Packing for an expedition cruise is different from packing for a regular cruise. While I usually try to pack light it can be harder on an expedition. The one nice thing about an expedition cruise is you are definitely not expected to dress up at any point. Clothes onboard are casual and it is actually OK to rewear most of the clothes you bring which I will admit was something hard for me to do at first.
On my recent Galapagos cruise many of the other guests commented that I was a super smart packer for the choices I brought with me so today I wanted to talk a little bit about what I packed for my Galapagos trip and how to decide what to bring for almost any expedition. The 3 key things are Weather, Terrain, and Activities.
Planning what to pack for any vacation first starts with your own comfort level. I know that I am always cold so I like to make sure I pack things to keep me warm. I research what the weather is generally like where I will be traveling and that is where I start with what I will need to pack. Next I will look at what activities I will be doing on this vacation and then I decide what I will need to make those activities the most comfortable. I also learn from each vacation and try to pay attention to what my guides are wearing for certain types of things and I plan to get those things for my next trip.
For the Galapagos I did my research on the weather and the terrain. That told me that I would need to plan for layers which really does work best for almost any travel. It is always better to be able to take off a layer if you get hot. I also read that we would be visiting Galapagos in the wet season so I packed a light rain jacket. We didn't end up really needing the rain gear but that was OK. Galapagos is on the equator so I knew the sun would be strong no matter what time of year it was. I prefer to wear lightweight clothes that have an SPF vs lathering on the sunscreen. My go to for clothes like that is Columbia. I like to have pants and a button down shirt so I can have another shirt layered underneath but if it will be hot I go for one of their cooling shirts. Also do not forget a good hat to shade your face and neck. These clothes work for either hiking, kayaking, or riding around on the zodiacs since they are light and will shield you from the sun and also dry fast when they get wet.
Shoes are one of those things that take up a lot of suitcase space and can be heavy so trying to take the least amount of shoes but still be comfortable is key. I read about what kind of hikes we would be doing and as is typical on most expedition type cruises we would be taking zodiacs over to land and many times it would be a wet landing. I tend to be a flip flop person so if it was just going to be a beach walk that would be fine however most of the land in Galapagos is rocky so hiking type shoes work best. Having been on a couple expedition cruises I had seen the guides wearing hiking sandals and those seem to work nicely since they can get wet on the landing but still protect your feet for rougher terrain. I will be honest I have never been a fan of the way tevas look so I researched some other options and I found Chacos. I liked the way they looked and they got great reviews so I ordered a pair. They worked perfectly for me on this trip so I was very happy. Very important - if you buy new shoes for any vacation be sure to break them in before leaving home. Some others on our trip brought hiking sneakers and would either go barefoot off the zodiac or would wear other shoes that could get wet and then dry off their feet and put on the hiking shoes. To me that seemed like too much extra.
Galapagos is one of those places where the snorkeling is amazing and you don't want to miss the chance to do it. The water isn't as warm as you might expect though so if floating in 75 degree water for an hour doesn't sound appealing then you will want to be like me and bring a wetsuit. Many expedition boats might also carry some wetsuits you can borrow however you might be surprised to find the wetsuits are shorties like on our boat. I was very happy to have my full length wetsuit since it allowed me to spend way more time in the water than the guests that were wearing the shorties. Our previous expedition in Sea of Cotes did loan us full wetsuits so that is also how I knew I really preferred a full length but I also wasn't super crazy about wearing a loaner for something that is so close to so much skin. Another snorkeling item that you might not feel too comfortable using a loaner is the mask and snorkel. With all the covid stuff I wasn't totally sure the ship would be offering the snorkels to use so I figured best to buy my own anyway. When I did my research I found many people were raving about this new type of snorkel mask that gives you a much better view and you didn't have to hold the snorkel part in your mouth. I am so glad I found that mask for this trip as it really was as great as the reviews said! Also being someone that gets cold very easily I also had a few other accessories like diving gloves and socks to keep me warm.
A few other accessories that come in handy on expeditions are a good camera/underwater camera for snorkeling, a small backpack/dry bag, binoculars, and a refillable water bottle (our ship gave each guest a nice bottle and had filling stations onboard).
I have learned the hard way that on an expedition it really doesn't hurt to pack those things that you normally might not want to waste precious suitcase space on since most expeditions are probably once in a lifetime trips so you don't want to miss out because you don't have the right gear.
For those that know me you would agree that I am pretty low maintenance. I don't use much make up, or other devices for my hair, so that saves a lot of space. I am not a shoe person so rarely travel with more than one pair. I also tend to put on my rose colored glasses when it comes to the weather forecast for where I am traveling and I just want to believe that it will be perfect weather and I won't need any rain gear or stuff like that. So why is it that I do not travel carry on only?
Are you up for the challenge of traveling carry on only? There are certainly some advantages but of course also some disadvantages as well.
First up the PROS:
#1 - Less waiting. You do not have to get in line to check your bag or have to wait for your bag to show up on the carousel.
#2 - No lost luggage. You know where your bag is so you are the only one that can lose it.
#3 - Save money on bag fees (although that might not be true on all airlines)
#4 - Easy access. Everything you are traveling with will be just above you so you can get it at anytime during your flight.
#5 - Less weight to lug around from one place to the next.
Now the CONS:
#1 - Limited space. You will have to narrow down what you take along with you.
#2 - Prohibited items. Some things cannot be carried on so you will have to really think about those liquids and other items that cannot be carried onto a plane.
#3 - Extra work. You might have to do laundry while on vacation since you cannot pack as many clothes.
#4 - No Overhead Left - Sometimes it seems like everyone is doing carry on only and that overhead bin space fills up for your get on and then you end up having to check in anyway.
#5 - Lifting - you have to be able to lift that bag up into the overhead and get it out.
Before taking the leap to carry only traveling it is smart to do some pre-planning. You will want to be sure you choose the right bag. Since you are going to squeeze everything you need into this bag be sure it is something that makes it a little easier. While some people might prefer a backpack for their carry on I definitely prefer the rolling bag. I have heard some amazing things about Away I think it will be my next purchase to try out. (if you use that link to buy one we both save $20).
Next up, you will want to double check your airlines rules. Maybe should do that before buying your bag just in case, but if you already have the bag just make sure it does qualify as a carry on for the airline you are flying. Also make sure to compare the fees, in case you are flying one of those airlines that charges for a carry on.
Get organized - some packing cubes like these will help squeeze in as much as possible, plus help keep you organized. Make sure you leave out the things that cannot be carried on. If you have some liquids you just have to bring that are either small enough or can be put into smaller containers like these then take them along. Just be sure to pack them somewhere easy to remove when you go through security. It might be easier to just buy certain liquids when you arrive.
Don't forget you also get a personal item that has to fit under your seat. Be sure to maximize this option as well when squeezing in everything you will need. I tend to choose a soft sided tote, like my Vera Bradley, which has plenty of little pockets inside. This is also where I keep my laptop so that it is easy to take out when going through security. One note of caution though is when picking your seat on the plane certain ones will not have under seat storage so think about that before choosing.
When might it be hard to try and go carry on only? If you are going somewhere that is cold it could be hard to pack all the cold weather stuff into just a carry on. If you are traveling through different climates during one trip you will need a variety of things that might be too much get get it all into a carry on. We once did a cruise that started in Florida and ended after a visit to Alaska so I think it might have been really hard to pack for that in a carry on. If you are traveling for a special event where you might need to bring along some more formal clothes and shoes that could make it hard to go carry on only.
If you have a trip that is pretty much going to have just one type of weather, especially something like a beach trip, packing in a carry on should work out pretty well. Who knows after you do it once you may never check a bag again!
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Over the years the Mother Nature has made many changes to my travel plans. Sometimes it is just a little unexpected cold or rain but other times it has been a big storm that has totally changed my itinerary. You can do a little planning to avoid bad weather such as avoid the Caribbean during hurricane season but for the most part weather is just one of those things you have to be prepared for that could change to even the best laid plans. Here are 5 of my tips for how to deal with weather -
#1. Be prepared. You cannot always count on the weather to cooperate so when packing for your trip it is good to pack a few bad weather items like a umbrella, rain jacket, and gloves. They won't take up too much room in your suitcase so better to have them just in case.
#2. Brave the weather. Sometimes the weather might start out bad but it will clear up so don't waste time waiting for it to clear. Dress in layers and head out so that you can take things off as the weather gets better.
#3. Rearrange your plans. If the weather is so bad that your outdoor plans have to be cancelled look at your schedule and see if you can do in indoor activity on the day the weather is really bad and move your outdoor plans to another day. If you don't have any indoor plans already some good ideas could be catch a movie, go shopping, find a spa, go bowling. If you are in an area where you are not sure what is around you can either google things to do near me or ask your hotel front desk for suggestions.
#4. Safety first. Sometimes the weather could be so bad that you really just need to stay put to be safe. It might be that you are stuck in the hotel or this could apply to your flight or cruise but please remember that any changes to your transportation modes are to keep you safe. If this happens break out the board games or a good book and just ride it out.
#5. Look on the bright side. If the weather totally changes your plans and you have to miss out on something you really had your heart set on then you have a great reason to plan another trip to that location. You could also end going somewhere or doing something you hadn't planned for because of the weather and it could turn out to be the best vacation ever.
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