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Cruise Packing Lists and Tips For 4 Types of Cruises: Warm-Weather, Cool-Weather, River, and Adventure Cruises

By Kit KieferMay 5, 2021

Photo by Charl van Rooy on Unsplash

 

It’ll soon be time to start sailing on cruise ships again … and what typically worries travelers most about cruising? Packing! These cruise packing tips will help you bring just what you need for your next cruise  – and it all starts with our four complete cruise packing lists based on the type of cruise you’re taking!

We’ve made it easy to find a packing list specific to your cruise. First we’ll give you an overview of the challenges you face with cruise packing, then you can jump directly to your cruise type. To make it easier, each list includes a downloadable Cruise Packing List PDF:

Overview: Challenges with Cruise Packing

Warm-Weather Cruise Packing List and Tips

Cool-Weather Cruise Packing List and Tips

Adventure Cruise Packing List and Tips

River Cruise Packing List and Tips

Before you go, let’s look at what makes cruise packing so challenging.

Overview: Cruise packing Challenges

Packing for a cruise – any type of cruise – is unlike packing for other types of trips, largely because of four big challenges:

1. Space restrictions

Cruise quarters are cramped – and not just hotel-room cramped. More like New York City high-rise budget-youth-hostel cramped.

Because the more people that can be fit onto a cruise ship the more money the cruise line makes, cabins are tiny, with every inch of space put to use. That translates into less sprawl room for you and your luggage.

Because there’s no room for extra stuff on a cruise ship, everything you pack has to have a use. If it’s there for show, it’s gotta go.

2. Variable weather conditions

You’re going to spend time on deck. The problem is, you can never be quite sure what the weather will be, and what you’ll need to wear to feel comfortable.

Even tropical climates can feel chilly when the evening breezes start blowing, so a windbreaker or light jacket is a necessity no matter how high the daytime temperature.

Things only get more complicated when cruise itineraries take you further north or south. For these cruises, rain gear, sweatshirts and more heavyweight jackets that can be layered are recommended.

How do you pack when you can’t be sure of the weather? Think combinations of clothes and layers as opposed to flip-flops and a parka.

Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

3. Carry-on restrictions and other regulations

The Transportation Safety Administration regulates and restricts the contents of carry-on luggage, and monitors the contents of checked luggage.

In addition, some cruise lines have their own prohibitions, which can include alcohol, firearms and other contraband. 

Finally, ports of call may have their own rules on what’s allowed to be brought into their countries.

The general rule of thumb is if you’re not sure whether something’s allowed, leave it at home. 

4. Formal vs. informal wear

Many cruisers are vexed by the question of whether formal wear on a cruise means polo shirts or tuxedos for men, and evening gowns or slack suits for women.

In general, on a cruise “informal” means “business casual,” and that should suffice for all but the most formal evenings, even on the more upscale ships. 

Formal wear is typically cocktail clothing for women and sport coats or suits for men.

Check with your cruise agent before you leave home if you’re unsure about packing clothing for formal and other theme nights. Your ship may also rent formalwear like tuxedos, so you don’t have to bring your own.

Photo of swimsuit, sunglasses, passport, cash, phone and planner

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Packing for specific cruise types and the need for a packing checklist

There’s scientific proof multisensory stimulation helps people perform complex tasks. The act of making a list helps your brain make better decisions about what to do. A list also carries with it the implication to act on that list.

That’s why we make packing lists – and why a comprehensive cruise packing list is so important.

Different cruises require you to pack differently. These checklists and tips can help you pack more smartly for – and get more out of – warm-weather cruises, cool-weather cruises, adventure cruises, and river cruises.

PRO TIP 1: No matter what, pack a carry-on bag 

All our checklists include a long list of stuff that you should cram into your carry-on, because depending on the ship's size and the cabin stewards’ efficiency, you might not see your main bag for awhile. Bags unfortunately do get lost on cruises.

A carry-on that can carry the essentials and maybe even double as a daypack can be a lifesaver when your luggage takes a vacation of its own. Just don’t let that bag out of your sight!

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

PRO TIP 2: Pack for 10 days max 

To be honest, a seven-day cruise packing checklist isn’t going to look much different than a 10-day list, which isn’t going to look much different than a 30-day list.

The reason: Space constraints make it impossible to pack unique items for more than seven to 10 days on most cruises.

If you’re on a cruise that lasts longer than that, pack laundry essentials and wash out things on a need-to-wear basis.

Nobody wants to spend a glamorous shipboard evening washing out socks and underwear. But the tradeoff is less hassle, more room … and a steady supply of clean clothes.

Warm-weather cruise packing list and tips

Caribbean, Mediterranean, South Pacific, and South Asian cruises are among the most popular with honeymooners, sun-seekers, and cruisers of all types looking to escape the fall and winter cold.

These warm waters are home to some of the cruise world’s largest ships, filled with everything from trampoline parks to racetracks.

There’s so much to do on the ships and the ports of call are so exciting – so how do you pack for such a diverse experience?

Start with our tropical, Mediterranean, and Caribbean cruise packing checklist:

 
Clothes/Accessories:

  • Undergarments
  • Socks/stockings
  • Sleepwear
  • T-shirts/tank tops
  • Dress shirts/polo shirt (1-2 each)
  • Casual shirts (2-3)
  • Jeans (1-2 pair)
  • Pants/slacks (1-2 pair)
  • Shorts (3-4)
  • Dresses (1-2)
  • Dry bag/pouch
  • Skirts (1-2)
  • Sweater/sweatshirt
  • Formal wear
  • Swimsuits/cover-up(s)
  • Windbreaker/raincoat
  • Hats
  • Scarves
  • Umbrella
  • Laundry kit (soap, stain remover, dryer sheets, wrinkle remover)
  • Watch/fitness tracker
  • Mini-hangers
  • Athletic shoes
  • Dress/dancing shoes
  • Sandals/flip-flops
  • Belt(s)
  • Ties (1-2)
  • Secure clothing (money belt, storage pouches, etc.)
  • Jewelry
  • Purses
  • Collapsible tote/laundry bags
  • Over-the-door toiletry/shoe organizer/storage bag
  • Beach towel
  • Lanyard

 
Personal Care Items:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Brush/comb
  • Hairstyling appliances
  • Face cleanser/moisturizer
  • Pain relievers
  • Vitamins
  • Sunscreen
  • Contact lenses/solution
  • Shaving supplies
  • Makeup
  • Makeup remover
  • Feminine-hygiene products
  • Birth control
  • Nail file/clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bandages
  • First-aid ointment
  • Insect repellent

 
Miscellaneous:

  • Office supplies (Post-Its, paper clips, rubber bands, envelopes, Ziploc bags, writing pad)
  • Nightlight
  • Outlet strip
  • Plug adaptor
  • Copies of passport/credit card/prescriptions
  • Emergency contacts
  • Credit-card/bank contacts
  • Mask/snorkel
  • Corkscrew

  
 
Carry-on:

  • Books/magazines
  • Cell phone
  • Earbuds/headphones
  • Travel blanket and pillow
  • Ear plugs/eye mask
  • Tissues
  • Lip balm
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • Toothbrush/paste/floss
  • Sunglasses (ideally polarized)
  • Changes of clothes (2)
  • Food/snacks/gum
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Medications including seasickness remedies
  • Jewelry and other valuables, in a waterproof case
  • Camera and accessories
  • Passport/visa/ID
  • Writing materials
  • Chargers and adapters (including a power bank)
  • Cash (including small bills in U.S. currency)
  • Credit/ATM cards
  • Insurance cards
  • Maps/directions/guidebook/itinerary
  • Spare shoes
  • House keys
  • Laptop/tablet
  • Daypack (if not serving as your carry-on)

 
 
Download the warm-weather cruise packing checklist!

Keep this checklist close by when packing for your next cruise.

Download checklist

Then, follow these simple tips:

1. Pack for recreation

You know you’re going to be active on a warm-weather cruise, even if your definition of recreation is lounging by the pool. So be sure to pack plenty of active gear to make sure you always have access to something stylish, clean, and high-performance.

Here’s the good news: activewear for a warm-weather cruise is not only lightweight but easy to pack. You can easily pack three or four swimsuits into a small packing cube and have enough room left over for a cover-up or a couple of tank tops. 

Fast-drying, neutral-color swim shorts for guys and a swimsuit paired with a two-piece cover-up for women can take you from the pool to the workout area to town. 

If you can spend the winter in sweatpants, you can easily spend a warm-weather cruise in swimsuits, cover-ups, and tank tops. 

2. Ignore the list entirely

Maybe you’re not a list person. Maybe you live your life more freeform. Maybe you don’t like being bound by the tyranny of lists and rules. Maybe you just want the essentials.

Alrighty then. Here’s what you pack:

  • Two semi-dressy outfits (top and bottom)
  • Three casual outfits
  • Five T-shirts and/or tanks
  • Flip-flops/sandals and a pair of tennis or boat shoes
  • Swimwear and cover-ups, with an eye toward wearing in non-swim situations
  • Ample amounts of underwear and socks
  • Sweater and raincoat/windbreaker
  • Any personal-care items you think you’ll need
  • Laundry stuff
  • Glasses and sunglasses
  • A hat
  • Electronics and their various plugs, cords, and chargers
  • Prescription and non-prescription medications 
  • Sunscreen
  • Reading material
  • Snacks
  • Water bottle
  • Paperwork
  • Money

And you’re set. And if you find that too maximalist, you can always see how far a swimming suit and a T-shirt can take you.

Photo of men in suits toasting beer bottles near palm trees

Photo by Kats Weil on Unsplash

3. Choose neutral pieces with fun accents

Too many bright prints and flashy colors – whether shirts or dresses – can make it hard to mix-and-match outfits without looking like a kindergartener on dress-up day.

It’s much more efficient and effective to pack pieces that can go with practically anything and then choose colorful accents that can dress up and diversify your outfits.

Scarves, hats, belts, and jewelry – all of which take up very little space in a suitcase – can help turn one outfit into several.

4. Wear wrinkle-resistant fabrics

Wrinkles can make the nicest outfits look like bargain-basement remnants. The surest way to avoid that slept-in look is to choose wrinkle-shedding fabrics like polyesters, nylons, and rayons. 

If those fabrics aren’t an easy and natural part of your wardrobe, opt for your favorite cottons but make sure your cabin has an iron and ironing board at the ready.

One more way to keep the wrinkles away: Hang up everything as soon as your suitcase arrives. Damp sea air can help work out some of the creases.

Cool-weather cruise packing list and tips

Cool-weather cruises – to Alaska, Canada, Patagonia, or northern Scandinavia – present unique challenges, mostly due to weather but also due to the fact that cool-weather cruise ships tend to be smaller than their Caribbean counterparts. 

That can mean smaller (and fewer) public areas, clubs, and recreation spaces – but not necessarily less of a need to pack for more and less formal events.

Also, as you can tell from the checklist, precipitation, water, and cold are your enemies on a cool-weather cruise.  

Having gear that can withstand water coming at you from all directions is vital, as are remedies to help take the chill away once you get cold.

Here’s your cool-weather cruise packing list:

 
Clothes/Accessories:

  • Undergarments
  • Socks/stockings (include extra pairs of warm, natural-fiber socks)
  • Sleepwear
  • T-shirts
  • Dress shirts
  • Casual shirts
  • Jeans
  • Pants
  • Shorts
  • Dresses
  • Dry bags/pouches (multiple sizes)
  • Skirts 
  • Sweaters/sweatshirts (multiples)
  • Formal wear
  • Swimsuits/cover-up
  • Coats/jackets/rainwear
  • Hats/caps/beanies
  • Gloves (lightweight and heavyweight/water-repellent)
  • Scarves (lightweight/heavyweight)
  • Umbrella (heavy-duty and compact, like the Blunt Metro)
  • Laundry kit (soap, stain remover, dryer sheets, wrinkle remover)
  • Mini-hangers
  • Watch/fitness tracker (must be waterproof)
  • Hand/foot warmers
  • Wool blanket/shawl
  • Hiking/athletic shoes (waterproof for shore excursions)
  • Dress/dancing shoes
  • Sandals/flip-flops
  • Belts
  • Ties
  • Jewelry
  • Purses
  • Collapsible tote/laundry bags
  • Secure clothing (money belt, storage pouches, etc.)
  • Over-the-door toiletry/shoe organizer/storage bag
  • Beach towel
  • Lanyard

Personal Care Items:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Brush/comb
  • Hairstyling appliances
  • Face cleanser/moisturizer
  • Pain relievers
  • Vitamins
  • Sunscreen
  • Contact lenses/solution
  • Shaving supplies
  • Makeup
  • Makeup remover
  • Feminine-hygiene products
  • Birth control
  • Nail file/clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bandages
  • First-aid ointment
  • Insect repellent

 
Miscellaneous:

  • Office supplies (Post-Its, paper clips, rubber bands, envelopes, Ziploc bags, writing pad)
  • Nightlight
  • Outlet strip
  • Plug adaptor
  • Copies of passport/credit card/prescriptions
  • Daypack (if not serving as your carry-on)
  • Emergency contacts
  • Credit card/bank contacts
  • Corkscrew

  
 
Carry-on:

  • Books/magazines
  • Cell phone (in heavy-duty, waterproof case)
  • Earbuds/headphones
  • Travel blanket and pillow
  • Ear plugs/eye mask
  • Tissues
  • Lip balm
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • Toothbrush/paste/floss
  • Changes of clothes (2)
  • Food/snacks/gum
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Medications including seasickness remedies
  • Jewelry and other valuables, in a waterproof case
  • Camera and accessories
  • Passport/visa/ID
  • Writing materials
  • Chargers and adapters (including a power bank)
  • Cash (including small bills in U.S. currency)
  • Credit/ATM cards
  • Insurance cards
  • Maps/directions/guidebook/itinerary
  • Spare shoes
  • House keys
  • Laptop/tablet
  • Sunglasses (polarized, scratch-resistant)

 
Download the cool-weather cruise packing checklist!

Keep this checklist close by when packing for your next cruise.

Download checklist

Here are some packing tips specific to these types of cruises:

1. The issue of headwear

Headwear on a cool-weather cruise can present a conundrum. A wide-brimmed, water-repellent hat might seem like a good idea – until it doubles as an airfoil and goes skimming out over the water, even though you thought it was securely fastened under your chin. Baseball caps are no better.

If you notice what the crew is wearing, it’s inevitably a beanie. They can shed water reasonably well, and they stay on your head.

Unless you're a longshoreman, no one will see a beanie as a fashion statement, but that’s okay. It’s common sense. Tuck one in a pocket and see if it’s not the hat you reach for 95% of the time.

2. Layer up

A rain suit is designed to protect you against the rain, not keep you warm. You need another layer for that.

Packing for cool-weather cruises means packing layers – and packing performance into every layer.

Performance gear tends to be purpose-built and lightweight. Often it’s designed for backpackers, who demand both qualities. 

When packing for a cool-weather cruise, think of the worst weather you might encounter, and how you would deal with it. Often that means a base layer, a warmth layer, and an outer shell. 

If you approach layer-building from a survival standpoint you’ll be more serious about it – and you’ll make better choices.

Photo by Brad Stallcup on Unsplash

3. Waterproof vs. water-resistant

Be sure you understand the difference between these terms before you pack. “Waterproof” means that it actively repels water. “Water-resistant” means it can fend off moisture to a point, but once that point is breached it lets in water.

You can get mighty wet wearing water-resistant shoes or clothing. You can also get wet wearing waterproof gear if you don’t wear it properly. (If you lace your waterproof boots in such a way that there’s a gap where the tongue meets the upper, for instance.)

Knowing the difference between waterproof and water-resistant, and the requirements for making something waterproof, can spell the difference between wet and dry – which in turn can spell the difference between cold and warm.

4. Socks!

Take it from the GIs who fought World War II: Few things in life are as much of a luxury as warm, dry socks. They can feel amazing at the end of a day of schlepping over glaciers or lava rocks.

Pamper yourself with some warm, moisture-shedding socks from natural fibers like alpaca. You’ll be so happy you did.

Adventure cruise packing list and tips 

Adventure cruises – to the Arctic, Antarctica, or the Galapagos – present slightly different challenges. Here the ships may be much smaller, and possibly sailing choppy seas to a rugged land destination. Formalwear is out, and high-performance activewear is definitely in.

Actually, a good way to think of adventure-cruise packing is that it’s like packing for a tent-camping trip, minus the tent. What would you throw in to keep yourself warm, dry, and safe?

Here’s your adventure-cruise packing list:

 
Clothes/Accessories:

  • Undergarments (including base layers)
  • Socks (include extra pairs of warm/natural-fiber socks)
  • Sleepwear
  • T-shirts (Dri-Fit or similar fabric)
  • Jeans 
  • Pants
  • Shorts
  • Blanket/shawl (in warm, natural fibers)
  • Dry bags/pouches
  • Moisture-wicking warm layers
  • Swimwear (for warm-weather cruises)
  • Coats/jacket/rainwear
  • Hats
  • Gloves
  • Umbrella (heavy-duty and compact, like the Blunt Metro)
  • Mini-hangers
  • Watch/fitness tracker (must be waterproof)
  • Sunglasses (heavy-duty, polarized, scratch-resistant)
  • Hiking shoes (lugged soles, waterproof)
  • Collapsible tote/laundry bags
  • Sandals/flip-flops
  • Belts
  • Secure clothing (money belt, storage pouches, etc.)
  • Over-the-door toiletry/shoe organizer/storage bag
  • Laundry kit (soap, stain remover, dryer sheets, wrinkle remover)
  • Lanyard

Personal Care Items:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Brush/comb
  • Heel cream/athlete's foot cream
  • Face cleanser/moisturizer
  • Pain relievers
  • Vitamins
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand cream (heavy-duty, like O'Keefe's Working Hands)
  • Contact lenses/solution
  • Shaving supplies
  • Feminine-hygiene products
  • Birth control
  • Nail file/clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bandages
  • First-aid ointment
  • Insect repellent
  • Hand/feet warmers

 
Miscellaneous:

  • Office supplies (Post-Its, paper clips, rubber bands, envelopes, Ziploc bags, writing pad)
  • Nightlight
  • Outlet strip
  • Plug adaptor
  • Copies of passport/credit card/prescriptions
  • Mask/snorkel
  • Emergency contacts
  • Credit card/bank contacts

  
 
Carry-on:

  • Books/magazines
  • Cell phone (in heavy-duty, waterproof case)
  • Earbuds/headphones
  • Travel blanket and pillow
  • Ear plugs/eye mask
  • Tissues
  • Lip balm
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • Toothbrush/paste/floss
  • Changes of clothes (2)
  • Food/snacks/gum
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Medications including seasickness remedies
  • Jewelry and other valuables, in a waterproof case
  • Camera and accessories
  • Passport/visa/ID
  • Writing materials
  • Chargers and adapters (including a power bank)
  • Cash (including small bills in U.S. currency)
  • Credit/ATM cards
  • Insurance cards
  • Maps/directions/guidebook/itinerary
  • Spare shoes
  • House keys
  • Laptop/tablet

 
Download the adventure cruise packing checklist!

Keep this checklist close by when packing for your next cruise.

Download checklist

And here are packing tips specific to adventure cruises:

1. Spend the money

Gear that can keep you truly warm and dry and not feeling like a sausage in a casing is not cheap, and is absolutely worth every penny. Similarly, shoes, sandals, and boots are priceless if they can handle any terrain and not make your feet feel like they’re encased in cement.

If you buy a $1,000 snowsuit for your Antarctica cruise, are you opening yourself up to cries of “gear snob?" Yep. But are you going to be thanking your lucky stars you made that investment every day of your cruise, and in every cold-weather situation for years to come? Absolutely.

An investment in high-performance outdoor gear is just that. Don’t look at it as a one-and-done purchase. You’ll be wearing this gear the rest of your life – and congratulating yourself each time you do.

2. Skincare

Your skin can take a beating on an adventure cruise. Hands and heels can develop painful cracks, and toes can develop athlete’s foot.

In addition, faces and lips can get horribly chapped by the wind and heat or cold. 

In these conditions, it’s imperative that you pack some specialized preparations to protect your skin. They include:

  • High-performance hand cream, like O’Keefe’s Working Hands
  • A heel stick or foot cream designed for dry heels (Up & Up Triple-Action Foot Cream, available at Target, provides a nice mix of performance and price)
  • Heavy-duty sunscreen meant to be applied to your lips, nose, and other exposed areas

Will you look like you’re having a facial done on a hunk of volcanic rock? Yep. But you won’t come out of the experience horribly blistered.

3. Be good to your feet and they’ll be good to you

Foot care is so important on adventure cruises. You’re going to be miserable if every step you take radiates pain through your body.

In addition to the heel and foot cream, here’s what you need to pack:

  • Backpacking socks that you’ve already determined won’t give you blisters
  • Hiking boots or high-performance sandals with a Vibram or other lugged sole
  • Blister care
  • Footwarmers

Photo by Alain on Unsplash

Important note: You have to break in your shoes and socks before you leave. Go to the muddiest, rockiest terrain you can find and clamber around for a couple of hours. Determine where the rub points are with your boots and socks. Experiment with the lacing. Discover how much traction you actually have. 

Going on a tour of Antarctica? Do all this on the coldest day of the year.

The mistake so many adventure cruisers make is they invest in all this gear and never test it until they’re on their cruise. 

Don’t be that cruiser. Know what works and what doesn’t, and be prepared for blisters – because if you don’t get them, someone in your party will.

4. Take it easy on your eyes

The glare from the water is no joke. Neither is snowblindness. A $10 pair of sunglasses isn’t going to cut it. 

If you’re going on an Arctic or Antarctic adventure cruise, snowgoing.com recommends that you buy sunglasses that:

  • Block 100% UV rays and around 80% of HEV rays
  • Have scratch- and impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses
  • Completely shield your eyes from air-blown particles, dry winds and scorching sunlight

Polarized lenses are a must, but the best sunglasses go beyond that to deliver comprehensive protection from glare, wind, and spray. Your eyes are worth the investment.

River cruise packing list and tips

River cruises offer the best of land tours and ocean cruises, combining ever-changing scenery with the opportunity to get out, be active, and see the country.

That combination can lead to some packing dilemmas. Solve them by sticking to your river-cruise packing list:

 
Clothes/Accessories:

  • Undergarments (including base layers)
  • Socks/stockings (include extra pairs of warm, natural-fiber socks)
  • Sleepwear
  • T-shirts
  • Dress shirts
  • Casual shirts
  • Jeans
  • Pants (including special pants for bicycling or hiking)
  • Shorts (including special gear for bicycling or hiking)
  • Dresses
  • Dry bags/pouches (multiple sizes)
  • Skirts 
  • Sweaters/sweatshirts (include moisture-wicking warmth layers)
  • Formal wear
  • Swimsuits/cover-up (for warm-weather river cruises)
  • Coats/jackets/rainwear
  • Hats/caps/beanies
  • Gloves (lightweight/cycling and heavyweight/water-repellent)
  • Scarves (lightweight/heavyweight)
  • Umbrella (heavy-duty and compact, like the Blunt Metro)
  • Laundry kit (soap, stain remover, dryer sheets, wrinkle remover)
  • Mini-hangers
  • Watch/fitness tracker (must be waterproof)
  • Hand/foot warmers
  • Wool blanket/shawl
  • Hiking/athletic shoes (waterproof for shore excursions; may include specialty shoes like biking shoes)
  • Dress/dancing shoes
  • Sandals/flip-flops
  • Belts
  • Ties
  • Jewelry
  • Purses
  • Collapsible tote/laundry bags
  • Secure clothing (money belt, storage pouches, etc.)
  • Over-the-door toiletry/shoe organizer/storage bag
  • Beach towel
  • Lanyard

Personal Care Items:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Brush/comb
  • Hairstyling appliances
  • Face cleanser/moisturizer
  • Pain relievers
  • Vitamins
  • Sunscreen
  • Contact lenses/solution
  • Shaving supplies
  • Makeup
  • Makeup remover
  • Feminine-hygiene products
  • Birth control
  • Nail file/clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bandages
  • First-aid ointment
  • Insect repellent
  • Foot creams

 
Miscellaneous:

  • Office supplies (Post-Its, paper clips, rubber bands, envelopes, Ziploc bags, writing pad)
  • Nightlight
  • Outlet strip
  • Plug adaptor
  • Copies of passport/credit card/prescriptions
  • Daypack (if not serving as your carry-on)
  • Emergency contacts
  • Credit card/bank contacts
  • Corkscrew

  
 
Carry-on:

  • Books/magazines
  • Cell phone (in heavy-duty, waterproof case)
  • Earbuds/headphones
  • Travel blanket and pillow
  • Ear plugs/eye mask
  • Tissues
  • Lip balm
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • Toothbrush/paste/floss
  • Changes of clothes (2)
  • Food/snacks/gum
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Medications including seasickness remedies
  • Jewelry and other valuables, in a waterproof case
  • Camera and accessories
  • Passport/visa/ID
  • Writing materials
  • Chargers and adapters (including a power bank)
  • Cash (including small bills in U.S. currency)
  • Credit/ATM cards
  • Insurance cards
  • Maps/directions/guidebook/itinerary
  • Spare shoes
  • House keys
  • Laptop/tablet
  • Sunglasses (polarized, scratch-resistant)

 
Download the river cruise packing checklist!

Keep this checklist close by when packing for your next cruise.

Download checklist

Then, follow these basic river-cruise packing tips:

1. Make good shoe choices

Consider a European river cruise that offers bike rides to breweries as part of its onshore activities. 

High-cut hiking boots and bikes may not be a good match, nor may tennis shoes and bikes. For biking excursions, you may need to look at a low-cut hiker, trail shoe, or walking shoe – or even a dedicated bike shoe.

On the other hand, a river cruise that offers walking tours of cathedrals onshore may be a good fit for hiking boots.

Before you leave, have a good idea of what you’re going to be doing onshore and match your shoes to the activities. You’ll be so much happier if you do.

2. Be prepared for weather changes

More than other cruise types, river cruises consist of two nearly equal components: The onshore part and the on-water part.

There generally aren’t drastic weather changes between land and water, though it always feels cooler on the water. On land, though, you need to be prepared for quick showers that may pop up when you’re far from the ship and shelter, or for a snow squall that blows in when you’re checking out the Christkindl markets. 

Keeping the “layers” philosophy in mind when you pack for your cruise, and when you pack your daypack for onshore activities, will help you stay warm and dry no matter what weather events you encounter.

Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

3. Consider special activewear

If you’re going to be spending your onshore days biking, why would you not pack a pair of bike shorts – the ones that look like cargo shorts but with extra padding, not the ones that look like you’re doing the Tour de France?

Similarly, why not pair those up with a collared, moisture-wicking golf or tennis top and a windshirt or light windbreaker?

Depending on the bikes you may be riding, you may even want to pack bike shoes to reduce your pedaling effort.

If you have room for it and it’ll make your cruise more enjoyable, pack your specialized gear. You won’t regret it.

4. Pack for two

We don’t mean two people – we mean two separate vacations: a cruise and a tour.

The cruise portion might mean formal or semi-formal clothes and rainwear. The tour portion means activewear … yes, and rainwear.

There aren’t a lot of commonalities between the two vacations, so pack smartly. Can that high-performance golf shirt be paired with slacks for a semi-formal event? Can you dress up or dress down your hiking boots?

On a river cruise, you’ll want to be comfortable no matter what you’re doing, and you don’t want to look out of place. Balancing those two concerns is your greatest challenge.

The most important item to pack: Travel insurance

Luggage has been known to get lost, and cruisers have been known to get sick or injured – onboard or while on excursion.

You can’t stop these cruise mishaps from happening, but you can get reimbursed for your inconvenience with travel insurance. 

Also, the travel assistance that comes with many insurance plans is great if you have a medical issue or a lost passport, or just want some information on your next port of call. 

Looking for more information on travel insurance for a cruise? Consult our cruise-insurance page or our comprehensive travel-insurance guide.

With these cruise tips packed along, your next cruise is sure to be a memorable one. Safe (and happy) travels!

QUESTIONS ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE?

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Kit Kiefer
Kit Kiefer

Kit Kiefer is a former travel writer for The New York Times and has more than 30 years of freelance experience writing about domestic and international travel. He blogs and produces content for Winbound, a content marketing firm.

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Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection (BHTP) is a registered trademark and a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company (BHSI), a leader in specialized casualty and liability insurance.  The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable.  BHTP disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information.  The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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