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Cruise Travel Planning & Packing Tips

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Getting Ready

Hanging Shoe OrganizerFirst of all, 'stage' your outfits for evening—if the shower rod is convenient, hang them there. If not, get one of those things you hang over the closet door and hang up the outfits you'll be wearing to dinner each night. (Get the shoes out for each outfit, too.) Then—AND THIS IS IMPORTANT—cover each outfit with a plastic dry cleaning bag. Then fold each outfit over and place in your suitcase, hanger and all. They WILL NOT WRINKLE. Unpacking is a breeze... just open your suitcase and start hanging things in the closet.

A caveat... unfortunately, there are some garments that defy the "dry cleaning bag packing" method. Clothing that is slightly creased or wrinkled can often be freshened up by steaming. Just hang those items in the bathroom while taking a hot, steamy shower and often the wrinkles will fall out. If all else fails, many ships have ironing stations in their self-service passenger launderettes or, for maximum convenience, send the offending garments to the ship's laundry for pressing.

This next idea is so great I wish I had thought of it. I'm notorious for the vast number of shoes I pack. As we were preparing for a cruise, another veteran cruiser suggested, "Hey, Linda, let's go get those shoe organizers that hang in the closet, the kind with shelves, not pockets." We got them and they were great for stashing shoes, small evening purses, rolled up belts, and anything small. (The above photo illustrates the shoe organizer at work.) I'm happy to report these can be found at many Target stores. I've seen a slightly wider version, labeled a Sweater Organizer at Wal-Mart recently. By the way, emptied they fold like an accordion and take up little room in a suitcase.

Another cruiser friend offers a solution for a neatly organized bathroom. We all know those ship's bathrooms are small. Becca Love's tip is to hang an over-the-door pocket-style shoe organizer on the bathroom door. Slip your bathroom necessities in the pockets and they're handy and out of the way. Your cabin steward will LOVE you.

Neat Packing
Drew suggests, "After ironing items going in my luggage, I fold them up with tissue. Kind of like  when items are 'new' from the store. This cuts down on wrinkles, and also because your 'stacks' are neater, allows you to put more in one suitcase. Also, as you're unpacking, keeps things much neater, and kind of gives you an extra lift when wearing that article. I'll also place several layers of tissue in the luggage, as the stacks get about 6" or so. As you wear the articles, the tissue sure comes in handy when repacking, for all the extra goodies that we seem to 'acquire' throughout the holiday/cruise."

Pack "His" AND "Hers"
Unless you have tight airline connections, if you pack and check multiple suitcases they should all stay together and arrive with you at your destination. However, should one of them be delayed, you and your travel companion can be certain to each have clothing to wear if you "mix" up your garments. Pack "his AND hers" clothing articles in each suitcase.  

Packing Small & Watertight
Here's an idea my husband Mel came up with when preparing for a bicycle tour of Holland.
Pack small. Undergarments and knits take only a third of the suitcase space they normally occupy when they’re compressed. Simply place those articles in bags designed for compact storage, such as those made by Pack-Mate, or appropriately sized zipper top kitchen storage bags and force all the air out before zipping them shut. Not only do you save room in your suitcases but your clothing will stay dry.

Dry? What's with that? Well, if you have soft-sided luggage and it gets caught in a downpour, either while being loaded on your airplane or ship, the contents could get soaked. You might also spray your luggage with Scotch Guard for additional waterproofing both inside and out. An added bonus of using zipper top bags is efficient unpacking—just leave everything in the bags and stack them in drawers and on shelves. Fast, neat, and space saving!

Whose boxers are those on the conveyor belt?
We've all seen it happen. It's really embarrassing to realize your luggage has come unzipped (for one reason or another) and those are your delicate unmentionables on the airport conveyor belt.

A Must-Read!
The Cruise Planning Timeline
Practical considerations to take care of before your cruise

You want to "lock" your zip-up luggage, but hate those tiny locks with even tinier keys? This idea is courtesy of a Delta ticket agent as related by Mel. Head on over to the local home improvement store and buy CABLE TIES. Ask a helpful hardware guy if you're unsure of where to find them. They're usually in the electrical supply area—you know... they're those plastic things that have a pointy end that slips into a hole on the other end. Sort of like a flexible needle. Once they're attached, you'll need scissors or a nail clipper to remove them. Take extras for the trip home. Another benefit, they keep sticky-fingered airline baggage handlers (and others) from riffling through your things.

With today's updated airport security procedures, you're advised not to lock your luggage. However, we use cable ties anyway. If your luggage requires hand-screening, you'll recognize that it's been opened even before you find a note inside the suitcase indicating that the contents were examined. If you use a combination or keyed lock, it will be cut off and discarded. TSA-approved locks are available, but they can be costly and often go missing.

Tape ~ Tape ~ Tape
Have Duck Tape, Will TravelDuct tape... is it really a necessity? Judging by the number of people who ask to borrow it—YES! For added security, there's nothing like duct tape. Wrapped around suitcases, it keeps them relatively secure in worst case scenarios, such as zipper blow out or broken hinges and clasps. Tape also discourages random pilferage by baggage handlers. Why would anyone bother with your taped bag when others are not even locked? Plus, it gives your suitcases a bit of frequent traveler panache—"shabby chic," if you will. As the photo illustrates, for an emergency repair, there's nothing as handy as duct tape.
Have DUCK Tape, Will Travel highlights a new cruising travel necessity... it's NOT your father's duct tape and it no longer belongs in the garage.

Again, with today's updated airport security screening, the duct tape might be cut to enable hand examination of suitcase contents. Just as effective are brightly-colored luggage straps with quick release buckles such as those available from Magellan's Catalog.

Tag Your Bags
This may seem excessive, but I use ALL the tags provided by the cruise line when tagging our suitcases. At a minimum, I want TWO identification tags on each suitcase (in addition to our "permanent" luggage tags). Those tags, with cotton or elastic string, can easily become detached so before putting them on the suitcases, I reinforce them with tape. I also remove the string, replacing it with long cable ties. I put one on each handle of dual-handle suitcases and two on the handle of suitcases that only have one handle. Compulsive? Maybe. But we've never had a lost or delayed suitcase because of a missing tag.

Where, oh where is your luggage?
Kathleen Kaye shares the following, "We always put our itinerary outside, as well as inside our luggage. To do this, I type up the itinerary, reduce it, and tuck it into the luggage tag, behind our identification. We always make sure our address and itinerary are taped to the inside as well. I have heard that many times lost luggage is forever lost because of no identification on the bag. Tags do come off."

Absolutely correct, Kathleen! If an airline is unable to trace the owner, or if luggage hasn't been claimed after at least three months, it ends up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama—a veritable Land of Lost Luggage. Only two hours from Birmingham and two and a half hours from Atlanta, the Unclaimed Baggage Center is a treasure hunter's dream destination. Over 500,000 people a year make the trek to shop amid over a million lost items, including watches, jewelry, electronics, and designer clothing.

Take heart, though. Over 98% of misdirected luggage eventually catches up to its owners. Keep those odds in your favor by following Kathleen's advise.

Suitcases With An Identity
How is your suitcase like a Model-T Ford? You can have any color you want, as long as it's black. My late friend Ed Shuster found a marking product and a clever solution for readily spotting his bags in airport carousels and crowded cruise ship terminals. Mister Ed advised... "With soft-sided black cloth luggage taking over the world, it's getting harder and harder to find your own on the floor of the warehouse. In addition to the required identification tags, we've used unique colorful tags, straps, tapes, and some others. Recently I came up with what I think is a permanent solution."

"Wal-Mart (and probably other distinguished merchants) carries opaque paint markers, in different colors, for under $3. We used white on the black luggage and hand lettered an identifying name in about 3-inch letters on the face of the luggage that includes the handle. One marker did three applications on each of three pieces. Easy to do, high contrast, and permanent (well, as permanent as we are). For security reasons, we didn't put our name on it, I used my Yahoo name—Cap10Cruz. About the only drawback I see is it will make it harder to sell the old suitcases at a yard sale, but when we're done with them, it's dumpster time anyhow."

Instead of paint, I've used my handy duct tape to identify our luggage by attaching long strips on the front, back, and all four sides of each suitcase. Our bags are easily spotted on carousels full of similar looking black suitcases.

Of course you want more. I continuously add more hints and tips to the archive of HOT Tips for cruisers. You can also read Packing It In, which originally appeared in the December 1999 issue of Cruise Travel Magazine. Be sure to check Cruise Articles
for more information, including George Hall's 2-part Hints for New Cruisers.

If you still have a question, just ask! I'm here if you need me. Write to me with your questions, to offer suggestions, or . Share your experiences—just send me a review in the body of an email  to and I'll include it here on the site. (No file attachments, please.)

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