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Europe River Cruise Essentials From $13 at Amazon

Europe River Cruise Essentials From $13 at Amazon

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As a travel writer, river cruises are one of my favorite underrated ways to cover ground in a new location. Next month, I’ll be cruising the romantic Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel with Riverside Luxury Cruises. If this was my maiden voyage, I’d be stressing about what to pack. After all, cruising on a 100-foot-long vessel close to shore is a lot different than cruising on a 1,000-foot-long cruise liner at sea. But fortunately, this won’t be my first river excursion: I traveled down the Danube with my mom in 2017 and know exactly what to pack for a river cruise — plus, what you can skip.

Because my friend from high school is joining me on this upcoming trip, I’ve put together this river cruise packing list so she doesn’t make a mistake and bring along a floor-length gown (spoiler alert: most river cruises don’t have formal nights). Similarly, she can leave the Dramamine at home (it won’t be nearly as rocky as cruising the ocean). 

But this list isn’t just for her, of course. Whether you’re going to be on the same 55-suite “Riverside Debussy” with us next month, or you’re preparing to take on the mighty Mekong in Vietnam, here is a list of the 15 best items to pack for a river cruise, no matter where you’re traveling.

Merokeety Waffle 2-piece Tracksuit


I like to dress up on a regular cruise, but I also love that river cruises are far more casual affairs. While that doesn’t mean you can show up to breakfast in your bathrobe and slippers, you can get away with rocking something comfortable and cute like this two-piece tracksuit without getting any side eye. It has nearly 1,800 five-ratings, and many shoppers praise its versatility. Wear it as pajamas, or pair it with some cute shoes and jewelry for a day of sightseeing. The shorts have pockets and an adjustable drawstring waist. Plus, the waffle fabric is soft and lightweight. “Was the comfiest set for traveling seven hours in a car,” wrote one shopper. 

Hoka Women’s Walking Shoe Trainers


Another perk of river cruises? Because you don’t have to deal with docking a massive ship or tendering to shore, you can spend more time on land, seeing the sights (for instance, our first excursion on the Rhine will be a pub crawl in Antwerp). This also means you’ll probably be walking more than a normal cruise, so you’ll want a comfy pair of walking shoes like these best-selling Hokas beloved by nurses and doctors who spend all day on their feet. They’re so comfortable and durable that one nurse who left a five-star review said it will probably be years before they need to replace them.

Simo Solis Lite 4G LTE WiFi Mobile Hotspot


If you’re cruising on a river with locks, which are used to raise or lower water levels, expect to lose WiFi while you’re in them. Usually, you’re only without internet for 10 minutes or so, but if that worries you, consider getting this portable WiFi hotspot that uses 4G instead of satellite. Even if you don’t have connection issues on the river, it’s still handy for having reliable internet during your on-shore day excursions. It doesn’t require a SIM card, and it also doubles as a power bank, making it even more versatile. 

“I was on a cruise with people from many different countries and they all had opted for using e-sims,” one shopper wrote. “But every single one of them had issues connecting in most countries.” 

Each Solic mobile hotspot can connect up to 10 different devices at once, so you can use it for your phone and laptop as well as other travelers in your group.

Prettygarden Womens Summer Wrap Maxi Dress 


Although comfort is key on these cruises, I do plan on dressing up a little for sunset cocktails and dinners on board. (But I’m not packing anything that needs dry cleaning!) I’m a big fan of this lightweight, breathable wrap maxi dress from Prettygarden, the same brand behind my beloved flight-attendant approved jumpsuit. Machine-washable and featuring a stylish asymmetrical ruffle hem, it has 7,600 five-star ratings and is currently ranked in the top 10 on Amazon’s list of best-sellers in the women’s casual dress category. “Got so many compliments,” wrote one shopper who bought theirs for a cruise. “It fits perfectly, [and I] love the wrap-around style which allows for some adjustment in the waist.” 

Personally, I also appreciate that the sleeves cover the shoulders and the skirt falls past the knees, which is required by many religious sites in Europe.

Naot Kayla Wedge Sandal


Of course, there will also be times when you’ll want to wear a shoe that’s a little more stylish (yet still comfortable). I recommend a pair of Naot wedges like the brand’s best-selling Kayla style. With its modest 1.5-inch heel and cork footbed, it’s a go-to shoe for travelers who appreciate a lightweight leather construction with ample arch support. “I expect to do a fair amount of walking along city streets, garden paths, and cruise ship corridors,” wrote one shopper who got theirs for vacation and noted it was their third pair.

Amazon Kindle 

Courtesy of Amazon

Sure, river cruise ships don’t have all the bells and whistles of their cruiseliner counterparts. But I don’t mind traveling without a waterpark or casino on board. This just means I have more time for relaxing and reading. Unless you have room in your suitcase for a bunch of books, you’ll want an e-reader like Amazon’s popular Kindle. It offers a clear 300 ppi display, 16 GB of storage for holding plenty of books, and can go up to six weeks in between charges. Because you probably won’t have the strongest WiFi on board, download your books before leaving home (and if you dream of being a travel writer, add “Call You When I Land: A Memoir,” to your summer reading list.) “If you like to sit on a balcony of a cruise ship, soaking up some rays, and reading, this Kindle is perfect,” wrote one happy cruiser.  

Cupshe Women’s 2-piece Bikini Set


Although river boats don’t offer Olympic-sized pools, they often have hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms. For our cruise, I plan on packing this best-selling bikini (it has 7,200 five-star ratings), which I’ve worn everywhere from Nicaragua to New Zealand. The bottoms are reversible, so you get two looks for the price and packing space. With 19 colors and prints available, you’re sure to find something perfect for your style. “I had three other bathing suits on my vacation and wore this one the whole time!” raves one five-star review.

Baleaf Women’s UPF 50+ Sun Shirts 


Just because you’re on a smaller ship on a river without constant direct sun exposure, it doesn’t mean you’ll avoid sunburn. If you plan on hanging out on the top deck, invest in this UPF 50+ sun shirt. At just $20, it doubles as a rash guard and is great for hiking because it’s made of a moisture-wicking polyester and features flatlock seams for plenty of mobility. With more than 16,000 five-star ratings, it’s one of Amazon’s top-sellers, and many shoppers mention packing it on cruises. “Very good at keeping you cool. Not scratchy…a wardrobe treat,” one shopper, who bought more than one for their cruise, said.  

Chaco Womens Z/1 Classic Sandal


If hiking is on your summer river cruise itinerary (ours ends in Switzerland, so I’ll definitely be exploring the Alps), you can hoof it in these machine-washable sandals with more than 4,600 five-star ratings. They were actually designed by a Colorado River rafting guide, so you can rest assured that they’re designed to keep you safe and comfortable, even in wet conditions. I wore my first pair of Chacos for nearly 90 days straight in 2010 when I had the Eurail Pass and traveled all over Europe. My pro tip? Break them in before your trip to avoid any discomfort or blisters. “They’re so comfortable and supportive while letting your feet breathe!” raved one shopper who said they wore them on a cruise and “did a lot of walking in them.”  

Occer 12×25 Compact Binoculars 


The beauty of river cruises is they get you a lot closer to shore than larger ships. That’s why I recommend packing a pair of binoculars, like these Occer binoculars. You can use them for sightseeing, birdwatching, and more (I like to get an up-close look at nearby castles and country homes when cruising in Europe). While some cruises provide binoculars (Riverside Luxury Cruises does, for instance), you may still want to bring your own pair that are guaranteed to be comfortable and easy to use, like the Occer ones. They weigh less than a pound and fit in the palm of your hand when folded up. 

“They were perfect on our cruise,” summed up one shopper. “Used them to look at the moon/sky, ships/land in the distance, and even at the tugs that docked next to use; meaning great for long or close distance viewing.” 

Furtalk Sun Hat


Because I’ve had the wind blow my hat overboard before, I now only wear this wide brim hat that comes with a chin strap. And I’m not alone. Available in five colors and as cute as a hat with a chin strap can be, I love that it has a built-in sweatband to keep my forehead cool and dry, and it always bounces back into shape, even after being folded up and stashed in my overflowing carry-on. “This packable hat is well made with quality parts…hat itself, band, and strap,” wrote one shopper who purchased theirs for a Mediterranean cruise. 

European Travel Plug Adapter


Although you’ll find river cruises everywhere from the Amazon to Australia, and even the Nile, most are in Europe where you’ll probably run into the type C outlet (the most common around the world). If you plan on plugging in any electronics, pack this travel plug adapter that also features two USB-A ports, so you can charge up to three devices at once. With more than 20,500 five-star ratings, this adapter is a clear winner, with several shoppers mentioning that they used it on their respective river cruises. “It worked like a charm to charge my phone and Kindle,” wrote one while another used theirs with a curling iron. If you do plan on using heating tools abroad, remember you may need a voltage converter. 

Riiqiichy Women’s Scarf Pashmina


Most river cruises take place in the summer (because rivers freeze over easier than the ocean). But you can still find yourself feeling chilly, especially in the mornings and evenings, because it’s always colder on the water. That’s why I always pack a pashmina like this best-seller. Although it’s made of a polyester and viscose blend, it’s so soft that it could pass as cashmere. Choose from dozens of colors and style it in just about as many ways. “It was a great light layer with dresses or t-shirts when it was a bit windy. It also came in clutch when required to cover our hair up to tour a mosque in Turkey,” recalled one shopper who used theirs on a cruise. Another passenger said they ended up sporting theirs as a swimsuit cover up. 

Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube 8×32 Monocular


If you want something half the weight (8.5 ounces to be exact) and size of regular binoculars, I highly recommend Nocs Provisions’ monocular. Although it’s pricey, it’s stacked with useful features like smartphone capability so you can take photos through it and is also water-resistant and scratch-proof. Plus, it comes with a “No-Matter-What” lifetime warranty, so you can return it if anything happens. I especially love the convenience it offers: It can be used — and easily adjusted — with one hand. One reviewer called it a “great travel companion,” writing: “Super easy to pack and carry for that extended vacation. Provides just as much detail as their binoculars without the additional size and weight. Great gift to yourself or someone else that travels!”

Iqbar Brain and Body Plant Protein Bars 


Most river boats also don’t offer 24/7 room service. But that’s OK because I never cruise a river without snacks. If you’re looking for a protein bar that’s easy on the stomach (I have IBD, so it’s a must for me), consider these best-selling bars that are vegan and made with plant proteins. They’re also keto-friendly, low in sugar, and packed with fiber to help you stay regular on the road (or river, in this case). “They’re great for a healthy snack or a meal replacement when you’re busy. I ordered these just before a vacation and they are a fantastic pick-me-up during your travels,” wrote one satisfied shopper.

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