Often it doesn't hit you until you're struggling with a stuffed suitcase at the airport: You overpacked for your cruise. Again. And while other travellers breezily zip through the airport, you're the one lassoing your bulging bags at baggage claim and handing out hefty porter tips.
Wish your packing life could be easier? Cruise Critic is here to tell you our tried-and-tested secrets to avoiding overpacking. Read on for a few quick tips that can make your cruise packing process simpler, saner and less stressful.
1. Pick a Palette
It makes sense; if you have limited suitcase space, you can stretch your outfit choices by mixing and matching clothes that are similar shades. Restricting yourself to a handful of similar colours also means you can cut down on shoes.
2. Go Two if by Sea
The rule of "twos" can help you plan the perfect wardrobe. Pick two outfits -- one for day, one for night -- for each day you travel, as well as workout clothes, swimwear, and PJs for every two days. Then cut the total amount in half -- remember, no one is going to notice when you wear the same shirt twice. Also, restrict shoes to two pairs for daytime and two for evening per one week cruise (more about shoes below).
3. Layer Up
If you're heading to a chilly climate, you can wear the same upper layer repeatedly, while only changing the first layer more frequently. Bring more lighter layers or do laundry onboard. Wear the heaviest outer layer -- a hoodie or a thick jumper -- on the plane to save packing space.
4. Get Smart with your Shoes
Shoes take up the most space in your suitcase, so be smart with how many pairs you bring. Limit yourself to two for day and two for evening, and chose ones that can do double duty. Boots, for example, can pair with a nice dress AND jeans. Ditto ballet flats or Mary Janes. Above all, choose comfort over fashion; nothing is worse than limping around a port in poor footwear.
5. Stay Fresh
Bring travel-sized Febreze spray to freshen up items to re-wear. A small sachet can make clothes in a drawer smell better. Clothes and underwear can be washed in the sink and hung on the clothesline to drip dry. (Or just spring for laundry.)
The same nice dress can look different with a new scarf or eye-catching jewellery so this is one area to scrap the earlier advice and overpack! Pashminas can be particularly versatile, brightening up neutrals or serving as a shawl on chilly planes and in dining rooms. Plus, statement jewellery and other accessories tend to be easier to pack and fit into those small pieces where nothing else will.
7. Be Clever With Carry-Ons
Rather than pack a separate beach bag, look for a waterproof tote that's big enough to serve as your airplane carry-on. Tablets are your best entertainment investment, as they can be used for e-books, downloaded movies and news sources.
8. Roll Up
Roll clothes when packing them. You can fit more in your luggage that way, and it also helps to minimise wrinkles. Rolling socks and stuffing them into shoes is another space saver.
9. Divide and Conquer
If you and your companion have both vowed to stick to carry-ons, don't be afraid to mix the bags. The taller person might have larger things, so splitting the stuff is more efficient. This is also a godsend if (or when) your luggage goes astray en route to your cruise departure destination. At least if it's only one piece of luggage that's missing, you'll have items stored in your travel companions case to wear until yours eventually turns up.
10. Tame Toiletries
If you can live without your brands, go with the toiletries provided onboard. If you need a larger size, stop at a pharmacy near the port or at the airport, and buy it there. If you travel frequently, save time by keeping a bag of already measured liquids ready to go.
11. Single Out
It's not cheap, but buying single use products can save space. Many products such as antibacterial lotion, nail polish remover, insect repellent and sunscreen come as wipes and cloths, not bottles. Simply toss when done.
12. Take Inventory
When you get home, look hard at your suitcase and take note of what you did and didn't use. These can provide clues for the next cruise's packing adventures. And then write yourself a reminder not to overpack next time!