I’ve lived on many continents and traveled all my life, but I’m still one of the worst suitors in the world.
You know that girl who stands beside every airline check-in desk frantically trying to change her clothes, playing real-life Tetris, putting on another pair of shoes and throwing on another sweatshirt. two? I am that girl.
There were many times when I was overweight and had to swallow the overweight baggage fee. And maybe it’s a miracle I break my back trying to lug a 60-pound suitcase up tiny stairs in European hostels. But the worst is always during the trip, when my luggage turns into a disaster zone and I can’t find what I need.
I realized that something had to change.
After nearly two straight months of travel planning this summer, I finally decided it was time to become a better packer.
In eight weeks I was traveling to three different countries, two different continents and nine different cities. If there was ever a time to learn how to pack, now was it.
My trusty TravelPro suitcases were over 10 years old and starting to break, so I decided to invest in a new suitcase. I started researching popular luggage brands and asking my well-traveled friends if they had any good recommendations.
So many of my friends raved about their Away bags, I knew I had to check them out for myself.
I live near the Away store in Venice, California, so I popped in the day before my big trip. I tried a few and loved the different colors and the 360 degree spinner wheels, but what really drew me in was the internal compression system.
While my old soft shell TravelPro suitcase only had one large compartment for clothes, the hard shell Away suitcases have two. One side can be zipped shut, while a separate panel in the middle – with its own mesh storage compartment – can be used to zip up the other side. It all seems very organized.
Along with a large suitcase, I bought Away’s packing cubes.
According to Away’s website, the packing cubes “organize everything in your suitcase, from socks to shirts to your bulkiest items.” I had to pack different outfits for weddings, fancy dinners, work assignments, and beach vacations, so this seemed like the perfect investment.
I opted for the $65 Six Pack Cubes, which Away says are “designed to fit perfectly in our suitcases.”
As I began to pack my clothes for the big trip, I couldn’t help but worry.
I had no idea where to start, that’s how I always end up carrying too much in the beginning, I realized. I throw in every piece of clothing that I think has some potential and hope it works when it’s time to weigh my suitcase (which isn’t usually).
But now I had my packing cube. So I decided to take only one cube at a time.
First, I organize my clothes in piles based on where I wear them.
I sorted my wedding guest dresses and more formal dresses together while all the clothes I wanted to wear for a beach holiday in Mallorca had their own section.
I made clothes for working out and clothes that I could wear to bars or clubs. I also took one of the smaller cubes and filled it with underwear.
My cubbies help me keep track of when I’m packing too many clothes for one occasion.
As I put each item in the cube, I can see if I have too many club clothes or too many beach covers. It became very easy to remove some clothes and reduce the luggage load.
The cubes also helped me pack different items into my clothes, making it much easier to find things while living out of my suitcase.
I packed all of my socks and sports bras – small items that often get lost in my luggage – along with the resistance bands I brought to practice with during my travels.
The practice wasn’t very successful (oops), but since I rarely had time to go in, I always knew where to get my gear.
Cubes are also convenient for toiletries.
I used the little packing cube to group together some of my random toiletries, including a razor, an eye mask, and extra toothpaste.
The packing cube also helped me when organizing my carry-on.
I started my journey just as horror stories of lost luggage started making the news.
With all my clothes haphazardly organized, I put the cube I knew would be essential for a certain leg of the trip into my carry-on bag.
Before I left London for Mallorca, I threw in a cube full of my fun beach clothes and changed the big cube into a dress I wore to a friend’s wedding in the Cotswolds. When I returned to the US for another wedding, I changed the cubes again.
I didn’t have enough cubes for all my outfits, so I left my denim shorts, workout clothes, and sleep pants.
I keep these clothes in place with a zip flap on the side of my suitcase.
I put all my kibosh on the other side of the suitcase.
Later in the trip, when I unzipped my suitcase to pull out some bug spray for a friend, they commented on how organized my suitcase was – words I never thought I’d hear.
I used the compression panel in the middle to store the rest of my stuff.
I threw in my bags, as well as an extra pair of flip flops and sunglasses.
My packing cubes have kept me sane all summer.
I was able to pack easily for places I stayed longer than a week, and living out of my suitcase was a breeze for short trips. I was able to quickly find everything I needed for every occasion, and organizing things definitely kept my stress levels at bay – during summer travel chaos (and my own travel nightmare when my passport was stolen).
At a time when airlines are charging more than ever for baggage fees, these cubes also helped me understand what I tend to carry. As I continue to use them for weddings and bachelorette trips across the country, I hope to continue to be a hunter packer.
And if all else fails, there’s always stashing my extra clothes in a pillowcase.