17 Genius Ways to Pack Light for a Longer Cruise

how to pack light for a longer cruise

Sharing is caring!

Packing for a cruise of any length can be a challenge. However, when you’re preparing for a cruise that’s longer than the typical six or seven-night voyage, it can feel particularly overwhelming.

After all, cruises are different than other types of vacations. You’ll want to plan for days and evenings on the cruise ship, as well shore excursions in the ports of call. Unlike land vacations, picking up forgotten items may not be as convenient during a cruise.

It can be hard to pack light for longer cruises, but with some organization and a few cruise tips and tricks, it’s definitely possible. In fact, we used several of these strategies on our recent 14 day Panama Canal cruise.

In this post, I share 15 genius tips, tricks, and secrets to help you pack light for an extended cruise. Whether you’re going on an 8 night getaway or a 28 night journey, these packing tips and hacks will ensure you’re well-prepared without overloading your luggage.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click and buy that I may make a commission, at no cost to you. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Pack Light for a Longer Cruise

1. Plan Ahead

Before you start packing, take the time to research your cruise itinerary. Check the weather for each destination and any dress codes for onboard restaurants and events. This information will help you determine what to pack and what to leave behind.

Don’t forget to consider your pre or post cruise stays. If you’re flying into your cruise embarkation port city a day or two ahead, remember to plan what you’ll want to wear. As long as weather permits, choose clothing and shoes that can be part of your cruise wardrobe.

2. Choose Your Luggage Wisely

If you want to pack light or even carry on only for your cruise, your luggage plays a crucial part. You want luggage that has a maximum amount of usable packing space.

Something to consider as well, especially when it comes to cruising, is opting for hard side luggage. When luggage is handed off to the porters at the cruise terminal, its exposed to the outdoor elements until it’s loaded onto the cruise ship.

Speaking from experience, hard-side luggage is the best option to protect your belongings from unexpected rain.

Recommended: Level 8 Hard Side Luggage (check price & 1800+ Amazon reviews here)

3. Choose Versatile Clothing

When it comes to clothing, opt for versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched. Neutral colors work well because they can be easily paired with different outfits for both day and evening on your cruise.

Consider items like a linen shirt or lightweight cardigans that can layer to adapt to changing temperatures, even inside the cruise ship.

4. Create a Capsule Wardrobe

When packing for a longer cruise, create a capsule wardrobe that can take you from embarkation to disembarkation day.

Choose a base color or two for most of your clothing pieces in your cruise capsule wardrobe. Neutral colors like black, beige, and white are versatile. You can add a few clothing items or accessories with a pop of color to avoid a monotonous look.

Ensure that each bottom can be paired with two or three tops, and bring a lightweight layer for flexibility.

Have clothing pieces that can be worn both day and evening. A sundress is great in a port during the day for sightseeing with flats or sneakers. The dress can be worn in the evening on your cruise with a nice sandal or wedges.

5. Pack Dresses

Opt for dresses when aiming for a light and versatile wardrobe on long cruise. While not for everyone, packing dresses makes cruise outfit planning easy. After all, one dress makes a complete outfit, making them an efficient choice.

Pack dresses that can be worn during the day or evening, making them versatile for different activities and themes on your cruise.

Since cruise ship cabins don’t have irons, opt for dresses with wrinkle-resistant fabric as much as possible.

Related: 25 Best Cruise Dresses: Amazon Ladies Resort Wear

6. Use packing cubes

Invest in packing cubes to keep your luggage organized and save space. These nifty organizers help you compress your clothing and make it easy to find what you need without rummaging through your suitcase.

Packing cubes help to stay organized when planning for pre and post cruise stays as well.

Recommended: Packing cubes (check price & color options on Amazon here)

A good tip for unpacking on a cruise, is to leave swimsuits, undergarments and even t-shirts and shorts in their packing cubes. Then, put each packing cube straight into the stateroom drawers or shelves.

If you’re packing carry on only, consider using compression packing cubes, which is save additional space.

Recommended: Compression packing cubes (check 17,000+ 4.5* Amazon reviews here)

7. Limit Your Shoes

One of the best ways to avoid overpacking for cruise vacations is to limit your shoes. However, we should go a step further and pack versatile shoes, that can go with all your cruise wear!

I love shoes (and handbags). However, the good thing is that longer cruises don’t actually require more shoes.

How many shoes should you pack for a cruise?

A good rule of thumb is to pack between 3 and 4 pairs of shoes, 5 is you like more variety.

What Shoes Should You Pack for a Cruise

For cruises, you’ll need shoes for casual days and dinners out on your cruise vacation. Remember to pack comfortable walking shoes and shoes to wear to the pool or beach.

  • Flat sandals or platform sandal
  • Sneaker or walking shoe
  • 1-2 evening shoes (wedge or summer sandal is fine)
  • Flip flops or slides (for the pool, spa or beach)

Get The Ultimate Cruise Planner

Regular price: $27 Now just $17!

8. Plan to Do Laundry

Planning to do laundry on a longer cruise not only ensures you have a continuous supply of clean clothes but also enables you to pack lighter. This allows you to rewear your cruise outfits and clothing items, like workout clothes.

Doing laundry while you’re on a cruise isn’t a one size fits all approach. You’ll want to find out about onboard laundry services provided by the cruise ship. Many cruise ships offer convenient and efficient laundry facilities that cater to passengers on longer voyages.

Self-service Laundrettes

Some cruise ships have a few washing machines and dryers that cruise passengers can use. Laundry detergent and fabric softener is usually available for purchase. However, many cruisers will bring their own travel size laundry soap sheets and save money during their cruise,

Laundry Packages

Consider purchasing a laundry service package during your cruise. On our Holland America Panama Canal cruise, we paid $109 for an unlimited wash, fold and press package.

Laundry bag specials are a great option if you think you’ll only need laundry done once during the cruise. These packages are usually priced around $30-40 for a bag of laundry.

Hand Wash Items

If there aren’t many laundry options on the ship or you prefer to wash your own items, you can hand wash your clothing in your cruise cabin bathroom.

Remember to pack a few clothes pegs if you plan on hanging items on a retractable line in the shower. Not all cruise ships have this, so research your ship & cabin.

Tip: Pack a mesh pop-up laundry hamper to keep dirty clothes organized and in one place.

10. Rewear Your Clothing

There’s nothing wrong with wearing your clothing pieces more than once during a cruise. Most items won’t be dirty after wearing them for 2-4 hours in the evening. If the clothing is dirty, wash items as needed.

If you’re going on a 10 day cruise or longer, simply pack for 5-7 days and rewear items for every additional week.

This advice applies to both women and men’s cruise wear.

10. Bring a Travel Size Wrinkle Release Spray

Pack a travel-size wrinkle release spray to keep your clothing looking fresh and wrinkle-free. Downy wrinkle releaser is an excellent choice for this purpose.

Bring along a stain remover stick, like Tide-to-Go, to take care of small stains that might occur during your travels.

11. Roll, Don’t Fold

Rolling your clothes instead of folding them can save space and reduce wrinkles. This packing technique is especially useful for items like t-shirts, shorts, and casual dresses.

You can also use a hybrid method of packing, rolling some items and folding others. Pants, shorts and even suits are often best off folded.

12. Formal Night Clothing

Most longer cruises will have 2 or more formal nights or Gala nights. Although cruise line dress codes have relaxed quite a bit over the last few years, many people do still wear dressier clothing for these occasions.

To pack lighter for your cruise, skip traditional garment bags and use a few of these cruise packing tips and hacks.

  • use dry cleaner plastic sleeves to minimize wrinkles in pressed suits, shirts and dresses
  • men’s suit jackets can be folded inside out and this will reduce wrinkles. Place pants inside the jacket as you fold.

14. Skip the Full Size Toiletries

When packing for your cruise, opt for travel-size toiletries to save space. Consider using the provided toiletries on the cruise ship or purchase additional travel-size products as needed.

If you really want to bring full size toiletries, pick them up in your cruise embarkation port before you board your cruise. This will save you from packing them in your luggage for your flight.

13. Use Bar Shampoos and Conditioners

Consider packing bar shampoos and conditioners, instead of liquids.

Their compact, solid form eliminates the need for bulky bottles that can take up precious room in your luggage. This is especially crucial when packing for a cruise where cabin space might be limited.

Bar shampoos and other non-liquid toiletries are huge space-savers, for both luggage and cruise cabin storage.

14. Pack Smart Electronics

These days, we can all pack a little bit less with a few of these compact travel gadgets.

A good space saving trick is to skip bringing books & bring a kindle or ipad instead. Bring small earbuds to listen to music, podcasts or audio books. There’s a good chance that you’ll use them during your cruise, but they are also a useful flight essential.

Tip: Consider low tech entertainment options like bringing a deck of cards or taking a book from the cruise ship library.

15. Efficient Electronics Packing

Streamline your electronics by packing multi-purpose devices. Consider bringing a tablet instead of a laptop, and use your phone instead of an additional camera.

Don’t forget to consolidate your charges and wires, and see which can do double duty. Invest in a universal travel adapter, which can usually be plugged into a European outlet in most staterooms.

Please PIN to save to Pinterest

16. Mix and Match Accessories

Opt for versatile accessories that can complement multiple outfits. Scarves, hats, and jewelry can effortlessly change the look of your cruise attire without taking up much space.

Choose pieces that coordinate well with your clothing choices. This way you can diversify your outfits without packing excess items.

17. Pack Lightweight Outerwear

If you’re going on a cool weather cruise, be sure to pack lightweight outerwear. Instead of bulky jackets that take up space and weigh you down, choose more versatile outerwear options.

A compact, packable jacket or a thick sweater that can double as a layering piece is ideal. Light puffer jackets are ideal for Alaska cruises and other cooler climates.

Popular & Related Posts

Get The Ultimate Cruise Planner

Regular price: $27 Now just $17!

Final Thoughts on Packing Light for a Longer Cruise

Planning for longer cruise vacations can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to packing and making sure you have everything you need. However, it really doesn’t have to be.

By using a few strategies to streamline packing for your cruise, it’s fairly easy to pack light for a cruise that is 10, 20, 30 days or longer.

Have you been on a longer cruise or are you planning one? Please share your questions and cruise packing tips in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!


If you found this article helpful, please pass it along. Please feel free to share on Facebook or PIN to your favorite Pinterest board (share buttons at the top). Thanks so much!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.