10 Tips for How to Pack for A Family Cruise

Fewer wardrobe changes and more incidentals will make for smoother sailing on a cruise.


Stumped on what to bring on a cruise? Often what you don’t pack is more important that what you do. Cruisers are permitted only two suitcases each, so it’s important to pack wisely.

You’ll need far fewer clothes on a cruise than you think. No one will care (or notice) if you wear the same outfit twice. If you run out of clean clothes, you can use a self-service laundry onboard, or send clothes out to be cleaned.

Use the luggage space you save on excessive clothing to bring along a few must-have items. Here’s a list of essentials to pack and things to leave at home:

Don’t Leave Home Without It

1. Walkie-talkies. Most cell phone service is out of range at sea; use portable walkie-talkies instead to keep in touch with children and spouses.

2. Refillable beverage containers. Coffee, hot and cold tea, and lemonade are available onboard 24 hours a day. Ships usually provide small 8-ounce mugs and glasses, so it helps to have a larger container you can fill up and take with you to the pool or your cabin.

3. Small flashlight. Blackout curtains keep staterooms pitch-dark, and there are generally no individual lamps in ship cabins (one switch will turn on all the lights). Bring along a flashlight to help you navigate at night without waking the rest of your family.

4. Portable steamer. Because of fire hazards, staterooms are not stocked with irons and ironing boards—and travel irons are discouraged for the same reason. Portable steamers are a safer alternative and work well on most fabrics.

5. Extra hangers. Closets come equipped with barely enough built-in hangers for two people, so be sure to bring extras if you are traveling with children.

6. Power strip. In most standard staterooms, you’ll find two electrical outlets—one for razors in the bathroom and an all-purpose plug beside the cabin mirror. Pack a small power strip so that you have space to recharge electronic items like iPods and cameras.

7. Collapsible duffel bag. During the cruise, use a collapsible duffel bag to haul beach gear and carry purchases while in port; at the end of the cruise, you can use it as an additional carry-off piece, should your luggage grow too stuffed to close.

Say Goodbye and Leave Behind

8. Excessive formal wear. The typical seven-day cruise hosts two formal nights, during which you’ll wear your fancy duds for four or five hours at most. A little black dress (or a basic dark suit) can be accessorized to work over several evenings.

9. Extra cash. Cruise ships are cashless, and all purchases are charged to your stateroom account. You’ll need cash only for ports and transportation incidentals, tipping the staff at the end of the trip (if the cruise line hasn’t moved to a flat service charge model)—and the casinos, of course.

10. Snacks. Parents are accustomed to bringing along munchies to ward off hunger-induced tantrums, but aside from a protein bar or a piece of fruit to get you through the check-in line, you will not need additional snacks. No one ever went hungry on a cruise!

Themes: Family Travel, Cruises

User Comments

Great list This is a really smart list. I'm giving a copy to every family I know who takes cruises.

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