What to Pack on a River Cruise
Updated: Apr 15
If there’s one piece of travel advice I can impart today, it’s this: Do not forget to pack a raincoat. No matter where you’re going, you will never regret packing rain gear. How do I know? Several soggy shore excursions later on my own river cruise, I vowed never to travel without one again. Here’s what you’ll want to pack on your next river cruise, rain jacket included.
Going on a River Cruise? Here’s What to Pack.
1. Carry-On and Daypack
Most river cruise lines offer laundry facilities on board. If that’s the case for your ship, there’s no need to overpack and you’d do well to bring a carry-on instead of a larger suitcase. It can be difficult to lug larger bags through European railway stations - your carry-on will easily fit in a river cruise ship’s cabin.
Reminder: If you’re river cruising overseas, choose the “international,” not “domestic” carry-on, the former of which is a tad shorter and will be allowed on European carriers.
That being said, bring along a daypack for activities and excursions. You're going to want something light and easy to carry when you head off on walking tours or wine tastings. Choose one that can be zippered or worn across your body to deter pickpockets when sightseeing in a more crowded location and possibly something more like a small backpack for hiking.
2. Clothing and Accessories
European river cruises call for comfortable, casual clothing. Bring layers, as the temperatures and weather conditions can vary widely (and don’t forget that raincoat!). A packable down jacket in the shoulder months will go far in keeping you comfy. Leave the formalwear and fancy jewelry at home and instead bring a casual dress, or a collared shirt and slacks for men, for evenings on board or out to dinner in town.
Check to see if your river cruise ship has a swimming pool or hot tub and, if so, pack a bathing suit (include one, too, if you’re stopping somewhere like Budapest that has enticing thermal baths you might like to visit). Ask, too, about an onboard fitness center and bring exercise clothing as needed.
As for extras, if you have room, throw in a few scarves for dressing up an evening outfit or keeping warm, a light hat, fingerless gloves and a sun hat.
3. Appropriate Footwear
You’ll be doing a fair amount of walking and moving about when you disembark from your ship. Many of the village and historic city centers you’ll visit have uneven cobblestone streets and alleyways, so sturdy, comfortable, somewhat padded footwear is advised. Break your shoes in before you leave town to avoid blisters. Leave the fancy dress shoes and heels at home. In the spring or fall, or the Christmas market season, consider warm, weatherproof footwear or comfortable walking boots.
Pack the right tech so you’re never left without charge or the ability to take photos when you want to. Check with your river cruise company about whether or not US outlets and USB ports are on the ships. Some ships have only European plugs, so it’s a safe bet to pack an adaptor. Also, ask about WiFi and check with your cell phone provider about adding international data to your plan, especially if you want to be FaceTiming with folks back home during your travels.
5. Some Essentials
A few more items to consider adding to your river cruising packing list:
Printouts of your travel documents and a travel document wallet
Disinfectant spray/wipes and hand sanitizer
Travel laundry sheets or laundry pods
Travel umbrella (although umbrellas are typically provided by the cruise line)
Compression socks for long flights
A reusable coffee mug
A reusable water bottle
Prescription drugs and toiletries
Adaptors and chargers (as mentioned above)
Phone (use as a camera)
Need more guidance? Let’s chat. You know I’ll recommend the raincoat first!
Reach out by booking a consultation through my Services page.