Traveling by cruise ship is quite different than a land based vacation. While most of the stuff is taken care of by the cruise line – accommodations, transportation, meals, and nightly entertainment to name a few – visiting multiple, and sometimes vastly different, destinations can make packing for a family cruise vacation challenging.
Whether you begin packing weeks before a vacation or you’re more of a last minute type of packer, here’s a list of 14 must-pack items for every cruise with kids.
1. Antibacterial Wipes
If you have young children, you probably have a pack of alcohol-free hand sanitizer wipes in the car, at home, and in your purse or travel bag.
Norovirus and other gastrointestinal ailments can be picked up from contaminated food and dirty surfaces.
All cruise lines have antibacterial or alcohol dispensers or wipes to keep their ships as clean as possible. But don’t solely rely on what’s available on the ship. Getting sick can ruin a trip so minimize your chances by bringing a pack of your own wipes.
We love these kid-friendly wipes because they’re alcohol-free, made with plant-based ingredients and contain no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and no artificial fragrances or dyes.
Remember to use them whenever you get on or off the ship and also before eating – whether you’re in port or on the ship.
2. Emergency Medicine Kit
While you should be able to find common over-the-counter medicine on board if you or your kids happen to sick, expect to pay a premium for them.
Save some money by making an emergency medicine kit prior to your cruise. Include basics like bandages, aspirin or acetaminophen, pain relievers, diarrhea medication, and motion sickness remedies like Dramamine (there’s a kids version as well), ginger pills, motion sickness patches or Sea Bands (bands for kids can be found here).
Be sure to pack any prescription medications or epinephrine auto-injectors for those with food allergies, as well before you set sail.
3. Bathroom Door Organizer
Most cruise ship cabin bathrooms have very little counter space or storage area for toiletries.
A multi-pocket bathroom door organizer (or over-the-door shoe organizer) is an easy way to store small travel essentials like backup batteries, chargers, sunscreen, shampoo, lotions, hair products, and toothbrushes.
4. Water Shoes
If you’re planning on hanging out around the pool deck on the ship or have water excursions planned, a pair of water or swimming shoes will come in handy.
Not only will they give you traction on slippery surfaces, they’ll also protect toes and feet from any sharp rocks or shells when exploring places like Dunn’s River Falls or the beach.
5. Wet/Dry Bag (Waterproof Bag)
Cloth diaperers are probably familiar with wet bags.
These small waterproof bags store used cloth diapers but can also make beach days more manageable for families with young children.
Wet bags come in a variety of sizes and patterns and are made of waterproof material. When sealed, they are watertight. Keep your electronics, money and valuables protected with a small wet bag and have a larger one for storing wet swimsuits after a day in the water or pool.
6. Travel Clotheslines and Clothespins
Many stateroom bathrooms have a retractable clothesline however since space is limited, you might want to bring your own travel clotheslines and pins to dry your swimsuits and cover-ups.
That way you don’t have to move your swimming gear when someone has to use the shower/tub. Clothespins can also be used to keep shower curtains and drapes closed.
7. Night Light
Cabins are often outfitted with blackout drapes so when the lights go out, it’s almost impossible to see anything.
Before your cruise, pick up a cheap night light for your room. Place it near the bathroom so you and your kids can easily make it to the washroom in the middle of the night without having to turn on the bright stateroom lights.
8. Leak-Proof Travel Mug
Cruising with a leakproof stainless steel travel mug will prevent having to make multiple trips to the cafe or pool deck (where most beverage stations are located) for a cup of coffee, juice or water.
Just fill it up at the beginning of the day and you’ll save yourself from burning your fingers (they normally have paper cups on cruise ships) and walking up and down the stairs over and over again.
Sunscreen is a given if you’re taking a warm weather cruise. But, doctors recommend applying sun protection every day even when traveling to places like Alaska.
Many cruise itineraries include a lot of outdoor time and it’s best to keep your face and arms protected. Doctors recommend a minimum of SPF 15. Like common over-the-counter medication, sunscreen is readily available on cruise ships, but you will be paying more than drugstore retail pricing.
10. Mosquito Repellent
Several ports in the Caribbean have mosquito and insect repellent creams and wipes for cruise passengers to use when they disembark the ship. Having your own travel size bug spray or cream (this one is a combo of repellent and sunscreen) will come in handy if you need to reapply during your day in port.
11. Laundry Detergent
If you’re planning on doing laundry during your cruise (either in your room or using the laundry machines on the ship), we recommend bringing your own detergent from home. We always travel with a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Liquid Soap and Laundry Detergent.
There’s often only one kind of detergent available for purchase and it may or may not be what your family is used to – especially if you have family members with sensitive skin.
12. Power Bar with Surge Protector
There are a limited number of outlets in a cruise cabin and if you’re traveling with multiple devices (phones, cameras, tablets, laptops etc.), it’s nice to have a compact power bar.
You won’t have to take turns charging your electronics. Do check with your cruise line though what type of power bars are allowed on board before packing one into your suitcase.
13. Back Up Batteries
Prevent your camera, tablet or phone from dying mid-cruise or while you’re in port by packing back up batteries and chargers for your most used devices.
14. SD Card or Flash Drive
Minimize paper clutter by saving important documents like your passport, license, credit card info, emergency contact information, and e-tickets on a thumb drive.
Having a flash drive with you at all times means having quick access to backup copies should you lose any of the original documents during your cruise.
Packing multiple cards/drives gives you extra space for all the photos you and your kids will be taking during your cruise as well. You minimize your chances of losing your photos or having to delete them if your SD card is full.
Remember, checked luggage may not be delivered to your stateroom until hours after embarkation so pack only the items you’ll need for your first day at sea in your carry-on bag and put the rest in your suitcase.
- 22 Best Ways to Save Money on a Family Cruise Vacation
- What’s Included (and Not Included) in the Cost of a Disney Cruise
- Benefits of Staying at a Disney World Resort Before or After a Cruise