Using vacuum bags for packing your clothes for travel is one sure way to get more clothes in a limited space. Fit a weeks worth of clothes easily into one carry on with this one travel hack.
First off I want to start with a warning that you have to be very careful about using vacuum bags for packing if you are flying. No it isn’t dangerous, at least to anything but your pocketbook. If you use vacuum compression bags you can easily blow past the weight limit on your luggage.
That being said using vacuum bags is a great way to get a lot of clothes into a small space. This is particularly true if they are fluffy items like sweaters.
The concept behind travel vacuum bags is very simple. You put in your clothes, seal the bag and then either suck or push all the air out. This squishes everything down as flat as possible. This compression means you can get a lot more in your suitcase. At least without having someone sit on your to close it.
When looking at vacuum bags for travel there are two main types. The first are true vacuum bags that you seal and then use a vacuum or a small vacuum pump to pull the air out of. The other are bags with closures that allow you roll up the bag, forcing out the majority of the air. The first do a better job of getting all the air out, but require you to have access to a vacuum. This can obviously a problem.
For traveling I lean towards the ones that you manual force the air out. You may not be able to flatten them out as hard but you can use them everywhere.
Do Vacuum Bags Wrinkle Your Clothes
If you are wanting pristine, flat pressed dressed shirts, then stuffing them in a vacuum bag randomly and compressing them isn’t a winning plan. That being said, for most clothes, if you put them in neatly, they will only get mildly wrinkled. Compressing all your clothes into a small space does come with some wrinkleage.
The TSA and Vacuum Packed Clothes
A common question that comes up is if the TSA will allow vacuum packed clothes through checkpoints. The official answer is yes. They don’t love them, but yes you can pack your clothes in them for flying.
Personally if I am using them, I pack only clothes in the bags and keep any objectionable items separate. So don’t pack you ‘adult novelty items’ containing batteries deep inside your vacuum sealed clothes.
Advantages of Using Vacuum Bags for Packing Your Clothes
- More clothes in a small space
- Clothes are protected from moisture
- Clothes are safe from bugs
The first advantaging to using vacuum bags to pack your clothes for travel is that you can cram an amazing amount of clothes in one bag. Especially if you use a bag fitted with a seal for a vacuum pump, you can make a big stack of clothes get really small.
The next advantage traveling with vacuum bags, is that your clothes will stay dry even if your luggage gets wet. Even if your suitcase gets soaked, your clothes will stay nice and dry
The last big advantage is that clothes in vacuum bags are immune to bugs. Depending on where you are traveling, you may want to avoid taking any of the wildlife home with you. The fact is that bed bugs among other insects are nut uncommon in some areas and anything you can do to reduce the change of bringing them home is worth it.
Disadvantages of Using Vacuum Bags for Packing Clothes
- Your luggage can get very heavy
- Very easy to over pack
- Some wrinkling is inevitable
- Can be hard to get into small bags
- Not easy to just grab an item
- Vacuuming them flat can be pain away from home
Top of the list for disadvantages when using vacuum bags to pack clothes is that it is VERY easy to overload your bag. With most airlines getting more and more strict about checked baggage, this is a serious concern. Now for carry on bags that magically don’t seem to matter to the airlines, you can go crazy on the compression. Beyond all the airline rules, trying to drag a 75# suitcase through the airport and in and out of cars is not fun.
Tied to this is the tendency to overpack. Just because you can get 15 outfits in your carry on bag doesn’t mean you should. Use the power of the vacuum bag wisely and still only take what you really think you will need.
Some wrinkling of your clothes is inevitable. Whether you lay them flat or roll them up, sucking all the air out of your clothes will add some wrinkles. The more carefully you put them into the bag will make a huge difference on how badly they get wrinkled though.
Getting a loaded up, flattened down vacuum bag full of clothes into a small suitcase can be tricky. Once you have flattened all your 1980s vintage rock band t-shirts into a brick, it isn’t going to want to mould itself into the shape of your suitcase very well. Planning ahead and sizing your vacuum bags to your luggage helps with this though.
If you are on the move, quickly grabbing an item out of your stash of clothes is a little trickier if they are all vacuumed away. One trick to make this less of an issue is to use several smaller bags as opposed to one large one. They will be easier to reseal, and helps keep your clothes organized at the same time.
Getting vacuum bags flattened all the way out when away from home can be a pain. At home you have room to spread out and do your thing or have a vacuum handy to suck the air out of your bags. Sitting in the Dallas airport after the friendly TSA people wanted to know what that one thing was in your bag, trying to recompress all your outfits into your overhead bag isn’t my type of fun.
Another Option for Compressing Clothes for Travel
Personally I only use vacuum bags for clothes under rare circumstances. In most cases I use compression packing cubes to organize and compress my clothes into my suitcase. They do a fairly good job of compressing clothes, but don’t require any of the fuss that vacuum bags do.
Check on Amazon and you will find a wide variety of compression travel cubes for anywhere from $10 to $30 depending on how many you get. If you are really crazy about travel organization, you can even separate out your dirty from the clean clothes with them.
Vacuum bags for packing your clothes for travel do have their place though. If you need a lot of clothes in a small space and need them to stay safe, they would definitely be my go-to choice.