Why I always travel with (lots of) Ziploc bags

July 7, 2013
Ziploc Bags: The Perfect Travel Aid

Here are nine reasons why you should buy Ziploc bags before your next trip, too.

Some travelers carry small atomizers filled their favorite scents; one squirt in a hotel room evokes memories of home. Others swear by inflatable neck pillows that allow them to sleep like babies even when stuck in the middle seat of a crowded airliner.

Yes, I do that, too, but the one thing I absolutely couldn’t do without is my stash of Ziploc bags. My packing ritual always begins with grabbing boxes of bags of different sizes. Here are some reasons why I use these indispensable travel aids:

1 – Keep clothes neat

I fold all of my blouses with tissue paper in-between and place each one individually in a Ziploc bag. This keeps each garment remarkably wrinkle-free and clean. I use the same technique for lightweight jackets and sweaters, too. (By the way, slacks and jeans are usually folded in half at the bottom of my suitcase—underneath the bags.)

When I plan to re-wear an item, I return it to the same bag, folded as neatly as it was the first time. I almost fool myself when I take it out again because it looks so fresh, like it was just washed and ironed.

2 – Provide a barrier separating dirty from clean

When the outside pockets can’t accommodate all my laundry, I use jumbo size Ziploc bags to store dirty clothes and undergarments inside my suitcase.

3 – Make it easier to pack and repack

Travel often involves moving from one destination to another. If there is ample time and room to unpack, I do. It’s more pleasant than living out of a suitcase. But moving the bags from a suitcase to shelves and/or drawers (and doing that in the opposite direction) is far easier when items are bagged rather than loose.

When I bring some items home unused, they are ready to go on my next trip!

Part of My Ready-to-Wear Collection

Part of My Ready-to-Wear Collection

4 – Offer security against bringing bedbugs home

If you are bedbug-phobic, you probably cringed when I said that I place clothes in drawers or on wardrobe shelves on hotels or cruise ships. However, when Ziploc bags are sealed, there is less risk of bringing home bedbugs or other critters—than had you placed belongings in drawers without them.

5- Protect belongings from liquid spills

Of course, TSA has recognized the beauty of the Ziploc bag with its 3-1-1 policies. But there may be some liquids or sprays you can’t place in your carryon. Securing them in Ziploc bags provides insurance they won’t leak all over your belongings. Recently, I made the mistake of bringing along a bottle of hair conditioner with a tilt cap. Never again. The pressure of something in my suitcase leaned against it, tilting the cap. The contents poured into the Ziploc but didn’t get anywhere else. Saved by the Ziploc!

The Never-Again Conditioner

The Never-Again Conditioner

6 – Hold bathing suits and damp clothes until you can dry them

If you have ever hand-laundered underwear that didn’t dry by the time you had to check out of your room, or have gone swimming the night before packing, you’ll be happy to have a few Ziplocs stowed in your suitcase.

7 – Store foods and leftovers

If you want to eat like a local or bring back part of your half-eaten meal to your room, Ziploc bags come in handy for storing bread, cheese, fruit or whatever else strikes your fancy. (Mine often hold chocolate.)

8 – Keep cords organized

I keep a snack-size Ziploc in my purse to keep my cell-phone charger and cord handy. I can use charge the device at an airport (and on some planes) and then return it to its place in the bag so it doesn’t get tangled up.

9 – Keep dust bunnies away

If you ever had a “dust bunny” appear on sequential photos, you’ll appreciate this tip. Sometimes, placing a camera in your pocket exposes it to dust that glomps on to the sensor of the camera, which produces a small spot on each and every picture. Cleaning it off without the right tools or know-how can be difficult so prevention is the best approach. Keeping your camera in a sandwich size Ziploc can help avoid this vexing problem.

The Bottom Line on Ziplocs:

This is NOT a sponsored post. I pay for all my Ziploc bags and have no brand loyalty. I use Hefty and Glad bags, and generics as well, whichever brand seems to be on sale. I also recycle/re-use them to cut down on costs and be more eco-friendly.

I’ll never forget my dear mother-in-law, Sadie, who once said to me: “What, you throw out a Ziploc bag? They are meant to last for twenty years!”

Unfortunately, that one had been holding rotten lettuce.

*For additional suggestions on free and cheap travel gear and gadget, read Evelyn Kanter’s post on that topic on EcoXPlorer. 

Do you use plastic bags for travel?

Sadie on Her Wedding Day

Sadie on Her Wedding Day

  • Reply
    July 7, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Hi Irene,
    Thanks for reminding me of nine ways to use zip lock bags. I would like to suggest a tenth way. I use the snack size zip lock bags for my daily pill consumption. Each little bag carries one day’s consumption of pills and vitamins. I have found that this saves precious space in the suitcase and/or cartry-on. Pill bottles, or those hard plastic daily pill containers are not as easy to pack. Though Sadie would disapprove, I dispose of each bag after I have taken my daily dose.

    Also stick with the name brand zip lock bags. I bought some generic ones in a Dollar Store and yes, they locked, however they did not UNlock. I had to cut them open. Very frustrating!

    Love your columns.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2013 at 10:05 am

    I use Ziplocs when I travel…but I never thought of using them to pack clothing. Great idea – thanks!

  • Reply
    Linda L
    July 7, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Dear Irene,
    Loved your article on packing, particularly since I get to pack and unpack so often due to work travel.
    Since my recent experience with finding a bedbug in my room, I think the idea of having my clothes in baggies is great – this would have prevented lots of work and angst upon my return home. I had to throw all my things into the dryer and wash what I could.
    Your articles are always so interesting, practical and helpful!
    Thank you.
    Linda L

  • Reply
    Jo Heroux
    July 7, 2013 at 11:36 am

    I do use them for travel. Carry medication in the original bottles with attached label when flying is important, though. TSA can and has taken necessary meds that were just in baggies because they could be anything. Not wanting to go to jail for the Mr.’s diabetic meds, we never take them from the pharmacy bottles.

    I use them for hygiene items, always. The toothpaste in one. The toothbrush in another. Hair brush in one. Etc. it keeps me from cleaning them constantly and eliminates the possibility of them contaminating anything else not bagged.

    Great article!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 7, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Thanks for adding the warning about keeping medication in original containers, Jo!

      Could be a good idea to keep each medication vial in a separate snack-size baggie (unless you have child-resistant caps)—could certainly prevents spills!

      Best, Irene

  • Reply
    Paul Glassman
    July 8, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Damp bathing suit in a plastic bag equals heavy stinking garment when you unpack. No way! Use your hair dryer on it and discreetly carry it in a mesh bag.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 8, 2013 at 8:49 am

      Just until you have time to wash it or dry it!
      Good idea about the hair dryer but I prefer plastic to mesh!

  • Reply
    Julie Barker
    July 8, 2013 at 7:00 am

    Love the reminder of the ziplock bags, thanks for that, I have used them in the past, but had forgotten. never thought about bedbugs before, as I always try and unpack, so will remember that tip.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Sadie was a beautiful bride!

    I ALWAYS travel with Ziplock bags as well. My stash never leaves my suitcase unless I had a spill but as soon as they dry out, they’re back in the suitcase. In addition to ziplock, I’ve got bags from Canada customs and laundry bags from every hotel I’ve stayed at.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for that great post! I myself found ziplock bags very, very useful on my travels so far and I will most definitely take some with me when my journey to Asia starts in December. I didn’t use them for clothes though but I try it out!

    Thx again and have a sunny day!

  • Reply
    Michele Wojo
    July 10, 2013 at 9:13 am


    I’ve been using ziplock bags for years when traveling. They keep everything safe from spills. I haven’t used them for clothing, though. Interesting tip!

  • Reply
    July 14, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I never once thought about packing with Ziplocs and am amazed by all your commenters who do it routinely. I’m going to go to Target and get a stash of cheap Ziplocs and try this packing tip for my next trip. My husband refuses to pack until 30 minutes before we leave so I can’t imagine he’ll be joining me in the zen of Ziploc packing. (-:

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Yes, it does take a bit of extra time but I think it’s well worth it!

      • Reply
        PJ Malin
        July 20, 2013 at 11:11 am

        Hi Irene, I have used the plastic bags for years when traveling and rarely throw them out (they can be recycled, though, with other plastics). Most of my trips are short and domestic, so I never put clothes in a dresser drawer in a hotel room. It also makes it quicker to keep the bags and clothes in your luggage in case you want a late breakfast, a last-minute trip to the fitness center or a late swim before you have to check out. (I always think checkout times are TOO early, but maybe it’s because I’m a night owl and late riser!) The ziplock bags also keep dirty shoes and sneakers from coming into contact with clothes. I pack my lighter sweaters or blouses in small, light mesh bags about the size of a folded-up blouse. They’re TIDY TOTES from a company called Blink. They’re like the large-size mesh laundry bags. The dollar stores used to sell the small mesh bags 4 for $1 and I also bought them as a gift for traveling friends.

  • Reply
    BJ Nguyen
    August 15, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    Regarding preventing spilled liquids in your suitcase, I take 2 preventative measures: 1) I use 3M strapping tape (the type you use to seal a box for shipping) and I seal every bottle I bring with strapping tape(even tilt caps). 2) Then I load all those little bottles into a toiletries carrier I got from Mary Kay years ago that has 4 zippered plastic pouches which roll up & velcro together to cushion each other. Since doing this I have only had 1 bottle come open & it just spilled into the plastic pouch which I was able to wipe out later. I now carry strapping tape (as well as baggies)with me in my suitcase so that I can strap all the bottles back up again when I am ready to travel home. It takes a little time but saves lots of hassles later. I also use baggies for all sorts of things when packing including most of the uses you list above (going to try it on clothes now though). Thanks for the great tips.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      August 16, 2013 at 5:29 am

      Thanks for adding the tip about the strapping tape, BJ.
      Don’t you feel great when you catch a spill in a bag—compared to what could have been?
      Best, Irene

  • Reply
    September 22, 2013 at 12:26 am

    Just curious as to what size zip lock you use for your tops, blouses and sweaters. Are gallon bags a good size; freezer or storage? Thanks for all the tips. I use zip lock for many of my travel needs, but I have never used them for clothes. I have heard that plastic in general, i.e., bags from the dry cleaners help prevent wrinkles, so I am going to try the zip lock for my clothes. Do you think they will help the wrinkles on my face?!!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 22, 2013 at 12:29 am

      I use the freezer size because it takes less time to put things in and out than the gallon size. Wish it worked for face wrinkles! Let me know when you find the solution to that one:-)
      Best, Irene

  • Reply
    June 16, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    I’m really late on this post! I don’t travel much but I also travel with zip-loks and use them for a lot of the same reasons you mention. I also buy whatever brand is cheapest as I’ve never seen a difference.

    Love the clothes folding idea. I never knew the bags could prevent wrinkling.

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