This $20 Travel Hack Has Doubled My Carry-on Space, So I Never Have to Check a Bag

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Trust me, you need these Thule compression packing cubes.

<p>Travel + Leisure / Tyler Roeland</p>

Travel + Leisure / Tyler Roeland

There are many reasons I don’t like to check a bag, even when it’s free. Between the potential for lost luggage and waiting forever at baggage claim, I vowed long ago to skip the hassle and pack only with a carry-on. Although breezing through the airport with only a carry-on for a two-week trip to Europe might seem daunting, it’s easier than you think — especially if you know how to pack efficiently.

I’ve been achieving this by using packing cubes for a decade now, but it wasn’t until last year that I discovered the ultimate packing cube hack: Thule’s Compression Packing Cubes. These cubes have practically doubled the amount of clothes I can fit in my suitcase.


To buy:, $20

Here’s how it works: You stuff (or nicely fold) your clothes into the packing cube and zip it up — just like a regular packing cube. Then, a secondary outer zipper pulls together the top and bottom edges of the cube, flattening your clothes into a dense brick of clothes that’s much flatter than a regular packing cube. The cube slips easily into a suitcase and leaves more room for shoes, books, bulky sweaters, or whatever else you’d usually have to leave behind.

The nylon packing cubes come in medium (‎13.98 inches by 10.39 inches by 1.42 inches, holding 11 liters) or small (10.2 inches by 8.03 inches by 1.1 inches, holding 5 liters), or a set with both holding 16 liters.


To buy:, $25

Most carry-on luggage will either fit two medium-sized cubes or one medium-sized cube and two small-sized cubes in each half of the suitcase. The lightweight, ripstop fabric is semi-transparent, so you can easily identify the contents without having to unzip the cube. It’s also water-resistant — perfect for bringing home wet bathing suits without soaking all of your other clothes.

The best part of the Thule packing cubes is that they fit perfectly in my Away Aluminum Carry-On, filling one side of the suitcase with clothes and leaving the other side free for everything else.

For an upcoming long weekend trip to the Dominican Republic, I was able to fit four dresses (one of which was a sweater dress — I tend to get cold, even in the tropics) and a bulky jumpsuit into one of the packing cubes. The other I used for a sweater (one time I went to the Bahamas in December and it was only 70 degrees Fahrenheit — I’ve never forgotten it), a pair of linen pants, a pair of shorts, four shirts, another dress (more of a bathing suit coverup, really), a sarong, a beach towel, and an outfit for the plane ride home. It wasn’t even full!

<p>Travel &amp;#43; Leisure / Teddy Minford</p>

Travel + Leisure / Teddy Minford

With clothes only taking up half my suitcase, I had room to pack three purses, three pairs of shoes (two of which were platform heels), and five bathing suits (packed into Thule’s small compression cube, along with my underwear). I even threw in a pair of sneakers at the last minute just in case I end up hiking to a waterfall or something. It was one of the most frivolous packing jobs I’ve ever done, and at the end I still had room to throw in three extra books, just in case I decide to read on the beach all day instead of hiking to a waterfall.

The merits of packing cubes are well-known by now, but with these Thule compression cubes, you can take packing efficiently (or frivolously, in my case) to a whole new level.


To buy:, $45 for the two-piece set

The only downside? Those linen pants I brought are going to be a mess of wrinkles when I unpack at the hotel — but it’s nothing a quick spritz and steam won’t fix.

It seems I’m not the only one who’s on to the merits of these packing cubes. Over at Amazon, the Thule compression cubes have a 4.7-star rating. One Amazon reviewer said after using a few brands, “I prefer these over my others.” Another revealed they’re “surprisingly useful” and said, “These are great to compress bulky items like sweaters or coats and also useful to separate items like socks and lingerie from the rest of your items.”

Take it from someone who travels the world for a living: These Thule Compression Packing Cubes are an absolute game-changer for expanding your packing space. If you’re on the “carry-on only” train like me, don’t wait to snap one of these sets up at Amazon.

I’m a Thule compression cube convert through and through, but if you’re still looking for the perfect packing cubes or a larger set for your checked bag, read on for a few of our favorites from Amazon that are all highly rated and affordable, too.

More Packing Cubes at Amazon:

Bagail Set of 6 Packing Cubes


To buy:, $17 with on-site coupon for a six-piece set (originally $20)

Tripped Large Packing Cube Set


To buy:, $50 for a six-piece set

Well Traveled 8-Piece Deluxe Set Compression Packing Cubes


To buy:, $50 for an eight-piece set

Bagsmart Compression Packing Cubes


To buy:, $40 for a five-piece set

Cambond Compression Packing Cubes


To buy:, $27 for a four-piece set

Bee Nesting Waterproof Compression Packing Cubes


To buy:, $45 for a four-piece set (originally $50)

Rolling Nomad Packing Cubes Compression


To buy:, $20 for a three-piece set

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