Go In Style: Packing Tips For A River Cruise
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Go In Style: Packing Tips For A River Cruise

Packing Tips For A River Cruise

You’ve booked a fabulous river cruise trip, now what to pack?

The pleasures of a river cruise are many. One of the most wonderful things is that you unpack once and enjoy a multitude of destinations arriving by your river cruise ship. But what to pack to enjoy the excursions, evening parties, and dinners?

Packing light of course, is the key. Each piece must work in a variety of ways and should be able to be worn many times while still looking fresh. Here, travel pros share the best tips and tricks for packing for a river cruise.

Choose Luggage Wisely

Start with your luggage. Take only two.  For your main piece get a bag that travels as hard as you do. A  lightweight, durable, and easy-to-maneuver through the airport bag. You can find bags weighing in at just over two pounds. The best materials are a 1000 Denier (tightness of weave) Cordura or a 2000 Dernier ballistic nylon. A backpack with a telescoping handle and exterior lacing to grip additional gear or piggy-back a smaller bag is a great choice. Check out  rolling bags by Rick Steves

Whether or not to check your bag is a personal decision. But make sure that if you carry-on, you comply with your airline’s size and weight  restrictions. Your bag should have multi-directional wheels and a long, fully retractable handle that the smaller “under the seat” bag can stack on top of as you wheel. Check that the ensemble fits your arm length comfortably at a full “running to the gate” roll. Tumi and  Eagle Creek, sold on Ebags, as well as TravelPro all make great suitcases.

For your second, smaller carry-on, select either a backpack, daypack, or combo bag that has a zippered and removable  “personal item“ bag that you can keep under the seat in front of you. This bag is up to you and what you carry; PC or iPad and gadgets, camera, phone, charger, current adapter, neck pillow, snacks, baggie of liquids, jewelry, book, wallet, passport and glasses should fit into this bag. Again, select something you can also use while on your cruise. Rick Steves Civita day bag is perfect.

Where are you going?

Research the destinations and weather forecasts via the Internet. If you have not been there before, look for dress cues in the city or country by visiting the tourism website or contacting your cruise line concierge. River cruise lines will send you a detailed “help list” with the cruise  itinerary and packing suggestions for your specific cruise. 

AmaWaterways’ Executive Vice President Kristin Karst is a lady whom I admire when she travels. She has a relaxed, easy style but always looks well-dressed.  “I have always taken a ‘less is more’ approach when traveling,” Kristin says.  “It is very rare that I check in my luggage. In the event of flight delays, missing a connection or losing my belongings, this has helped me become a smarter packer. I have found that packing socks or scarves inside  boots or shoes creates more space in my suitcase, as does packing versatile clothing that I can layer instead of bulkier coats and sweaters. Both of these tips also come in handy when it relates to shopping during the holidays! AmaWaterways offers several itineraries in Europe during the winter months that sail to the popular Christmas Markets, making light packing even more ideal than ever. Not only can I cross off items on my loved ones’ wish list, but I also return with a brand new wardrobe!” On a recent AmaWaterways cruise on the Rhine River, Kristin opted for simple shift dresses, dressed up or down with accessories. Nothing else except her radiant smile is ever needed.

Shore Adventures

Sport enthusiasts demand hi-tech durability, easy wear-ability, and high style from sport clothing. In your quest to pack using one bag, allow these features to be your secret weapons. The bottom line is that you’ll want comfortable and functional clothes. For cooler climates, layer; for warm, pack breathable fabrics.

I wander the world as a travel journalist. One of my favorites is a lightweight, tailored equestrian riding jacket of spandex and nylon that I use to keep the chill away in a plane cabin, add authority in the boardroom or to hike up a Swiss mountainside. For versatility I like Columbia Sportswear’s Omni-Shade® line of hats, pants and tops. They protect from sun damage by blocking the harmful UVB and UVA rays and also work as layering pieces in the cold. They have the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation for a minimum UPF of 30, are light and easy to pack.

My other go-to pieces are tops, slacks, shirts and pants with sweat wicking qualities, better quality yoga pants, undies of 95% cotton/ 5% spandex, socks that dry quickly, convertible travel pants and other items, all available from sportswear manufacturers. Tights are a fabulous space-saver for the ladies. Add a pair of leggings to that summer tunic dress and you are set for cooler destinations or travel that includes a change of season. Recycled plastic bottles spun into fabric and edgy designs distinguish the wearable comfortable style at Nau that I like to wear in Europe.

If your taste does not run to “le sportif,”  check out specialized travel wear collections in non-wrinkle fabrics that provide a more traditional look to men’s dress shirts, slacks, and sport coats. For the ladies there are no-brainer three or four piece interchangeable tops, jackets, skirts, and pants.

 Destination Palette

Select a neutral palette that reflects your destination and the season, and colors that  don’t show  dirt. In larger cosmopolitan  cites like Amsterdam or Paris, it’s always ubiquitous black. For Lucerne, gray for spring will take you through and navy  is clothing culture for summer in LisbonCarry this color throughout to maximize your wardrobe options and brighten your neutral canvas with bold touches of color via scarves or striped tops. Adding a silver pin, belt, or watch can pep up your simple silhouette. For the gentlemen a few snazzy belts, interesting tie or tailored shirts create a point of interest for those cocktail receptions and special cruise nights. On AmaWaterways most river cruise evenings are “dressy casual’ meaning no formal jacket required.  

A Word About Footwear

 You’ll be doing a lot of walking on a trip, and you’d better love the shoes you are wearing. Kurt Winner, a photojournalist, prefers Mephisto shoes, very European, sleekly-styled rubber soles with ventilated tops that keep feet cool and supported all day but don‘t have that “potato comfort shoe” look. I favor one color ballet flats with formed rubber soles that support my foot and make walking a breeze. You can find similar styles and brands from Naturalizer or Clarks. Break them in before you travel and change your day shoes for another pair at night to give your traveling feet a rest or pack a pair of heels or strappy sandals.

Get packing: How those who travel for a living do it

Select a few one-color key pieces in specialized fabrics like washable merino wool or wick-able fast dry items that you can mix and match and layer. Roll your clothes or use three-pocket organizers or compression bags in a well designed, light-weight carry on, and you‘ll be packing like a professional traveler.

Colleen Friesen, a cycling and outdoor adventure writer, shares her favorite tips: “Unless I’m going somewhere tropical, I always pack my stuff-able down vest. It’s actually Hollofil or something and it zips into a tiny pocket. It’s a lovely base layer that works with my windbreaker.” AmaWaterways offers optional activities like bicycle tours ashore, and a wind breaker that packs into a backpack is a great idea.   

Lena Katz, worldwide travel journalist, blogger, and travel book author who always looks L.A. cool says, “I never pack close-toed dress-up shoes. They are impractical in the extreme. In cold weather your feet will freeze, in warm weather you’ll sweat and get blisters. Nice boots are my go-to footwear. You can wear them with a dress in warm climates, with pants or over leggings in cold. I tend to go for dresses and leggings or tights instead of lots of pants/shirt combos.”

If you are still undecided on a  river cruise, check out AmaWaterways’ new ship the AmaStella which just launched in March for the European rivers, or any of their many destinations around the world. River cruising is a fun and popular way to sample many cities  from the comfort of a floating home base. And remember, you only have to unpack once.

The tips for your  packing success, no mater the destination are:

Functional luggage

Simple key pieces of clothing in a single color that can be paired in many ways

Comfortable walking shoes, and simple dress shoes or sandals that work with everything

 Accessories that take up minimal room but punch up your wardrobe


Quick wash and dry undergarments 

Michelle Winner, CulinaryTraveler.com | March 24, 2016

headshotsized%20M.%20WinnerMichelle Winner has been traveling the world since the age of two.  Being born in the island paradise of Hawaii only increased her wanderlust. Writing luxury for over 15 years, she is on her fourth career as a writer and social media brand consultant and interestingly enough each of those (commercial interior designer for hospitality, air hostess, and personal luxury shopper) prepared her with an impeccable eye for design and a discerning appreciation for true personalized service.

 Michelle is part of our professional travel writers and has written and edited, for many of the top tier publications including Conde Naste Digital, Islands Magazine, NYTimes Food, Saveur (photography), AFAR.com and Honestcooking.

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