Ten essential items I always pack for a cruise


Most of us learn the hard way and still forget to pack that one elusive item for our next trip.  After all of my travels, mostly cruises and a smattering of hotels, I’ve learned to keep these ten essential items pre-packed, ready to toss into whatever suitcase I plan to take.

Ship's doctor takes my luggage for my Uniworld river cruise in Romania1.  A flashlight.  Seems kind of obvious…for when the lights go out.  In case of fire, a crawl to the nearest exit door,would be easier with a flashlight. Power failure. To see behind furniture to find the earring that fell and disappeared.  I never travel without a small flashlight and it stays on the nightstand.  Check the batteries before you leave home.

2.  Cute little foam ear plugs. Yes, they work.  Whether your roommate is a snorer or your neighbors are tossing about all night, a drippy shower or noisy air conditioner, these things really muffle the sounds.

3.  Zip-lock bags.  A zillion uses are possible; for packing a piece of fruit for your day trip/shore excursion, safe storage for that gorgeous new silk scarf, accumulation of bar coasters (so you can remember what beer you tried) and business cards, those pesky little amenity bottles, shells collected at that remote beach.  Souvenir rocks. You just never know.

4.  Thermos mug or bottle.  Don’t go on a trip without one.  But you’re going on a cruise, you say.  A thermos bottle or mug is great for keeping your coffee hot so you can stroll around the deck, maybe catch a sunrise, and not worry about spilling.  But be mindful of your fellow cruisers. Do not fill your thermos directly from the hot coffee spigot. That’s one way to be sure to spread germs. Instead, fill a clean coffee cup and carefully pour the hot coffee into the thermos.

5.  Electric power strip.  First, make sure that the ship allows this in your cabin.  If they do, never leave it unattended and unplug it when not in use.  Make sure it has an automatic reset switch.  Fire is the worst hazard aboard a ship.

That said, if you have a lot of equipment that you absolutely must lug around with you, you know it’s impossible to recharge everything at the same time with one, maybe two outlets. The power strip is great because you can recharge your laptop, iPhone, camera battery and Bluetooth earpiece all at once.  Start charging when you return to your room after being on shore.  By the time you’ve unpacked your souvenirs, relaxed for a half hour, showered and dressed for dinner, everything will be ready to go.

Conversely, if the idea of a power strip is either too cumbersome to pack or just in case it’s not allowed, bring a couple of European converters, instead.  Much lighter and compact, you might be able to plug in three or four electronic pieces, especially if you are on a cruise ship from North America.  European river ships only have 220 voltage outlets.  And usually only two of them.

6.  Bubble wrap.  Huh? OK…so tell me how you manage to bring home those ultra breakables? Or what if you must mail some of your things home along the way?  You can layer the bubble wrap in between your clothes (helps prevent wrinkles, too) and then use as needed.  When I’m on a river cruise in Europe, I always end up shipping clothes and souvenirs home.  And without bubble wrap, I used to worry about something breaking in transit.

If you need to know the ins and outs of shipping from Europe, let me know.  I’ve done that in a half-dozen cities, both river and ocean cruises.

7. Suction hooks.  Goofy little gizmos that are so incredibly handy.  Just stick them on the bathroom walls and voila! Instant storage hooks.  Depending upon the interior of your room, you can use these for caps, scarfs, light jackets, etc.  Most ships only have two or three hooks, usually on the inside of the bathroom door.  Hotels never seem to have any hooks at all.

8.  EXTRA AA / AAA batteries.  This is so obvious, but so easy to overlook.  Not everything is rechargeable.  I also suggest bringing a spare camera battery, too.

9.  Portable battery charger for your iPhone.  There are several of these on the marke and I never travel without one.  The two that I am familiar with are Mophie and Beam Box Power Pack.  Both will allow you to get an addition 5-7 hours of use (depending on what your are doing – video burns up juice like crazy.) Just charge it up, snap it onto your iPhone like a protective case.  When you get the dreaded “10% power remaining” message, simply flick the switch and it will recharge your phone.

10.  Extra SD cards, at least one 8 GB flash drive and even a 1T portable hard drive.  I could write a book about this idea.  In many countries, it’s nearly impossible to find a brand name SD card.  I once bought an unpronounceable named SD card solely out of desperation.  The next day it “blew up’ in my camera and I lost four days worth of photos, including an entire ship tour and two cities.

Which brings me to my next must-do: every night, back up your photos in at least one other place.  I learned the hard way.  Now I download all of my day’s photos onto my computer and then onto a flash drive.  Bring a small case to keep all of the flash drives and SD cards.  Or a small Zip-Lock bag. Store in the safe in your cabin so you don’t lose it.  If you’re really paranoid about losing important photos, buy a portable hard drive. Only about $100 and the size of a pack of playing cards, it’s really more like a flash-drive, but a heck of a lot more capacity.

That’s how I travel…all this and only one medium-size suitcase and my wheeled carry-on with my computer and electronics.  Don’t forget small packets of clothes detergent (Tide and Woolite make small packets, but put them into a Zip-Lock bag!)

Have any suggestions? I’d love to hear what little essentials always travel with you.

Photo credit: Sherry Laskin

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