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What to Pack for a European River Cruise: The Ultimate Checklist

Updated: Jan 9

Going on a European river cruise is an exciting adventure, but packing can be a bit intimidating if you're unsure what to bring. With this helpful guide, you'll know exactly what essentials to pack and be ready to enjoy your journey down Europe's majestic rivers.


Packing for your upcoming European river cruise doesn't have to be a challenge. Check out this useful packing list and get organized!
What to pack?

#1 Clothing: Think layers and choose items that are comfortable and airy.


Cruise days in Europe can be quite varied when it comes to temperature and weather, so the best way to pack is by choosing items that offer several layers. Pack comfortable, breathable clothing such as shorts, t-shirts, blouses, and light jackets. Select airy pieces such as linen blazers or cotton dresses for evening activities. Don't forget a hat and sunscreen for warm days in the sun. And of course, don't forget some stylish accessories that will create different looks from day to night!


In addition to clothing, pack a few smart pieces that can easily be dressed up or down in a pinch. A pair of trousers that can be worn with skirts and blouses, as well as casual tops will allow you to mix up your look from day-to-day. On cooler nights, throw on a long cardigan for warmth with an evening dress without the need for a bulky coat. To complete the look, pack several pairs of shoes — including sandals and dressy flats — to take you from sightseeing during the day to dinner aboard the ship. Finally, don’t forget plenty of socks and underwear!


#2 Shoes: Bring walking/touring shoes, soft-soled shoes for boat activities, and waterproof shoes or boots for wet weather.


You don’t want to be uncomfortable while sightseeing, so bring a few pairs of shoes that are both fashionable and comfortable. A pair of waterproof boots might come in handy if you’re planning activities in wet weather, such as a walking tour. For shore excursions remember to pack your favorite pair of walking/touring shoes.


When packing your shoes, try to go light with only a few pairs that can easily be slipped on and off when entering and exiting the boat. But, don’t forget to pack all weather preferences – whether you expect hot or cold temperatures or dry or wet weather.


#3 Electrical Supplies & Chargers: Pack a multi-plug outlet adapter, USB charging hubs, and surge protector strips.


Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group, make sure to bring plenty of electrical outlets. With the ever-growing demand for charging devices and battery packs, not all cabins are sure to provide enough sockets to charge multiple gadgets at once. Consider packing a travel multi-plug adapter so that you don’t have to waste time plugging in each device separately. Additionally, USB hubs and surge protector strips will come in handy if you expect to be needing more outlets onboard your vessel.


Along with why multi-plug adapter and USB chargers, make sure to make a note of what devices you will require for your river cruise. Chargers for phones and other electronic devices should not necessarily be the same as those found in European countries. Being aware ahead of time of what electrical items you will need will ensure that everything runs smoothly during your trip. Most travelers bring adapters that work with US electronics plugs but remember that it is important to check if they are compatible with the country or countries in which you are visiting. Be prepared and make sure to pack extra batteries if needed - there’s nothing worse than running out of power during a sightseeing tour!


#4 Health Essentials: Include medications, sunscreen, insect repellent, bandaids and any other necessary health items you may need.


Make sure to pack any medications you take regularly and extra prescription drugs in case of emergency. In addition, don’t forget sunscreen, insect repellent, bandaids and other health essentials you may need while on your trip. It is also important to carry basic first aid items such as creams and ointments for cuts or insect bites, as well as medical documents that could be useful if needed at any ports of call. While onboard the vessel, make sure to check up with the staff regarding any precautions before jumping into activities at the various ports.


Have a conversation with your doctor prior to departure, so you are well informed of any necessary preventative measures you should take while traveling. While on board, there may be times where the vessel’s medical staff can provide over-the-counter medicine; however, it is still important to bring medications in an airtight container and paperwork for personal prescription items. Remember that in certain countries, there may be a limited selection of products available; therefore, researching which items will be accessible at each port of call is something you should also look into when packing for your trip.


#5 Necessary Documents: These include a valid passport and visa (if needed), travel insurance information, and any medical documents such as shot records or prescriptions if applicable.


Make sure to pack copies of travel documents like your passport, tickets, reservation confirmations, currency, and credit cards for easy access and secure storage. Additionally, don’t forget to bring a list of important phone numbers from home that you can reach out in case of emergency. Lastly, it is recommended to make some extra photocopies of all your travel documents and share them with a trusted family or friend for safe keeping.



Tip #1 River Cruise Clothing

Planning for a European river cruise can be tricky, with different weather conditions throughout the peak season between May and September, as well as during the holiday seasons. To ensure you have a seasonal wardrobe appropriate for various temperatures during your trip, packing lightweight items that can be layered is key. This way, you will have the flexibility of adding or removing layers depending on whether you need to stay hotter or cooler.


Tip 2: Remember, river cruise ships do not have a strict dress code

Packing for a European river cruise can take a bit of planning so you'll be comfortable on board and during shore excursions. Opt for light layers of clothing such as jeans or khakis, quick-drying convertible travel pants, and a mix of long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts and sweaters. Make sure to leave any overly casual items like sweatpants at home - smart casual looks are the way to go!


Packing for a European river cruise can present some unique challenges when it comes to deciding what to wear. Generally, the daytime attire should be comfortable and allow for plenty of exploration but you can also bring dressier options for evenings. For most people, casual pants with a collared shirt is enough and you are welcome to dress up further if desired. Don’t forget to pack something extra special for the gala dinner near the end of your trip!


Tip 3: Look over your trip's itinerary

European river cruises come with a variety of excursions included in each itinerary such as walking tours, train rides and sightseeing at castles, religious sites and wineries, travelers should bring comfortable walking shoes and clothing they can layer throughout the day. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and rain gear in case of unpredictable weather. In addition, make sure to pack a camera, binoculars, your passport and any other needed items!

If you plan on taking part in any activities like biking, hiking or visiting popular tourist attractions, consider bringing clothing that will be comfortable and appropriate for each activity. Finally, check to see if there are any dress codes for the specific tour sites you visit - such as vineyards or historical structures - and make sure you bring those necessary items with you!


Tip 4: Pick a neutral color scheme

When it comes to packing for a European river cruise, it's best to stick with neutral colors. Neutrals are easy to mix and match to create different outfits. Black, white, and gray tops go easily with bottoms in khaki, blue, olive green or black. If you still want some color, try going for darker or jewel tones that don't stand out too much.


When packing for a European river cruise, it is best to keep your wardrobe subdued and neutral. Dark colours or neutral tones tend to be more accepted abroad and will help you fit in with the local culture while avoiding any unwanted attention. Whenever travelling to an unfamiliar place it is always worth blending in so as to avoid standing out, and this applies especially when going on a river cruise!


Tip 5: Pack less than what you need

Planning to go on a European river cruise? Make sure that you pack light. Instead of packing 14 outfits for a 7-night trip, consider staple pieces that you can combine together. Opt for neutral colors such as black and white and add accessories or layer with a jacket or sweater for added flair. Remember the best advice when it comes to packing is to keep it minimal!


Thankfully, many river cruises offer laundry services so that you don't have to overpack. Therefore, when packing, focus on including only the essentials and consider condensing your wardrobe down to just a carry-on bag.


Tip 6: Do not forget accessories

To help add variety to your wardrobe without bringing a lot of extra items, you can accessorize with jewelry and scarves that won't take up too much space in your suitcase. For men, packing a few belts and watches can help achieve the same look. Finally, leave the more expensive pieces at home and bring some more affordable accessories instead in case they get lost or misplaced.


Whether it is your first river cruise or your 10th, we would love to help you find the right ship and the right river for your adventure. You can contact us here to set up a consultation.


Want to learn more about river cruising? Start with these articles.


River Cruise In Your 30's? - 6 Reasons it is the BEST Way to See Europe!


4 Exciting Reasons To Book An Avalon Waterways River Cruise


Row, row, row your boat! Four amazing river cruises you NEED to be on in 2022 and beyond!



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