Nice as they are, river cruise staterooms tend to be smaller than the average hotel room. With that in mind, here are nine essentials you should pack for your river adventure, plus four things that would be a waste of space:
9 Things to Pack
1. Power strips and/or converters. More and more ships are integrating both European-style and American-style outlets for charging your devices. If you can’t find outlet info for your specific ship on your cruise company’s website, it’s worth calling and asking. While you’re at it, inquire how many outlets there will be in your stateroom. Many will only have one outlet, and bringing a power strip lets both of you charge at the same time. Bonus tip: Look for power strips that are tailor made for travelers.
2. Walking shoes. This seems obvious, but there are lots of travelers (myself included), who have gone on many a weekend trip with a single pair of comfortable flats. But it’s a very different scenario when you’re doing hours of city walking every day for up to two weeks. This is especially important to consider if you’re heading to Europe, which is full of cobblestone streets. Thick-soled walking shoes will save you a lot of pain.
3. A thermos or plastic water bottle. Water would be nice during those hours spent touring and walking, no? Some river cruises will deliver water to your stateroom daily. Otherwise, you can always ask for a fill-up at breakfast.
4. Rain gear. You never know how the weather will be, and you don’t want to take any chances. Make sure you throw a small folding umbrella, windbreaker, or even a disposable rain poncho in your bag when you leave the ship.
5. A tote bag. On your excursions, you’ll want a bag that can hold an extra layer, a listening device for an audio tour (such as this one), your water bottle, rain gear, and souvenirs. A tote bag is roomy, but less bulky or “touristy” than a backpack. Bonus points if you bring one with a zipper at the top so your items stay put.
6. Extra memory cards for your camera. This is if you plan on taking lots of photos with your camera, but don’t plan on bringing a computer where you can save files (see below). Shooting with a smartphone? Save or delete older photos from your phone prior to your trip. You don’t want to run out of memory when faced with a beautiful town or a perfect market.
7. Insect repellent. Lush trees and cool water aren’t just your idea of a soothing vacation. They’re also a mosquito’s’ idea of a comfortable home.
8. Cruise line luggage tags. Yes, these will probably make your bags stick out like a sore thumb, but for once, that’s a good thing. For transfers between land and sea – or if your checked item gets lost – the logo-ed tags make your bags easier to identify.
9. An extra carry-on sized bag. River cruises afford more time in port, which means that you’re more likely pick up gifts and souvenirs. We especially love stocking up on tea, chocolate, and other local treats. An extra bag gives you a way to lug them back to the ship, and home.
4 Things to Leave at Home
1. Your computer. Unless you’re expecting to do a lot of work on the trip (we hope not!), your smartphone should be sufficient for the occasional Facebook status update. Satellite internet on board is slower than what you’re probably used to at home, anyway, and many ships have a few public computers if you really need access.
2. A fancy wardrobe. Yes, river cruises try to maintain a classy atmosphere, but everyone understands that the focus is on exploring the port destinations. Leave your bulky high heels and dress shoes behind. Flats and simple dresses are easier to pack for the ladies. Gents, bring comfortable boat shoes or (easy-to-clean) leather walking shoes that can do double duty along with a few button-down shirts. One thing to keep in mind: some cruise lines have a no-jeans, no-shorts policy for dinner, so check before you sail.
3. An outfit for every day of your trip. If your cruise is longer than a week, recycle your outfits. If you really need to, you can always hand-wash single items in your stateroom, or pay for laundry service on board. Remember, black goes with everything, and accessories and can change your entire look.
4. A hairdryer. Many of the major river cruise companies will supply these, and you don’t want to be that person blowing a fuse with your hairdryer. If there isn’t one in your stateroom, ask housekeeping if there’s one you can borrow.