Beginner’s guide to packing everything you need in one carry-on

beginner packing tips

Whether you’re going on a weekend getaway or taking a big trip to a foreign country, packing is truly the worst. Most of the burden is figuring out where to put everything, how the eff it’s all going to fit, and how in the world I’m going to find it again once I’m trying to unpack.

Enter packing cubes.

My husband bought these packing cubes for our honeymoon after a lot of internet research (confession, this is basically how I find anything good online). Until this point, I was a total travel beginner and never even dreamed of only bringing one carryon somewhere, mostly because that would require actually fitting everything in one bag.

I was skeptical at first that these little pouches were actually going to help me. But I quickly realized they let me pack a lot more into a lot less space and kept me organized when I was on the go. I’ve since abandoned my previous packing tactic of throwing a bunch of crap into a duffle bag and calling it good. I use cubes to pack for every trip now (as usual, my husband’s internet research has greatly improved my quality of life even though I was initially skeptical).

My husband bought the six-pack of cubes instead of the four-pack because we wanted enough for both of us, but I also really like this set because it comes with a hot dog-shaped bag. It’s perfect for underwear, socks, sports bras, really any undergarments.

I pack one type of thing into each cube, which is insanely helpful for staying organized, even if I’m only traveling for a few days.

For example, when I went skiing last weekend I put all the super warm outer layers in the XL cube, underwear/bras/socks in the hot dog cube, and then regular shirts and pants (like flannel and a pair of jeans) in the mid-size cube. I could easily get dressed in regular clothes without having to dig through all of my skiing layers, and my underwear didn’t get jammed in a random corner of my bag, never to be found again.

In warmer weather, like when I went to Greece, I packed all my tops in one cube, all my bottoms in another, all undergarments in the hot dog, and then put dresses in a separate section of my suitcase. Being away from home is so much less stressful when you can actually find everything you brought with you (I know, novel concept) and the packing cubes help keep me organized since I’m not tearing apart my bag trying to find something.

Even better, you can fit so much more stuff when you pack with these. I cram as much stuff as I can into the cube by rolling my clothes, zip it shut (which helps compress it), and then gently place it smush it into my suitcase (which further compresses it). Particularly with winter clothes, they compress everything down so much more than just putting piles of clothes in on their own.

Now, let’s say you’ve really jammed your cubes in tight – don’t worry, these have a handle on them for pulling them out of tight spaces (like your full-to-the-brim carryon).

These cubes also come with a laundry bag, but if I’m not going to be gone for long, I just shuffle everything dirty into one cube and everything clean into another. It makes laundry super easy when you come home because you just dump everything from that cube into the hamper. You could of course also do this with the laundry bag, I just don’t want to bring something extra with me (or more accurately, we’ve lost it and I don’t know where it is).

Bottom line, everyone hates packing/unpacking and cubes make it a million times easier to bring as much as you want and be able to find it once you’ve arrived.

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Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.

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