7 Packing Tips To Make Your European River Cruise Hassle-Free
One reason why river cruises have garnered such popularity in recent years is that they offer an easy way to travel. With new vessels, new itineraries, and more active shore excursions, river cruises are attracting more new passengers than ever before, including millennials and solo travelers.
River cruises obviate the need for making hotel reservations, selecting restaurants, lining up tour guides and arranging transportation between cities. Pricing is mostly inclusive: The costs of a river cruise (except for shopping excursions and drinking at the onboard bar) are largely predictable; you’ll know most of them upfront before you leave home. And, cruisers only have to unpack and pack once!
A riverboat glides along inland waterways as passengers soak in the views onboard, and stop at picturesque towns and iconic cities where they are immersed in new places, history and culture. Sound pleasurable, easy and hassle-free? You bet! Except for the perennial problem travelers face: Figuring out what to pack.
As the peak season for river cruising (April through October) gets underway, here are a few packing tips to lessen the angst of getting ready for your cruise:
1) Think casual.
River cruisers tend to be intellectually curious and eminently practical; they aren’t showy or flamboyant. During the day, cruisers dress casually and comfortably. At dinner, most women wear tops and slacks (or dresses); men opt for casual (or collared) shirts with long trousers. River cruises have no “formal nights” although some people dress up (evening casual) for a farewell or Captain’s dinner.
When day excursions are lengthy, days often transitions into evenings without enough time to change clothes for dinner.
2) Stick to a neutral color palette.
With a wardrobe of blacks, white, grays and tans, you’ll be able to mix and match outfits. Colorful scarves or an interesting piece of costume jewelry can change the look of something you’ve already worn without adding unnecessary bulk to your suitcase.
3) Don’t overpack.
If you pack wisely, you shouldn’t need more than one suitcase (28” or less) per person. Some travelers manage with only a carry-on bag.
Although cabins offer ample storage space and you’ll be able to stow empty suitcases under the bed, the size of river cruise cabins is limited, averaging about 200 square feet.
4) Prepare for changeable weather.
Especially during shoulder seasons (spring and fall), weather can be unpredictable—even during the course of a weeklong cruise. So think layers: Bring along a sweater or light jacket, even in summer. (You may want to wear them on air-conditioned motorcoaches as well.)
Because air-conditioning in the dining room can be chilly at dinner, women should pack a shawl or pashmina. Men will want to bring a couple of long-sleeve shirts or a light jacket.
5) Make sure you bring walking shoes and/or sneakers.
River cruises aren’t sedentary. In fact, most days, you’ll likely be doing about 2 or 3 miles of walking a day, often over cobblestone streets or uneven terrain. Be sure your shoes are comfortable and offer good support. Wearing high heels is courting disaster. Also pack a change of shoes, perhaps sandals, to relax onboard or to wear in your cabin.
6) Leave heavy purses or totes at home.
Onboard, the only items you’ll likely need to carry with you are your keycard, smartphone and some tissues, which will fit handily into a small zipped clutch or wristlet.
On land, you’ll be getting on and off tour buses and mingling among crowds of locals and tourists. A lightweight crossover bag discourages potential pickpockets and leaves your hands free for taking pictures or holding on to handrails. If you tend to pick up gifts and souvenirs when traveling, also pack a reusable, nylon tote in your purse.
Don’t forget to bring along some local currency for purchasing snacks or small items, and coins for using pay toilets while on shore excursions.
7) Bring a lightweight power strip.
Most modern riverboats provide 110V and 220V outlets as well as USB outlets so you probably won’t need many electrical adapters. But if you’re a “connected individual” and plan to charge smartphones, cameras, tablets, e-readers, or activity monitors, a small power strip (with 3-6 outlets) will give you more options for charging your devices. Many tour buses offer Wi-Fi so if you tend to be a heavy smartphone user, pack a charge cord with a European adapter.
What NOT to pack:
- Riverboats usually have hair dryers, so there’s no need to bring your own.
- Unless you’re fussy about using your own hair products, the lines provide shampoo and conditioner.
- Don’t bring expensive jewelry. Although cabins have in-room safes, you don’t want to worry about keeping track of valuables. Costume jewelry can provide the same glitz.
- The cruise lines provide umbrellas for inclement weather so you don’t need to bring your own.
Always check the website of your specific cruise line for additional information and packing suggestions.
Have a river cruise packing tip of your own to share? We’d love to hear it!