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Packing Lightly: Wardrobe Essentials for Your Next Cruise

Once you become a parent, the act of packing transforms into both an art form and an extreme sport. When daring to travel with your tots in tow, you are suddenly tasked with the challenge of packing what feels like the entire content of your home into a few suitcases and doing so in a way that ensures key items are readily accessible when an emergency (read diaper blow out) occurs during transit.

I have never excelled at this. If my life as a mother were caught on film, someone could put together quite a lengthy montage of me on the side of the highway frantically digging through a half dozen open suitcases looking for a pair of clean pants while cars zoomed perilously close by.

That being said, here is what I have mastered: packing for a cruise and I have become a master at this by failing miserably and learning from my mistakes. The first cruise we ever took I forgot my bathing suit. We were cruising to the caribbean for seven days — seven days I intended on wearing a bathing suit almost continuously — and I didn’t even manage to bring one along.

While I’m sure the average person going on their first cruise wouldn’t forget an item as key as their swimwear, there are tricks to packing for a cruise and today I’m going to share a few of the things I have learned over the years. 

First thing’s first, lay out all the outfits that you think you need to survive a few days away from home. Now put half of those garments back into your closet. The biggest mistake I made on my first cruise (other than forgetting my swimsuit) was packing too much clothing. You may think you need two sundresses for every day you are away, each with their own matching heels, but you are wrong.

For clothing, keep it casual. A few t-shirts and  a pair of shorts or pants that will match anything will be all you need for days spent in port. I recommend bringing multiple bathing suits and cover-ups if you are going somewhere warm and sunny. This way you’re never forced to put on a cold damp suit that hasn’t had the time to dry from the activities of the day before.

Most cruises have at least one formal night, so make sure to pack something for the occasion. It doesn’t have to be super formal, though it can be if you’re feeling fancy. A nice cocktail dress will do nicely and men can opt for something as casual as a nice button down, a pair of slacks, and a tie or, for those who like to dress to impress, a tuxedo. A couple of more casual dresses for dinner are a good thing to bring along as well. I never wore my dresses for more than the length of the meal, preferring instead to change back into more comfortable attire, and so I opted to pack lightly and wear the same two dresses more than once.

On to footwear! If you bring more than three pairs of shoes on a cruise you are taking up precious space that could be used to bring home souvenirs from your trip. All you need is a versatile pair of flip flops, a pair of comfy sneakers if you plan on taking part in any adventurous shore excursions such as hiking, and one pair of shoes that go well with evening wear. I suggest dressy flats. You’ll be doing a lot of walking even while aboard the ship.

Other must-have accessories include sunglasses, a hat for keeping sun off your face, and one good beach bag large enough to carry the items you’ll want easy access to while out and about such as your camera, your iPod, your wallet, or a good book to read while lounging.

To sum it all up, pack light! You’ll be surprised how much clothing you bring home unworn and you’ll appreciate the added space both in your cabin and in your suitcase. That extra room will come in handy when you realize how much space you  need to bring back all the goodies you collected on your travels.

A big thanks to Norwegian Cruise Line for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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