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Barge Cruise Packing List (with a Printable): Summer Edition

We set out to travel the South of France on Canal du Midi from the last day of July into the first week of August. Our barge cruise packing list for our summer vacation was spot on, including some cabin hacks we’re glad we had on hand to make the most of our small but lovely cabin.

This list will help you pack perfectly for your summer barge cruise trip too!  

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Summer Barge Cruise Packing List and What to Include

Overall, our trip with European Waterways was very casual in terms of clothing. Our packing list below follows suit (no pun intended since no, you do not need a suit for a barge cruise). 

Couple sitting on outdoor chairs cheersing champagne glasses with a palm tree behind them.

Shirts to Pack for a Summer Barge Cruise

Pack enough shirts for at least every day. We recommend: 

  • Three t-shirts
  • Two shirts you can take from casual to slightly dressier (and by dressier, we mean you would wear it to work on a casual Friday) 
  • One nice blouse or a nice collared short-sleeve shirt

Bottoms to Pack for a Summer Barge Cruise 

You do not need to pack more than:

  • Two pairs of shorts 
  • One pair of pants or slacks 

Dan wore his nice slacks to the restaurant we ate at one evening off the ship and again to the captain’s dinner night, with his collared short-sleeve shirt. I wore a dress to the captain’s dinner and jeans and a nice top, with ballet flats, to the restaurant dinner.

I packed dressy black pants and never wore them, so they wasted precious space in my bag for the cruise. 

Swimwear to Pack for your Barge Cruise

Don’t miss the chance to swim in the spa. It’s actually not that hot and quite refreshing because the captain knows the appropriate temperature to set it at for an enjoyable time. 

Pack one suit you can re-wear every day. If you are concerned about the sun and are prone to burns, consider packing a rash guard or cool shirt to wear in the spa to cover up even more than sunscreen can do for you. 

Couple in a hot tub spa on the bow of a luxury barge cruise ship.

Toiletries for your Barge Cruise with European Waterways 

You can skip packing toiletries unless you have a prescription for face wash or shampoo. 

Normally, we pack our own shampoo and conditioner when we travel because no matter how fancy a hotel is, the quality of their liquids is just crap. (There, we said it.) 

But we were happy to discover that the cabins' shampoo, conditioner, body gel, and body lotion were of high quality. On our sailing, they were L’Occitane brand. There is hand soap in the bathrooms as well. 

Footwear to Add to Your Summer Barge Cruise Packing List

Pack the following footwear: 

One Pair of Comfortable Sneakers

This is for walking in towns/villages filled with cobblestones, potentially hills (or small inclines), and stones. That’s the European way in medieval villages! 

One Pair of Sandals or Flip Flops

I swear by my Reef sandals that are so comfortable I can easily walk two to three hours in a European town with them during summer. 

I packed them for the ship and wore them on board, but I also wore them instead of sneakers for some excursions.

Dan regretted not packing his sandals because we went to the Mediterranean beach once, and he wished he had them for our spa time too. 

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    One Nice(r) Pair of Shoes

    I packed supportive ballet flats from Fit Flop that I wore to the restaurant dinner one night and to the captain’s dinner on the barge the last evening (though I could have gone barefoot, actually). 

    Dan packed a pair of shoes he could dress up or down. 

    If you can pack one pair of sandals, for example, that you can wear to the spa and perhaps are comfy enough to walk in for two hours in a European town, then eliminate a pair. Or, perhaps you have a pair of sandals that are appropriate for the pool but also nice enough to “convert” to wear to dinner one night. 

    It may seem like three pairs of shoes is a lot. And perhaps for someone with bulky shoes and/or big feet, it is. But I have small feet, and packing one pair of ballet flats that don’t take up much space, and one pair of flip-flops that are virtually the size of an iPad wasn’t much. I wore my bulkiest shoes on the plane and on travel days: my sneakers. 

    Lastly, we pack our shoes in shoe bags that we bought on Amazon, so they’re not co-intermingling with our underwear or nice shirts. 

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    Other Clothing to Pack

    • Socks
    • Underwear (since undies are small, we packed more than the days of the trip because let’s face it, it was really hot and sweating was a reality, so we sometimes showered twice a day and put on, at the very least, new underwear each time)

    Jewelry to Pack for Your Barge Cruise

    If you want to dress an outfit up or down from day to night (though it’s completely a personal preference and not necessary at all on a casual – though luxury –  barge cruise) do so with jewelry.

    I packed and wore: 

    • One water-resistant watch 
    • Two bracelets 
    • Two necklaces
    • Two pairs of earrings

    They all fit in a nice little jewelry holder that doesn’t take up much space in my bag. 

    Dan packed: 

    • One water-resistant watch

    Barge Cruise Hacks (Order and Pack in Advance of Your Trip) 

    Clothespins

    We knew we'd want to hand wash some laundry along the way, particularly because we were extending our trip to Europe before and after the barge cruise. Because of this, we packed our special clothespins.

    “HEGS” are clothespins with hooks and we cannot recommend them enough! 

    We packed eight pins total, which was plenty. (The pack you must buy is bigger, but they come in handy anyway. We recommend only packing a few in your luggage so they don’t take up too much space.) 

    Laundry Detergent

    Because we packed light (as recommended for a barge cruise) and we were in Europe for two weeks, we needed to hand wash some items to re-wear. And when your clothes are sweaty from summer tours in the scorching heat, regular shower gel just doesn’t cut a hand wash.

    This is why we recommend packing something like these Tide travel sink packs. They are sold in packs of three. You simply fill a sink with water, add the contents of the packet (which is liquid detergent) and you're good to wash. The amount of liquid in the packets is small enough to pack in a carry-on.

    Reusable Tote (Needed for Market Shopping in Europe)

    You have to bring your own bag to all the markets in Europe. (Or you'll get charged a small fee for one, which is also starting to happen in the United States, so you're probably familiar with this concept.)

    We were SO glad we had our little tote in my purse! We absolutely love shopping at markets in Europe – whether it's for fruit, cheese, or spices. And yes, you have food onboard, but we still went to the markets (many are tourist attractions in themselves) and grocery store shopping for snacks and iced tea that I kept craving! (I also love buying Haribo gummies in Europe!)

    Man's body from the waist down holding a teal colored reusable bag.

    Well, you'll need a tote bag to pack it up to get back to the boat.

    Something like a ChicoBag is great because it folds up into a small bag for your purse and opens when you shop, and it's machine washable. (It has amazing reviews on Amazon!)

    These BeeGreen bags are also really cute and come in fun patterns. We love that the bag it folds into is attached so you cannot misplace it.

    Carabiners 

    These were a huge help in the bathroom. We clipped our toiletry bags onto the window hooks and it freed up any shelf space we needed for other items. 

    We love this set of Carabiners that my yellow toiletry bag is on. (13,000+ Amazon reviews with 4.5 stars can't be wrong!) We keep a few of them in our travel luggage, so we always have them if we need them when we travel.

    Toiletry bags hanging from a hook with carabiners in a cabin bathroom on a barge cruise ship.

    Additional Cruise Essentials to Add to your Barge Cruise Packing List

    You will certainly need to pack the following for your summer barge cruise:

    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Bug Bite Thing (a lifesaver if you get a bug bite – and you will…it's summer on the water)
    • Electrical outlet converter (the outlets are European)
    • Handheld travel fan (it fits in my purse or Dan's pocket, and it's a LIFESAVER!)
    • Cooling towel to put on your neck or head. If you think it'll help keep you cool during the heat of a summer trip to Europe, it's a super lightweight and thin material that can provide a lot of relief.
    • Reusable straw: If you're the kind of person (like me) who likes to use a straw, bring a reusable silicon straw. They do not have straws onboard (which is great because it cuts down on single-use plastic and allows you to shine as an eco-conscious cruiser.)
    • Reusable water bottle: The water from the faucet of the bathroom sink in our cabin was potable (drinkable) and we always prefer to refill a reusable bottle to cut down on single-use plastic waste. Additionally, most airports have water-filling stations now by bathrooms, and we like to have our reusable water bottles at the airport for this reason.

    Reusable Water Bottle Recommendations

    • Memo bottle: We love it because it’s flat, so it fits in a pocket, on the side of a backpack, in a purse, etc. very easily and comfortably.
    • MiiR bottles: They’re insulated and keep the liquid at the temperature you added it to the bottle in for HOURS and hours. They rock. We also love that the wide-mouthed bottles are easy to get ice cubes into. Use code “SOMETIMESHOME” for 15% off your order.
    Wooden shelf with an ipad, iPhone and surge protector with plugs and a European outlet converter on a barge cruise.
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    Luggage for your Barge Cruise Vacation

    European Waterways advises that you pack in a soft-case bag, and they do so with good reason; there’s really nowhere in your cabin to store anything but a soft bag that can be bent and molded to fit in a small space is best 

    We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: we LOVE our Cabin Zero backpacks. The actual bag is lightweight and high quality, they’re affordable, and they always fit in an overhead compartment on any plane we’ve been on and certainly were a great option on our barge cruise aboard Anjodi. 

    Additionally, you’re only allowed one piece of luggage per person on the barge cruise; there simply isn’t space for more. (To clarify, Dan and I each brought a CabinZero Backpack and a personal item – for him, a smaller backpack (like a school bag) and, for me, a handbag that fits my camera, wallet, and water. 

    We also recommend using the following organizational packing

    • Packing cubes to organize your packed items within your soft luggage. This will help you unpack very easily as well.
    • Stasher Bags: we use these to organize and protect liquids, pack snacks, etc.
    • STNKY bag: we use this for the obvious: our stinky laundry! It rocks.
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    Barge Cruise Packing List Camera Gear

    This post is for camera nerds, like Mikkel! 

    The body you choose to bring is up to you and isn’t going to vary much unless you want to bring a digital camera and a film camera, for example. But the lenses will. (If you’re curious, I travel with a Nikon Z6II mirrorless camera. The ISO, especially, cannot be beaten at night, and I never need to travel with a flash/speed lite!) 

    Lenses to Pack for a Barge Cruise

    I packed a 50mm lens and a 20mm lens so I could get some great shots of our cabin (which is small by any land standards of what a “bedroom” is, but it’s a good size for a barge cruise) and the landscapes. 

    I wish I packed an 85mm or my 105mm so I could get slightly closer to some cool buildings along the canal. Alas, I forgot. (The irony is that I had space for it in my luggage this time!) 

    As you can tell, I love prime lenses. But if you travel with zoom lenses, I recommend something like a 24-70mm lens and a telephoto lens. 

    (Though let’s be clear: there’s nothing like alligators in the canals you need that for, and there weren’t many interesting photo-worthy birds along the Canal du Midi that would warrant packing a huge, heavy, costly lens like a telephoto lens for this barge cruise.) 

    If you’re traveling with a lot of camera gear (or enough that you’d be upset if something happened to it along your journey, as you dropped it when you were in Europe), then be sure you have camera insurance with an international policy attached to it. 

    The barge cruise is safe, and we totally trusted the crew and other guests, but one drop of an expensive lens in water or an accidental bump on the deck and you’ll be happy you insured it. 

    Pack a Tripod (full size or miniature)

    I recommend packing a tripod of some sort too if you can manage it. Here are the two I rotate between bringing due pending on the situation: 

    • JOBY GorillaPod: Make sure it’s the big one, like this, not the small one for an iPhone (though we own the iPhone one too, and it’s great for iPhone photography) 
    • Manfrotto Aluminum Tripod: We have this travel tripod, and it's the best. It's lightweight, and it folds up pretty darn small for travel. 

    You’ll be grateful you have a tripod if you’re a fan of night photography and the stars look amazing at night. The boat never sails at night, and there isn’t much rocking. So the conditions are good enough to pop your camera on the tripod, and in the case of the JOBY, put that JOBY on the deck or on the top of the boat where you can safely set it. 

    Then you can take long exposures until your heart’s content! Depending on our docked area, some evenings were less polluted with light than others. Some were really prime for some fun night photos, not only of the stars but the buildings of small villages reflected in the canal. 

    Renting Lenses

    One of my favorite tricks is renting lenses. A barge cruise is six nights and just barely seven days with European Waterways, so it’s optimal for a 10-day rental (this covers your time to get to/from Europe, for example, and then mail the lens back from home).

    I’ve rented from Borrow Lenses and cannot recommend them enough. Renting with them is smooth, like butter! I even upped the insurance to go for the best coverage (just to be safe), and the return shipping process couldn’t have been easier. 

    ⭐️ Reserve the Lens of Your Choice on Borrow Lenses Now (don't miss out!) 📷

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    Money and Credit Cards to Pack for a Barge Cruise 

    We brought cash (euros, to be exact, which we converted at our home US bank before we even left for our trip to Europe for our European Waterways barge cruise) to tip the crew. The recommended amount is 5% of your booking. 

    Otherwise, everywhere we went during our barge cruise trip in the South of France (with very, very few exceptions) took Visa credit cards. We always travel with our Marriott Bonvoy American Express and Platinum American Express because they’re our preferred credit cards for travel rewards. 

    But not many places take American Express in France, especially the less touristy, smaller cities and villages that the barge cruise took us to. Thus, we were glad we had our Visa (Chase Sapphire Reserve, to be exact. We love their travel rewards too). 

    All three of the credit cards we listed above do not charge foreign transaction fees, and you don’t have to notify any of them that you're traveling. The cards are smart enough to know.

    If you want to travel with a few euros in your pocket, you’re always welcome to find an ATM and withdraw money. To withdraw money, you'll likely want to remember to pack a bank card, like your debit card.

    If you plan on withdrawing money, it's always a good idea to make sure your bank knows you are traveling so your transaction doesn't get blocked. (We recommend using a bank ATM in the first major city you’re in as opposed to the airport ATM, so the withdrawal fees aren’t outrageous.) 

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    What you Don't Need to Pack for a European Waterways Barge Cruise (because they provide it)

    European Waterways provides the following items, so you don't need to add them to you barge cruise packing list:

    • Hairdryer
    • Towels (including pool towels)
    • Binoculars (although we have to say they weren't the best, so if you have a pair you love, you may want to pack yours if they are small – we have a pair like this)
    • Bathrobe
    • Slippers
    • Walking stick (they have them on board, and you can use them upon request)
    • Umbrellas (we always pack our small travel umbrella because we can put it into a handbag just in case it rains, but they do have large ones onboard if you don't want to pack your own)
    Woman looking through binoculars with the ocean behind her, wearing a yellow shirt.
    We tried the binoculars onboard (not pictured) but we like ours better.
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    Barge Cruise Packing List Conclusion

    Pack light, pack versatility, and put it all in a soft-case piece of luggage for your summer barge cruise. You’ll have a wonderful time, and as long as you have a passport and a credit card for buying things in ports, you’ll be golden! The rest is simply a bonus (including cash to tip your crew at the end of your barge cruises). 

    Happy {barge} cruising!

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