When packing for a cruise with kids that’s sailing to the Caribbean, or some other beach destination, there are a handful of items that you want to make absolutely sure make it into your suitcase. This is not a comprehensive family packing list for a Caribbean cruise. Rather, this is a “please, don’t forget this” list. These are items that you will really want, are easy to forget, and for which you will likely incur a substantial price mark up if you try to buy them on the ship or in the port.
Sadly, I have forgotten some of these items on past cruises and suffered the consequences. Learn from my mistakes. I finally have. Now when I start packing for a cruise, these are items that I make sure to pull out first.
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1. When Packing For A Cruise, Don’t Forget the Swimsuits (Seriously).
This may be the one that seems the absolute most obvious. Who in the world would forget to pack swim suits for a Caribbean cruise? I know. Sounds quite silly. But, sadly this happened to us not once, but on two separate occasions. Not with the adults, but with one of the kids.
Although you may think it highly unlikely that you would actually forget this crucial item, the consequences for this one can be stiff. Turns out that it actually is not all that easy to find swim suits for small children once you have sailed on your cruise. I was shocked to learn this. You can easily find adult swim gear almost every where you go, including on board the ship. Not so for little kids.
When I faced this situation for my then 3-year old, the shops on board had nothing to offer. Nor could we find anything in the first two ports. Except for a specialty dive suit that would have cost over a $100, been too warm for regular pool/beach use, and was still too big to be comfortable. I finally found success at the third port. But the selection for a 3-year-old was quite small and quite pricey.
2. When Packing For A Cruise, Remember to Grab Some Swim goggles.
Swim goggles are also a key item to have. Particularly if your kids have sensitive eyes. Goggles help protect eyes against the irritants of chlorine in the pool and salt in the ocean. And, even if you ultimately don’t use them much, they are still significantly cheaper to buy before you leave home than they will be once you sail away. Before you leave, you can easily find a package of multiple goggles for less than $10-15. Once you sail away, be prepared to pay that much or more for a single set.
As another option, you could also consider picking up an inexpensive snorkel mask set before you leave. These are fun to play around with in the ocean even if not actually snorkeling. And the mask can serve the same function as goggles. Plus, bringing your own avoids possible concerns about sanitization and safety from rentals. If you think there is a remote chance that you will want to buy your own for your kids, then you will save money buying them at home. As with many items on this list, you will pay two or three times more if you wait until you board the ship. But, unless you have plans for serious snorkeling, skip the fins. They take up way too much space in the luggage and can’t really be folded or tucked away.
3. Don’t Forget A Swim Vest Or Flotation Aid for Younger Kids.
Depending on the cruise line you are sailing, you may have access to kids’ flotation vests for use on board. However, you won’t be able to take those with you to the beach. Although you should never solely rely on kids’ flotation devices for water safety, they do make it easier for everyone to play safely in the water without unduly worrying about an unexpected big wave, strong currents, or a power tide surge.
Related Content: Our Top Pool Safety Tips For Your Family Cruise
4. Pack Sand Toys For A More Fun Beach Day.
A family day at the beach will be much more fun if you have sand toys to play with. Unlike kids’ swim suits, you can easily find these once you are in port. Particularly if you are visiting a beach resort. But, you will likely pay a premium price. If you buy them before you leave home, you can do so cheaply. And, you can give them away or discard them once you are done, and free up room in your suitcase.
Depending on the length of our cruise, I like to buy one or two large cheaper sets with many pieces. This makes it easier to share among multiple siblings and their friends. I divide them up so that not all of them are used at the first port. This way if stuff gets lost along the way (in the mad dash to get back to the ship, for instance), or is just too dirty to haul back, we still have fresh toys to play with at upcoming ports.
5. Pack Water Shoes or Hybrids for Happier Feet.
When packing for a cruise with kids, don’t forget water shoes or similar footwear. The big benefit of water shoes is that they protect feet from cuts and abrasions while wading close to the shore line. Whether from rocks, shells or spiky seaweed. But, if your kids are anything like mine, they hate having to switch in and out of different shoes. Our solution has been to go with some type of hybrid water sandals with semi-closed toe. Kids can wear them all day whether or not at the beach. And, kids can easily kicked them off to play around in the sand.
6. Save Money By Bringing Extra Sunscreen.
When packing for a cruise, sunscreen may be an item you consider leaving behind and buying at the destination, but don’t. You will definitely be able to find sunscreen on the ship and in port. But, it won’t necessarily be a brand you prefer, an SPF that you like, or in a delivery form that you desire (e.g., spray vs. cream). And, it will almost certainly be substantially more expensive that what you would pay if you got it while you were still at home.
Also, bring an extra bottle so you know you have enough. There have been times when we have run out of sunscreen, or it got lost along the way, and I have had to buy some on board. Sticker shock every single time.
You may read this list and think it’s all so obvious. What idiot would forget any of these items? And, you very well may be the kind of person who never forgets anything. But, these are items that if they should happen to get forgotten, you, your kids, and/or your wallet may be really sad. And, who wants that? Go ahead and add these to your suitcase or packing list NOW.
For more suggestions on items to pack, visit our page on Recommended Family Cruise Accessories.
And one more thing! Download our printable Prep & Pack checklist that is filled with tips and strategies specifically designed to help families cruising with kids. Get your free copy now!