Packing for long term travel is so much harder than packing for a 2 week vacation. It’s no longer a “vacation”, but actually a new lifestyle. When I pack for a short vacation I usually pre-plan my outfits, but now that we are travelling full-time I just have a small capsule wardrobe. Everything I own fits into one suitcase, and as a recovering shopaholic I have to admit that’s not easy for me!
After a few trials and many errors I finally found a strategy that works for our new lifestyle, and my secret is packing cubes.
Packing cubes can be purchased at any luggage store but don’t be surprised when you see the ridiculous price tags. A lot of travellers love the packing cubes from Eagle Creek but a set will easily cost you over $100. After a bit of research Paul found a set of four packing cubes at Ikea for only $10!
After a few months of using out Ikea packing cubes we’re really impressed. They are so durable that I can’t even believe people pay $100 for other brands. Best of all they come in navy blue and hot pink – so we both got fun colours we love!
I ended up buying (and using) two sets for a total of $20 and below I’ll explain exactly how these packing cubes have been a total game changer for the way I pack:
Each Ikea set came with 4 different cubes; one large double-sided cube, one large single-sided cube, one small cube and one shoe bag. It doesn’t really matter what brand or style of packing cubes you use, just try to find ones that stack nicely into your suitcase. The Ikea ones were not only affordable (and cute!) but they also fit perfectly into my new bag.
I ended up using four large packing cubes and two small ones. I threw out the shoes bags that came with my sets because they were way too big for my size 6 shoes and didn’t really work for me.
How I Use Them
I treat each packing cube is like a drawer. One for socks and undies, one for swimwear, one for dresses and one for casual clothes…. This way, when I arrive to a new hotel I take my packing cubes out of my suitcase and place them on a shelf or inside a drawer. Voila – instant wardrobe! Once it’s time to pack up and leave our hotel I just zip up my cubes and pack each of them into my suitcase. With this technique I’m literally able to pack in less than 10 minutes – which is crucial for me because we usually switching hotels ever 2-3 nights.
This has literally been life changing because it drastically cut down the stress and time involved in unpacking and repacking at each new hotel.
Inside My Cubes
As I mentioned before, I use a combination of 6 different cubes:
- A large double-sided cube for all of my dresses (one side for casual daytime dress, one side for cocktail dresses).
- A second double-sided cube for all of my casual clothes (one side for workout clothes, one side for tops and shorts).
- A large single-sided cube for all of my swimwear.
- A large single-sided cube for all of my accessories (heels, sandals, a small purse and two scarves).
- A small cube for socks and undies.
- A small cube for miscellaneous stuff (like an inflatable neck pillow and sleep mask).
By having each cube hold a certain type of clothing I’m truly able to treat each cube as if it is it’s own drawer in a wardrobe. This is also really convenient because I don’t always need to remove every cube from my suitcase at each hotel. A lot of times I only remove three cubes (my dresses, my swimwear and my undies).
Making It All Fit
I’ve tried a few different techniques for making all of my clothes fit into the cubes, but the best way for me is to roll my clothes. Not only do I get more clothes into the cubes but I find that my stuff is significantly less wrinkled which is a huge bonus.
The only cubes that don’t have rolled items is my undies and my swimwear. These items are better folded – but the rest is rolled!
How Much Stuff To Bring
Deciding how much stuff to bring when you travel long term isn’t easy, and I actually ended up donating some clothing that I originally brought because I just had way too much stuff. I was surprised how easy it was to do hand laundry as we travel and for the first time ever I’ve started taking advantage of laundry services in hotels.
Once you see how easy it is to do laundry as your travel you’ll realize that you actually need a lot less clothing than you thought.
Because we only travel to warm countries I almost only wear dresses. I have 6 daytime dresses that are mostly cotton (fast-drying!) and 4 evening dresses. This strategy worked well for me because I never have to match my clothes. It’s just one piece of clothing that I throw on every morning. I always feel put together but I never put any effort into how I look in the morning – which is exactly the kind of carefree lifestyle you want when you’re travelling!