Packing Tips From a Cruise Pro

cruise packing tips

OK, you’ve booked that cruise, and it’s almost time to go. Surely you will need three steamer trunks and a carry on, right?! NOT! Packing can certainly be as subjective as food, but it’s completely possible to take a cruise with a traditional carry on, even a longer cruise.

cruise packing tips

Cruise Packing Tips: Don’t Overpack and Don’t Worry

That’s right, don’t overpack. Most cruisers do, and frankly, this writer has done so as well in my early cruising career. Simply put, you don’t need to take more than will fit in what will fit in a standard business carry on. One pair of jeans, two pairs of khakis, and a handful of dressy t-shirts, a couple of not so dressy t-shirts, shorts, underwear, a swim suit, workout clothes, and two pairs of shoes (one workout, one casual) make up your core wardrobe.

Throw in some flip flops in the front pocket of your bag and you’re golden. All of that, and probably more will fit in a standard roller bag and backpack. Ladies will change some of that to cocktail dresses. Choose shoe colors wisely, and you should be able to mix and match for a fabulous wardrobe without overpacking.

cruise packing tips

But What About Formal Night?

“Formal night” on a cruise is a big event for many, and one might ask if formal clothes can fit in the allotted carry on space above. For gentlemen, a sport jacket, dress pants, and nice shirt can suffice for most formal evenings nowadays as “formal” has evolved over the years. A tie is also an easy thing to pack. Also, there is no shame in renting a tuxedo on board if you wish to dress up. Dress codes on most cruise ships are “recommended” not required. That said, I would never show up in the main dining room on formal night in a pair of jeans. Dress up a little and make a night of it! Lesser known secret: on most ships, the specialty restaurants are “business casual,” even on formal night. The buffets always are. In short, you aren’t going to starve on formal night if you elect not to wear formal dress on your cruise.

Some cruise lines offer self-service laundry facilities onboard, while others offer reasonably priced dry cleaning services. If you pack light, you are likely going to make use of one of these options on a cruise of 7 nights or longer. In my experience, the laundry service has worked just fine. So pack light, and don’t worry about carting your steamer trunks around on vacation!



  1. Diane says

    Having been on 30 cruises, I don’t think this article was comprehensive enough for newer cruisers . . . and I just have to say who the heck wants to do laundry on a cruise vacation?

    • Marshall Jackson says


      Agreed on the laundry. Feel free to share tips in the comments that you feel were left out that would benefit newer cruisers. We’ll all learn together.

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