The Essential Guide to Packing for River Boat Cruises

River Views®, a River Cruise Blog



While you may be gearing up for the river cruise of a lifetime, the days of forging ahead with overloaded steamer trunks in tow are long gone. Today, you need only bring the bare essentials to enjoy a fabulous vacation on the river. In simple terms, there is no need to over-pack.

So, you ask, what should I pack for American river boat cruises? It’s always a good idea to start by making a list of things that you use on a daily basis. Once you have the base, start to cross off the non-essentials and then add-in the items that you think you might need or rather wouldn’t want to be stuck without. In other words, toiletries, medications and comfortable clothes are the essentials. Examples of extra items that would be a good idea to tote are things like allergy pills and aspirin – this will cover you and save you money if you think your allergies might kick into overdrive or if you are prone to headaches. If you are traveling a long way to your city of embarkation, it never hurts to toss a few snacks in your carry-on bag.

When it comes to clothing, the answer is simple - layers. Weather can often be unpredictable on America’s rivers, so packing clothes that can be layered is essential. Bring along a favorite sweater and/or jacket and then the rest is all about being savvy with your color scheme and select apparel. Pack items that you can easily mix, match and layer. This will not only reduce excess baggage, but also it will allow you to control your comfort level while keeping your wardrobe fresh. Plus, you won’t waste valuable port time (or money) shopping for items that you will never wear again. We all know that the same article of clothing can be re-purposed for multiple occasions, right?

In the daytime, feel free to keep it casual. Slacks, jeans and shorts are acceptable in all public areas of the vessel(s), as well as onshore for any excursions. Remember, your vacation is all about enjoyment, so be sure to pack items that you will be comfortable in. Also, be sure to bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes with non-skid soles (the decks and gangways may be slick at times). This is important on the vessel, as the decks and gangways may be slick at times. But they will also keep your feet happy while gallivanting around town on shore excursions.

Unlike ocean cruises, when evening rolls around the attire tends to be more “country-club casual.” Women should consider toting nice slacks, skirts, blouses and perhaps a fancy scarf. The right scarf can make even the most casual outfit look fabulous! Whereas gentlemen can leave the stuffy suits at home and bring slacks, khakis, polo shirts and/or dress shirts. A sport coat for dinner always adds a nice touch, but it most certainly is not required. One pair of comfortable dress shoes should be more than enough to get you through a week-long vacation.

When packing for American river cruises, it is always a good idea to check a national weather source to be best prepared for the region in which you are set to travel. This is the will help you a great deal when composing your list of essential versus non-essential items. Just think about where you are headed, how many bags you want to travel with (or are limited to) and remember to pack both warm and cool clothes for layering, a nice accessory or two to jazz things up, and sensible shoes…you are ready to roll on the river without all of the extra baggage.