I Tried This Unexpected Travel Hack, and It Changed the Way I Think About Organizing My Suitcase

published Mar 23, 2024
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Simple Houseware hanging shoe organizer used to pack children's clothes.
Credit: Emily Hochberg

As a professional travel writer and parent who jets around with my family in tow, I’m used to the chore of packing. And considering my daughters are 3 years old and 9 months old, there’s a lot to cart around.

Gone are the days when I could zip through an airport with just carry-on luggage and skip a stop at the baggage carousel. My family and I now travel with no fewer than three checked bags, one Pack ‘n Play, two car seats, two diaper bags, and carry-on bags for me and my husband. 

But one recent Instagram video gave me hope that packing for travel with kids could be way simpler and more organized.

In the video, which has over 28 million views and 400,000 likes, influencer Elizabeth Homan individually places one diaper, a pair of pants, and a pair of socks inside a baby onesie, folds it all up, and inserts the little bundle into the pocket of a hanging shoe organizer. She continues by filling each pocket with this clothing combo, toiletries, and baby shoes, then folds the entire organizer up and places it in her suitcase. When she arrives at her destination, she simply hangs it on top of a door and is unpacked, organized, and ready.

How I Tried This Shoe Organizer Packing Hack

It seemed easy enough, so I purchased this 24-pocket shoe organizer on Amazon for under $10 and got to packing. I replicated the packing style, starting with six long-sleeve onesies and it worked well once I figured out how to close the snaps over the bundle. I wondered how it would work with other baby clothes, such as footie pajamas, two-piece outfits, and T-shirt onesies, and I packed a few of those. 

Credit: Emily Hochberg

But the technique of snapping the bundle together with the onesie’s buttons didn’t apply to zip PJs or a two-piece outfit. So I just placed the diaper on top, rolled it up, and put it in a pocket. This made me realize the button-snapping step wasn’t a must. It would help prevent clothing stacks from unraveling in a suitcase, but wasn’t necessary when tucked securely inside an individual pouch. I also thought it made the whole process take longer than it needed.

Next, I filled the organizer with other items, such as a toiletry bag, a brick of baby wipes, shoes, a doll, a sleep sack, a hooded bath towel, and two small books. I then folded the entire organizer up and placed it inside my suitcase. 

Credit: Emily Hochberg

I realized there was no way it would fit in a carry-on bag, so I opted for my Away Medium suitcase and it took up one entire half. I was pleased I still had the second side for extra items like a white noise machine, Pack ‘n Play sheets, or larger books. 

Overall, I was impressed by how simple and organized this strategy was, and loved the idea of arriving somewhere with everything I needed at the ready, minus any mess.

Credit: Emily Hochberg

My Final Thoughts

There were a few things about this approach that won’t have me ditching my cubes just yet. My house has 8-foot high doors. I’m 5 feet 7 inches and I needed a step stool to hang the organizer over the top of my door. It made me nervous to think of arriving at a hotel or Airbnb where high doors and no stool would quickly render the whole system useless. And when fully packed, the organizer was heavy to lift. 

I also wondered if the organizer took up too much valuable room in my suitcase. I could have packed more without it. And if I wanted to use this method for my toddler, I’d need a second organizer and suitcase to fit those additional aforementioned items. That meant traveling with four checked suitcases instead of the usual three where my girls share one. 

Credit: Emily Hochberg

Finally, the hooks kept coming loose from my organizer, which is more a criticism of the one I purchased, and not this method, but I’d recommend buying one with hooks attached to avoid added frustration.

Still, it’s a great way to stay organized on the road — especially if you’re traveling with one baby. I’ll reserve my new shoe organizer for short getaways where I can fit enough items for both of my girls and stick with cubes for longer trips. But I do plan to start stacking clothes into these bundles inside my cubes.

And when I can use this hack for both girls, I definitely will — as long as I can verify my destination’s door height ahead of time.