— Rick Steves, European travel specialist and TV host
Cruises are generally extended affairs — a week, sometimes longer — giving you a chance to exchange workaday attire for “resort casual” or even evening formal wear that doesn’t see much daylight back home.
So when it comes to packing for a voyage, many passengers pay extra to check a bag rather than attempt to fit everything they need for the duration into the carry-on suitcase and the “personal item” allowed in the cabin of most aircraft.
Yet as anyone can attest who’s tried to navigate a foreign city (especially Venice!) with more luggage than they can lug on their own, having more than one bag, especially if extending the cruise at a port on either end, can prove to be a big mistake.
Learn how to pack a carry-on size bag for months of travel in this 8-minute video.
Gear & gadgets to stay compact & organized
Jon Holloway, a travel outfitter in Sacramento, Calif., has been schooling cruisers and other travelers in the art of packing light ever since his parents founded the family business back in 1978 (John took it online when the Internet came along).
The system his mother developed for packing 60 days’ worth of outfits (yes, 60!) into a carry-on bag has been demonstrated thousands of times at travel events around the state, while a YouTube video (above) showing the method in action has been viewed more than 3.1 million times.
I recently spent some time with Holloway to check out gear, gadgets and lightweight luggage, especially those of special interest to cruisers.
Are you adapter-ready?
A ship catering primarily to American travelers will have electrical outlets that fit standard two- or three-prong plugs. And these days, most electronic devices, including smart phones and tablets, have built-in voltage converters that switch automatically between 110 and 220 volts, making external devices obsolete.
But what happens when you extend your trip in a foreign city? Your American plug won’t fit in the outlet, that’s what! Know before you go which kind of outlet you’ll encounter, and consider purchasing an adapter that includes options for multiple countries, along with USB ports.
The Tilley hat
If you’re headed to a tropical clime, you’ll need a sun hat. A Tilley Endurable is an investment, but since its invention in 1980 by Alex Tilley, a frustrated Toronto sailor who wanted a hat that would stay on, shed water, float, not shrink, last a lifetime and look attractive in the bargain, it’s also become a classic. Tilley hats come with a chin strap that can be tucked out of sight in the inner lining — and they also contain a secret compartment for stashing cash and other valuables. Tilleys come in a variety of colors and fabrics (including hemp).
Travel Neck Pillow
Ever since airlines took the pillows away, the market has been flooded with inflatables in a variety of styles. Our fave is the U-shaped Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Travel Neck Pillow, which weighs less than 2 ounces and stuffs, we kid you not, into a 4x2-inch pouch when not in use. The same manufacturer, best known for ultra-light camping gear, also produces an Ultra-Sil Day Pack that reduces down to the size of a palm. See examples of these and other lightweight S2S travel products.
We’re big on lightweight pouches for keeping little things like jewelry, makeup, pill bottles and electronics organized, and this triple-zipper pouch from Zipster fills the bill. It's water-resistant too. Size: 9 x 10 x 0.25 inches. Costs about $10.
Hanging toiletry bag
Don’t you hate it, ladies, when cruise ship and hotel bathrooms don’t provide enough counter space for all your stuff, much less your companion’s stuff? A hanging toiletry bag will keep things organized in your suitcase and neatly stashed on the back of the bathroom door and while you’re traveling from port to port. Larger models can hold your lingerie and jewelry, too.
Packing cubes debuted pre-9/11, before airlines started charging extra for checked bags, and they were an instant hit with travelers. Today’s models serve the same purpose — keeping clothes and sundries organized — at less than half the weight.
Disposable & quick-dry undies
Disposable undies, such as lightweight cotton tossables, have been big sellers at travel outfitters for years. They’re one way to lighten your load. Another is to invest in durable, quick-dry garments that you can rinse out and have ready to wear again in just a few hours.
Travel On compression bags
We’ve probably all had the experience of having to sit on our suitcase to zip it closed, especially on the return trip, when we need to make space for souvenirs. A better idea: Pack light, but bring along a set of Travel On compression bags to help make room for the extras.
How about you? What are your tips for packing light?