Let’s face it: everyone forgets something when they travel – even experienced cruisers like us. However, there are some things that you should bring with you to get maximum enjoyment out of your river cruise – things that go beyond the usual toothbrush and passport. These are things we’ve found to be immensely useful on our own travels, and we’re presenting them here for you to take with you on your next adventure.
A Travel Guide
We can’t stress this enough: bringing a travel guide with you, however small, can really enhance the enjoyment of your river cruise. Not only do they have maps (handy for figuring out where you are and what is around you), travel guides are also great for providing you with some history, a small selection of must-see sights, and some hotel and restaurant recommendations.
Since river cruises visit multiple destinations, it’s a good idea to either buy a small overview book that focuses on Europe, or to purchase one that specialises in the country you’ll be visiting most (say, Germany or Austria for Danube-based river voyages.)
We’ve brought guides with us on several river cruises – and have lent them out to several groups of guests time and time again.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people leave this at home. And why not? Newer river cruise ships like Viking’s Longships and Scenic’s Space Ships have North American-style power outlets. Some ships even have USB connectors for charging your electronic devices.
So why do you need a two-pronged, European-style power adapter? Easy: hotels. Hotels (or anything on-land, for that matter) will be exclusively European. Having a European power adapter allows you to plug your phone in pretty much anywhere, regardless of whether you can find a USB-style charger. It also allows you to utilise the European outlets in your stateroom, saving the North American ones for other electronic devices to effectively double your charging capacity.
Do you need a converter? If you intend to plug in something like a hair dryer, then yes, you most likely do. If you just want to plug in your laptop or charge your iPhone or camera batteries, chances are good you just need the less-expensive adapter: most large electronic items come with power converters as a matter of course. Still, it’s always good to double-check your device first before you plug it in!
A Backpack and Reusable Water Bottle
This is probably the single most-important piece of equipment you can bring with you: a backpack and a reusable water bottle.
The backpack is convenient for storing things you might need during your day, particularly on a long excursion. You can put sunscreen, an umbrella, a hat, a camera, and some souvenirs in a single pack that you can carry around with you, freeing up your hands for more important tasks.
A reusable bottle is also great for putting water in. Most will keep your water cold for longer than the standard plastic bottle will that most cruise lines offer at the gangway, and many water bottles can be clipped to the aforementioned backpack, thereby further freeing up your hands.
Don’t want to lug the backpack around with you? No problem – most tours will let you leave the backpack on the coach while you step off to get that postcard-perfect photo or take a short walking tour.
Medications from Home
We’re not necessarily talking about prescription medications – though those are very important, too. Instead, we’re talking about over-the-counter medications that you might rely on to cure headaches, heartburn, allergies, and the like.
Why do you want to stock up and bring these from home? A few reasons. First, you probably only know your drug of choice – say, Advil for headaches – by its commercial name: Advil. But in Europe, that drug might trade under a completely different name that you’ve probably never heard of before. Trying to find the medication that works for you can be a real challenge in Europe if you don’t know exactly what is in it.
The other reason is more practical: pharmacies in Europe operate on odd hours, particularly in Germany, where they close around Noon on Saturdays and don’t reopen until mid-morning on Monday. Need some fast heartburn relief on a Sunday afternoon in Nuremberg? Too bad: you’re out of luck until Monday.
We found ourselves in that situation once. And only once. When you need something and have no way of purchasing it, you learn really quickly to stock up on anything you might need long before you set out for the airport.
Another great practical thing to bring with you on your river cruise is a personal or corporate business card. Why? It’s a great way to give your contact information to newly-met friends, as opposed to scribbling it (probably illegibly) on a cocktail napkin after those Kir Royale’s have kicked in.
Do you have a favorite thing you like to bring with you when you travel? Tell us about it by using the comment form below.