Have you been dreaming of a winter cruise? It’s January, and where I live that means frigid cold, bad air quality and a big case of the “cooped ups.” If that sounds familiar a winter cruise to a luscious sun filled and beach infested location may sound up your alley. For years now a group of my favorite travel buddies and I have embarked on a winter cruise as means to do a little exploring, pamper ourselves, beat the winter blues and warm our souls.
We’ve estimated that between the 12 of my cruising friends we have been on over 125 cruises total and to 6 different continents. While I don’t consider my one self to be a cruising expert, I think the group as a whole would have some pretty good advice. So, we put our heads together and came up with our top list of weird and wonderful things you might forget, as well as a few packing hacks. Here you go, my list of top must travel packs and packing hacks for a cruise.
Cruise Must Pack Items:
A coffee mug or a drink cup
Yes, I take both in form of a 2 in 1. While the coffee, juice, water and soda flow freely on a cruise ship, the means of transporting them doesn’t. Most often the beverage vehicle is a small plastic cup. This makes for a short lived refresher by the pool and can be a messy and create hot spill traveling about the ship. My personal favorite to bring is one that doubles as both a hot and cold cup like this one found on Amazon>>
Zip Bags, Zip Bags and Zip Bags
Don’t leave home without them. They take Zero space in the luggage and handy for a monumental number of things. I pack both food sizes bags as well as one of the big bags and would not travel ANYWHERE without them. Need I say more?
Protection for your phone
We purchased a couple of these waterproof cases for our phone from Amazon for some play at our local theme and waterpark and have used them many times since. It works with a touch and is great around the pool or at the beach. Note that the manufacturer states this product is waterproof to 100 ft. We don’t use our phone underwater, so we haven’t tried that. If you do decide to take it underwater, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and test with a paper towel in the pool first.
Shower hooks (you heard that right)
Shower hooks take zero space in your luggage and you can hook them right on the closet rail or shower bar. They are perfect for hanging your swimsuit and cover-up, hat, tank tops and more. I like these plastic C-hook style they are cheap and handy. I imagine whatever you have on hand will do the trick.
An insulated beach bag or backpack
If you’re going to take a beach bag or backpack with you anyway with you anyway, you might as well make it an insulated one. These same bags will hold your personal items but can also keep a self made PB&J sandwich (remember the zip bags), yogurt, fruit, granola and other items that are readily available at the ship’s breakfast buffet.
Protein Travel Snacks
The ship does not have pre-packaged snacks. So, we take a long a small stash of things like nuts, Kind Bars and Granola for land exploration.You don’t need an entire kitchen, just 1 snack per person per land day has been plenty for us.
While I do strongly recommend enjoying the local cuisine when off ship, having something to take the edge off at the beach or while browsing around is a good idea and being able to keep it somewhat cool works nicely.
See a variety of different insulated cooler bag options on Amazon here>>
Multi outlet USB charger
One like this one found here on Amazon works perfectly for making charging all your devices and portable power easy.
Don’t forget the portable power. You’ll likely be taking lots of pictures, I find my battery drains much quicker when I’m on vacation.
A Mini Stapler
At the same time you print your boarding pass, you’ll also need to print your luggage tags. Luggage tags are to be attached to your bags before boarding. Your luggage is then taken by a ship’s employee, scanned and put at your door. Don’t put the tags on at the airport, they will just get torn off and cause confusion for the airline. You’ll need to wait until you are dropping off your luggage at the port.
Speaking of luggage, since these ship tags are just regular paper from your printer, I recommend you cover them with packing tape (as a self lamination) before you go. This makes them stronger so they don’t accidentally get torn off. For added security, purchase Scotch Self-Sealing Laminating Pouches, Bag Tags with Loops to use instead.
For leaving notes at your cabin door for your fellow travelers about where you’ll be or what time to meet etc.
While wandering the ship it’s not likely you’ll want to carry along your phone. With limited phone services available during sea days there just really isn’t any reason too. Watches are so popular on the ship, the sell them by the droves. Save the cash and remember to take along your own.
Sunglasses and Hat
Also, if you’re going to a colder climate make sure to bring gloves.
Sarong and or Palazzo Pants
Ladies, if you’re traveling to a warm island climate, don’t forget the Sarong. They are great for beaching it, covering your shoulders if they burn or just hanging out at the pool. I’ve even used it as a makeshift scarf for my head in the heat. Amazon has a large variety of colors here >>
Palazzo Pants are my perfect must have for a warm weather cruise. They are comfortable, cool, cute and can be worn EVERYWHERE, including as a cover-up on deck, while exploring the islands and they are even dressy enough for dinner. I never go on a cruise without at least two pairs. Both these items can be expensive on and off the ship. I’d save the dough and make sure to bring your own. Amazon has a large selection here >>
And, speaking of Sarongs here’s a little packing tip for you. To keep the quick to wrinkle fabric from looking like a wadded up mess, roll them around a wrapping paper or paper towel tube. Then use the inside of the tube to stash your flat iron, wrinkle reducer, stain remover pen, personal supplies or jewelry.
That’s my cruise buddy Kerry, hanging out with the seagulls in the Caribbean. A common occurrence when you’re setting sail. For moments like these I like to carry a small pair of Binoculars like these found here on Amazon. I’ve found they get used often on and off ship.
Everywhere you go the second you leave your cabin you will need to have your ship card available. In the past I’ve struggled with where to put it, who wants to carry a bag or purse with them everywhere they go? I attached my card to a simple lanyard and was so happy to not have to worry about it. The ship sells lanyards for around $10.00, save the money and bring your own. Most ships will punch the hole for you.
I also saw some folks using around the neck travel wallets. While that seemed a bit bulky for my taste, it may be something to consider while on shore.
A Beach Towel Clip (Boca Clip)
These clips are not only useful for keeping your towel in place on your deck chair which assures you won’t come back to lost chair when you swim. They can also keep your hat from blowing away. As double duty I’ve used them in the cabin for hanging clothes in the shower to dry. You can purchase them at most stores like Target and Walmart.
Laundry Detergent Samples Packs and Dryer Sheets
Some cruise ships have laundry facilities. If you choose to do a load of wash it’s usually around $4.00-$5.00 for the soap alone and that doesn’t include the $2.00 to use the machine. Depending on the length of your cruise, you may want to have some on hand. If you’re ship doesn’t have a laundry room, detergent is useful for spot cleaning in the sink. Make sure to put them in a zip bag in case one should break.
Stain Removing Pen and Wrinkle Reducer Fabric Enhancer
Speaking of laundry, here’s a little packing hack. If it’s been awhile since you dusted off that suitcase. Put a dryer sheet or two in with your clothes to get rid of the musty smell.
Mini First Aid Kit, Common Medications and Needle and Thread
These mini first aid kits from REI are great to have. Remember to pack common medications in it, like pain reliever, antacid and Dramamine if you fear sea sickness. I also like to stick a hotel sewing kit in mine. You can purchase these items in the cruise ship gift shop, but with the small amount of space they take, it’s better to cart it from home?
A Suction Cup Toothbrush Toothbrush Holder
These handy little covers provide a clean place to keep your toothbrush in a cramped cabin bathroom. They are actually great for all travel. Just don’t forget to take them with you when you disembark. I got mine for around $2.50 shipped free on Amazon.
Playing Cards or Card Game
They’re easy to carry and are great to have while on deck. If you’re traveling with kids, consider bringing UNO, Phase 10, Yahtzee, or other compact family game for down times.
Inflatable Beach Ball, Swim Goggles, and Snorkel Gear
Cruise Packing Hacks:
Should you take zip ties / cable ties on your cruise?
The answer is yes! I first packed them when a fellow scuba diver was using one to fix the broken strap on one of his fins. I have learned the value of having them handy, in fact they are a staple in my land and sea travel bag. I’ve used them for fixing a broken a zipper pull, a broken camera strap, and an added way to secure my luggage tag. So, I say for the zero amount of space they take, pack them and leave them in your travel bag everywhere you go.
I’ve read that many people use zip ties in attempt to keep ship personnel from going through their luggage. I personally have never used them for locking my luggage and haven’t seen that it would be useful for that.
Should you take an over the door shoe organizer?
The answer is probably not! They’re great for hats, gloves and scarves, pantry and kitchen items, craft room and office supplies, bathroom necessities, toys and even shoes, these babies have so many uses around the home, I literally have one the back of every door of my home.
But are they as handy on a cruise ship? Some say yes and some say no. That’s because the ship’s design doesn’t always work with them. So you will want to check the layout of your room first. If you are thinking of purchasing one only for a cruise, at around $8.00 and the space it takes in your luggage, I’d skip it, if you think you need one, you’re probably packing too much.
Should you take a collapsible laundry bag?
The answer is it depends on your cabin! I’ve read on many blog posts where the writer suggests bringing one of these collapsible hampers. No one in our group said they had ever brought one, and none of us has ever wished we had. Squeezing one into your luggage and then cabin seems like a waste of space. I’d definitely skip it for a short cruise, if you are on an extended cruise, it might come in handy.
Do you need to bring extra hangers?
The answer is it depends on your clothes! While no one in our group has ever stated the wish for extra hangers, we’re a pretty kick back crowd of light packers. With that said, the standard closet can be somewhat skimpy on hangers, so depending on the cruise length and your style of attire you may want to stash a few flat hangers in your bag. With that said however, we all agreed that they are on our do not pack list.
Should you take a Power Strip?
The answer to this is dependent on the cruise line you’re traveling. In general cruise ships have a total of 4 electrical outlets. 2 that near the vanity or desk and 2 in the bathroom. For fire reasons, each ship has it’s own policy so make sure to check with your specific cruise line first.
Packing Wine for your Cruise:
To protect your wine lodge it tightly inside of two shoes and put them in between your clothing. Besure protect that wine in a zip bag first, just in case it breaks. This also keeps any shoe sweat away, ewee…. Make sure to check your cruise lines specific rules regarding bringing your own booze, most we’ve been on allow you to bring 1 bottle of wine per passenger to have in your cabin, most do not allow passengers to bring on the hard stuff, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t.
Pack Jewelry in small zip crafters bead bags:
Keep your jewelry tangle free and organized by putting in small beading bags. The put the whole shebang in a zip bag. These little bags are cheap and also handy for many other items too.
Roll, Don’t Fold
Roll your clothes when packing. Doing so not only allows your to carry more in less space, it also keeps them from wrinkling as much.
Decorate Your Luggage:
When debarking if you want crew members to carry your suitcases off the ship for you, you will need to have your packed bags set outside your cabin door the night before you disembark. Crew members will then pick up your luggage and place the bags in pre-assigned sections for you to reclaim.
There are quite literally 1,000’s of bags in this area of every size shape and color. This is where a having a quick way to identify yours from others comes in handy. To make our luggage stand out, we wrap brightly colored duct tape (great for airports too) around the handle and use a colorful luggage tag. I have also seen people use pom-poms, ribbons and bows.
Note that this is just a list of things you might not thought of, it’s up to you to remember, the sunscreen, swimsuit and flip flops. Happy Sailing.
Are you a cruise junkie? Leave a comment with your favorite thing to bring, packing tip or other cruise hack.
And, stay tuned for my upcoming posts: The clothes we take and how to cruise with just one carry one, where to find solace on busy cruise ship and how to save money on ship and off.
A small roll of tape to stop the wardrobe doors/draws banging around in the night if the weather is bad.
Dan Davis says
Extra meds, Hearing aid batteries, Eyeglasses, nail clippers and file, tweezers, eye drops, ear drops.
Debra Verbeeck says
I also take magnets to hang up the daily itinerary.. They stick to the walls on the cabin great.
your own preferred toilet paper as the ones on the ship are as basic as it gets… you’re welcome!
I bring a couple of magnetic hooks, remember your room is metal and it’s easy for paperwork, a wet suit or a place to hang your lanyard when you are in the room.
Carnival allows power strips but not surge protectors. With only one outlet in the room and one in the bathroom, these are a “must have”.
Tenssie Lapetina says
I had recently traveled to Brazil. To prevent bringing many different medication boxes and containers.. I had transferred every medication individually into small pill plastic bags. Peeled the med label and placed it on the bag. As for the other meds, I had labeled them with name, dose and expiration date.
Lori Lamb says
Love the tips. They will make my first cruise a nicer experience
Starr Gleason says
I’m so excited for my cruise this December! These tips really helped me pack! Thank you!🤗
The small zip crafters bead bags can also be used for daily or meal-time vitamin doses. Stay healthy!
Great ideas but also HAND SANITIZER and FLASHLIGHT. We always bring these as well
Jenn S says
May I ask why a flashlight?
Flashlights are great handy tools just anywhere you travelled… i never leave it behind. You might think you do not need it but when you have it its always being used. Just bring a travel size is useful enough.
Cell phones have flashlights… so I’m curious what that is for, too.
Stacey P says
If you have an interior room, it’s dark, so I would take a flashlight or glow stick or night light.
I always take a flashlight so I can move around the cabin at night without waking my room mates. I know phones have one but if my phone is charging only outlet on carnival ship is at vanity. So a small led flashlight is a good back up.
Just incase the power goes. Or you get back to the ship at night. I take one on holiday just for these reasons. An electrical storm put the lights out in Naples a couple of weeks ago and we had to walk along the round at night in the dark. Luckily I had my mini torch in my pocket.
I believe because rooms get super dark at night and it is handy to have a flashlight so you don’t disturb your roommate by turning on the lights. Hope this helps! -SG
Thank you ! your suggestions are greatly appreciate 🎉
Zip ties have saved me many times!
I have broken bag handles..Once I broke my swimsuit strap and my Hubby zip tied it for me!
i get a small $15 fan from wallymart and pack that. I have been in too many stuffy rooms.
Jenn D says
Love this idea. Thanks! I’ve never been on a cruise before but my husband and I want to take our four boys on a trip in the near future :))
Always print up “business cards” with our address, phone & email to give to folks we meet that we ‘click’ with. Easier than writing down info. If they don’t have one, write their info on one to keep (cross out your side so you don’t give it away).
Extra camera memory is good to take with you, & a cable to allow you to download them to a extra memory drive, you take with also. Or, take a big thumb drive (64 GB), & download to it daily.
Water bottle is a must take, along with a belt “holster” for it. Never drink water ashore if you can avoid it; ships water is SAFE & PURE. Cool overnight in your frig
Janet Wetzel says
Thank you for the tips, I would very much be interested in your other tips on how to pack light
Take bubble wrap to wrap souvenirs or breakables….
I would add a clothespin to use to keep the curtains closed. That crack of light between curtains that don’t stay closed can be really annoying.
Jenn D says
Great tip, thanks!
Wendy Eslinger says
Or use the slack hanger from the closet
I use 2 XL Ziplock bags anytime I go on a trip. One marked clean and the other marked dirty. I put our undergarments in the clean and our dirty clothes in the other. I squeeze out all air so they fit into my suitcase. When we get home, I just take the dirty bag straight to the laundry room.
The main thing I remember to take is the wife. She never forgets anything.
Love this! I’m sure your not the only one!
I take kitchen trash bags to store my soiled clothes in. Then ready to leave in with my shoe luggage. I also take a few clothes pins to weigh down the shower curtain so the floor doesn’t get soaked. As for my necklace I wear on formal nights I slide one side through a straw and hook to the one on the outside.No more tangles. If you have a special pair of earrings use buttons or punch a hole through an envelope, index card. I carry those on board with me. I have black luggage and I use purple flowers to wrap around the handles. My agent puts my luggage tags in plastic pouches. You can buy them at a very low price at Walmart. I also take my own Lysol spray and wipes and extra coat hangers.
Doris Woodbury says
Anyone want to ride share 3/25 cruise glory ship from neworleans
Great information! Thank you
We have used glow sticks as night lights in the bathroom gives enough light to guide you there. Takes up little room in the suitcase. Don’t have to worry about the light bulb breaking or needing replaced.
Great tips !
Great list plus I’d add extension cord, multi plus outlet adapter,suction hanging cups, string for clothes line, fanny pack (I use on ship too), small waterproof bag/pack, mall led flashlight, flash drive (down load pics and have copies of passports etc loaded, extra contacts and/or glasses and readers.
Power strips are not allowed on most if not all ships. They pose a fire hazard
Pam Herda says
Your suggestions are great. I also bring a tiny bottle of Dawn dish soap to wash the reusable mugs as germs can be everywhere and using a cup for a week without washing kinda creeps me out.
Great list!! Sarongs are the best! No need to lug a beach towel when you have one plus the sand won’t stick to it. I would also add a waterproof watch-(-big 5 sells one for $10 that looks like a bracelet) so you are always on ship time. You can’t rely on your phone because ship time may be different than “island time” and you don’t want to miss the boat! Business cards– I always meet lots of people and make new friends. It’s great to be able to share contact info quickly. Lastly, lots of small bills for souvenirs, tips, etc.
I love them too! There are so many uses for them.