Top Cruising Tips - Packing

(Reprinted from Cruise Critic)

Whether it's your first cruise or your 50th, there's always something more to learn about smart sailing. Benefit from our years of cruise experience as we share our top tips on packing, saving money and maximizing your time onboard and ashore.

Be smart about shoes. Shoes take up far more room in luggage than clothes do. Limit yourself to three pairs -- a sturdy pair for active pursuits, a pair of flats or flip-flops for daytime wear and a pair of dressy shoes for dinner. Bonus points if your evening shoes are flats, as they take up less space.

Re-wear clothing to save luggage space. It's easy to pack three or four outfits for each day of your cruise (daywear, gym-wear, swimwear and eveningwear). To save space, bring tops or dresses that you can fancy up for dinner and then re-wear in a more casual way in port the following day. If your evening clothes tend to get food-stained, sweated through at the nightclub or smell like food, this strategy might not work for you. I find that eveningwear is usually perfectly fine the next day. At worst, a spritz or two of travel-sized Febreze is all you need.

Color coordinate your travel wardrobe. For example, I have two sets of travel-wear, one in a black/gray/blue palette and the other in shades of greens and browns. A couple of colored scarves not only dress up these basics, but they can distract your tablemates from the fact you've worn those pants before -- and also hide that coffee stain you might have received in the airport.

Guys, always take a jacket. Even on the most laid-back cruise. You never know when it'll come in handy. For example, it can be windy on deck, or temps in port might be cooler than expected, and a jacket will keep you warm when outside. You can stow your cruise card, phone, daily newsletter and ship's map in jacket pockets, so you're not juggling junk at dinner. Plus, a jacket always makes the scruffiest of jeans look smart -- in a trendy way -- so you can dress up your casual wardrobe just in case you need to clean up your look for the captain or new female friend.

Bring your own storage solutions to maximize cabin space. Did you know that most cruise cabin walls are metal? Pack some magnets, and you can attach your daily program to the wall for easy access. Cruise Critic members also recommend packing a hanging shoe bag to maximize bathroom storage; just stow your toiletries in the individual compartments, and hang it on the back of the door.

Stop buying travel-sized toiletries. Three-ounce bottles of shampoos and mouthwashes are cute, but stocking up before every cruise is expensive and wasteful. Instead, invest in reusable containers for hygiene products. They keep your toiletries fresh, mess-proof and organized -- and help you save money and reduce your carbon footprint without even trying.

Rock the packing cubes. They're ideal for small garments like socks and unmentionables. When you get onboard, just plop the cube right into a drawer. It saves you a step and is a little more hygienic.

Bag your liquids. This advice applies even if you're not flying to your port of call. Whether you're toting travel-sized or jumbo-sized shampoo and suntan lotion, you don't want your formalwear smothered in creams when the bottle leaks. Bring extra baggies if you plan on swiping any swanky amenities from the ship -- and to replace bags that are slimy from a leak.

Pack your carry-on wisely. If you're handing over your luggage to pierside porters, remember to cram a roomy tote bag with anything you might need onboard before your bags are delivered. This includes medications and cruise documents for sure, but also items that let you start having fun right away, like your bathing suit. A stylish tote bag is a bit nicer to haul around than even a small piece of luggage.

Roll your clothes. You'll use less space in your suitcase and can fit in more stuff if you roll, rather than fold, your clothing. This trick also helps to minimize wrinkles.

Prioritize your packing. Start with the most important items, such as your passport and travel documents (ticket, luggage tags, etc.), and put them in easy-to-find pockets. Then load your bags with all your travel necessities, from the mandatory (underwear) to the superfluous (a second novel). The last thing I pack is usually socks -- because hopefully I'll be wearing flip-flops by the pool or on the beach -- and if I forget them, who cares?

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