Thursday, August 13, 2015

Q&A How do I pack for a cruise?

Do you enjoy cruising? My guest on the blog today is an expert on the subject. Donna Hull has generously agreed to help me out with this subject since I haven't been on a vacation of more than two or three days in about seventeen years. 

Donna takes over the post from here.

My husband and I have almost 300 nights at sea on small ship luxury cruises. While exploring the world is a big part of the fun, so is dressing up, especially for dinner, which I appreciate since we live in rural Montana where going out to dinner means putting on a fresh pair of jeans and fancy cowgirl boots.

But packing for a cruise can be a challenge, especially in today’s travel environment. So how do I adhere to luggage weight restrictions, pack what I need and still look good? Today, I’m sharing some of my favorite tips with you.

Determine the dress code

Will your cruise have any formal nights or is the dress code “elegant casual” for the entire voyage? When I first started cruising, the dress code was usually a couple of formal nights, with the rest of the voyage divided between informal (think cocktail attire) and elegant casual. Men wore tuxedos or dinner jackets for formal nights, coat and tie on informal nights, and collared shirts with a sports coat for the rest of the evenings.

But with today’s casual lifestyle (and those pesky airline luggage restrictions), many cruise lines are totally casual. My husband and I prefer a cruise with formal nights, but even on the lines we sail, informal is being mostly dropped from the dress code. 

Since knowing the dress code is the first step in packing, how do you find out? You’ll probably receive the information when cruise documents arrive about 3 weeks before the trip. But that’s not soon enough for our purposes so ask your travel agent. Most cruise lines also publish dress codes on their websites.

Boomer travel tip: The forums on Cruise Critic are a good place to ask questions of current cruisers. 

Prepare ahead

Once I know the number of formal nights, informal nights (if there are any) and casual nights, I search my closet for what to bring and make note of any new items to purchase. Here’s my process:

Try every item on to make sure it still fits and looks stylish (and this includes any special undergarments that might be needed).  My husband and I make an event out of this. It’s his personal fashion show, which adds to our trip anticipation.

Make a list of each outfit. I organize mine according to the number of formal, informal, elegant casual nights (and don’t forget daytime wear for port days or around the ship). I bring this master list with me on the cruise to make dressing super easy. All I have to do is look at the list, pick out an outfit for that night’s dress code and I’m good to go.

Wear every item at least twice or it goes back into the closet—this is where my list comes in handy. For instance, I may wear the same pair of Chico’s black traveler pants for 7 or 8 outfits (including formal) and none of them will be the repeat of the same look. And don’t forget that accessories can easily change an outfit from casual to dressy.

Boomer travel tip: It’s okay to wear the same outfit more than once. No one, except you, is going to notice.

Limit the shoes

Shoes take up the most room in luggage so limit how many pairs that you bring (sorry Susan). I use the same approach as I do with clothes. The shoes I pack must go with many outfits. Nude or pewter-colored shoes are good choices as they work with almost any item in your wardrobe. And I always bring a sparkly pair of dress shoes for formal nights. 

Boomer travel tip: Wear tennis or walking shoes on the plane. No, they aren’t chic, but wearing them saves room in your luggage for that fun pair of shoes that you can’t resist bringing along. Plus who wants to walk through TSA sockless? Eww, the germs.

But my biggest tip of all is to pack clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Wearing a great attitude is part of looking good, too.

Donna L. Hull writes about active travel for baby boomers at My Itchy Travel Feet, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel. She’s currently offering her personal summer cruise packing list to new subscribers.

Thank you for joining us on this journey through midlife and beyond. The second fifty years are truly the best!

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