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Going on a cruise and don’t know what to pack? We’ve taken the hard work out for you with this essential packing guide

You’d think people who travel for a living know everything about packing – but it’s a never-ending lesson. Here is our thorough packing guide, gleaned from personal experience and seasoned travellers around the world.

You’d think people who travel for a living know everything about packing – but it’s a never-ending lesson. Here is our thorough packing guide, gleaned from personal experience and seasoned travellers around the world.

Planning makes perfect

Making a list is vital. And keeping packing guide lists from previous trips that you can update according to destinations, seasons, length of journeys and so on, helps save time when organising your next adventure.

Don’t leave your packing guide considerations to the last minute. Many people suggest you lay out everything you think you’ll need on your bed, and place it all near your suitcase and give it a couple of days to work out what you really do and don’t need.

Make sure you have the right luggage for your destination/s. A smart backpack for all your carry-on kit works in the city just as well as for country walks or mountain trails. Team it with a small shoulder or cross-body bag for instant access to your passport and (one) credit card.

Consider the designs, sizes and fabrications for backpacks and suitcases. Do you prefer hard-shell, soft-side, duffel-style, two wheels or four? Most people say two-wheelers perform best on uneven surfaces because you can pull them behind you, while four-wheelers are faster when you’re gliding seamlessly between airports, hotels and cruise ships.

Shop around for quality and durability and make sure your carry-on bag is the right dimensions for the overhead lockers on the airline you’re flying with. Standards vary according to airlines, but a rough guide is 56cm long x 45cm wide x 25cm deep.

Tracking devices can be very useful if luggage goes astray. You might not be instantly reunited with your suitcase, but at least you’ll know where it is.

Similarly, old-school luggage labels with your name, mobile number and email address, one attached to the handle of your bag and one in a prominent position inside the bag, can help when locating and retrieving mislaid luggage.

Something to identify your luggage at the airport carousel – ribbons, stickers, belts, covers – can also save time and embarrassingly heading to the exit with someone else’s near-identical bag.

Planning makes perfect when packing
Planning makes perfect when packing

Carry-on essentials, according to Karryon

The packing guide lesson here is to plan for the worst-case scenario: your checked-in luggage has been lost or your flight has been delayed and you arrive (somewhere) without all your carefully packed belongings.

You will already have your passport, tickets, smartphone, laptop or tablet, jewellery or valuables, medications and credit/debit cards* in your carry-on bag, but here are a few more things to consider:

  • Change of clothes, lightweight of course (top, bottoms, undies)
  • Pashmina-style wrap that can be worn inflight, for evenings and rolled into a scarf.
  • Phone charger, cable, international adaptor with USB ports and (fully charged) portable charger. And consider downloading valuable travel apps before you travel.
  • Basic toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, wipes, moisturiser, travel-size deodorant, etc
  • Book or e-reader

Like many other seasoned travellers, I take printouts of all ID, insurance and booking docs as well as having digital versions on my phone. Not all airports or cruise terminals have brilliant internet access.   

*Bitter experience of losing both credit and debit cards in one hit and subsequently being unable to access any funds whatsoever has taught me to take two cards, and carry them in separate places: one in your carry-on bag and one in a zipped pocket about your person – and also ensure they are fully enabled on your smartphone.

Viking cruise passenger
Viking cruise passenger

Packing style

Are you a roller or a folder? Most travellers prefer to roll their clothes, but here’s some good advice from long-established luggage company Samsonite:

Roll up garments that don’t wrinkle easily, such as cotton T-shirts, jeans and gym gear and fold clothing that does, such as dress shirts and silk and linen pieces.

After putting your shoes at the bottom of the suitcase near the wheels (and layering your suit jacket if you have one) add lines of rolled-up garments. Layer your folded pieces on top of those.

Other tried and tested hacks:

  • Packing cubes – pack items such as underwear, T-shirts, pants, charging cables and your personal mini first aid kit in separate cubes. When you reach your hotel or ship, transfer them straight to the room’s drawers.
  • Fill shoes and hats with T-shirts and socks to save suitcase space and keep shoes in shape.
  • Wear your heaviest shoes and jacket/coat for the flight.

In the bag

Add these items to your packing list:

  • Toiletry bag you can hang, to save space in small bathrooms
  • Laundry bag – to keep clean and dirty clothes separate
  • Shoe bags – to keep dirty shoes away from clean clothes
  • Ziplock bags in varying sizes – always useful
  • Drybag – to protect your phone, camera etc if you’re planning any boating or beach activities.
  • Foldable lightweight bag or daypack – extra capacity for souvenir shopping
  • Swimsuit and gym gear

Basic travel wardrobe

Most of these items apply to both men and women:

  • Down jacket or gilet that squashes into a small pouch
  • Crushable lightweight rainproof jacket
  • Two to three pairs of shoes maximum. Good-quality walking shoes do double duty for excursions, gym work-outs and wearing around the ship. For women, smart sneakers and sandals are quite acceptable for evening wear.
  • Two to three pairs of pants, depending on the length of your trip. Choose pants that you can wear during the day and dress up in the evening, and plan to wear them at least twice with different tops. Black is easy to co-ordinate with any colour tops.
  • A mix of non-iron, long-sleeve and short-sleeve tops that work for day and evening and can be worn in layers. Air-conditioning can be very cool on cruise ships.
  • A couple of non-iron dresses, depending again on the length of your trip, the weather where you’ll be travelling and if smart casual occasions are on the cards.

For men, unless your cruise involves a black-tie event, khaki pants or chinos, one business shirt and a navy blazer work for smart casual evenings and day wear. Pack a tie, then after socks and jocks all you really need is:

  • One or two pairs of jeans or shorts, depending on your destination.
  • Plain-coloured polo shirts are ideal for warmer climates and don’t need ironing. These can be teamed with a V-neck merino jumper.
  • Two pairs of shoes – walking shoes and smart-casual loafers.
  • Swimwear and gym gear.

We’d love to hear your packing tips. Add them to Karryon Together in Travel’s Facebook page.