“Okay, but what did you really wear most of the time on this trip?”
That’s what several readers asked me—so I’ll help out here and continue my post-trip packing evaluation with an overview of the clothes I took as well as what was good, what wasn’t so good and what I would have changed.
No need to read further, though for my best suggestion to you: A week or so before you leave, look up the current weather in all the cities you’re going to be visiting on your itinerary. While you’re at it, look up the average historical temps for the time you’re going to be cruising. Got all that? Now, just take all that information as input, but definitely not gospel truth.
Because they were all wrong for our trip this summer.
Average temps in the cities we visited (including Amsterdam, Cologne, Passau, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest) were whole handfuls of degrees less than usual. As in, it was chilly!
I was prepared for hot weather (I’d read more than once that cruise passengers baked in the August temperatures and it wasn’t a very nice “season” to cruise Europe in) so I had far more sleeveless tops than I should have. I wore them, but always with a sweater over them. This was not a cruise to easily get a sunburn on because we were so covered up much of the time! I would definitely have switched out one of my two pairs of cropped pants for a pair of full-length pants I could have worn socks with. No, I promise, not socks with sandals; our concierge, Lucia, told me, “We all know Americans because they wear socks with sandals.” Hmmm…maybe that’s where the “ugly American” saying came from? [No, really I know that’s not it at all; I was making a joke but you can’t see that in text.]
I also was a bit surprised to see that other passengers seemed dressed up in *different* clothes every night for dinner (when we ate in The Restaurant, the sit-down dining room). How did they get all those clothes in their suitcases? While I was anticipating nice attire for dining I had no idea some women would wear a new outfit every evening. I had sharp-looking, ankle-length slacks as well as a black skirt and paired these variously with different tops (sparkly, plain, multi-colored), two lightweight cardigans (choose from black or beige) and different scarves to make combinations of outfits. But there’s no way someone wouldn’t have guessed that I was doing the mixy-matchy thing rather than the “Hey, here’s something completely different tonight” approach.
Oh well, I hope I didn’t visually bore anyone at our table any evening… Still, my advice to you is to be prepared for that. I don’t think it would have changed my actual packing, but I wouldn’t have been so astonished and left feeling a bit “plain” every evening when we entered the dining room.
So here goes….here’s what I took and how everything worked:
- Two pairs of ankle-length, straight-leg pants. One in black. One in cigar brown. YES. I bought these at Macy’s (Style Co. line) and they were great: no wrinkles, washed well and had a nice smooth look.
- Two pairs of cropped straight leg pants. One in black. One in cigar brown. YES/NO. Same Macy’s line as above. “Yes” because they were easy to wear and appropriate. “No” because I should have swapped out one pair for a pair of standard-length pants instead. In black. Of course.
- Black, just-at-the-knees swirly skirt. YES. But don’t wear a swirly/gored skirt if you think you’ll be on a castle wall overlook that day. Wind catches skirts in an unexpected way. I do not resemble Marilyn Monroe in “The Seven-Year Itch” windy dress scene. Nor do I want to imitate that scene. And it’s really hard to take photos of the landscape below you while you’re holding down your skirt tucked between your knees.
- Black, lightweight polyester-type cardigan. YES. Modern fit, gathers in back. Mom had the khaki and white versions of same sweater; we switched out over the evenings. It seems to be a standard item at Macy’s in the “Charter Club” design section and it’s available in many colors.
- White dressy tank top for under sweater. NO. Only wore it once. Since it was chilly, I had short-sleeve tops that served the same purpose and kept me a little warmer.
- Black/white-striped s/sleeve top. YES.
- White sleeveless ruffled top. JURY’S OUT. This gave me some variety, but I think I should have taken a 3/4-length sleeve top instead.
- Two multi-colored sleeveless tops. YES. But I could have gotten by with only one of these. Of course, my dinner attire would have been even more unchanging but….
- Mountain Hardware Canyon s/sleeve shirt (light blue). YES. Mark bought this for me for camping but it arrived a few days before I left for this cruise and I thought it’d be a fun top to take with me. What I especially liked: It looked good with scarves, it was the only top with a “collar.” It washed easily and dried uber fast. The little zip pocket up by the chest was perfect for holding the room key card (otherwise I just, ahem, slipped it down my shirt, into the top of my bra; but don’t tell anyone…)
- Three scarves. YES. I color-coordinated everything (black and cigar brown) so these scarves provided a pop of color to either contrast or match the separates. Note: Go online and check out different—but simple—ways to tie scarves ahead of time. I enjoyed demonstrating these (at their request) to a number of other women on the Atla.
- One pashmina. YES. Used as a wrap over plain old white shirt at dinner. Doubled as a lightweight blanket on the longer plane flights.
- Bathing suit (for”the baths” in Budapest). NO. Well, at least I was prepared for the possibility, but not only did we run out of time in Budapest, I just wasn’t sure if taking a dip then riding in a subway/bus back across the Danube to our hotel was what I really wanted to do…
- Lightweight wind/rain jacket. YES. This is a “self-stowing” jacket, meaning it folds up (easily) into it’s own 4×4 pocket. Mine is by GoLite and it’s not meant for heavy rain, just sprinkles. I wore it over my SCOTTeVEST jacket when it rained pretty heavily in Regensburg and I stayed dry. It also helped keep me warm when it was windy. It’s not really stylish, but it has a hood and, combining this with my jacket and Tilley hat, I was dry. The pocket has a little fabric tab on it so you can hook it to your belt, bag, whatever when it’s all stuffed inside.
- Jammies. YES. If you’re one of those who prefer to slip under the duvet with nothing on at all, please do not leave your drapes open. Locks happen. So does docking in areas where early morning people like to run and walk their dogs. These people might have 20-20 vision. Even at a distance.
- Three pairs of ExOfficio quick-dry undies. YES. Before the trip, I wondered if washing these would be a hassle. Nope. I love these for travel—they dried easily in under four hours.
- Tilley LTM6 AirFlo hat. (I have the khaki/olive color; it’s deeper in tone than it looks on the website). YES. A Tilley hat, I’ve read, is the sign of the “older” North American tourist. Too bad it has a “boring” reputation because I really liked it for this trip. My Tilley stayed on my head on the breezy top deck (I like the chin strap that can be used or pushed up in the hat when not needed), kept sun out of my eyes while eating lunch on the AquaVit Terrace and was a rainhat in Regensburg. Versatile. Non-fussy. A straw sunhat might have been more chic, but my Tilley did the job.
- Three pairs of shoes, all black. All flats. ALL YES. I have “problem” feet (wide toe box, high instep, high arch, narrow heel) and I have a really tough time finding shoes that fit. Once I find them, I know that I shouldn’t wear them day-in, day-out without switching ’em out: my feet just like variety in order to feel their tippy-toe best. So, yes, I intentionally took three pairs of black flats. Pair one was a no-nonsense pair of Naturalizers (Mary Jane style); these were my comfy shoes to wear in flight because they had plenty of room to expand for flight foot fatness and I could wear wool socks with ’em on the flight, too (plus they came in wide and had great support for walking on cobblestones). Pair two was a cute black pair of Cobb Hill Paige Sandals; again, these came in multiple widths and were very comfortable. They looked “open” like sandals but provided plenty of coverage for no stubbed toes (which can easily happen on those cobblestones). Plus, I got a lot of “those are cute!” comments from other passengers who were in less “styled” footwear. Pair three was a pair of black (no kidding, huh?) Jambu Blossom flats; multiple widths, cute “flower” stitching design, lots of comfort and sole support. I loved having a choice of so many “styles” of shoes and even more I enjoyed knowing my feet were comfortable every day, despite how much walking we did. And all looked great with pants, crops and my skirt. Throughout the trip, I felt that my shoes were some of my best purchases. My feet were happy every day!
- Teva Ventura sandals, black leather, flat. MAYBE. These were a last-minute stuff-in-the-suitcase item (I had lots of room left and was well under 30 pounds total so I said “sure” to having them accompany me to Europe). I’m glad I had them for afternoons on top of the ship, but they were a total splurge as far as space/weight/bulk.
- ScottEVest Sterling Jacket, black. YES. Sleeves zip on and off–this doubled as my jacket for the trip. See my full post-trip review of this jacket here.
What I bought while traveling to add to my wardrobe:
Two scarves. One, bought in Miltenburg is an electric blue color, all puffy and shiny (thanks, Mom). The other (Regensburg) is a textured print rectangular print scarf with blacks, browns and bright blue accents.
I fell in love with the products made in a little Rothenburg shop, AnRa. Lovely clothes and accessories and all made right there in Rothenburg. Out came the credit card when I saw this great, drapey sweater with flowers. My version is in deep grey with tones of black—so it “went” with my trip wardrobe colors. But I really like wearing it back home, too!
Green satchel by ZWEI. I don’t really need another “bag” but the inexpensive bags by ZWEI seemed well-made and are really easy to carry. I found one in Bamberg that’s just perfect to tote my iPad and assorted paperwork to meetings back home (or up to the top deck of the Atla when I did my on-board writing). And it was a lovely sage green.. So I bought it!
So how much did it weigh?
Heading from home, my suitcase (a lightweight Tarmac bag by Eagle Creek) was 28 pounds. My Patagonia carry-on was a bit over eight pounds. Coming back from the cruise, the luggage weighed 6 pounds more (I bought the items listed above and some souvenirs for family members, including chocolates for Mark from almost every place we docked); same weight for the carryon. As far as myself? Fortunately, I only weighed one pound heavier than I had setting out (but only because we walked so much every day, I’m certain)!