One of the biggest appeals of a river cruise is how easy it is to travel to multiple destinations. You board your ship, unpack once, and then get taken to one incredible place after another in your floating boutique hotel. To maximize your enjoyment and fun on your cruise, it is important to prepare by packing the right things and, just as importantly, leaving the wrong things at home.

So here are my top 6 suggestions for how to pack for your river cruise – and another 6 things that you should leave behind:

1. Pack Light

Using the advice below as a guide, pack light. Your cabin will be comfortable and luxurious but small, and you don’t need a different outfit for each day. Instead, plan to wear some things more than once – this will be easier if you prioritize dark and neutral colors. You can also use the laundry services on the ship. And make sure to leave room in your suitcase to bring home souvenirs!

2. Keep Versatility and Comfort in Mind

Even if it’s just gentle walking, most excursions on a river cruise involve some activity. Bring clothes that will keep you comfortable all day. Bring “resort casual” clothes for dinner, but a more polished look can be accomplished by accessorizing. Overall, aim for outfits that translate well from day to night.

3. Prepare for Anything With Layers

Another key aspect of versatility is layers since the weather on the river is quite variable all year long. A sunhat is essential, and even in the summer bring a light jacket, some long-sleeved shirts, pants, and rain protection. In the cooler months bring a sweater or fleece that you can layer under a coat, and don’t forget a warm hat and gloves.

4. Pack Shoes That Can Take You Places

Leave your dress shoes and high heels at home, and opt for a comfortable pair of walking shoes instead. Many excursions involve walking on cobbled streets or dirt paths, so choose shoes that offer good support. For lounging on the boat, bring a pair of slip ons, sandals, or boat shoes that can also double as your dining footwear.

5. Bring a Good Travel Day Bag

When you leave the ship you want a bag that is comfortable and big enough to hold everything you need: an extra layer, water bottle, camera, and space for your shopping purchases. So leave your fancy purse at home and opt for something practical. Choose something with a zipper to better hold your things and for added protection against pick-pockets. Finally, throw a couple of foldable nylon tote bags into your day bag because many countries will not give you disposable bags for your purchases.

6. You May Want a Power Strip

Although there will be outlets in your room, it’s a good idea to bring a power strip so that you can charge more than one device at a time. Double-check with your ship to make sure your power strip is compatible, and bring an adapter if needed.

What NOT to Bring

Computer: River cruises are vacations filled with lots of different activities, so you won’t have time to sit around on the computer. Your phone or tablet will be sufficient for your internet needs.

Hair Dryer: Your ship will provide you with a hairdryer, which is good because American models are not always compatible with European outlets. Leave it at home and avoid blowing a fuse!

Toiletries: Your ship will provide you with shampoo, conditioner, and soap. Plan to use what they provide – and save that space in your suitcase for souvenirs!

Fancy clothes: There are no “formal nights” on River Cruises. So think casual – no need for that tuxedo or long dress.

Umbrella: If it’s raining your ship will provide you with umbrellas.

Expensive jewelry and other valuables: As much as you might want to show off your most beautiful jewelry while exploring Europe, the stress of having to manage these valuables is not worth it.

I hope that this guide is helpful as you prepare for your river cruise! Please reach out to me if you have any questions.

Contact Kira

Kira GartnerKira Gartner is the owner of Blue Sky Destinations, a boutique travel agency specializing in river cruises, luxury expedition cruises and customized European vacations. For years she has helped curious travelers plan vacations that allow them to unwind, reconnect, and immerse themselves fully in a destination. Reach out to her for a free consultation - and let her start designing your dream vacation!