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How to: Travel packing tips from a pro

Professional traveller Megan Singleton shares her insider secrets.

I don’t know about you, but there are not many things I find more annoying about travelling than returning home having not worn every item in my suitcase at least once!

I chastise myself that I clearly didn’t need it, dragging extra baggage around and leaving less room for shopping.

On a road trip it doesn’t matter and in fact I have no discipline at all, just throwing things like extra shoes into supermarket bags. But if you’re heading away on a cruise, packing carefully is oh-so important.

You might be surprised how ships can “George Clarke” your tiny cabin space with clever drawers and cupboards though. Look for drawers under your bed, above your bed, dinky cupboards behind your sofa… but I digress.

You still need to know a few tips before you go, so here are my top tips for packing for a cruise – although most of these will work well for any holiday:

Take an additional cabin bag

On the last night of your cruise you will need to put your luggage out into the hallway by midnight. That means you need an extra little wheelie or duffle bag for your pajamas (ahem, assuming you have them!), your toiletries and whatever else you didn’t put into your main luggage which by now is down in the cargo hold waiting to be offloaded with the bags of your 3000 new sea friends.

Dinner clothes

One of things I love about cruising is the extent to which people dress for dinner. My husband and I felt quite underdressed in our day wear as we shuffled our knees under the white cloths in the main dining room.

They also throw in the occasional formal night too where a dapper suit and tie is not out of place. However, my tip for the ladies is to pack a couple of shawls/scarves/necklaces which you can throw about yourself to transform any little black number into a new dress at least three times. Men will need a collared shirt for these nights, at the very least. Of course, it varies from ship to ship.

Day wear

Be warned: you do a LOT more walking than you ever imagined! I invested in a good pair of black (with a bit of shiny bling) trainers (thanks Ziera) and my phone app said I was pounding around 20,000 steps per day on our port days. Now I’m no fitness buff, but honestly by the time you’ve wandered around Rome for five hours, you’ll have put that many steps into your day too!

I also took a pair of wedges that I wore to dinner, some flats for sea days and trainers for the gym (see below). Minimal footwear to save room for shopping!

Don’t forget your togs!


There is nothing worse than having to descend into the bowels of the ship to visit the doctor because you didn’t pack your inhaler! (I know this from experience having spent hours sucking on a nebuliser on my last cruise.)

I am usually so pedantic about my health that my toilet bag is bulging with every remedy I think I might need, from throat sprays and gargles to supplements, bandaids for walking blisters, ear plugs for noisy waves (the only noise was my husband’s snoring), nail scissors, heartburn tabs – and on it goes.

Workout gear

All ships have gyms, so pack your PE gear and enjoy the treadmill with a view on your sea days.

Laundry facilities

Recently cruise lines have been phasing out self-service laundries apparently because they are hazardous – don’t ask! So that means aside from washing your smalls in your tiny bathroom (it pays to bring washing powder) you will have to send your laundry away for a day via your cabin attendant – and pay for it.

I paid US$30 per medium-sized plastic bag on my last cruise. Tell your husband his jeans can wait!


Find out which kind of power point your ship uses (it’ll be mainly NZ or American) then take the appropriate adapter and a little multi-board from home. That way with one plug you can charge your phone, laptop, camera, ipad, hair straighteners and any other device you’ve brought.

Binoculars are a good idea too, especially if you’re cruising in Alaska and want to see whales or glaciers from the ship.

Take a couple of books, or better still, download them, and once you get the lie of the ship, so to speak, you’ll find your own little nook for a spot of reading in the sun. And let’s face it, that’s what a day at sea is all about.

But most of all, enjoy your next holiday!

Megan Singleton is an award-winning travel writer, who has been galavanting around the world for 15 years and blogging for nine. You can hear her every Sunday on Newstalk ZB.

Follow more of Megan’s helpful travel tips on her website, Blogger at Large.

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