sorry for the delay! No, I find that my devices charge super fast on the charging pad! It's also fantastic when changing locations frequently, since I only have one charger to fuss with unpacking/repacking versus multiple little cables and plugs to potentially misplace. Just in case, though, I always keep a backup battery and a Lightning cable in my day bag. Battery anxiety is real!

Posted by
269 posts

I pack my cubes by city. Only one cube and a common item cube comes out of the bag. Laundry goes into a seperate cube. When washed, into another destination's cube.