Although I'm an avid traveler, I've always been a terrible packer.
I bought Away's $65 packing cubes before a big Europe trip, and they've changed everything.
The cubes keep my suitcase perfectly organized, and help prevent me from paying overweight bag fees.
I've lived on multiple continents and have traveled all my life, but I'm still one of the worst packers in the world.
You know that girl frantically off to the side of every airline check-in desk, playing a real-life version of Tetris as she tries to switch clothes around, stuff another pair of shoes in her carry-on, and throw on another sweatshirt or two? That's me, I'm that girl.
There have been many times when I've overpacked so badly that I just have to swallow the overweight baggage fee. And it's probably a miracle I have yet to break my back trying to lug a 60-pound suitcase up the tiny staircases of European hostels. But the worst is always during the trip, when my luggage has turned into a disaster zone and I can't find anything I actually need.
Something, I realized, had to change.
After planning nearly two straight months of travel this summer, I decided it was finally time to become a better packer.
I was traveling to three different countries, two different continents, and nine different cities in the span of eight weeks. If there was ever a time to learn how to pack, it was now.
My trusty TravelPro luggage was more than 10 years old and starting to break down, so I decided to invest in a new suitcase. I began researching popular luggage brands and asking friends who traveled a lot if they had any good recommendations.
So many of my friends raved about their Away suitcases, I knew I had to check them out for myself.
I live near the Away store in Venice, California, so I popped over one day before my big trip. I tested a few out and loved the variety of colors and the 360-degree spinner wheels, but what really drew me in was the interior compression system.
While my old soft-shell TravelPro luggage only had one big compartment for clothes, the hard-shell Away luggage has two. One side can be zipped closed, while a separate panel in the middle — which has a mesh storing compartment of its own — can be used to compress whatever's packed on the other side. It all seemed extremely organized.
Along with a large suitcase, I bought Away's packing cubes.
According to Away's website, the packing cubes "compress and organize everything inside your suitcase, from socks to shirts to even your bulkiest items." Since I had to pack a variety of clothes for weddings, fancy dinners, work assignments, and a beach vacation, this sounded like the perfect investment.
I opted for the $65 set of six packing cubes, which Away said are "designed to fit perfectly inside our luggage."
As I began sorting my clothes for the big trip, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed.
I had no idea where to start, which I realized is how I always end up overpacking in the first place. I just dump every outfit I think has some potential and hope it works out once it's time to weigh my suitcase (which, usually, it doesn't).
But now I had my packing cubes. So I decided to just take it one cube at a time.
First, I organized my clothes in piles based on where I'd wear them.
I stacked my wedding-guest gowns and more formal dresses together, while all the clothes I wanted to wear for my Mallorca beach vacation had their own section.
I made piles for workout clothes and outfits I could wear out to bars or clubs. I also grabbed one of the smaller cubes and filled it with underwear.
My cubes helped me realize when I was packing too many clothes for one occasion.
As I placed each item in the cube, I was able to visually see that I had packed way too many clubbing clothes or too many beach cover-ups. It became significantly easier to eliminate certain clothes and lessen the luggage load.
The cubes also helped me pack various items with my clothes, which has made finding things so much easier while living out of my suitcase.
I packed all my socks and sports bras — small items that usually get lost in my luggage — with the resistance bands I brought to exercise during my travels.
The workouts haven't been super successful (oops), but on the rare occasion I've found time to sneak one in, I've always known where to get my equipment.
The cubes are handy for toiletries too.
I used the smallest packing cube to group some of my random toiletries together, including razors, eye masks, and extra toothpaste.
The packing cubes also helped when I was organizing my carry-on.
I set off for my trip just as the horror stories of lost luggage began making the news.
Since all my clothes were organized by occasion, I just put whichever cube I knew was the most important for a certain leg of the trip into my carry-on duffel bag.
Before I went from London to Mallorca, I threw in a cube full of all my fun beach clothes and switched out the bigger cube with dresses I had worn to my friend's wedding in the Cotswolds. When I flew back to the US for another wedding, I swapped the cubes again.
I didn't have enough cubes for all of my clothes, so I left out my denim shorts, workout clothes, and loungewear.
I packed these clothes on the side of my luggage with the zipper flap to keep them in place.
I packed all my cubes on the other side of the luggage.
Later during my trip, when I unzipped my suitcase to get out some bug spray for a friend, they commented on how organized my luggage looked — words I'd never thought I'd hear.
I used the compression panel in the middle to store my remaining items.
I threw in my purses, as well as an extra pair of flip-flops and my sunglasses.
My packing cubes have kept me sane all summer.
I've been able to easily unpack at places where I've stayed longer than a week, and living out of my suitcase has been a breeze for the shorter mini-trips. I've been able to find everything I need quickly for every occasion, and keeping things organized has definitely kept my stress levels at bay — even during a summer defined by travel chaos (and my own travel nightmare when my passport got stolen).
At a time when airlines are charging more than ever in baggage fees, these cubes have also helped me realize what I tend to overpack. As I continue to use them through a hectic fall of weddings and bachelorette trips all over the country, I'm hoping I'll continue to become a savvier packer.
And if all else fails, there's always hiding my extra clothes in a pillowcase.
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