How the Smartest Cruisers Pack When They Travel


Are you the kind of holidaymaker who just cobbles everything together on the night before the big trip, shoving all and sundry into your suitcase with reckless abandon? Or do you meticulously make lists of items to pack for weeks prior to embarkation, only to forget your phone charger and sunglasses?

Many of us are guilty of packing missteps and mishaps – ensuring our holidays get off to unfortunate and stressful starts. So, with this in mind, we’ve approached a number of travel experts, experienced bloggers and cruise enthusiasts to share their best packing tips when they’re about to take to the seas.

There’s loads of good advice here, sure to ensure you can fit more in the suitcase next time you take a trip, and all in the most convenient order and position. Here is our guide to how the smartest cruisers pack when they travel.

Bag. Midsection of young smiling woman packing suitcase on bed

Avoid Over-Packing

Although many cruise lines place no restriction on the amount you pack, a savvy packer never overdoes it. Adam Coulter, UK Managing Director of Cruise Critic, gives this helpful tip:

“Before you put items in your case, lay out everything you think you’ll need, then pack only half the clothing and three-quarters of the shoes. Also, you’ll likely pick up at least a few souvenirs during your cruise, so don’t forget to save room in your luggage to bring them home when packing.”

Emma La Teace of Cruising Isn’t Just For Old People suggests clever outfit choices could be the ideal space saver:

“The key to packing light when cruising is to make the most of a couple of essential items. This is particularly important if you plan on taking a cruise which has formal nights. Formal dresses/suits can be bulky and leave you with little room for anything else. When taking such a cruise, it is important to pack pieces you can wear for multiple occasions. A dress that, for example, you could wear for dinner or down for the beach.

“The key here is accessories, the right jewellery and shoes can transform an outfit from casual daywear to an elegant evening outfit. It’s crucial that items such as jackets are neutral in colour so they can be paired with any outfit. You can’t go too wrong with colours such as black/white.  Shoes can be weighty and take up a lot of room in your suitcase, so be sure to pick comfort over glamour. There is no point packing a pair of shoes that you can only wear for half an hour!”

Clever Clothing Choices

If you’ve bowed to the above piece of advice and are content to cut back the clothes you’ll pack, it’s more important than ever to pick the right clothes. Here are a couple of tips to ensure you pack pieces which will keep you comfortable on your cruise, kicked off by Tara Povey of Where is Tara?

“Layering is key! You may be off to tropical islands, but it can get cold and breezy out on the water. The key to being prepared for varied temperatures without having to check an extra case is LAYERING. Light jumpers and windbreakers take up little space but will keep you warm when layered together. Of course, keep in mind the dress code when packing.”

Another clever tip comes from Chris Dikmen, President of CruiseReport, who explores the alternatives to packing clothes in luggage at all.

“When cruise travel requires a sports coat or blazer for semi-formal evenings, I always wear mine on the flight(s). That way, it saves a ton of space when packing and it arrives less wrinkled. As a rule of thumb, anything you can wear on a flight is one less thing you have to pack!”

Hand Luggage Tips

There could be a good few on-board hours when you don’t have access to your hold luggage, making it important to pack your hand luggage accordingly. Emma Gray of Emma’s Travel Tales offers this bit of wisdom.

“When I’m packing for a cruise, I always make sure to take one larger suitcase and a smaller hand-luggage sized suitcase or bag too. On the last night of your cruise, you’ll be encouraged to leave your suitcases outside your stateroom to be collected and you’ll get them back once you’ve disembarked. If you don’t do this, you’ll have to cart all of your luggage off the ship yourself.

“I pack and place my large suitcase outside of the room, but keep my smaller suitcase or bag with me. This means I’ve got somewhere to put my pyjamas, toiletries and other bits and bobs the morning I’m disembarking. As it’s a smaller bag or case, it’s easy for me to carry off the ship myself, before being reunited with my larger suitcase in the port building.”

Remember Creature Comforts and Essentials

It may not seem in the spirit of adventure, but bringing along a few creature comforts and home favourites can make your cruise all the more enjoyable. Adam Coulter recommends leaving nothing to chance when it comes to the real essentials.

“When it comes to toiletries, don’t get caught short by assuming you’ll find your favourite products in your cabin. Compile a permanent travel toiletry kit, and never unpack this. Leave it filled with necessities, such as a toothbrush, razor and travel-sized bottles, so that when your next trip comes around, you can simply top up bottles, saving time and money.”

Tara Povey adds this very important and practical tip:

“Don’t forget your medication! It’s surprising the number of people who forget their prescription meds, their seasickness tablets and even just basic painkillers. It can be tricky and expensive to get them on port days or on board, so better to save yourself the hassle. Put a reminder alarm on your phone for the morning of your departure. Always have doubles of the essentials and leave a set in your case.”

Jason Leppert, Editor of PopularCruising, continues:

“Consider where in the world you’re travelling to. Your cruise ship may have the electrical outlets you are used to, but a pre or post-cruise hotel might not. So, be sure to pack proper adaptors as needed. Plus, USB power packs are always a helpful bonus gadget to juice up electronics on the go.”

Money-Saving Packing

Clever packing can even save a few pennies on board, making sure you include a few essentials which could be costly in a ship’s shopping arcade. Katie Evans-Reader of Do You Cruise offers this ever-helpful tip:

“Take some bottled water on board with you or sports bottles which you can then refill when you are leaving the ship for the day. You will be able to get bottles of water, but they are normally really expensive. So if you go to a bar and just ask for some iced water, which won’t cost you anything, you can fill your bottles up before you leave for the day.”


Treat Yourself

Two of our experts advocate easing the burden of carrying your own luggage by sending it directly to your ship, waiting for you on departure day. Jason Leppert suggests:

“When it comes to packing – especially when flying is involved – I’m always mindful of weight. Since the days of packing to your heart’s content are sadly over with airline bag fees, it can’t hurt to first choose a cruise line with laundry perks.

“Give yourself a break, and splurge on the cost of sending your clothes out.”

This is echoed by Chris Dikmen:

“Whenever possible, we like to have our large pieces of luggage shipped directly to the cruise ship using a service such as Luggage Forward. Our luggage is waiting for us when we arrive and we don’t have to hassle with airline weight restrictions or hauling large bags through airports.”

So, there you have it – packing tips from the experts. If you have any of your own expertise you’d like to share, leave us a comment below.

Or, if this post has reminded you that you’re overdue a holiday on the world’s beautiful oceans – let Cruise1st take you there. For a full selection of our cruise deals, check them out online or call our friendly sales team on 0808 2746 777.

How the Smartest Cruisers Pack When They Travel
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How the Smartest Cruisers Pack When They Travel
Covering everything from clever hold luggage choices to economic packings tips, our expert round-up of packing advice from cruise bloggers and experts tells you everything you need to know.

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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