Travel Packing Tips 101: Using Cubes & Baskets

This afternoon I’m boarding an international flight for the Adriatic Coast of Europe, where I’ll be traveling with Hettie on a tour for two weeks — my first tour ever! (We shall see how it goes.)

In my move toward minimalism, I’m attempting to pack lighter (for me) and that means taking one medium sized 26″ suitcase. Yes, it will be checked.

A friend suggested that I share my packing tips with you. I welcome your additions to the suggestions offered below.

After extensive research, I ordered a set of Diniwell packing cubes. A Great way to organize your stuff. These have industrial strength zippers and are deeper than most. The mesh top allows you to see what’s inside.

(Note: For years, I have used clear plastic zipper bags recycled for this purpose after buying sheets, pillows, mattress covers sold in them. Over time, they have torn and are no longer useful. I always liked how I could see what I packed, so I wanted to replace this system with something similar.)

I take a sturdy Oaxaca handwoven basket and stuff it with boots, shoes or toiletries. I use it on the return trip to protect anything fragile I might buy. (On this trip, I intend to discard one pair of shoes at the end.) The bubble wrap and packing tape are in the outside zipper pouch of my TravelPro suitcase, which is now 10+ years old and still durable.

Handwritten packing list — I need to get this on a spreadsheet!

My carry on for this trip will not be a rollaboard. And, I’m not taking a computer, opting for an iPad with keyboard instead. I’ve decided on using my favorite Oaxaca woven shopping bag as carry-on container, along with my Topo duffle-style backpack and my Picuadro cross-body travel bag — it’s tough and sturdy. The money will be in a pouch tucked under my shirt. I have used the backpack comfortably throughout Mexico, India, Spain and Japan.

Cross-body bag will tuck inside woven bag for boarding = 2 carry-ons

Packing List: Clothing and Shoes

  • 1 pair blue jeans (Raleigh Denim is my preferred brand)
  • 1 pair Raleigh Denim bermuda shorts
  • 1 jean jacket (bought from Target)
  • 1 dress (my Zayzelle design made with breathable Japanese cotton)
  • 4 cotton/linen shirts
  • 4 pair underpants
  • 1 bra to pack, 1 to wear — one black, one white
  • 1 nightgown
  • 5 pairs socks, 1 wool and 4 cotton
  • 3 scarves to vary the look
  • bathing suit
  • sun hat
  • boots for urban hiking (Caterpillar brand), sandals (Wolky), flip flops, black flats (Alegria) — foot comfort is essential
Packing cubes stack neatly, making it easy to organize and see what you need

To Wear and Carry on Board

  • Comfy cotton Japanese loose-fitting worker pants
  • Short-sleeve cotton t-shirt and long-sleeve cotton t-shirt for sleeping
  • Linen long-sleeve jacket
  • REI long-sleeve polypropylene zipper jacket in case it gets cold
  • Wool quechquemitl (short poncho)
  • Wool socks
  • Cotton or wool scarf
  • Jewelry pouch — NO BLING

To Carry on for Overnight Travel

  • Neck support pillow (Cozzy brand) — I researched extensively, ordered and returned others, and found this one to be the most comfortable
  • Toiletries/make-up, toothbrush and toothpaste, face wipes
  • Essential medications
  • Ear plugs and eye mask
  • Snacks — power bars, 2 packages Ramen noodles, ginger candy
  • Printed itinerary with record locators, flights, lodging contacts
  • Passport and copies
  • Small travel notebook (Moleskine) and pens
Nylon hanging toiletries bag to lighten load!

Technology: Be sure everything is fully charged before you leave home

  • Fitbit battery
  • iPad and charger
  • Auxiliary power pack and charger
  • iPhone and charger
  • Earbuds
  • Adapter to use in-country
  • USB plugs
  • Power strip, small

Miscellaneous to Pack

  • Umbrella
  • Laundry soap, Tide stick, sewing kit
  • Scissors, nail clips, emory board
  • Shampoo, rinse, creams, lotions
  • Q-tips
  • 2 clothespins for drapes that don’t shut
  • Sunscreen
  • Moleskin padding
  • Hand-sanitizer
The contraption is a hanging clothes dryer — from Japan, of course!

Other ideas

  • Jenny says: Bring clear plastic zipper bags
  • Joan says: Never check a bag — bring wash and wear
  • Helene says: leave plenty of time to get through security to avoid stress
  • Madelyn says: Bring bubble wrap and tape
  • Sandi says: Cut a water bottle in 2 pieces, 1/3 and 2/3; wrap your treasure in toilet paper, insert inside bottle, push both pieces together; great for protecting breakables
  • Becky says: Write a packing advice article

What are your tips? For those of you who can travel for 2 to 3 weeks with a carry-on, please share how you do it!

Please add your suggestions to the Comments!

Dubrovnik, Croatia, coastline

25 responses to “Travel Packing Tips 101: Using Cubes & Baskets

  1. Great article. For 30 years, I’ve aspired to pack for 3 seasons & 3 countries in one carryon bag. Still improving. A recent tip from my daughter reduced my underwear container and laundering time by half. Use pantyliners, change daily, changing panties every other day.

  2. This isn’t about packing, but about travel in general. Get a TSA pre-check number or Global Entry number so you avoid long waits in line at domestic security clearance. By using TSA-precheck or Global Entry, you avoid having to remove your shoes, and you get to use the metal detector instead of the X-ray machine which requires you to empty your pockets. And as someone mentioned, always take your meds and ESSENTIAL cosmetics in carry on (and maybe a change of underwear and socks for while you’re waiting for your lost checked bag to find you).

  3. I never throw out old underwear; I save them for overseas travel and throw them out as I go. This saves the time and trouble of washing stuff, or saves the expense of paying outrageous prices to have stuff laundered Also my underwear costs about $2.50, maybe $3, so on some trips, I have just tossed stuff as I go, which makes room in my suitcase for things that I acquire on the trip. Women should bring as little jewelry as possible. Bracelets, necklaces, and dangly earrings set off metal detectors at security, and they occasionally go “missing” from hotel rooms. Don’t bring books (other than travel guides). You can fit an enormous library on an iPad. Finally, no one is going to care if you wear sneaks and jeans every day (and night), and if they do care, you’ll never see those people again anyway.

    • Haha, traveling as a fashionista with a change of clothes for every city is a hardship! Totally agree, and absolutely bring nothing you don’t want to lose. No favorite Jewelry. No gold. Never. No diamonds. Leave your diamond rings at home. Love the idea of toss and go underwear! Thanks, Lew.

  4. Love all these packing tips. I always take a small Swiss Army knife with mini scissors (have used it every time). Ziplock bags (used for a # of reasons esp. damp swim suit or when I bring home something that could leak). I use a cloth 6pk wine holder for 3 pr of shoes (works great). Silk pillow case (keeps hair in place + it’s your bit of home) I also pack a couple of Greeting cards or/& postcards(from city or State were you live) – Birthday & Thank You are good as there will be a Birthday celebrated somewhere. Also, I take samples of expensive perfumes (Chanel etc) as they make great token gifts of gratitude. If you’re planning on returning with wine etc.-pack Kids water wings..they pack flat and when inflated protect the bottle (I often return with a speciality drink or wine.
    Instead of clothes pins – I pack large paper clips (the kind you pitch)
    Hope this helps…

  5. Very informative! I plan to go to a conference in Montreal in November and plan on no checked baggage to save the cost. I like your idea of small packages to subdivide the load so that you can more easily find what you want.

    My suggestion, from sad experience–do not put any electronics in a checked bag. This material goes in a carryon. I had a Kindle reader stolen.

  6. Oh, yes! And if you are checking your bag with clothing, ALWAYS make sure that you take a change of clothing, your medications and important toiletries, and maybe another pair of shoes in your backpack. I have seen too many travelers miss connecting with their main suitcase and not get it 2 weeks later. Two such incidents occurred on islands (Sicily and Ireland), where the airline attempted to deliver the lost case as we travelled around the islands, but never caught up with the clients. The Ireland suitcase was delivered to the woman’s house 2 weeks after she returned home. Include a copy of where you will be staying in your checked luggage.

  7. Wow! That is a lot of weight! I am an older woman who still likes to keep everything for a 3 to 4 week trip in what the airlines allow to be taken aboard. I have found that all those additional little things add up to more weight than I can manage – an ounce here, plus another half ounce and so on. (I used the packing cubes, etc during my younger years.) For example, you are carrying 2 clothes pins and I would carry 2 straight pins. And that Japanese clothes dryer looks heavy, and for what? Take a length of lightweight rope and a few of the pins off the contraption. I live on the road and out of my suitcase 4 to 6 months most years and feel I am now at my smartest in understanding how to dress and how to travel for most places. Good luck!

  8. Bon voyage Norma! I look forward to your pictures and stories. Marc and I always travel with a 20 inch soft sided pack and small tote each. No wheels because often they make you check the bag if the plane is full. I wear the heavy shoes and coat. I bring a couple of special items, especially scarves and jewelry and I wear a lot of the same color, whether is black, beige or blue. It’s tough but I have to resist the temptation to bring special clothes that I can’t part with.I donate a pair of shoes and some clothes at the end of each adventure so I have space to bring home new treasures. Marc actually fit our 8 x 10 Velasquez rug in his pack after the Folk Market.
    I pack everything in zip lock gallon sized bags and then use those bags for everything.
    In a few weeks we will head for southern Spain and then up to a chilly Budapest to see our son. The challenge will be packing to cover all kinds of weather. Stay tuned!

    • Well, I am still challenged to lighten my load. If I buy a piece of art glass in Venice, I have a secure way to transport it. I do t wear my boots because they lace and are a pain To remove in security. No heavy coat on this trip but a down vest just in case. Layers. Definitely. Most of my weight is in creams and medications.

  9. Feliz Viaje….Enjoyed your travel tips..I usually take too much…
    Will try following your example..
    Disfruta el viaje…saludos de Ruth

  10. Great article — you pack the same way I do, except I still have a good stock of used/re-used clear plastic bags. But those mesh bags are tempting.
    One thing I’ve learned — things like bubble wrap & tape can be bought virtually anywhere (& usually cheaper than in the states) or — have whomever you buy from wrap it up (& then re-wrap it yourself, re-using their packaging.) I don’t use much bubble wrap, instead I use my clothing, have never had anything break. And don’t forget — putting breakables inside of shoes/boots works too. Norma, I can’t believe how much, how often you’re traveling — go girl!

  11. Have fun. Understand Croatia is beautiful! I am off to
    San Miguel de Allende for two weeks with side trip to Patzcuaro.
    Have been to SMA many times.

  12. This is wonderful! Thanks Norma. We’re off to the Independence Day parade!

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