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Why you should use packing cubes to improve your (traveling) life

Aug. 02, 2022
9 min read
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I used to think packing cubes (individual little bags for your suitcase) were useless — an extra expense and a mess of nylon, mesh and zips.

Then I tried them.

Packing cubes can help you become a more organized and efficient traveler, but that's really only one of the benefits.

Now that I'm a packing cube convert who regularly uses and evangelizes these little squares, I often get questions from friends and family members who see my orderly suitcase and pepper me with questions.

"Do they help? How do they work? Are they worth it? Should I buy some? If so, what brand?"

Here’s what I tell them.

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(Photo by Natalia Kostikova / EyeEm/ Getty Images)

What do packing cubes actually do?

Packing cubes can help you organize your suitcase and improve your overall travel experience in a number of ways.

The different-sized cubes help organize and separate clothing (think: tops, bottoms, swimsuits). You can group items together by outfit or type of clothing (all your shirts in one, workout clothing in another) or, especially if you're traveling with a family, you can use them to pack by day.

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For example, everyone's Monday outfits go in this cube, Tuesday outfits go in another cube.

This is really handy for that first night where one cube holds everyone's pajamas and other immediately required essentials.

Packing cubes help keep your clothing wrinkle-free, regardless of whether you prefer to roll or fold them. They also help you fit more items into your bag, which can help keep you on "team carry-on."

Additionally, if you want to help reduce your risk of bringing bed bugs home from your travels, they can play a major role there, too. More on that in a moment.

Related: How to pack like a frequent flyer

How did packing cubes change my life?

As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t always into packing cubes. In fact, I didn’t even really want to try them.

I thought that, as a travel writer and frequent Ryanair flyer, my packing game was completely on point; I even use the app PackPoint to ensure I never forget anything.

But when a friend repeatedly raved about them, I thought it would be fun to give them a try, mainly so I could prove to her they were a waste of money.

Now I’m a packing cube convert.

After I decided to try packing cubes, I had to find the right ones. Once I had carefully investigated several brands online such as eBags, Amazon Basics, Eagle Creek, Away, Lean Travel and Gonex, I selected Eagle Creek (specifically: cubes in its Pack-It Specter line). The brand had great reviews, and I appreciated that the cubes were more malleable and less structured than some of the others so I could easily fit them in a backpack.

Related: 15 best shoes for travel

A progression of my compression packing cube. (Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)
A progression of my compression packing cubes. (Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

Reviewers said the zippers were sturdy and the nylon fabric lightweight and flexible, so I decided to purchase two different three-packs of the Specter: one with small, medium and large cubes and another with a medium dirty and clean cube, a medium structured compression cube and a toiletries cube.

I didn’t mind then that they weren’t transparent, but I’d like to eventually get another set that has a mesh or transparent section so I can see what’s in each cube.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and I’ve used the cubes for over 100 trips.

I don’t always use all of them — it very much depends on the season, length of my trip, whether or not it’s a business trip and if I plan to check a bag or use a backpack — but I find the compression cube, as well as the different-sized cubes, are the ones I consistently use the most.

I particularly love using the cubes for items such as undergarments and swimsuits, and for keeping fitness or casual clothes separate from dressier items. I also use the smallest cube for cords or miscellaneous items like adapters.

I’m really happy with Eagle Creek, as the cubes are showing no signs of wear and tear just yet, but I could have also been just as happy with another brand. In the future, I plan to order more structured cubes to use in larger trolley suitcases and transparent cubes so I can see the contents of the cube without having to unzip it.

Related: 8 tips for doing laundry while traveling

As another example, TPG director of content Summer Hull swears by CalPak packing cubes, which come in lots of fun colors, are sturdy and, most importantly, hold up very well to hot air tumbles in the dryer, which is a bit of a rare attribute for most packing cubes.

Are packing cubes right for you?

Whether you’re an expert traveler or packer or someone who rarely goes on vacation, packing cubes can benefit everyone. But they can be especially helpful if:

  • You’re a backpack traveler. Backpackers can use softer packing cubes to separate items when filling up a backpack. This can help organize within a small space and make items much easier to find, especially as you can’t open a backpack extra wide like you can a suitcase.
  • You want your suitcase to be organized. Cubes help separate items, so each has its own place and your suitcase looks (and actually is) much neater.
  • You're packing for multiple people and want to organize items by day of the trip.
  • You have to hit the ground running upon arrival. Business travelers who have immediate meetings may not have time to unpack, settle in and iron their outfits. Packing cubes can separate a change of clothes, keeping them wrinkle-free and ready for you to quickly find and wear upon arrival before an important meeting or event.
  • You want to fit as much as possible in a carry-on. Using compression cubes when traveling on low-cost carriers with size limits means you can put in all your clothes and then zip the compression cube, which will shrink it into a more manageable size, allowing you to fit more in.
  • You want to minimize your risk of bringing home bed bugs.
My suitcase stays organized with packing cubes. (Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)
My suitcase stays organized with packing cubes. (Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

I highly recommend you give packing cubes a shot, even if you’re not yet a believer.

If you still aren’t convinced, now is the time to point out that packing cubes can be pretty affordable. Amazon has plenty of options varying in quality, style and color. One budget-conscious brand on Amazon is Gonex. Another Amazon brand liked by some members of the TPG staff is Peak.

The aforementioned CalPak packing cubes are pricier (about $70 for a set), but as mentioned, they can hold up to heat while some less expensive brands can not.

If you’re unsure that packing cubes will work for you, start with a lower-priced set. You can always upgrade once you decide which ones you like best and what features work — or don’t.

Packing cubes can help you avoid bed bugs

Although I haven't had a run-in with bed bugs (yet), some travel experts recommend using packing cubes to help with bed bug prevention if you don't want to bring luggage into your house.

After enduring a bed bug nightmare from travel, for example, Summer Hull sought to do everything possible to prevent that from happening again. That included never again bringing luggage into her home -- which is admittedly tough for a family.

Packing cubes made the seemingly impossible task easier. She's able to immediately run clothing (and the packing cubes) through a hot cycle on the dryer after traveling to kill any potential bed bug hitchhikers. Then, once they've been heated, the packing cubes can be safely stored and used to pack inside the home.

It's much easier to quickly load suitcases (that have been stored in bins in the garage) by tossing in a few ready-to-go packing cubes, instead of folding and packing everything from scratch out in the grass.

Related: The best carry-on bags for 2022

Are packing cubes worth it?

Packing cubes aren't a gimmick -- they are a legitimate tool frequent travelers can use to stay organized, maximize what can fit in the carry-on and even keep your home safe from bed bugs. Getting all that for around $20 - $40, depending on which packing cubes you order, is definitely worth it to us.

Additional reporting by Summer Hull.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023