Ok, I know it sounds a little weird but ziplock bags are one of my essential travel accessories as a seasoned long-term budget traveler! They come in super handy for many things when on the road but one more unusual purpose I use them for is packing.
Cheap Compression Packing
I’m sure you’ve probably seen (and maybe even used) packing cubes, compression bags, and vacuum packing bags. These are perfect ways to stay organized and save space in your suitcase. I’ve used both and they work great! But if you are on a tight budget, they can get expensive. You know what’s not expensive? Yup, Ziploc bags. (Or whatever brand you like!)
Gallon or 2-gallon ziplocks work best for packing. Roll or fold your clothes and put them in the bag so it’s not too full. Close the zip most of the way, then lean on the bag to get the last of the air out and close up the end of the zip before you let go. This essentially does the same thing as those fancy vacuum packing bags for a fraction of the cost!
Check out my posts on Packing for 6 Months in a Carry-On Suitcase and 5 Ways to Avoid Baggage Fees for more tips on packing light.
An Organizer’s Dream
While the larger bags are great for clothes, smaller ones are also awesome packing tools. You can keep jewelry and accessories in sandwich or snack sized ziplocks, socks and underwear in quart sized ones. Keep important documents safe and in one place in a ziplock.
I always carry a few extras of various sizes in case I want to reorganize as I buy stuff along the way or as clothes get dirty. I’ll keep one as a laundry bag, which is a great way to keep odors and dirt away from your clean clothes. I also like to make photo album scrapbooks of my trips, so I’ll dedicate one bag to ticket stubs, brochures, maps, postcards, etc. that I might want to include in my eventual album so that I don’t lose any of those small items.
Besides providing you with more space by suctioning all the air out of your clothes and helping to keep you organized, ziplock bags are also waterproof. This is very useful if you are caught out in the rain along your travels or if you are at the beach or out on a boat. Keep your clothes and electronics safe and dry. Plus, you can actually use touchscreens through the bag, so no need to get your phone wet if you need to use it!
On the other hand, if you have wet items, like a bathing suit, towel, washcloth, or shower loofa, that you need to pack before they dry, you can keep them separate from the rest of your dry things by sealing them up in a ziplock bag. Keep the wet with the wet and the dry with the dry!
The Durability Factor
The one downside to using ziplock bags for packing is that they are not designed for this purpose and wear out faster than specialty vacuum packing bags or fabric compression cubes. If you’re not careful, you may poke a hole in them or blow a seam. This just means you have to replace them more often. In the long-term, it might work out better to invest in something designed for this purpose, depending on the price you can find, but I haven’t done the math… 😉
To maximize their use, I recommend using the freezer-style ziplocks for slightly more durability than normal ones. They definitely work great for a one-off trip or to save money in the short term. And if you’re careful with them, you can actually get quite a long life out of ziplock bags for packing. I’ve used the same ones for several long-term trips without trouble.
So, take it from one who’s tried it all, ziplock bags are actually a really useful and inexpensive travel accessory. They save you space, help you stay organized, keep things dry, and won’t break the bank. Give them a try for your next trip!
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