Packing for a Luxury Cruise – A Carry-On Strategy

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I’m packing to leave today on a 12 day vacation which includes a 7 night luxury cruise on Seabourn out of Istanbul. Packing for a luxury cruise always throw my normal strategies off.  Dinner tends to be a dressier affair.  It is also hard to repeat outfits too often when you are seeing the same people 24/7!  But one of my biggest challenges is not overpacking.  I prefer to travel only without th carry-on bags, even if I have to check my luggage.

My Strategy Packing for a Luxury Cruise

I usually start off a week or two before a longer trip by outlining my days and evenings.  I record the activities of each day (travel, touring, day and evening plans) to figure out what kinds of outfits I need for each day.

There are several factors to consider:

  • What my daily activities will entail (including evening plans)
  • What the anticipated weather might be
  • If there are any special regional considerations (a need to cover my arms or legs, for example)
  • Where I might see the same people through the trip
  • Whether there is a reasonable break to do laundry mid-trip
  • What items can be worn again (such as a dress worn for 2-3 hours one night)

Once I’ve outlined the basic requirements, I then work through a list of possible items from my closet to take.  If I’m at home, I will pull them all out and start to narrow the items down.  More often I am working on the plane from memory so I write out a list. I then work through my list, checking off outfits by day.  I need to be sure that my list is not too long or incomplete based on my needs.

How My Wardrobe Strategy Affects My Packing for a Luxury Cruise

I use a “capsule wardrobe” strategy for most of my closet.  This entails maintaining basics in core neutral colors such as black, grey, and navy.  I then mix in two to three colors seasonally as accents.

I’ve decided to concentrate my basics for this trip around black and charcoal grey pieces. I’ll toss in color via cardigans, tops, and accessories. This will allow me to mix and match pieces to create new outfits while re-wearing some items. I also can pack neutral shoes that will go with many outfits. For this trip, my accent colors are coral and turquoise, both on-trend colors that mix well with black and charcoal.

I also employ a “wear it 2-3 times” approach.  If I can’t reasonably wear an item at least two different ways (with other pieces), I reconsider whether it belongs in my suitcase.  Even when packing for a luxury cruise, it’s okay to repeat items!

On this particular trip, I plan to shop for dishware in Istanbul.  From the start that means I will need to check a bag.  I simply will not be able to make it in just my usual Tumi carry-on roller bag.  I need to have space in a second hard-side bag to check dishes on the return trip.  At the same time, I’m nervous about a lost bag not making it to the cruise ship in time for departure.  I’m going to hedge my bets with one carry-on and one checked bag.

I’ve borrowed back my older Tumi carry-on (on long-term loan to my parents) to use as a checked bag.  I’m filling half of the space in that bag with a roll of bubble wrap to secure my purchases (and ensure I don’t overpack!.  I’m also tossing a Longchamp expandable tote in as a backup plan.  Since I’ll be spending two days the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, that is a wise backup in case my shopping overtakes me.

My second “everyday” Tumi carry-on bag will go with me on the plane as a carry-on.  I will also carry my usual computer tote.  That will hold my laptop, iPad, purse, chargers, and other onboard necessities. Most clothing will all fit in the carry-on bag.  I will have carefully rolled it and placed it in zippered packing cubes.

We use this Tumi bag for all of our travels:

I use packing cubes like these:

I have redistributed the weight in the bags.  This was achieved by relegating half of my shoes and one cube of “cruise only” clothing to the checked bag.  I did, however, take care to be sure that I had complete outfits with appropriate shoes in the first bag.  That will be a solid backup should I have a baggage delivery delay.

Conclusion and Post-Script

This means of packing for a luxury cruise will help me be certain that I don’t overpack.  At the same time, I’ll have plenty of wardrobe options that I can mix and match with ease.

This article has been revised to keep content fresh.  Packing for a luxury cruise is something I do a couple times each year so I continue to refine the process!  It is important to note that despite careful planning, I was forced to check both carry-on bags in Istanbul on the return.  Then British Airways lost my luggage!  If only I had known about Luggage Forward back then.  Our article Five Strategies for Chronic Overpackers is also a good resource along with our packing lists on Pinterest.



About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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