Babies and toddlers are small people bundles who often require lots of stuff to get through a typical day. One of the challenges of taking a cruise with a baby is figuring out how to accommodate all of that additional stuff without hauling a large steamer trunk onto the ship. Here are some tips on strategic packing when you cruise with a baby.
You can make your packing easier by arriving at your port city early and buying some basic items at a local store. (But you should do some research in advance to find out how far your preferred stores are from your hotel or the port.) You can easily purchase many bulky items like diapers and wipes before you board (at major U.S. port cities). This cuts down on your packing. It also save you on checked luggage. Since you will consume things like diapers, wipes and baby food on your trip, you shouldn’t have to worry about excess bags on your return trip.
If a pre-embarkation shopping trip does not mesh with your plans, then you should plan to pack everything that your baby or toddler will likely need on your trip. Make a list identifying things that you would be very sad not to have for 3 days, e.g., items such as diapers, wipes, formula, and preferred baby medication. You should not assume that you will have easy access to purchase necessary items that you forget or use up once you are onboard your ship. Although you can often find usual sundries on board – they may quickly run out of your preferred item. Also, you will not always be able to find what you want when you want at any given port.
When packing for a cruise with a baby, focus on packing these seven essential items to streamline your load.
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Pack More Diapers & Wipes Than You Think You Would Ever Need
Although generally folks are advised against over-packing for a cruise, in some instances this is not true when it comes to cruising with a baby. Do not be afraid to pack excess diapers or formula. Even if you confirm that the ship generally sells diapers on board, do not rely on that. They may not have many in stock for your sailing, or not have the size/type that you need. You don’t want to run out in the middle of the ocean with one or two sea days between you and a store.
Pack An Ample Supply of Baby Food & Formula as Necessary
Every cruise ship will have an abundance of food choices for those who eat solid food. The same is not true as to baby food. Some cruise lines do not carry any baby food at all. Most of the lines that do provide baby food (whether complimentary or for a fee) will require advance notice — sometimes as much as 60-90 days advance notice. Moreover, the brands and choices will be limited. You should plan to pack whatever food (or formula) that you will need, unless you have confirmed in advance that there will be the kind of food you want available on board. (Note, on some ships you may have an option to have whatever food is being served that day pureed.) Check out this page for a cheat sheet on which cruise lines offer baby food.
Be Strategic About Your Stroller Choice
You should plan to bring a lightweight stroller that can take some abuse without regrets. Most cruise lines do not provide access to strollers. The notable exceptions are Carnival and Disney. Disney provides access to complimentary strollers. For a rental fee, Carnival provides single and double strollers for use on and off the ship.
A lightweight umbrella stroller will be useful when trying to move quickly about the ship and at the airport, etc. But be mindful that for some shore excursions it can be more of a burden – if there are numerous steps, uneven ground, or mounds of sand. That said, while a stroller can be a real pain at the beach, it can be worth it to have a secure sheltered spot for your baby to nap.
You should avoid taking any large deluxe Cadillac type stroller that you might have. A truly bulky stroller will take up way too much space in your room, even when folded up. Also, some larger strollers may not fit easily through the door of your cabin when the stroller is in the open position. This makes it very inconvenient to get in and out of your stateroom easily.
Almost any lightweight stroller will work, but Kolcraft puts out one that has been my personal favorite. I originally purchased mine in 2013/2014, but you can find the current version here on Amazon. This stroller has a large basket underneath which can store a wide range of family items when out and about, not just the baby’s. It also has multi-position recline, which makes it great for accommodating naps.
Bring A Bottle Brush And Dish Soap On A Cruise With A Baby
Unless your child has mastered drinking out of a standard cup, you will want to bring along whatever bottles and sippy cups you will need. You should also plan to bring the basic tools to wash them — a bottle brush and some dish soap.
Although this might seem odd, you should not expect to find suitable dish soap. The type of liquid soap that you would typically find in the bathroom will very likely leave an unpleasant aftertaste. And, the soap that you may be able to get from your stateroom attendant will likely be an industrial kind that is not intended for use on food utensils. Either buy a small bottle of dish soap at a drug store before you board, or pour some into one of your toiletry bottles before you leave home.
Consider Packing An Electric Sterilizer. Seriously.
Something else to consider taking with you is a small electric bottle sterilizer. This idea had never occurred to me until I took a cruise with a baby on a Disney ship and one magically appeared in our stateroom. After that, when I traveled with a baby on other cruise lines, I made a point of packing my own. It made cleaning bottles, sippy cups and pacifiers so much easier. Even though the water in the bathroom can get quite hot, it was nice to have the additional sanitizing step available. The peace of mind alone was worth the small additional weight.
Many different types of electric sterilizers exist. You should be able to find one that fits your luggage and price point. For instance, currently on Amazon, you can buy a Nuby One-Touch 2-in-1 Electric Baby Bottle Warmer & Sterilizer for about $20. It weighs a little over one pound and has a one bottle capacity. There are also larger ones, yet still portable, like the Philips AVENT 3-in-1 Electric Steam Sterilizer for about $50. That one can hold six large bottles and accessories. It weighs about 4 lbs. There are also several other brands and models in the 1 to 5 lb range with prices ranging from $30 to $100+. See search results for “electric steam sterilizer” in the Baby section.
Include A Pack or Two of Sanitizing Wipes
A package of your favorite sanitizing wipes will be quite handy. You can use the wipes for key areas in your cabin, cleaning dropped pacifiers bottles while traveling or on shore excursions, wiping down high chairs or boosters, and generally cleaning hands and surfaces when out and about in unknown circumstances.
Don’t Forget Your Infant Meds When You Cruise With A Baby
Finally, you should pack your preferred infant medications. Hopefully you will never have to use them. But it’s better to pack them and never need them, than be empty-handed and running around canvassing other passengers, or trying to assess foreign language instructions from something you had to pick up in port.
For more tips and guidance on preparing and packing for a cruise with your baby or toddler, download a free copy of our Family Cruise Pack & Prep Checklist.
You can also check out some of our favorite cruise accessories on this page.
If you have thoughts on what should be an essential packing item when you cruise with a baby, please share in the comments.