What To Pack For A Cruise: The Helpful List You Need

Posted onLeave a commentCategoriesCRUISE TIPS, Packing

Cast your cruise packing worries aside! This list for families has what to pack for a cruise with kids without missing essentials or overpacking.

What to pack for a cruise | photo of family luggage waiting in foyer

If you’re new to the wonderful world of family cruising, questions about what to pack for a cruise are likely lurking somewhere in the back (or front) of your mind. Whether it’s making sure that you don’t forget anything, or wanting to make the most efficient use of space in your luggage and stateroom. Even if you’ve done it a few times, you may be curious in comparing notes for ideas on what could be done differently.

Over the past 10+ years, we’ve been on dozens of cruises with kids and most of them have been to warm weather destinations. And, at this point, our basic packing list is fairly settled. With maybe the occasional tweak depending on what activities we plan to do.  So, whether you’re planning a 7 day Caribbean cruise or a 14+ day cruise of the South Pacific, the following tips and checklist will have you ready to go in no time. Read on to find out exactly what you should consider packing for your next family cruise. (We’ve also compiled this information into a handy family checklist. See below.) 

What To Pack For A Cruise: Basic Clothing

Something that you should keep in mind if you are new to cruising is that you will probably use more clothes than usual because you will likely be changing more than once a day (for at least some if not all of your cruise days). You will have a wide range of fun activities to choose from, many of which have different clothing and/or footwear requirements. Even if you plan on spending most of your time on the beach or at the pool, you will probably change clothes for dinner after washing off that chlorine or saltwater.

Depending on the size of your travel party, packing for multiple wardrobe changes can quickly expand your suitcase count. You can streamline this by making a plan for doing laundry. Check out our post on doing laundry on a cruise ship for more information.

Everyone has their own style of dress and preferences for dressing their children. So it’s not that helpful to try and set out a detailed itemized list. In this instance, one size does not fit all.  Instead, here are some general rules of thumb to use for planning purposes and selecting which wardrobe items you want to pack.

* Casual day outfits

Plan to pack one outfit for each day of your cruise for each person in your family. These would be your everyday items such as shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, sundresses, etc.

If you are planning to work out, include exercise clothes as well. Depending on the size of your ship, you will have access to some kind of track for walking or jogging. And, you will also likely find a complete on-board fitness gym with modern equipment. The ship may also offer fitness classes as part of the amenities. Potentially for an additional fee.

* Evening outfits

Plan to pack an evening outfit for each night of cruise of your cruise as well. Although many cruise lines have flexible dress codes these days, generally there will still be some basic rules about clothing in the main dining room – particularly for adults. How strictly these are enforced varies widely. But generally, the younger the child the lesser the expectations. And the expectations change depending on the venue and time of day. For the buffet, you can pretty much wear what you want. For speciality dining, people tend to dress much more nicely. And, for all venues, if you dine on the earlier side, things are much lower key.

Appropriate evening attire for non-formal nights would include items such as collared shirt and long pants, skirts, dresses, blouses, dressy tank tops. For kids, you can easily plan on respectable shorts or jeans. Some of the items that you pack for your casual days can serve double duty in the evening.

Scroll down for more information on what to pack specifically for formal nights.

* Pajamas

However many pajamas that you usually go through in a week at home should be fine on the ship. But bring extra pajamas if you have kids in diapers or who are still accident prone.

* Underwear

Include appropriate regular underwear for each family member. And throw in a few extra to account for wardrobe changes.

* Accessories

Include whatever accessories are consistent with your personal style. Items such as scarfs, handbag, casual jewelry, etc. And, you should include for each person, a lightweight jacket/poncho that can be tucked away for rainy days or cooler nights.

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Cruise Packing For Formal Nights

You can check in advance as to how many formal nights your cruise will have, but assume 2 for a 7 night cruise. Your participation is optional. But if you plan to opt out, then you should plan to dine in a venue where it’s not being observed – like the buffet, pool area, or room service. That said, you should really consider doing at least one. It can be more fun than you think, and it’s a great way to get some nice family photos. (There will be photographers set up throughout the ship and walking through the dining room. No obligation to actually purchase.)

If you plan to dress-up for formal night, include the following for each person:

  • Suit or better for men/boys – don’t forget the dress shirts.
  • Cocktail-style dress or better for women/girls
  • Ties (men/boys)
  • Appropriate evening accessories – jewelry, purse, etc.
  • Specialty underwear (if necessary)
  • Trouser socks/hosiery (as necessary)

You should also note that some cruise lines have the option for renting formal as well. But this should be arranged in advance.

Cruise Packing: Shoes 

If your schedule of activities will include any variety, you’re going to need to pack more than one pair of shoes. So your itemized list of what to pack for a cruise should factor that in. Consider packing the following sets of shoes for each person:

  • comfortable walking around shoes
  • closed toe shoes (some activities may require)
  • shoes for beach/pool (flip flops, water sandals, etc.)
  • formal night shoes
  • dressy/casual shoes (for non-formal nights)
  • shoes for gym/track (if applicable)

So, as an example, for each child, I usually end up packing a pair of all purpose “active” sandals that can be worn all day, including evenings; a pair of water sandals/shoes; and a pair of dress shoes.

Cruise Packing | photo of mom and daughter packing for vacation

Cruise Packing: Beach/Pool

If you’re sailing on a warm weather cruise, then you will likely be spending some quality time at the beach and/or pool. So when deciding what to pack for a cruise, don’t forget these key items for water fun.

  • Swimsuits (recommend 3 – 1 wet, 1 drying, 1 extra in case you end up doing the beach and the pool int same day, and don’t want to crawl back into a wet suit.
  • Swimsuit cover-up
  • Floaties/swim vest (for kids) 
  • Sand toys (for beach )
  • Goggles
  • Hat

Related Content:  6 Items To Absolutely Include On Your Family’s Caribbean Cruise 

Cruise Packing: Sundries/Toiletries

You will likely have some very basic toiletries in your cabin. This will include hand soap and some version of something called shampoo. And, possibly something that can be used for body wash. It is unlikely that these items will be of the quality that you usually use and like. (If you are in a suite or a concierge level cabin, you will have more items and nicer quality.) Your list of what to pack for a cruise should include your own favorite toiletries.

Although you will also have the option to purchase items through the on-board shops, these will likely be very expensive and can often run out. So pack the following items that can be shared among family members:

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Travel-size lotion
  • Sanitary products
  • Favorite medications
  • Travel-size hand sanitizer
  • Small laundry soap (if don’t want to use onboard laundry service) 
  • Wrinkle away spray
  • Preferred shower gel
  • Shower cap
  • Shaving items
  • toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Preferred shampoo/conditioner
  • Non-perishable snacks (for travel days and/or shore excursions)

Cruise Packing: Electronics/Gear

In deciding what to pack for a cruise, these items are all optional. But, they’re highly recommended useful items for your cruise packing.

  • Day pack/beach bag (something to use during port calls)
  • Outlet expander (read more about this must have cruise accessory
  • Tablets (fully loaded)
  • Extra batteries for anything important
  • Extra headphones
  • Camera (if not using smart phone)
  • A watch/timepiece that won’t auto set (so can remain on “ship time”)
  • A watch/timepiece for kids that are self-signers, or who are allowed to navigate ship independently (so they know when to meet you)

What To Pack For A Cruise: Organization

There are several items that you can pack to help make your cruise ship room more comfortable and make the most of the space available to you. So consider including these items when deciding what to pack for your cruise.

  • Magnets – clip/clamp style
  • Back of the door shoe organizer – for the bathroom to store toiletries and other small items
  • Hanging closet organizer
  • Lanyards with ID card holders (available on-board, but not cheap)
  • Laundry bags

What to pack for a cruise| photo of mom and baby packing

What To Pack For A Cruise With Babies/Toddlers 

Depending on which cruise line you are sailing, you may be able to get some of  your basic baby gear on board and cut down on your cruise packing. You should also check out our post on essential items to pack when cruising with a baby and our Resource Page for going on a cruise with a baby.

  • Foldable compact umbrella stroller
  • Bottle brush
  • Small bottle of dish soap
  • Portable bottle sanitizer (not required; water in bathroom should get hot enough)
  • Extra baby food or formula 
  • An abundance of diapers (add a few more than you think you’ll need)
  • Extra wipes
  • Favorite OTC medications
  • Favorite non-perishable snacks


Would you like this information about what to pack for your cruise in a handy checklist? Download our one-page 2018/2019 Family Cruise Packing Checklist!

Want more detailed guidance on planning an awesome family cruise?  Check out Elaine’s book, The Family Cruise Companion’s Guide to Cruising With Kids (available in print and digital at Amazon).

1 Must Have Cruise Accessory You’ll Absolutely Love

Posted onLeave a commentCategoriesCRUISE TIPS, Packing, Travel Hacks

If you are looking for one must have cruise accessory that you’ll absolutely love, pack a power strip. Seriously. Based on value for the money and value for the luggage space used, this one will almost certainly top the list every time. Find out why you absolutely should toss one into your suitcase. And, learn about a few factors to consider when deciding which one to pack or buy.

Cruising With Electronics

There are several items that you can pack that will greatly enhance your overall cruise experience and help maximize the space in your cruise ship room. But in terms of sheer value and all around usefulness, an outlet expander or power strip tops the list. Note that I am using the term “power strip” broadly to mean a must have cruise accessory that expands the power outlet options in your cruise cabin. This could be an actual power strip, or a travel outlet expander. Or, it could be a traditional extension cord (small) or a multi port usb charger.

No matter what’s the size of your travel party, if you have more than two things with plugs, you will very likely be short on outlets in your cabin. Many cruise cabins will have only one set of power outlets beyond what might be found in the bathroom. Think about how many personal items you typically cart around that require power. Then multiply that by the number of people who will be sharing your cabin.

Must Have Cruise Accessory: Photo of stack of personal electronics

By way of example, here is a list of items that we took on a recent cruise that required access to power at some point during the trip:
  • Individual smartphones for adults. Even if we don’t do much actual calling, smartphones have several other features that make them handy on a cruise. We now rely on smartphones to act as our basic camera. Plus now, so many cruise ships have great free apps that you can use to keep up with what’s going on aboard the ship, and for making reservations for dinners, shows, etc. And, you can also find free texting apps that make it possible for family members to stay in touch.
  • A traditional camera for the kid who doesn’t have a cell phone but likes to take pictures.
  • Multiple tablets.
  • A portable DVD player.
  • Electric hair tools like curling/flat iron (not a blow dryer – which the cruise line already provides)
  • Laptop computer
  • Kindle e-reader
  • Multiple portable power banks (so key items can stay charged during long sojourns away from the ship).

If you are traveling alone and/or planning to have a totally unplugged vacation, then limited access to power sources won’t bother you. But, that’s probably not the situation for most travelers.

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A Typical Cruise Cabin

Our most recent cruise underscores why some version of a power strip is a must have cruise accessory. We sailed on a Royal Caribbean ship that had been beautifully refurbished very recently. But, nevertheless access to power sources remained extremely limited. Each cabin  had only one electric outlet outside of the bathroom. Even if most families won’t necessarily be hauling around the amount of electronics we had, even a small fraction of that list would have quickly exhausted the supply of available outlets.

In addition to the limited availability of power outlets, the placement of that one lone outlet itself presented challenge. It was placed  on a wall underneath a wall mounted telephone and a few inches above a narrow counter that served as both a desk and a vanity. (See photos.) 

Why was this location particularly challenging? For one thing, any items that needed to be charged using that outlet would take up valuable counter space. And, the outlet wasn’t near a bed or any other comfortable lounging location. So, you essentially would have to sit at the small desk if you wanted to use a device and charge it at the same time. 

For this particular cruise, we had two connecting rooms. So we used an outlet expander or power strip for each room, and we had two different styles. Both of these did a great job and offered full value. But both also had pros and cons depending on your particular travel needs.

The Cordless Power Strip

Must Have Cruise Accessory | Photo of power strip in use in cruise cabinCordless power strips can be extremely compact making them easy to pack almost anywhere. In this case, a cordless power strip conserved counter space. But, the space saved by plugging directly into the wall was quickly filled by having to have all of the electronic items actually on the (narrow) counter.

Although it isn’t obvious from the photo, this particular strip also had two USB ports.

The particular brand of power strip pictured in the photo features surge protection. Many cruise lines have express policies banning the use of surge protectors because they have a risk of interfering with the ship’s electrical system. (I did not actually sleep in the cabin where this particular power strip was used so I didn’t focus on that issue at the time.) But, you can also find cordless power strips that do not have surge protection.


Power Strip With Cord

While a basic outlet expander can be quite functional, it was helpful to us to have one that also included a cord that moved away from the wall. 

The corded option that we used is pictured below. This particular power strip is my all-time favorite one for cruising. I’ve used it on the past 10 cruises or so. And, as you can see, it’s a real workhorse. It can charge six devices at once.

And, for this last cruise, the fact that it had a cord provided many extra benefits given our especially small quarters. Because it was not attached directly to the wall, it could be moved to free up valuable counter space for other uses. We could store it in a drawer and still keep charging (leaving the drawer slightly open for ventilation).  Or, we could also place the unit on the floor when we needed additional counter space. And, it could be stretched out completely if someone wanted to read and bed and still keep charging.

My particular model is a little on the larger side (with 6 usb ports and 2 a/c ports), and I believe it has been discontinued. But, there are several comparable and affordable versions available that are just as functional and can serve the same purpose.

Thus, while a basic outlet expander could be quite functional, it was helpful to have one that also included a meaningful cord. 

Different Cruise Line Policies

I recently ran across a blog post that was promoting a specific brand of power strip and suggesting that it was really the only type of power strip permitted on cruises. But such blanket assertions are a little misplaced.  Let me start by saying that I have no allegiance to any specific type or brand of power strip. Just get something that gets the job done (but, if you do make a purchase using in of the links on this page, that purchase might generate a commision at no cost to you. For full information, see disclosures)).

There is no blanket policy on power strips that’s applicable to all cruise lines. Here’s the basics of what you need to know.

Some cruise lines have no obvious policies limiting power strips.

Notably, several cruise lines don’t have any express policy one way or the other on power strips. Despite listing out other prohibited items, their customer information pages appear to be completely silent on the issues of power strips and outlet expanders. So, for example, Norwegian Cruise Line has posted an extremely detailed list of items that are prohibited on NCL’s ships. It even goes so far as to specifically identify Samsung Note 7 as a prohibited item. But, the list contains no mention of power strips or extension cords (with or without surge protection).

Likewise, Celebrity Cruises specifically encourages guests who are getting ready to cruise to “gather those electronic devices and chargers”  and cautions that “you’re going to need to keep your devices charged, so make sure to pack your chargers.” But, its website makes provides no instructions or precautions about how folks should plan to actually use those chargers. (Notably, the very next paragraph on the same page entitled “What Not To Bring” doesn’t say anything about power strips or extension cords.)

Some cruise lines expressly bar surge protectors.

Carnival’s policies permit “power strips, multi plug box outlets/adaptors and extension cords”  as long as they don’t have surge protection. And, Princess Cruises has a list of prohibited items that basically adopts the same policy. Its sister cruise line Holland America states a similar policy in its FAQ Booklet (Page 7 under “packing advice”).

Some cruise lines also bar extension cords.

Disney’s list of prohibited items includes “extension cords or surge protectors.” That said, some folks in various cruise fora have reported that they have encountered no problems using USB style hubs instead.

Finally, there’s Royal Caribbean. Its list of items prohibited on board includes “electrical extension cords” without specific reference to surge protectors. That said, I’ve never personally had a problem with bringing my power strip shown above (multi-port USB charger with 2 a/c outlets) even though it obviously has a cord attached. I’ve taken it on at least 6 Royal Caribbean cruises and openly used it without incident.

Key Features To Look For In This Must Have Cruise Accessory

  • No surge protection – Even though not all cruise lines have an obvious express written ban, the majority of cruise ships don’t allow surge protection features. So, a power strip or outlet expander that doesn’t have such a feature can be more widely used on multiple cruise ships.
  • Both traditional A/C ports and USB ports. Many, if not most, of your electronic devices today can be charged using a USB port instead of a pronged plug. Because USB plugs need considerably less space, you’re able to charge more items using one outlet.
  • Compact size. So you can minimize the amount of counter space needed for charges. And, a compact size power strip will be also easier to pack.

Closing Thoughts

A power strip can make your cruise experience significantly more comfortable. Be sure to add one to your packing list!

For more tips on preparing for your cruise and what to pack, download our free prep and pack checklist.  Get your free copy now!





24 Absolutely Useful Items You Need To Pack On Family Port Calls

Posted onLeave a commentCategoriesPacking, PORTS & EXCURSIONS

Family Cruise Port Calls | photo of family walking on pier back to shipWhen sailing a family cruise, odds are high that you will leave the ship during at least one of the ship’s port calls. Whether you are participating in a structured shore excursion or taking the DIY route, you want to make sure that you have what you need when leaving the ship to have a fun, stress-free day. This list of basic essential items will help you get maximum enjoyment during your family’s port calls. And, you will also have tools to address unexpected contingencies.

The first 15 items on this list apply for any of your shore trips. The remainder sections of the list break out the last 9 items into beach port calls and city port calls.


1. A Family Day Bag

Although different family members may have personal items that they cart around themselves, you should try to have one primary bag that houses all of your family essentials. It doesn’t necessarily mean one person carries it around all day. It can be a shared responsibility. But you benefit from having one primary consolidated bag because you can easily make sure that you have all the key items that you need for the day in one place. And this cuts down on inadvertently leaving key items behind. Also, this bag can conveniently be packed, or largely packed, the night before. So that you can get out the door faster and get the most use of your day in port.

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