River cruise packing tips

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Going on a river cruise? Here’s some tips we rounded up from the pros to help make packing up a bit easier to navigate:

Check weather

Before planning your packing list, check the weather for the cities you plan to visit while away. This will help give you an idea on the types of clothes you may want to pack. Also, be aware the river breeze can be chilly at night, even during the hot summer months.

Follow dress code

Prior to a river cruise, check the dress code suggested by the cruise line (if it implements one).

Cruise chats online offer some great feedback from passengers on what to wear (or not to wear). We found some threads on this topic on TripAdvisor and Rick Steves. Wendy Perrin also has a good roundup of tips for river cruisers on her blog, including pack rainwear and swimwear (most river cruises have a sun deck).

If you want to check out dress codes for each cruise ship, Cruise Critic offers a handy code guide.

Review itinerary

Review the cruise itinerary and information about any excursions you may want to take. For example, you may want to pack extra workout clothes or golf shoes if you want to take an exercise class on book a round of golf. Also, many cruise lines offer unique outings to local events at each port (like a performance, concert, or ballet). So, consider packing some extras for any “just in case” activities you may decide to take part in during the cruise.

Keep it simple

According to Avalon Waterways’s Packing For A River Cruise article, keep color scheme simple, “When packing (or shopping) for your river cruise, choose shirts, pants, shorts and skirts that can be worn for multiple outfit combinations. The easiest way is to search for clothes with a simple color scheme – white, neutrals, pastels. Our rule of thumb is for each week you will be traveling, pack five to seven tops that complement three different bottoms. Also, keep in mind, comfort and wrinkle-resistant, easy-care clothing will help feel even more relaxed.” (Source: Avalon Waterways)

Cruiser Judy Herrell went on a Viking Grand European Tour last year with her husband. Her advice? Avoid washing clothes. “Bring extra underwear and socks. Doing laundry on board ship is very pricey.  You can rinse a few things out in the sink, but if it is damp out, they take forever to dry. Tide makes hand wash packets which are sold in some drug stores in their samples section. Also, anything you would take for a cold, bring with you. You will find it impossible to find cough meds, Tylenol, and Sudafed overseas,” says Herrell.

Viking River Cruises also provides this check list for passengers:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Dressier shoes
  • Collapsible umbrella/lightweight rain gear
  • Lightweight jacket/warm sweater/sweatshirt
  • Sunglasses, sun hat or visor
  • Warm coat, gloves and water-resistant footwear (as needed for cooler months)

Travel documents

While traveling abroad, it is always a good idea to keep travel documents in your carry-on luggage and always have extra copies on-hand. Also, be sure to pack medications, eyeglasses, contacts, camera gear and valuables. Check with your cruise line on whether to bring a converter/adapter for appliances.

What to leave at home

According to Sherman’s Travel, consider leaving the following behind:

Computer — unless you plan on doing a lot of work during the trip

Hairdryer — many cruise lines now offer a hair dryer in the room

Too many clothes — passengers should try to pack simple

Day bag

Finally, decide on a sensible travel bag or backpack to take with you for day trips.

Not to worry

Forget something at home? Don’t fret. Your boat may have additional toiletries available for guests or a small gift shop. Or, you can always pop into a store at the next port to pick up what you need.

Want some more packing inspiration? Check out YouTube for videos from cruisers.

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