What to Pack for a Riverboat Cruise

Riverboat cruises are more popular than ever and with good reason. They have wonderful itineraries, allow you to visit multiple countries without ever repacking and dock in the very heart of small towns. Unless you pay top dollar you’ll have a small closet onboard which is fine because I recommend packing light.

Style blogger Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life next to her Viking River Boat wearing white jacket and Jag jeansMost guests dress very casually. There are no formal dinners or occasions to dress up unless you purchase tours that are dressier. Comfortable shoes are critical because you’re going to do a lot of walking.

Here’s what I packed for a Viking Riverboat cruise of the Danube plus an extra 7 days of travel. I fit it all into this 18″ carry-on plus a small handheld. Everything I brought was black, gray, and white with pink accents which made everything interchangeable.

OuterwearJennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life wearing pink tweed jacket from Chico's with Eileen Fisher pants and Talbots no-iron white shirt

tweed sweater/blazer

nylon, water-resistant jacket

colored trenchcoat

cashmere wrap


TopsJennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life wearing Banana Republic leopard cardigan with Eileen Fisher crepe pants

2 no-iron white shirts

3 v-neck shells (sleeveless blouses)

short-sleeved cotton tee shirt

long sleeved cotton tee shirt

2 cashmere sweaters

2 lightweight cardigans in neutral prints

cotton tank top

silk plaid duster- similar

BottomsJennifer Connolly of A Well Styled life showing how to stretch a travel wardrobe

2 pair black stretch pants- These are my favorite pants for travel, plus here.

ponte knit pencil skirt

ponte knit pant

pull-on blue jeans

black jeans

1 pair of black and white checked pants


Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life wearing leopard print sweater from Banana Republic with gray hat and black pants and shoes
packable hat/similar | leopard cardigan | v-neck shell | stretch pants | Arcopedico stretch shoes

machine washable Arcopedico stretch shoes

black leather sneakers

Eileen Fisher black sport sandals

black low heel slides

black leather flat mules



1 silk scarf

1 large cotton scarf

4 necklaces

4 pair of earrings

1 bracelet

1 sunhat

1 tote bag

1 crossbody/waist belt/clutch bag  This bag was invaluable. It switched from a crossbody to a belt bag, to a clutch with the quick change of straps.

1 umbrella

My white shirts were worn multiple times. How did I keep them from getting grimy? I didn’t. But because they’re no-iron, I was able to hand wash them in my tiny sink using a bar of hand soap.

Washing Chico's no-iron white shirt in cruise ship sink on A Well Styled Life
Sateen Caroline Shirt by Chico’s

I suppose body wash might have worked well but the bar allowed me to scrub the neckline which got stained from sunscreen during the hottest days.

chico's no iron shirt hanging to dry aftefr hand washing on A Well Styled Life

Then I simply hung it in the shower to dry overnight. It looks wrinkled here but by the time it dried, the wrinkles had all released and it looked smooth and crisp.Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life wearing crisp white shirt from Chico's on the balcony of an abbey

I wore everything except one cashmere sweater because the weather decided to cooperate and warm up. The cashmere wrap was only used on the frigid flights.

You can see how I combined these pieces here, here, here and here.

My next trip I will pack one less sweater, pair of pants and skip the mules. The limited color scheme is critical to packing light so you can pack it all into a carry-on.

What do you handwash when you travel?


Thanks for reading and have a great day.
















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  1. Hi Jennifer ~ I haven’t read all of the comments above to see if you’ve already addressed this…. Is there any way you can show us how you packed all that into the 18″ carryon? I can’t seem to ever get my packing right. (I’m new to your blog and I love it! You have such great recommendations!)
    Thank you!

    1. I will try to do a video after we move on Saturday. I’m not a pro but I’m tenacious so I fold and refold until things fit.

  2. Pat from Wisconsin says:

    I thought of you today (again) while shopping! TJ Maxx had a great assortment of belt purses, which you had recommended in a fancier version for air travel. I found one with a removeable belt so the purse can be a wristlet clutch. And of course the belt can be a belt. One deficit in my wardrobe for a Viking Paris cruise last year was that I had nothing to put my cruise card in when going to dinner on board. This wristlet will be perfect. On a different note, I am also a huge fan of packing cubes. In addition to contributing to organization, things in there take up less space, somehow.

  3. I also use packing cubes. I roll some things and fold others in each cube. They allow me to pack so much more than when I used to fold everything. They also make it easier to find what you are looking for, because you are more organized. I pack disposable underwear. No washing and more room in your suitcase each day. Fabreeze travel size and dryer sheets help keep everything in your suitcase (including dirty clothes) smelling fresh.

  4. On our recent three and a half week trip to Europe, I hand washed socks and underwear for both hubby and I, my sleep shorts, a couple of tops for each of us, and a couple of my lightweight pants. I packed a 100 mL bottle of liquid detergent with our toiletries, but I also used shampoo when the hotel or guest house supplied it. I figured if it was gentle enough for hair, it shouldn’t harm fabric and it seemed to work well. It may sound silly, but we packed our oldest, rattiest underwear & threw it out before coming home. That saved me washing it one last time and provided a wee bit more space for the few items we bought along the way. It was our first carry-on only trip and I’l never fly any other way again. It was so easy!

    1. I’ve done that too! I’m a fan of taking a ratty t shirt for sleep and leaving it, and I’ve left old shoes, sandals, and purses on Europe trips! So glad someone else does this too!

      1. Same here! Not that underwear takes up so much space to re-pack on the way home, but since I winnow out my undies every year or so anyway, I just time it to our trips. Same with some of my socks — walking around so much on vacation really beats up my feet so I take a couple of pairs of thin, no show socks that no longer stay put and use them as moisturizing socks every night, then toss before we come home.

        A couple of years ago, I did the same thing with 2 pairs of shoes that had served me very well over the years but were ready for retirement and replacement. I had read that if you place gently used clothes and shoes near trash barrels, they would be taken — it’s kind of a Goodwill system, I guess. Made me feel much better about leaving them behind.

  5. Gail Schwartz says:

    Thank you so much for the packing details. I’m leaving for a tour of Norway, followed by a cruise of the Baltic. The ship will be a little dressy at night, but I have a couple of simple dresses that fold nicely. Do you think my Chico’s Juliet pants will work as well as your Eileen Fisher.? I love her stuff but have the pants already.

  6. And you will hoot at this but I often take an old purse or an old well broken in pair of shoes (or both) and leave them. I left both shoes and purse in Italy and had lots more room for souvenirs, all in a carryon bag! My husband laughs but is secretly envious of all my space…

  7. Shoes are easy for me since mine are size 8 and my husband is a size 12. I roll my undies in my shoes and use new produce bags to cover and insert my shoes into my husbands shoes. Produce bags are the lightest and very pliable. I wear Chicos travelers pants and jacket on the plane since they are my heaviest items. I accessorize with scarves and jewelry. My favorite is a reversable omega, white and yellow gold, that I wear with pendants. I now look for pendants as souvenirs.

  8. Love your posts and pictures always! We are doing a Viking River Cruise for the last two weeks of October and I can’t wait! We are doing France. Even though it is a different season and a different country, you gave me some wonderful ideas! Thank you!

  9. I swear by packing cubes – they come in different sizes and you can pack by outfits or by categories – pants, tops, pjs, etc. They can also be put into the drawers in hotel rooms or cabins without unpacking and then I use one or two for dirty laundry as the trip progresses. I went on a trip to Spain with 10 friends recently and several of my companions were converted to this system…

  10. I have been traveling with carry on only for several years and really don’t think I will go back to the larger bag.
    Sometimes I have wardrobe fatigue but that is easy to ignore when you are in fabulous places doing fantastic things!
    One tip I discovered, (cannot remember where…) is to bring a small bag of dollar store balloons. When drying items that need a little more time, blow up a balloon and place it inside the clothing body to allow more airflow. Works great and those balloons take up no packing space.
    We were recently on an Emerald River Cruise and they offered a bulk laundry option. Stuff the plastic dry cleaning bag and they wash it all for 20€. I am not sure if all cruises offer this. We took advantage of this because we still had 4 weeks of travel left after the cruise. You would be amazed at how much can be crammed into one of those bags……..jeans, socks, undies. 🙂
    Thanks for another great post
    Suz from Vancouver

  11. Every night, when we travel, I shower wearing my underwear……soap up , then drop them to the floor for a rinse as I rinse! I hang them up and next morning, clean undies!!
    My hubby now does this too thanks to very wonderful travel/hiking briefs from REI!
    Shoes are the worst….I now wear sneakers and take flats and cute flip flops. Sketchers has fabric flats that look good and are soo comfortable and easy to pack!
    Will I take the small carry on for a 3 week trip to France for a wedding then a riverboat cruise??
    Not likely!

    1. That’s so clever Shari! I’m
      Not sure I could get my husband to do it but it’s a great idea. Three weeks plus a wedding would mean checked bags for me too ? Have fun!

  12. I just cannot imagine getting all this in a carry on, esp with the shoes. Do you roll? Tuck things inside shoes? Use one of the vacuum bags? Also, toiletries , make up, underwear, makeup? Your color choices were great, love the touch of pink.

    1. I don’t roll. I fold, them refills if I need to do it will fill ever space. My shoes get flattened and put in shoe bags. My handheld holds at least one pair of shoes, half my toiletries, laptop and several outfits. Things are tight

  13. I really enjoyed this post and would enjoy seeing more when you travel. I try to pack in a carry-on for most trips. The hardest for me is shoes because I want to be stylish, comfortable and prepared for rain. How did you pack that many pair of shoes? I take travel woolite packages to wash clothes and I wash my synthetic Lululemon and Athleta tops. My favorite travel pant is the Athleta “Brooklyn” ankle pant. They are lightweight, have pockets, and can be washed in the sink.

    1. I’ll look into that pant. I wear my bulkiest does to fly and most of my others flatten down individually inside a shoe bag. One shoe goes upright in the four corners of my handheld.

  14. Anne Shannon says:

    Please tell us how you packed, because that is a lot of clothing.

    Did every top mix and match with every bottom? Sometimes I pack a top which can be worn with only 1 of 3 bottom pieces I have packed. Then I lecture myself.

    Did you have space for souvenirs/purchases in your suitcase?

    1. Every top can go with every bottom. Every outer piece can go over every outfit and all shoes are interchangeable. It gets boring but it worked. Yes, I had room for small souvenirs. If I bought larger ones I’d try to ship them home or use my tote as a handheld and check the other bag.

  15. Oh! I forgot to mention that I bought little packets of Woolite to wash out our clothes in the sink! Just a little bit of sanity for our trip! I am taking a lot of shorts and short sleeve tops since I know if will be hot in Boston and then you just never know about Europe now. This week it is 95 in Paris! We are taking larger suitcases this time, mainly for souvenirs! lol

    1. Susan Gowan says:

      Love your suggestions, Jenn. Your idea of coordinating colours is great! My choices would be blue, black and grey with teal/ green accents. Wonder if you could do a similar article when going to the Caribbean for one week. Asking for a friend. Lol Who wants to take just a carry on on the flight.Love your timely and thoughtful blog. Very helpful indeed!

      1. I’ll chime in here and say that the Caribbean is super casual, and not matter how light I pack I always end up not wearing some of the clothes I bring. Linen capris and a simple linen dress are all you really need for going out to a nice restaurant, and during the day one generally lives in bathing suits and cover-ups. Quick dry, sporty clothing with UPF protection is also fabulous.

  16. New reader of your blog here…I love this! I try not to overpack, but always struggle to fit everything into a carry-on bag. I am also curious how you fit everything into your bag, though! It seems I can never fit more than 1 or 2 pairs of shoes in my carryon (also 18″).

    1. Welcome Laura. I choose soft shoes and flatten the heck out them. If they have a stiff back heel section I generally don’t bring them or I will stuff them with clothes. I don’t stuff them with undies because those are small enough to cram anywhere in your luggage.

  17. Great Ideas! how much more would you pack for a 2 1/2 week trip? We are going to Boston for a week and then onto Paris the rest of the time? Right now I plan on taking a lot of tops since I hate washing everything in the sink! and the charges for laundering by the hotel is exorbitant.

    1. I’d add more tops and based on my boredom factor, ones with pattern or color that coordinate with everything. I would also toss in a soft dress and or long skirt.

  18. A couple years ago I did a 2 1/2 week europe trip on trains with only a carryon and tote. The first 4 days were a business conference so I did have to bring dressy things. Yes, it took a lot of planning and I had an eye out for sales on easy care pieces in my selected colors for months ahead. I relied a lot on scarves and costume jewelry to change up some basic outfits. I also made some cosmetics purchases (compact foundation, powder eyeshadow palette etc) to really winnow down my makeup cuz I am not usually a low maintenance kinda gal lol! I brought one pair of SAS walking shoes and a dressier pair of low wedges. A travel clothesline with travel detergent packets from Bed Bath & Beyond enabled me to do some hotel sink washing! It was so freeing not to have to drag luggage over cobblestones…I haven’t checked luggage since that trip. I realized I could do just fine with much less than I was used to packing.

    1. You’re so smart Sue! Bravo. I’m copying your ideas next time. Having the clothes be soft and lightweight made a big difference for me.

  19. I enjoyed seeing your trip plus all the good packing tips. I just have one question. How did you pack 4 pairs of shoes into your carryon?

    1. The Arcopedico, mules and low heeled slides flatten down like pancakes. Each shoe is bagged individually and goes flat in the carry on. The bulkier shoes are bagged individually and fill the corners of the handheld, vertically. I wear one of the bulkiest pairs. I intentionally choose soft shoes. Plus they’re more comfy.

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