Going on a family cruise can be a lifetime memory making experience. It’s nice to have all the activities in one space and everything you need right there with you in walking distance. But, with having everything all in one place, means you need to pack everything you could need to bring with you leave your port of origination. Here are some of the best tried and truck cruise packing hacks and tips for the whole family.
As we prepare to go on our next family cruise in a few months, it got me thinking about all the cruise packing hacks we’ve learned so far. I wanted to share these packing tips and tricks that I’ve made for you while you create your next packing for your cruise list. These cruise packing hacks are great for first time cruisers and even seasoned cruisers.
12 Cruise Packing Hacks & Tips (and bonus tips)
1. Check what your cruise line already supplies
Depending on what cruise line you go on, your cruise ship may already offer things that you think you need to pack. In order to keep your luggage light or to minimize your cruise packing list, check out what they offer so you don’t duplicate things.
Many cruise lines supply things like a hair dryer, some soap, shampoo and conditioner. A lot of the cruise ships are even supplying the shampoo and conditioner that they use at their spa aboard the ship. If you aren’t super picky, most of the time, these shampoos, conditioners and soaps are very nice to use.
I’ve heard that on Princess Cruise Line, it is from their Lotus Spa and on the Disney Cruise, they even offer their products for you to purchase in their Wave Shops to buy to take home and use after your family cruise vacation.
2. Check what your cruise line PROHIBITS
On many cruise lines there are items that you are not allowed to bring. You need to check your specific cruise line packing checklist sites that will share with you what you are and are not allowed to bring.
Commonly among most cruise lines, you are not allowed to bring hard liquor and most alcohol (sometimes a 6 pack of beer per adult and a certain sized wine bottle is allowed), most cruise lines don’t let you bring any hair straighteners, curling irons, air fryers and rice cookers.
(Nope, I’m not kidding, I was told by our luggage porter on our way out of the cruise port terminal, that air fryers and rice cookers are things that people try to get in and sneak by the cruise security.)
Making sure NOT to pack the things that are not allowed should help you keep your luggage light and should help minimize what you have to pack for your next cruise vacation. This will also help to ensure that you don’t overpack for your cruise and go over the airline luggage weight restriction.
3. Make a note of any weight restrictions or luggage size restrictions.
This is something I briefly touched on previously, but you need to check to see if your cruise line may imply any restrictions on luggage requirements.
You should also pay attention to weight and size restrictions by any airlines should your family cruise vacation require any flights to your port of origin.
Keep in mind that in your cruise stateroom, space is something that is hard to come by. With that in mind, many cruise ships have elevated the beds just enough for you to slid your suitcases under the beds to help use all the space possible.
Make sure you unpack as soon as you can to keep your clothes from getting even more wrinkly, especially if you have something nice you plan on wearing for a formal night or formal occasion. Then, slide your suitcases under your bed or into your provided storage areas.
An extra cruise hack is to bring a small travel sized bottle of wrinkle release so you can spray your clothes or your kids clothes as you’re unpacking them and hanging them up.
Cruise ships also come with hangers in the closets to hang your clothes on. We have often found that previous cruise passengers have left a few of their personal hangers in the closets as well. This is a nice little treat if you’re in need of extra hangers.
If you find yourself short on hangers, ask your stateroom steward if their is a way to get a few extra to help make unpacking easier and to keep your clothes looking fresh.
Most, if not all cruise lines PROHIBIT you from bringing an iron on board. Who wants to try and pack one of them anyway!? So, make sure to add a travel sized bottle of wrinkle release to your cruise packing list.
4. Make a Cruise Packing list to keep you organized
Just like packing for any family vacation, you need to make a cruise packing list with your cruise essentials so you don’t forget anything for your family vacation.
On this cruise packing list, you should segment things out. Have several segments where you can break things out into must have items, would like to bring items and possible items.
5. Do a trial test packing run
Take your cruise packing list that you’ve created and see what you can fit into your cruise luggage. This can help you segment things into your different parts of your lists for must haves, would likes and possible things to pack for your family cruise vacation.
6. Decide if laundry will be done on the cruise
Decide if you want to do laundry while on the cruise. How long is your cruise? Is it worth it? If you plan on doing laundry, you can plan to pack LESS clothing for each person.
This is another way to lighten your cruise luggage. Just make sure to check your cruise line policy on laundry detergent and laundry rules. How much does it cost to do laundry? Do you have a bag, a pop up hamper or something you can use to sort and bring the laundry down to the facility?
7. Emergency items from port stops
Make a mental list of emergency things that may be available on the cruise or at port stops. Know that some things may be available on the cruise in their stores or in stores at cruise ports.
Cruise ports and cruise stores usually have basic items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, some diapers, hair brushes, Tylenol, Aspirin, Motrin, etc. BUT these items will be ridiculously priced. Save yourself some money and just bring a travel first aid kit that has smaller packets of common medications.
On our first family cruise, I definitely underestimated the amount of baby diaper wipes we needed with our first born. We had my grandmother with us, whom we are very thankful was able to come and help us with her, but, I forgot to anticipate the fact that she used more wipes than we normally did.
So, this mama was on the panic mode for a bit. Luckily, we found another mom on board who lent us a few wipes for the short term interval we were going to be without. We paid over $10 for a pack of off brand wipes in the port. But, it would last us until we got back to our final destination.
Just keep this in mind that most ports are in different countries and may not have the brands that you may be used to getting. Also, for kids, for things like this, I learned the importance of overpacking on a few essentials like diapers and wipes because my girls have sensitive skin and don’t do well with certain brands and need to have some specific brands for things so they don’t break out.
8. If you’re bringing on alcohol, make sure to put it in your carry on bag.
If you put it on the bag that goes through the whole security process and is “checked” then you won’t be getting the wine/beer in your room. It will be confiscated and kept by the cruise members until you disembark.
If you are bringing allowed wine or beer, you’ll want to pack it on your checked airline luggage and then switch it and put it on your carry on luggage before you get on the cruise ship.
9. What to pack for your cruise
Check out your cruise line website because they will often have packing recommendations on what you should bring and put on your cruise packing list. Depending on your ports and destinations, you may need different layers of clothing and different types of clothing.
Ditch the towels and free up space and weight in your luggage on your cruise packing list. The majority of cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, etc. will provide you with towels in your stateroom for showers and personal use.
Many times they will even provide towels again poolside for you to use then. I’m not sure about all cruise ships, but, while we recently cruised on Disney Cruise Line, they even let us take the towels off ship for port and shore excursions and had a huge towel collection bin on the way back on to the ship at the port so they could easily get them back aboard and to the laundry area. Not having the pack towels saved time, space and weight in our luggage for other cruise essentials.
11. Lightweight Bag
Have a lightweight bag to use each day. You can even use this as your carry on bag the first day when you board the ship.
You’ll find that traveling as a family means everybody needs a little something, an extra stick of deodorant (if you’re my husband), a place to stow your reusable cups until you need them, extra sunscreen, hats, pool gear, etc.
It’s nice to have a lightweight bag to toss everything into as you’re all gearing up to head out of the room for the day.
12. Pack your Cruise Carry On Bag
Pack your carry on right. As I’ve mentioned before, it takes a little bit for your bags to show up at your stateroom when everyone is boarding the ship. So, make sure to have everything you’ll need with you when you board.
Keep your passports in your carry on. If you need any medication, we always recommend putting that in your carry on. Any valuables like cameras, laptops, electronics, etc. we always recommend putting them in your lightweight carry on bag.
Like I suggested earlier, pack your bathing suits and with that, pack some sunscreen for any time you plan on being in the water or out in the sun.
Many people will apply this as they’re getting ready for the day, forgetting that you need to reapply after a couple hours and if they don’t pack it in their carry on, it’ll be hours before they can get to it again and are risking starting their vacation off with a sunburned start. Nobody wants to do that!
Other Cruise Packing Hacks and Tips
What are some unexpected things I should pack to take on my cruise with me?
These are some interesting things I recommending taking on your family cruise vacation.
- White Board for family communication.
You can keep this whiteboard on the outside of your door or the inside if you just want to communicate with your immediate family inside your stateroom.
If you’re family is in multiple staterooms or you have a multifamily cruise vacation, using the whiteboards to let everyone know the plans for the day is very helpful.
- Magnetic hooks.
You’ll quickly realize that space is limited in your stateroom and you’ll want to be as tidy as possible.
Magnetic hooks are great for many things. We liked to use our hooks to hold our lanyards when we were in the room for a bit. This made it easy not to lose our lanyard and cruise cards.
We also used the magnetic hooks to keep our charging cords off the ground and not all over the place. Magnetic hooks are great for backup places to hang things to dry like your bathing suits and swim shoes.
Some cruise line ships have clotheslines in the bathroom that hang from one side of the shower to the other, but, for many families, this is not enough space to dry everything.
So, using the magnetic hook to hang up an extra bathing suit is a super easy and quick cruise packing hack.
- Cruise ship floor layout cards.
These have double functions and are the perfect secret cruise ship packing hack. Let’s start with the obvious, these cruise ship floor layout cards are easy to slip in your lanyard so you can have a handy map to see which floor you need to head to and the fastest way to get there.
But, did you know that they can serve another cruise hack purpose? If you’re sailing on a Disney Cruise, you need to add one of these to your Disney Cruise Packing list because it doubles as a light card.
On a Disney Cruise (and some other cruise lines), the lights don’t turn on by pressing a button, you have to insert your Key to the World Card (KTTW Card) or any other kind of card that fits in the spot.
In Disney Cruise hack FB groups, I had read that people were putting their CREDIT CARD in this spot for convenience.
DO NOT DO THIS!
What if you left your credit card in there while they were cleaning? I’m in now way accusing the workers of being unethical, but, you wouldn’t just leave your credit card number lying around for anybody to have, now would you. What if the card got damaged in the slot? Just do yourself a favor and get a light card for the convenience and add it to your Disney Cruise packing list.
- Personal Cup.
Depending on your cruise line and the packages you can buy, your cruise line may charge for soda beverages. If you’re sailing on a Disney Cruise ship, your sodas and teas are included in your package. Add a personal reusable cup to your cruise packing list for everyone in your family.
This Disney Cruise hack will help you immensely all around the ship. On the pool decks and serve yourself eating areas, they have cups for you to use, but, they aren’t that big. Instead, if you bring your own cup or reusable bottle, you can fill it up enough for your whole meal.
You can also stop by a soda/tea fountain on the way to the pool and fill up your cups to stay hydrated. Extra Disney Cruise hack – they offer other things than just soda and tea at these stations that are complimentary.
Pro Disney Cruise Tip: My favorite thing to drink by the pool was the Vitamin Water flavored beverage. It helped keep me hydrated and gave me a little fruity flavor, almost like I was enjoying an alcoholic beverage (but without the cost!).
- Power strip.
Depending on what you’re taking, you may need to bring a power strip. Staterooms on cruise ships are known to lack in the power plug department.
For those who need to have their laptops or cell phones (for work or whatever reason), you may find the power supply sources very limited and not always in the most convenient places.
We had a family member who uses a CPAP sleep machine every night while they sleep to help with sleep apnea. Well, they quickly realized on their first cruise that they didn’t have enough space/logistical power sources to plug that in and whatever else they had that needed charging on their cruise packing list.
So, for every cruise after that, they made sure to bring a cheap power strip, so at the very least, they could make sure their sleep machine would work each night.
What are Some Practical Travel Hacks?
Check out number 8 if you plan on bringing on wine or beer to your cruise vacation. This will apply to most cruise lines. Double check with your cruise line of choice on how they want you to bring it on board.
We’ve got a mini cruise packing tips post that you should check out too!
Pack a swimsuit in your carry on cruise luggage.
Why pack a swimsuit in your carry on? Well, you won’t be allowed to your room immediately, so after you eat, you may want to explore the ship and cool off. The pools are a great place to cool off.
Disney Cruise Hack:
If you’re planning a Disney Cruise, once you get on board, I recommend that you hit the pool or head to the water slides. These are usually slower times for lines for the water slides and can be a great thing to do to cool off for your family while everyone is still arriving and getting on board.
Bring some anti-nausea medication or bands. If you’re known to feel sea sick, book a cruise NOT during hurricane season in your destination of choice, so you can hope to have calmer seas.
If you know you need it, get prescription strength anti-nausea medication from your doctor beforehand. I’ve seen passengers who start taking their medication as a precaution before they even board the ship while it’s docked. I’ve also seen passengers who buy the sea bands or patches and have them applied or are wearing them by the time they arrive to the initial port of origin.
An extra little cruise hack or cruise tip is, if you feel like you’re still feeling a little of the effects as the cruise is coming to an end, continue to take your medication or start taking medication as you’re leaving or debarking from the ship.
I’ve heard passengers who still feel like they’re rocking from the ship for a few days after and other passengers have told them to continue taking their medication for another day or so after to help ease themselves back onto flat surface life again. If this is your first cruise and you’re not sure how you’re going to feel on the cruise, I would make sure that you have some sort of immediate relief medication and then something you can take daily if you start to feel sea sick during your cruise.
Keep in mind that some medication is only meant for adults, so if this is your first family cruise, make sure to have medication or remedies that are safe for every age in your family.
Pack swim shoes.
You’d be amazed at the times you’ll want to use them. A lot of shore excursions require swim shoes depending on your port stops. You may even want them in the pool.
If you plan on doing any beach going activities, they’re more than likely going to be necessary. If you want to go snorkeling, I would definitely recommend bringing a pair of swim or water shoes.
You don’t want to end up with a cut on your foot because you were too busy looking at the pretty fish and underwater life and missed what you were stepping on and end up with a gash in your foot. It would ruin the rest of your family cruise vacation.
Speaking of excursions and you can use this at the beach or poolside, you’ll want to have a waterproof cell phone case. I’ve even seen them that are big enough to hold a small wallet, or at least the cruise essentials like ID and a credit card. Keeping these valuables with you and safe from the water is very important. You can grab a waterproof cell phone case in a variety of places, Amazon being one of the most convenient places.
This is an easy one to bring, as they make travel sized disinfectant wipe packets now. We were held at the airport for a few hours extra before they would let anybody start to board our last Disney Cruise because they had a little virus on the last ship.
So, before any new passengers were allowed to board, they had extra cleaning precautions to get through. Even if this hadn’t of happened, we still had our wipes to wipe down our room, just in case.
We use the wipes to wipe it all down before we make ourselves at home and unpack. Make sure to wipe down shelves, the bathroom, any surfaces by the bed, night stand, headboard areas, handles to doors/closets, etc. We always wiped down our door handles once or twice a day to prevent germs to continue to spread around the ship.
I found it awesome that at ever restaurant, EVERY single night they crew was handing out sani-wipes as you walked in as a nice reminder to get clean before you started eating.
Bring a few Gallon sized zip lock bags.
The first time I heard this suggestion from a friend, I thought it was crazy. Why would I need zip lock baggies? Well, they’re perfect to hold wet bathing suits away from clean, dry clothing.
They’re great to hold that sunscreen bottle that is trying to ooze all over everything. Have a kid who had an accident, toss those wet clothes in the zip locked bag and now the smell is contained AND the gross clothing isn’t touching anything else in your bag. Heck, this is a cheap waterproof cell phone case too, right 🙂
Special Cruise Hack:
Have young kids who wake easily? Are you above or below a loud and active floor? Don’t worry, grab a small, portable white noise machine and this can help everyone sleep a little smoother each night.
Our room was by the anchor area, so anytime we were docking at port, we could hear the anchor or rutter, or something of the sort, helping the ship.
Luckily, it didn’t bother us too much, but, I know families who wouldn’t have handled it well. I also know my parents went on a cruise where the Lido deck was right above them and they mentioned how they could hear people up there at all hours of the night.
While this wasn’t a problem for them to sleep through for the most part, for some families it might have been. So, if you’ve already booked your cabin and know that this could be a potential issue, add a portable white noise machine to your cruise packing list.
Booked an Interior Cabin room with small children? If you’ve booked a stateroom with small children, you may want to consider bringing a little nightlight. As their will be no lights easily left on and no light shining in from the balcony, etc.
This is especially important if you have a child who gets up in the middle of the night to pee. The last thing you want them to do is wake up in an unfamiliar place and not be able to get to the restroom in time.
Have you seen the last minute travel guide with little kids post? It includes things you want to make sure you’ve got if you’re traveling with infants or young children!
We hope all of these tips help you have the best cruise experience possible. Use these cruise packing hacks for every cruise line you go on. If you have any extra cruise hacks or cruise packing tips, feel free to share them in the comments below.