What To Pack When Cruising – For Women

We can all agree that one of the hardest parts of a trip, second to paying your cruise fare, is packing. The great news, though, is that someone always seems to have advice for how to make packing easier.

My wardrobe consists almost entirely of button downs. A great thing to pack because they can be dressed up, or dressed down.

Last year, Ralph wrote an article on packing tips. In this article, Ralph provides a lot of great insight to how and what to pack; however, one of our readers pointed out that this list was geared mostly toward men. I reached out to you, our women readers, for help on what to pack, and some of the best packing tips you’ve learned throughout your years traveling. So let’s look at your tips, as well as some of mine.

As you can see in the photograph above, I usually play things pretty casual. Now, some cruise lines have dress codes, so be mindful of those, but a pair of jeans should usually be pretty safe. Though my daytime looks are casual, I like to dress up at night.

I am able to do this by packing items that can either be dressed up or dressed down, such as button downs. If I am going for a casual look, I roll up the sleeves of my button down and pair it with jeans and sneakers, but at night I can put on a pair of slacks and dress shoes. That way, I am able to stay comfortable during the day while making sure that I don’t have to change into an entirely new outfit before dinner.

A lot of our readers wrote about taking outfits that can be mixed and matched. “I have a closet of JUST black and white travel clothes that can all be mixed and matched … may throw in a colorful scarf,” writes one reader. Another writes: “Simplify. I pick a color scheme so I can mix, match and minimize what I need to take.”

There are many people that believe when packing, less is more. Although I agree with this to some extent, filling up your suitcase isn’t going to harm you in any way, unless of course you go over the weight limit enforced by airlines. But as far as trying to save space in your stateroom, a couple of extra shirts will not make a difference.

If you’re looking to save space in luggage, however, many people recommended packing cubes: “I love packing cubes; they not only allow me to fit more into my suitcase but to organize things. I use one cube for tops, another for bottoms, one for underwear/bras/socks, etc.” As this reader points out, the cubes are not only good for saving space in luggage, but also to help organize. When you get onto the ship, and even when you return home, it is a lot easier to put things away when they are already sorted for you.

Another space saving option is rolling clothes instead of folding them. As someone who has tried both methods, I don’t know that I see much of a difference, but many people swear by rolling items. I think this is because I wear button downs, which seem to take up the same amount of space whether folded or rolled. You can also place smaller rolled items, such as socks and t-shirts, in your shoes.

Though Ralph states in his article that you may not need formal items, I always advise people to pack at least two formal outfits. Each cruise line varies in dress code, but it is always nice to have a few dress up options so you don’t feel like the odd man out.

Though many readers wrote that you are not dressing to impress, I am not someone who likes to feel underdressed. I often take a suit with me because I prefer not to wear dresses. I am usually able to get three to four evening outfits out of a suit by using the full suit as an outfit for formal night, the suit pants with a button down for another night, the suit jacket with a pair of jeans or slacks for a third night, and finally the suit dressed down with a t-shirt for a fourth night. However, the same thing can be done with a dress or two. Look for lightweight dresses that can be dressed up or dressed down depending on what you wear them with.

Dressing up your outfit can be as simple as adding a nice pashmina, another tip that a lot of readers wanted to pass on. Pashminas are not only an easy way to make an outfit look a bit nicer, but also very convenient to throw on if you want to go up to the sun deck after dinner – it can get a bit chilly. Because pashminas are so lightweight, they are very easy to pack and take up hardly any space. Especially if you use the rolling method mentioned earlier.

The last piece of advice I have before we get to some more suggestions from you all is to make sure that you are prepared for your luggage to be lost. Somehow, my luggage manages to get lost almost every time I travel, whether I have a tight connection in cities or not doesn’t really seem to matter. So I have learned the hard way that it is better to be safe than sorry.

I usually take one suitcase with me that includes just my clothes for the week. This would be the suitcase that I plan on checking. Then in a smaller rolling carry-on, I pack a few pairs of underwear, a pair of jeans, and two to three shirts. I also put my toothbrush, skincare, makeup, etc. in this bag. This way if my checked luggage does get lost, I am set for a couple of days until my bag catches up with me. Although, once my luggage was lost for seven days before I received it. I also take a backpack with my computer, chargers, iPad, and other equipment I may need for the trip. Now of course, if you want to play it really safe, try arriving to your destination a day early. That way, your luggage will be able to catch up with you before you get onboard.

Although I still carry books in my backpack with my other equipment, many people recommend using iPads, Kindles, or Nooks for reading. E-readers are a great way to save space, and take some strain off your shoulders. Let’s face it, books are heavy. But like me, I know that many people prefer to have a physical book in hand. Try to look for paperback copies or mass market editions (the skinny ones) to help save space. If you are not set on a taking a certain book, many ships have libraries where you can find reading material as well.

Now onto a few more specific suggestions from readers:

  • One reader recommends Kikisol tunicswriting: “They are the most lightweight cotton, and wash out and drip dry with few wrinkles because of the quality of the cotton … I can sleep in one, use one as a cover up, and more.”
  • Another writes that zip off leg pants are helpful for trips that the weather may be unpredictable. Our favorites can be found here.
  • “Make sure you bring sweaters for layering and something fairly waterproof. The temperatures are always lower when you’re on the water no matter what time of year. I have found cashmere and cashmere blends to be perfect for traveling because they are warm, comfortable and aren’t as bulky as other sweaters.”
  • Lightweight winter jackets can be found at Uniqlo.
  • “Umbrellas are mostly useless and take up too much space. You can buy your way out of a jam.” Also, keep in mind that most cruise lines have umbrellas onboard for rainy days.
  • And lastly, though specific; “Many people who use CPAP don’t realize that you can carry this on the plane as medical equipment and it does not count against your carry-on limit. I never trust mine to be checked.”

My final advice on packing? Don’t worry too much about taking as little as you can, but certainly try to be smart about your outfit choices. Always remember that you probably don’t need as much as you think you’re going to, but as long as you’re not going over your bag limit, you should be okay. Sure, this goes against Ralph’s initial advice to pack less, but using the tips you’ve learned in this article you may be able to save yourself a bit of time – and space.

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One Comment

  • Love packing cubes and use them to fold tops like new men’s shirts and place within the folds of the trousers or capris that they’ll be worn with. Each day you can work your way down through each set – especially useful if you use cabin drawers or you’re on a tour and moving on regularly.


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