Packing for a Cruise
Heading out on a cruise and wondering what to pack? Well, I have the low down on what is necessity and what isn’t from a Mom’s perspective (which means I plan for any type of situation). I have to admit, I’m the worst when it comes to packing. I often overpack and that happens on cruises as well. Packing for a cruise can be a challenge when you don’t know what to expect. Hopefully this will give a little bit of guidance and insight.
Of course, the most important thing is swimsuits and sunscreen! Most of our cruises are to the Caribbean and the Bahamas so the one piece of clothing that gets the most use – a swimsuit. I normally pack those in our carry on so the kids can go swimming before the luggage arrives at our cabin.
As a Mom, the second most important thing to take a long is some over the counter medicines. I normally take some children’s medicines for cold/cough/fever should it be needed. You can’t often get those items on a cruise ship and if you try to find them in a foreign country, you might not be able to.
For clothing, I go with two outfits per person/per day. However, there is an exception to this rule. My husband wears a lot of hawaiian type shirts so he will wear a nice clean one to dinner and then turn around and wear it the next day during the day to get the most out of his clothes and bring less with him. I have also done this with the kids. I will use a nice clean shirt to go with their shorts or skirts they wear to dinner and hope it stays clean enough to wear the next day during the day.
So, below is a list of what I normally pack for a cruise in our suitcases. Keep in mind, I do tend to over plan a little bit and I don’t like doing laundry on the ship.
1. 2 Outfits per day for each person – 1 casual and 1 a little nicer for dinner
2. Swimsuits – I will often bring two for each person because there is nothing worse than putting on a wet swimsuit.
3. PJ’s or whatever you sleep in 1 per day. I tend to wear mine two nights so that saves packing room.
4. If there is a formal night, a more formal outfit. If not, then stick with number 1 above.
5. Sunscreen and sunglasses.
8. Over the counter medicines for common things like cough, cold, fever – especially for children
10. A tote bag or backpack for shore excursions
11. A light sweater or jacket for cooler nights or if you chill easily in air conditioning
12. *Documentation – includes passports, birth certificates, cruise documents, etc.
13. Prescription medicines in the original bottles ( I have heard of people being OK with pill boxes, but if you had an emergency, the physicians like to have the original bottles with dosage information)
14. Bug Spray – if you are visiting tropical climates, this is a must for when you are on shore excursions, in particular in Belize and Mexico.
15. Plenty of 1 dollar bills – you will be tipping the porters at the port, room service if you order it, and on shore excursions if you are so inclined.
16. **For really young children, bring more than you would need of diapers and formula/baby food. You don’t want an event to happen where you might be delayed in your travels and run out.
17. Alcohol if you drink – If you are traveling on Disney Cruise Line, you can bring on alcohol and consume it while onboard. Most other cruise lines will confiscate it and return it at the end of your cruise. Keep in mind on Disney, alcohol must be brought on in your carry on and not packed in your checked luggage.
Now, there are some items that aren’t allowed on most cruise lines anymore such as power strips and irons. So, don’t pack those. Also, extension cords are a no no on most lines. I have heard of people packing over the door hangers for toiletries to save on space – again, some cruise lines frown on this and really you do have enough space if everyone sticks to the bare bones minimum. You are on vacation and most of the time will be swimming or in the sun, a good face powder with sunscreen and a few extra items for makeup in the evening should work out fine. If you have room in your suitcases, some people participate in group exchanges of little gifts or give gifts to the crew on the ship. These are completely optional.
*Documentation – There is usually a lot of debate on message boards over documentation as to whether to get a passport or if you are OK traveling on a birth certificate. Everyone seems to have an opinion. However, my strong suggestion is to get a passport. Yes, you can travel on cruises in most cases using a birth certificate. However, in the rare case of an emergency you would not be able to fly back to the United States if you only have a birth certificate. You would have to apply for an emergency/expedited passport at the embassy. This will be extremely costly and will take a few days. While you are waiting, you will have to pay for hotel and food expenses – this can all add up to be a HUGE expense. Granted, an emergency might be a rare thing but it is easier and cheaper to apply for passports here and have them in case.
**Traveling with babies can present a lot of packing challenges with the diapers, bottles, formula, baby food, etc. that you would need to pack. You could fill a suitcase by itself with just the items for the baby/young toddler. When we took our first cruise, my son was 9 months old. I discovered a service that works with Disney Cruise Line called Babies Travel Lite. I was able to order formula, diapers, some baby food, and even a few extra bottles and have it all delivered to the ship and waiting in my cabin. I didn’t have to pack any of those things. Saved us a lot of space in our suitcases and it was less hassle. Granted, their prices are a tad bit higher than purchasing the items yourself at a big box store, but the convenience for us was well worth it!