All my life, I never used packing cubes when I went on vacation. Now, that’s not to say that I never wanted packing cubes, because that is a completely different story! But, I never bought myself any because I always made due without them. And while I could spend hundreds of dollars on bins and organizers in Home Goods or Target, I could never get myself to spend money and buy packing cubes. Instead, I just figured out how to pack without packing cubes.
Don’t get me wrong, some people swear by using packing cubes anytime they use a suitcase. But, if you’re like me and don’t see the point in buying them, here is my exact method of how I pack without packing cubes and still stay organized. PLUS, I am also sharing some of my favorite general packing tips. And during a time like this when most of us haven’t been on vacation in way too long, we are all a little rusty in this department!
First things first: make a packing list
Before I can even begin to pack with or without packing cubes, you need to have a packing list. I can almost guarantee that you are either going to bring too much or too little if you don’t.
Your packing list does not have to be fancy. Literally all you need is your phone or a piece of paper and you are good to go. Don’t complicate anything for yourself!
You can make a packing list one of two ways: either by clothing type or by day.
By clothing type
If you want to make your packing list by clothing type, you first want to start by listing out the different types of clothing you are going to need. This is going to depend on the weather of wherever you are going and what you usually wear.
Once you have all of the different things you need to bring, the last step is to figure out how much of everything you want. This will depend on how often you are expecting to change and how long your vacation is.
In this case, you are pre-picking your outfits for each day of your vacation. I would only suggest doing this method if you have a pre-planned itinerary and know exactly what you are doing every day. Then, you won’t have to deal with not knowing what to bring and picking out outfits each morning.
On your packing list, write down specifically what you will need each day. However, don’t include something like socks and underwear for every single day. You know you need those every day, so include stuff like that and cosmetics at the bottom.
In either case…
Whether you are making your packing list by day or by clothing type, you want to make sure that you remember to bring everything. Don’t forget things like undergarments, shoes, cosmetics, and all those extra items. I like to make a separate section on my list just for this stuff.
You also want to make sure to bring some extra items for accidents or emergencies. You never know what is going to happen on vacation or what you may need. Regardless of which way you are making your list, add in an extra outfit or two just in case!
If you want to check out an amazing and FREE travel packing checklist, click here! This covers everything you might need, from clothes and shoes to important documents and medical essentials.
Time to start packing
Now that you have your list down, it’s time to learn how to actually stay organized and pack without packing cubes. Again, this is going to depend on whichever way you made your packing list. But regardless, you won’t need packing cubes for either!
By clothing type
If you made a packing list by clothing type, here’s the best way to get everything packed and ready. You want to go through your list, working with one type of clothing at a time. If the first thing you wrote was 4 short sleeve shirts, get those 4 short sleeve shirts from wherever they are and put them in a pile. I like to clear my bed so I have plenty of space, but the floor works too.
If something happens to be in the laundry or somewhere that you can’t get it, write down whatever it is on a post-it note and put it on the pile with the others in that category. This way, you will remember that something is missing before you leave for vacation!
Go down your list and repeat this step for each type of clothing. Once you finish, you should have a floor or bed full of piles of clothes. The next step is to combine some of the piles into new, suitcase-height piles. For example, if you have a pile of tank tops, short sleeve shirts, and long sleeve shirts, put them all into one pile. Keep doing this until you can fit all of your piles right into your suitcase.
For anything that isn’t folded and can’t be put in a pile (undergarments, bathing suits, etc.), put these in separate ziploc bags instead. This will keep them all together and organized!
Now just put everything into the suitcase! First, start with the bigger piles of clothes and work your way to the smaller stuff. Unless you have perfectly sized clothes, you are most likely going to be left with some extra spaces on the top and sides of your piles. This is the place for your ziploc bags, shoes, cosmetic bags, undergarments, and other smaller items. Fill up all those extra spaces so nothing moves around too much!
If you are packing by day, the first thing you want to do is pull out each day’s outfit and make individual piles. Remember, if anything is missing, just write it on a post-it so you don’t forget.
Once everything is out, put each outfit into a large ziploc bag and label the bag with the day that you want to wear the outfit and what is in the bag. For example, your bag might say “Day 2, long sleeve shirt and jeans.” For anything that is used everyday (undergarments), put those in its own separate bags and remember to label. Once everything is in a bag, just put all the bags in your suitcase and you are all done!
Random packing tips
Bring “matchable” items
If you are packing by clothing type, a rule of thumb is to not bring anything that won’t match a lot of other things. For example, try not to bring a shirt that will only go with one specific pair of jeans. Instead, bring something like a solid t-shirt that can go with a lot of different options.
Of course, always bring your favorite outfits, even if they don’t match with a lot. But try your best to make sure enough of your clothes are “matchable” so you don’t get stuck with your entire wardrobe in your suitcase.
Save ziplocs between trips
If you learn to pack without packing cubes, you are mostly likely going to be using a lot of ziploc bags instead. As long as they aren’t dirty, try to save your bags between trips. When I get home from a trip and unpack, I make a bag of all of the ziploc bags that I used. Then, just leave that bag in the empty suitcase so I have them for my next trip.
Unpack right away
While we are talking about unpacking, here’s my next tip: unpack right when you get home (or the next morning). I know, I know, you are tired or hungry or not in the mood. But, the longer you push off unpacking, the more annoying.
If you get home from a vacation during the day, unpack as soon as possible. If it’s the middle of the night when you get home, wait till the next morning and get it done. Trust me when I say you will thank yourself later.
If you fall into the rabbit hole of not unpacking for days on end and need help cleaning up some messes, this bedroom speed clean is perfect for you!