The P Word: Packing for your travels

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The packing world seems to separate itself into two tribes: here’s my kitchen sink, or hey, I can improvise a bivouac overnight with my miniascule pack.  At times I have wibbled between the two, moving from sink to bivouac and back again.

There are also two tribes of readiness.  There are the list makers, such as myself, who carefully tick everything off.  Then there are the slingits, such as my OH, who wake on the morning and blithely sling things into a bag.  Both have their perils, from packing performance anxiety in my case, to having to purchase a whole new set of undies in Blankenberg, Rostock and Tallin (name withheld – temporarily – to protect the guilty).

Of course, packing for a cruise is fraught with overpacking temptations.  If you don’t need to fly, which is now the chastity belt of the overpacking indulger, then you can bring “as much as can be fitted in your cabin”.  Athough cabins aren’t enormous, they are bigger than the average car, so you can certainly manage to include anything you can wedge into your boot.

Let’s take an example of the varied approaches to packing.  I’m recently back from 3 days on P&O’s Azura to Amsterdam.  I was there on a conference, so had work stuff with me.  I met a colleague at check in, who carried a cabin size case.  I had the next size up in a trolley bag.  Cabin next door to me?  One case each of the size I take for 14 days, plus a trolley bag apiece.  Whatever floats your boat, eh?  But I was a tad fascinated as to what they’d brought with them.  Giant Jenga?  A ball gown or two?  Or perhaps they had a stealthy second holiday to accommodate afterwards.

So what advice can I give you?

  1. Do your research online.  You can get the temperature forecast for your destination several days ahead, which gives you the chance to pack accordingly.  (Yay to smug me in Belgium last year, having remembered my hat, meaning I could wander around happily in the rain without battling with an umbrella!)  And this also helps if you want to find out the sartorial standards wherever you are headed.  Some cruise lines are more casual, others will need some thought over evening wear.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff; you can usually find it somewhere.  OH has an “interesting” new set of undies, especially from Tallin;  I think they were a stag party special.  I found out that the Spanish word for Paracetamol is Paracetamol and had a beautiful ornately wrapped box from a sweet pharmacist in Cadiz.
  3. Conversely, pack to your weaknesses.  I am both a worrier and a coeliac, and I feel much safer going away with an emergency stash of gluten free snacks.  It’s amazing how much happier a bag of peanuts and some fruit bars makes me feel, so that’s what I pack.
  4. To wash or not to wash?  (Your clothes, of course… )  If it’s warm and you’re inclined to more casual attire, then why not bring less, and hit the laundry part way through if the facilities are there (again, back to that research).  Some cruise lines have laundrettes, and you can always do a little handwashing in the sink if that suits you.  If you have just paled at the thought of doing manual labour on holiday, then I think we’ve just established you’ll be packing a bit more.
  5. Check what’s already there.  Nearly all ship cabins have a hairdryer, and it’s probably adequate unless you have Rapunzel-like tresses.  And you’ll probably find a selection of basic toiletries available if you don’t need to cater for sensitive skin.
  6. Share!  Are there things that you can share with your travel companions, such as some basic first aid stuff?
  7. Swap! And another good sharing tip, swap some items between your bag and that of your travel companion ; if one is lost or gets delayed you have a change of clothes and essentials to hand.

Happy journeys!



4 thoughts on “The P Word: Packing for your travels

  1. Great tips beyond the typical packing list, applicable to regular travel beyond just cruises!

    Re: #4: I specifically booked a place with a washing machine about halfway through our mother/daughter trip this summer. While I don’t mind doing the sink-wash once or twice, I can’t imagine I would get it as clean as a washing machine.

    Re: #6: Yes yes yes! My mom and I are going together, and we only need one method of drying our hair between us. Since my mom wants to pack a US sized carryon, she gets to carry the hair straightener (though I told my mom to grow her hair out, and plan to do a lot of french braiding of our hair so we don’t have to dry it). We only need one toothpaste, one dental floss, etc. I love sharing!

    Re: #7: Heck yes! The first time my mom went to Europe with her mom (the trip that started the mother/daughter tradition), her entire luggage got lost. Luckily we won’t have this issue as we’ll be keeping our luggage with us most of the time, but it pays to be prepared!

    • Hi and welcome! You’ve just prompted lots of happy memories of travels with my mum. So far we’ve only lost bags on the way home (and were happily reunited with our laundry a few days later) but I think of the swapping as an insurance policy.

      You have some great travel plans there. Looking forward to hearing your adventures.

      (And great idea about the French plaits. Will have to give that a try.)

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