Best Packing Tips! Bring Your Appetite, Patience & Sense of Discovery

St. George's Market in Belfast. s Hill Credit Line: ©Tourism Ireland photographed by Chris Hill

Getting ready to travel or cruise? The Meandering Traveler recently blogged about top packing tips from frequent travelers and travel industry executives. But there’s more to packing the right items than eyeballing clothes or shoes.

Equally important for travelers is packing the right state of mind. Here are some top tips from Ken Muskat of Scenic Group USA, Nikki Upshaw of Oceania Cruises, and The Meandering Traveler too.

(Guests who pack their appetite and sense of discovery can head out in Belfast, Northern Ireland, U.K., to explore St. George’s Market. Photo ©Tourism Ireland photographed by Chris Hill.)

Best Packing Tips: Pack Your Appetite

One of the great joys of travel is gastronomic exploration. Travelers often love trying out new dishes that the locals love or indulging their favorite culinary bent. To take best advantage of all the dining options, pack and cultivate your appetite.

Ember, a new specialty dining venue on Oceania Vista, serves up great steaks and yummy lobster mac-and-cheese. Photo by Donna Fontenot.
(Ember, a specialty dining venue on Oceania Vista, serves up savory steaks and lobster mac-and-cheese. Pack your appetite and make reservations early. Photo by Donna Fontenot.)

“Plan ahead,” stresses Oceania Cruises’ Upshaw. Don’t just book excursions before you go. “Be sure to make your onboard dinner reservations before you travel to experience all the specialty restaurants on your cruise,” she says. Reservation policies can vary by line, but it’s good to check on what’s available pre-cruise from your line or travel advisor.

The Meandering Traveler heartily agrees, and for land-based travelers, the same advice applies. If you’re booked into a luxury or all-inclusive hotel, taking a tour with dinner on your own one night, or enjoying a city stay, be sure to make reservations before you go, if possible. That will improve your chances of getting the dining experience you desire.

Pack an Open “Culinary Mindset”

During your vacation, “have an open mind,” Upshaw also advocates. “Try something new that you might not order at home. You might well find a new favorite dish or drink.”

Look at vacation dining as a cultural learning experience that can unfold in destinations and on cruise ships. Through food, you can learn a lot about the local lifestyle and culture.

In addition, “open galleys on ships invite you to see firsthand the passion and expertise that go into preparing every meal,” says Muskat.

Night Market experience on Scenic Eclipse II. Photo by Susan J. Young.
(Up to eight guests dine at the exclusive Night Market open-galley experience on Scenic Eclipse II; reservations are essential. Photo by Susan J. Young.)

Definitely, take time to talk to the onboard chefs or other culinary team members about the ingredients used in various dishes. Ask about sourcing. Inquire about any local or regional culinary traditions that you might experience.

It’s fun to uncover unique gastronomic tidbits. For instance, Muskat points to the growth of microgreens aboard ships. Talk about the freshest ingredients!

Many cruise lines also source herbs, spices, vegetables, fruits, seafood, fish and meats from local markets or suppliers in regions visited.

Get Ready to Participate

An added plus? Guests might “take part in a special culinary event or a hands-on culinary school session, if offered,” Upshaw suggests. “A specially curated wine pairing luncheon could add a fabulous touch to your vacation.”

Finally, ask for gastronomic advice. “Take recommendations from other guests or the well-traveled and knowledgeable onboard crew members,” she says. “Ask about their favorite dining spots, their tips for the best local places to dine, or the best local dishes to savor.”

Nikki Upshaw, senior vice president of sales, Oceania Cruises, says "pack your appetite" when heading out on vacation. Photo by Nikki Upshaw and Oceania Cruises.
(Nikki Upshaw of Oceania Cruises, says “pack your appetite” and ask other guests and crew members for ideas about where to dine ashore. Photo by Nikki Upshaw/Oceania Cruises.)

Best Packing Tips: Pack Your Patience 

Traveling 270 days a year, most of that internationally, The Meandering Traveler’s top tip is to pack your patience before setting out on your trip. Today, in the post-pandemic era, pent-up demand for travel has pushed airports and transportation modes including air travel, trains and taxi/coach travel to the max.

Crowds are the norm, so it’s good to arrive early at the airport. From our anecdotal perspective (based on 10+ international trips in 2023), three hours isn’t too long in advance for an international flight.

One must-do? We always try to secure seat assignments BEFORE heading to the airport, preferably at the time of booking. Upon arrival, expect lines, and at times, long lines. So, just pack your patience while, at the same time, envision the fabulous time you’ll have when you get there.

A Norse International Airways jet is shown on the ground at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) this month. The new international airline flies from FLL and New York's JFK International Airport to Oslo, Norway. Photo by Norse International Airways.
(Pack your patience for travel to packed airports. A Norse International Airways jet is shown at a South Florida airport. Photo by Norse International Airways.)

Case in point? On our recent Christmas holiday cruise on AmaWaterways in France, we found very crowded U.S. and French airports. Mobility assistance services were so-so in promptness and for staffing.

We had to “calm down” at points — packing our patience and positive thoughts. But with our added time at the airport and enough time between connecting flights, we ultimately had a successful journey.

Ask for Help, Be Kind

Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Just remember, when frustrated, it’s often easier to get satisfaction from staff using kindness, not snark or anger. Again, packing one’s patience as one deals with crowds and cultural and language differences is a big plus.

In the end, we arrived as scheduled in France and our AmaWaterways holiday season vacation proved fabulous.  Be sure to click this link for photos of our seven-course Chef’s Table tasting experience on AmaKristina.

Best Packing Tips: Pack a Sense of Discovery

Blue-tiled church in Porto, Portugal. Photo by Susan J. Young.
(Best Packing Tips: Advance knowledge gleaned about shore sites can allow travelers to fully explore a destination such as lovely Porto, Portugal. Photo by Susan J. Young.)

Throughout the world, activities and adventures await during a cruise, tour or hotel/all-inclusive stay. Whatever else you pack, be sure to pack your sense of discovery!

For instance, “on river cruises throughout Europe and Asia, you can discover cities, towns and cultures that you’ve never seen before,” says Muskat. “While sailing with different cultures onboard, you’ll also have the opportunity to step right off the ship into the heart of town.”

Once there, “your sense of discovery can be light and relaxing or active and adventurous,” he adds. Flexibility rules on many of today’s vacations as guests can head out with expert local guides, enjoy exclusive activities, and explore via electric bicycles, Zodiacs or kayaks.

In particular, “electric bikes can allow guests to explore on their own and at their own pace,” says Muskat.

Ken Muskat, managing director, Scenic Group USA, says packing is more than stuff. It's about packing your sense of discovery and more "mindset" elements. Photo by Scenic Group USA.
(Packing Tips: Ken Muskat of Scenic Group USA says it’s advantageous to pack your sense of discovery. Photo by Scenic Group USA.)

Parting Thoughts: Best Packing Tips

For our initial blog about packing tips, visit this Meandering Traveler page. “Also, before you travel, peruse the travel suppliers’ brochures, websites and your travel agency’s blog and email newsletters,” says Shelby Steudle, president, Pavlus Travel.

“Gather all the information you can, look at what you might like to experience on vacation, and then talk to your personal travel advisor,” she stresses. Also, do the following:

  • Be sure to ask about advance dining reservations, if available, for specialty restaurants — so you can pack your appetite.
  • Try to secure airline seat assignments well in advance. Then, plan to arrive at the airport in plenty of time on the day of departure. But be sure to pack your patience for any type of transportation experience.
  • Look for something new and enticing to try on your vacation. Educate yourself in advance about top sites you hope to explore and experiences you “must” have. Find an activity that you’ve never done before. Book any shore excursions or special experiences in advance, or arrange for a private guide.  That way, you can not only pack — but also fully indulge — your sense of discovery.

Important Notes from Pavlus Travel

  • If anything does tweak your interest in this blog and you DO have questions about specific pricing, brochures, savings, accommodations, accessible options and so on, please contact us at  800-528-9300.
  • Or visit us online at Pavlus Travel’s official agency Web site; there you can “live chat” with us online too!
  • This blog site is designed for “basic, general information” about travel. It’s not staffed by travel advisors.
  • Any price examples used in the above blog are subject to change. They also do not represent the full range of options; a travel advisor can assist with additional information.
  • Please don’t use the Reply Section below if you are asking for pricing, travel dates, accommodations, brochures or other specific requests. Please use the 800 number or online link. 


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