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How to use packing cubes on a family trip

Anyone who knows me will tell you — I’m a little obsessed when it comes to organization! It just pleases me to have things in order! And that’s why I use packing cubes on our travels.

There are so many reasons to use packing cubes and different ways you can use them, and I’m going to share all of our tips and tricks with you in this post. Let’s. Get. Organized!

suitcase next to stack of packing cubes

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How to use packing cubes

What are packing cubes?

That’s a great first question. Packing cubes are basically just containers. Think soft, zippered box. They are often made of canvas, mesh, or plastic, and they come in different sizes. Many people buy a set of packing cubes in a variety of sizes.

pink packing cube set

Why use packing cubes?

Imagine your suitcase with all of your clothes, shoes, toiletries, and other items strewn about.

messy suitcase

Now imagine your suitcase with a series of soft boxes — a large one with all your bottoms, a medium one with your tops, a small one with your underthings, and a mini one with your toiletries.

organized suitcase

Ah, so much better, right? Are packing cubes useful? You bet they are!

Not only do they keep your things separated, making them easier to find, they can also help keep your clothes from getting wrinkled, and they can help separate clean clothes from dirty clothes.

Packing cubes are also super useful because when you get to your destination, you can remove the cubes from your suitcase, stick them in a drawer, and *tada* you’re unpacked!

How many packing cubes do you need?

Because I’m a questioner by nature, I did exhaustive research on packing cubes. I looked at many different brands and compared sizing to see if there was any kind of standardization. I read tons of reviews. I watched packing tutorials on YouTube. And then I made some decisions and bought our packing cubes.

close up of small blue packing cube

From my experience and research, I recommend getting the following:

Adults: one small, one medium, & one large packing cube
Kids ages 5-12:
one small & one medium packing cube
Kids ages 0-4:
one medium packing cube

(And yes, the sizing from brand to brand, in most cases, is pretty standard.)

Using the above number and sizes of cubes, I’ve found that I can pack everyone 4-6 full outfits, a pair of PJs, and a swimsuit. And don’t forget that they’ll always be wearing an outfit, too!

This is perfect for a short trip, or a longer trip where you plan to do laundry once per week.

You can also get a mini or extra small packing cube for toiletries, makeup, electronic accessories, etc.

How do you pack with packing cubes?

Check out my packing cubes video tutorial included in this post! That’s probably the best way to see how we pack with packing cubes.

But here’s the breakdown:


  • Large packing cube – bottoms and PJs
  • Medium packing cube – tops
  • Small packing cube – socks, underwear, bras, swimsuit


  • Medium packing cube – tops and bottoms
  • Small packing cube – socks, underwear, swimsuit, PJs

And for the very little kids, you can probably fit everything into one medium packing cube.

Here’s a look at everything we fit into the kids’ packing cubes:

kids clothes and packing cubes

My husband and I have big REI ruckpacks that easily fit our three packing cubes plus more.

The big kids each have a regular-sized backpack that fits their medium and small packing cubes, along with their laptops and a jacket or sweatshirt.

The little kids each have a junior-sized backpack that fits their medium and small packing cubes, with room for a tablet and a jacket or sweatshirt.

And all of the kids keep their toiletries in the front pocket of their backpacks.

four kids with backpacks

Are packing cubes worth it?

It’s probably clear what my opinion is here…yes! There’s really no downside to packing cubes but plenty of benefits.

Find more packing videos, tips, lists, and so much more in my Family Gap Year Academy!

Which packing cubes are best?

You can get obsessive like me and read reviews and really go down the rabbit hole…but I’m going to go ahead and say that there’s not a lot of differences among packing cubes.

The one major difference is that some cubes are compression cubes and others are not. Compression cubes actively squish the contents when you zip them up, so you can fit more into them. We’ve always just used regular cubes.

My husband and I use cubes made of canvas and mesh, mostly because I found a pretty, patterned set I liked, and he found a super cheap set on Amazon. Both have gone out of stock since!

For the kids, I bought plastic cubes from EZpacking.com.

color-coded backpacks and packing cubes

I LOVE these cubes because of four reasons:

  1. They are COLOR-CODED. Our kids have backpacks that match the color of their cubes, and there is never any question about what belongs to whom.
  2. They are see-through, so it’s easy to see what’s inside.
  3. They are sturdy. We’ve traveled for years with these cubes, and they’ve held up!
  4. They are affordable (and well worth the price)!

Packing cubes are perfect if you travel a lot, if you travel with kids, if you travel with a big family, and if you travel full-time, like us! If you’re an organizing nut like me, nothing will make you happier!

Check out EZpacking.com, and if you love what you see, use my coupon code ‘GAPYEAR’ for 15% off!

Happy packing!

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