My wife and I are notorious over packers. Her with shoes, me with camera gear. So, when preparing for a trip, the big question is always what and how much to pack. On our recent cruise to Alaska, we were traveling in economy class and were limited to 50 pounds or 20kg.

Because Alaska weather can often be capricious, we planned for a range of weather conditions including warm and sunny as you leave Vancouver, to cool and rainy weather as you approach Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound.

Rain Gear

With rainfall ranging from many inches to several feet per year in different locations throughout the cruise, planning for bad weather is par for the course. Traveling in early-July, we totally lucked out with 10 days of bright sunshine and mostly cloudless skies. Daytime temperatures ranged between 13°C and 22° C. Don’t count on that happening on you own vacation. It’s really an anomaly!


Don’t forget your feet! You’ll want to bring a sturdy boot or walking shoe if you plan to take a tour inland. Choose something with a slip resistant sole. Also remember to bring a few stylish options for Gala evenings onboard.

For men, it’s usually easy, but for the ladies not so much. You’ll need one of two elegant options. Pick something versatile to avoid overpacking which might take you over the airline weight limit. Also bring some warm thermal or wool socks to keep you warm if you venture outside in the evenings or on colder days.


Dressing up for Gala evenings is part of the cruise experience, though passengers seem to dress more and more casually. Perhaps this is a bi-product of the pandemic and work from home, with people working in sweatpants and shorts.

Casual Wear

Generally speaking, life aboard ship is a casual affaire. So, a selection of smart jeans, slacks, t-shirts, blouses, and polos are a staple of cruising attire. Shorts for an Alaskan cruise are an iffier choice.

Warm Clothing

When on the water there is a chill in the air and a cool breeze. Depending on the speed of the ship, which can reach 20 knots (37 kph) the cold breeze can chill you to the bone while on deck. If you’re facing a strong wind, it’s even worse.

Be sure to pack a light jacket that is water and wind resistant yet breathable. I ordered a cool poncho from Tilley, but never got to use it. Bring a warm wool sweater to wear underneath. Dress in layers so you can adjust your attire to changing conditions.

Bring a warm hoody or purchase one in the many shops on board or at a port of call. They also make a great souvenir.


During our cruise, we saw a variety of wildlife including a humpback whale, sea otters, black bears, a moose and countless birds including dozens of bald eagles. A good pair of binoculars let you see them up close making the experience more memorable. Make sure you practice using them before you leave, rather than fumble with the focus and adjustments when make a sighting. Lost seconds reduce your chances of getting a good view.

Camera Gear and Lenses

If you have a good camera, bring it. If you don’t, start shopping. You’ll need a long telephoto lens for wildlife (300mm or greater), a monopod for stability, a wider lens for panoramic views as well. The monopod also makes a great walking stick over rocky terrain. A recent iPhone will do a great job in many situations but is no substitute for a DSLR with a long lens to get up close and personal.

Consider bringing a lightweight tabletop tripod with an iPhone mount so you can take self-time photos of you and your surroundings. This is an excellent addition to the traditional selfie-stick as it gives you greater range and distance. Or you can ask other guests to take a photo of you. I find that you get better results when you do it yourself.

A Hat or Cap

Headwear will protect you from the blazing artic sun and help to keep you warm. If you leave it behind, don’t worry. The boutique on shipboard will have plenty of Alaska-themed ballcaps to choose: one for each stop on the cruise. They not only protect you head but make great souvenirs too.


Seems obvious but easy to forget. Opt for polarizing lenses that will allow you to spot the illusive salmon that are plentiful along the coast. They spawn in June and July depending on the variety of which there are five in Alaska (Sockeye, King, Pink, Chum and Silver).


Depending on the time of year, a swimsuit could be a wise addition to your packed bags. There are several pools abord most ships and usually they are heated. The Grand Princess had a total of four including an indoor pool in addition to several hot tubs. Check out your ship’s deck plan for details on how many and where they are located. Most pools are out of the wind, so the wind chill is less of a factor. So, bring along at least one choice of swimwear.

Bear Bells?

If you want to explore the many wildlife trails and national parks, forest and conservation areas, this is essential. The last thing you want is to startle a mother bear and her cubs. They are best viewed from afar thought binoculars or a telephoto lens.

Bug Spray

Depending on the time of the year, there will be mosquitos, black flies and other biting insects. Plan accordingly. In early July when we traveled, we found none.

Of course, you’ll want to bring all your toiletries and medication. Medication goes in your carry-on while toiletries should go in the checked baggage, particularly for any liquids in 100 ml or more containers because they will be confiscated at security.

Cruise Pro Tip:

Make a detailed checklist of what you want to pack. Rate these items from essential to nice to have. This will come in handy when you realize that your luggage is overweight. Make sure you weigh your bags before heading to the airport to avoid the embarrassment of having to shift items from bag to bag at check in. You’ll make no friends by delaying other passengers who are waiting in line behind you.

Happy Cruising!