How To Pack For a Cruise

You’re booked on the cruise of your dreams, ready for the fun and sun, but you still dread packing your luggage. Considering the variety of activities available on a cruise vacation and the limited storage space in some cruise ship cabins, packing can be a challenge. Skip the stress: packing smart just means following a few simple rules.

Share luggage with your travel companion. Rather than separate “his” and “hers” luggage, include clothes for both of you in each suitcase you take on your cruise. Multiple suitcases usually stay together and arrive at your destination no problem but, if one does happen to get lost en route, you still have clothes to wear in your coed suitcase.

Pack a carry-on with care. Keep important identification items and travel paperwork with you at all times. Make sure your carry-on also includes your prescription and OTC medicines, toiletries and other necessary personal items needed if your luggage is lost or delayed. A quick change of clothes for when you first board ship makes it easier to relax while you wait for your luggage to be delivered to your cabin.

Pack light. When traveling, pack as light as possible. Try to pick clothes that can be re-used. For example, a men’s blue blazer can be worn on formal night with the right shirt and tie, and then on an informal night with a more casual shirt and tie. Ladies can mix and match skirts with different blouses for various looks on board a cruise ship. Laundry and dry-cleaning services are available aboard ships, as are self-service laundries and ironing facilities. Use them. Finally, keeping each suitcase under 50 pounds can help you avoid airline overweight baggage penalties (check with your airline as limits vary).

Need a luggage packing checklist? Click here for a handy printable list.

Wear your gifts. If you enjoy buying new clothes, bathing suits, shoes, t-shirts, hats and other clothing souvenirs during vacations, leave part of your vacation wardrobe at home and incorporate the new purchases into your vacation and wear them. This will help you travel light and eliminate the need for extra space on the cruise for such items.

Minimize wrinkles. Clothing items susceptible to wrinkling should be ironed beforehand and folded using tissue, just like they do at finer department stores. This helps eliminate unsightly creases and wrinkles, and can be good protection when transporting souvenirs acquired during the cruise. Wrinkle-free pants, shirts and blouses made of micro-fiber are also a good idea.

Baggies come in handy. A simple zip-lock baggie – ideally the thicker, freezer type – comes in handy to prevent bottle leaks from staining clothes. Baggies also can be used for wet clothes on your way back from the beach.

Don’t forget a few emergency items. A mini-flashlight or a nightlight can come in handy if you need extra light in your room, as can a small travel alarm clock. Duct tape helps with quick repairs to torn luggage and acts as an ample substitute for broken zippers, hinges and clasps. Small walkie-talkies come in handy when trying to stay in touch on the ship, or in port.

Tag and mark your bags with the baggage tags sent from the cruise line. Don’t skimp on luggage identification tags. Not only should you have a business card-type tag on each bag with your name and address, but be sure to use the tags supplied by the cruise line as well. They help assure your bags are delivered from the airport to the right ship on time. Be sure to wait and put the tags on your bags after your flight(s), however, to avoid them being torn off by accident by airport baggage handling operations. Colorful tags, ribbons, straps, tape or other items can make for quick recognition in a luggage terminal.

Consider a luggage service. For a fee, a few upscale cruise lines offer luggage valet service from your front door to the ship and then back home. This beats dragging an oversize suitcase or two through an airport. Holland America Line (800.395.8810) offers such a service for cruises 14 days or longer. Radisson Seven Seas Cruises (800.395.8810) and luxury line Seabourn Cruises (888.491.0771) also offer such valet service.

There are also private luggage services that offer an alternative to schlepping your own bags. To learn more about luggage services, click here.

Finally, relax. Don’t worry too much about anything you might have forgotten to bring on your cruise. Vacations are about relaxing – and this should start while you pack. Wherever your cruise may take you, there will be stores there.

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