Visit any travel advice website and you will find dozens of articles extolling the virtues of packing cubes. But the reality is that these luggage organising contraptions may be a very expensive mistake.

What are packing cubes?

Packing cubes are a way to organise and compress your clothes so that they fit more neatly into your suitcase. Typically they are a collection of small, zippered bags into which you roll (or neatly fold) clothing.

There are two reasons why packing cubes are useful:

  1. You can arrange your belongings however you like, making them easier to unpack.
  2. They provide additional compression, ensuring your belongings are not scattered all over your suitcase during transit.

Once the packing cubes are filled, they slot neatly into your suitcase. Anything which doesn’t fit, can be nestled between or around cubes, maximising available luggage space.

Packing cubes for suitcases

This is the set of cubes I bought from Amazon. At less than £10 for a complete set of 13 organisers (include some refillable liquid pouches and drawstring bags), it seemed a reasonable price for my travel hack experiment

Did packing cubes change my life?

Yes. I found that packing cubes made it really easy to fit 17 days worth of clothing neatly into a large suitcase.

The cubes also dramatically simplified unpacking – at least for smaller items like t-shirts and underwear. You just take the cube out of your suitcase and place it into a drawer.

Repacking is also much easier. As you take off your dirty clothes, they can be placed straight back into a cube. So when it comes time to disembark, reloading packing cubes takes a matter of seconds.

So what is the problem?

When going on a cruise, my suitcase is generally jam-packed. Using packing organisers dramatically reduced wasted space. In fact, almost a quarter of my case was still empty once my clothes were packed.

Great. But…

That extra space means you can quickly overestimate your luggage allowance. And if your suitcase is too heavy, airlines will not hesitate to charge you an astronomical excess baggage fee (£65 per bag on British Airways).

When I arrived at Miami International, my suitcase weighed more than 30kg – well over the 23kg limit. Thankfully our BA Executive Club Silver status entitles us to 2 x 23kg suitcases each. So I got away with it this time.

I suggest you exercise extreme caution when using cubes. Weigh your suitcases before leaving home to avoid embarrassment at check-in.

Bargain basement packing cube travel hack

There is one way to test out the packing concept for free – plastic shopping bags.

Simply roll/fold your clothing into a plastic carrier bag. Once full, use the handles to tie the neck closed. Boom! You’ve contained and compressed your luggage ready to be fitted neatly into your suitcase.

It’s not as pretty as ‘real’ packing organisers, but it is effective. The same caveats about over-packing still apply.