Are you wondering what to pack for a cruise? Cruises are such easy vacations, but cruise packing takes some planning.
In this post, I share the very best cruise packing tips and hacks you need to know. Whether you’re a first time cruiser or cruise veteran, this cruise packing list will help you to keep organized and have everything you need for a cruise vacation.
I’ve included some genius cruise packing hacks that will help you streamline the process. You’ll find smart organization techniques and essential items and travel gadgets you may not have considered for your cruise vacation.
If you’re looking for a full list of Amazon cruise essentials, I’ll include some resources at the bottom of this post.
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Cruise Packing Tips, Tricks and Hacks
Things to Consider When Making Your Cruise Packing List
Before I share the top cruise packing hacks and tips, these are some things to think about as you create your own cruise packing list. All of these things will make a difference to what you decide to pack for your cruise vacation.
- What will the weather be like? (hot or cold, or both?)
- What’s your cruise line dress code? (for cruise wear planning)
- Will you be flying or driving to the cruise port?
- How many people are in your cruise cabin? (for cabin organizing)
- What excursions and cruise ship activities do you have planned?
- Will you be packing with checked luggage or carry-on only?
What to Pack for your Cruise – Cruise Packing List Must-haves
1. Passports and Government ID
Firstly, have your cruise documents and your passport or birth certificate on you (in your purse or wallet) as you board your cruise, and not packed in your suitcase! You can be declined boarding if you do not have the proper ID and documents, so do not under any circumstances put them anywhere in your suitcase!
Cruise tip: As soon as you get to your stateroom, put your passports in your small cabin safe, along with any other valuables and cash you’ve brought on the trip.
2. Cruise Documents
Be sure to have your cruise documents ready for embarkation day as you board your cruise.
After you complete your cruise online check-in and fill in health questionnaires, it’s a good idea to print out your travel documents. While you may be using the cruise line app for boarding, it’s always a good idea to have your cruise boarding documentation on hand.
As well, print out any shore excursion reservations, hotel reservations etc. to pack for your cruise.
3. Embarkation Carry-on Bag
One of the things that first time cruisers often forget, is to pack an embarkation day carry on bag. Basically, you’ll want to pack anything that you may need for the first day of your cruise, as it will take several hours for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom.
4. Hard Shell Luggage
While there’s some debate about which luggage is best, hard of soft sided luggage, hard shell luggage wins out for cruise packing!
Since cruise passengers drop luggage off with the porters outside the cruise terminal, it is possible for rain and other weather to have an impact.
The hard shell will protect your luggage from the weather, and keep your clothing and other items dry.
Hard sided luggage with spinner wheels will also make it so much easier to travel before and after your cruise.
5. Pack with Packing Cubes
Use packing cubes or compression bags to maximize space and keep your belongings organized.
Recommended: packing cubes (5 piece set on Amazon)
6. Use an Air Tag (or other luggage tracking device)
A smart cruise packing hack that many travelers use these days is a placing a GPS luggage tracking device in all checked luggage.
7. Place Your Contact Information Inside Your Luggage
This low tech cruise packing hack can be very useful! Before closing up your luggage, write your name and email address, as well as your travel information on a large paper that you place inside your luggage.
Luggage tags can rip or fall off luggage. If this happens, if your luggage is lost or misplaced at an airport, it can be forwarded to your destination by the airline.
8. Shore Excursion Bag
Make sure to bring a shore excursion bag, that you can bring on beach shore excursions or other tours.
If you’re on an Alaskan cruise, bring a lightweight water repellant backpack for port days in Juneau, Ketchikan and other Alaska ports.
Recommended: Light foldable backpack (waterproof)
9. Cell Phone
While having a mobile phone isn’t a necessity, it’s a good idea with you as you travel. Many cruise lines are now using apps for check in and even for new muster drills.
These apps are free and a great addition to the paper daily planners that cruise lines put in your cabin each night. You can see what you want to do any any given hour of the day, and plan ahead for activities and reservations. You may even have a messaging service that can be used between guests, like with Princess Cruises Ocean Medallion.
If you want to use internet while on your cruise for posting on social media or checking emails, you can purchase a cruise wifi package.
Cruise tip: Remember to put your phone on airplane mode, as soon as you sailaway from the cruise port.
10. “Cruise Approved” Power-bar (non surge protected)
Most cruise ship cabins just don’t have enough outlets. Although newer build ships may have a couple of USB outlets, most do not. Given all our electronic equipment and chargers, most cruisers would agree that packing a power bar with USB ports is a cruise cabin essential.
Note, for safety reasons, you cannot use a surge protector, iron or steamer. Click here to see my recommendation for a Cruise safe power strip (amazon).
11. Cruise Outfits and Comfortable Shoes
Overall, pack what you are comfortable wearing, but do check your cruise line’s dress codes. Some are more casual (ie. Norwegian) and some are more formal (ie. Cunard), while others are somewhere in between.
No matter the dress code, make sure to pack cruise wear for the weather. If cruising in a cool climate, pack layers for the day if spending time outdoors. When cruising in the Caribbean, light clothing can be worn most of the time.
Don’t forget to pack shoes for daytime activities and evenings. You don’t need a pair of shoes for every cruise outfit, but you do want to pack comfortable shoes for the activities you plan to do.
Don’t forget to pack at least one pair of flip flops for any cruise. You’ll want to have flip flops to wear at the pool deck, thermal spa, in your cabin and on your cruise ship balcony.
Recommended: How to Pack Light for a Cruise
12. Formal Wear/Dressy Outfits
Not all cruise lines have formal nights, however most do have an evening where passengers tend to dress up. For instance, Celebrity Cruises has “evening chic”, Carnival has “Elegant” night and Norwegian has “Norwegian night out“.
These days cruise lines have relaxed the suggested dress codes, but many people do enjoy occasion to dress up a little. If you would like to participate, plan on bringing some fancier outfits.
For men this can be a tuxedo, suit or dress pants and dress shirt. For ladies an evening gown, cocktail dress and “little black dress” are all appropriate.
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13. Hanging Toiletry Bag
The average cruise ship cabin is fairly small and has minimal storage space. I pack my toiletries in a hanging toiletry bag and it saves a lot of space in the cabin bathroom.
14. Travel Size Toiletries
Cruise lines provide basic toiletries such as shampoo and shower gel in your stateroom. However, the quality of products varies by cruise line.
If you have specific products you like to use, it’s a good idea to pack your toiletries in leakproof travel containers.
15. Shoe Bags
Don’t pack dirty shoes straight into your luggage and next to your clothing. Shoe bags are great to keep your shoes protected, scuff free and are more sanitary.
Shoe bags are a great packing organizing tool for cruises and any travel. Stuff shoes with small items like socks, ties and more.
A cruise packing hack that’s an alternative to a shoe bag is using a plastic shower cap to cover the bottom of the shoe. These can be found cheaply at the dollar store, with other travel items.
Recommended: Shoe bags (check price & Amazon reviews here)
Check with your cruise line, however many cruise lines allow you bring a couple bottles of wine on board. There is a corkage fee of 15$, however when you consider what a bottle of wine will cost on the ship, this is likely worth it!
17. Travel Corkscrew
If you drink wine, I suggest you bring a small travel corkscrew (TSA approved), and keep it in your luggage for next time too. This really saves some time and energy for me when cruise packing!
Cruise tip: You can ask your room attendant to keep ice in your ice bucket every day and also for wine glasses to be kept in your cabin. Alternatively, you can also pick up glasses at any bar.
18. Refillable Water Bottles
Recently some cruise lines, including Virgin Voyages, have banned single use plastic bottles. Having a thermal good quality water bottle is useful to have both on the cruise ship and in ports of call.
19. Travel Coffee Mugs
If you’re a coffee lover, pack a thermal travel coffee mug. You’ll be able to fill your coffee mug at the cruise ship buffet or cafe, and enjoy a big cup at any time of day.
Recommended: Travel coffee mug
20. Wrinkle Release Spray and Tide To Go
These 2 laundry items are very useful when traveling, but especially on a cruise ship when you don’t have easy access to laundry facilities.
21. Bring a Pop up Mesh Laundry Bag
A great way to keep your cruise cabin organized and store dirty clothes is to bring along a collapsible mesh laundry hamper. This one actually folds up super small so it’s easy and light to pack for your cruise.
This is honestly one of my favorite cruise tips!
Recommended: Mesh laundry hampers (see 1000+ reviews on Amazon)
21. Pharmaceutical Items
Some of the most overpriced items on a cruise are often pharmaceutical or health products sold in the cruise ship convenience store. So, avoid buying these items onboard, and pack them from home instead.
You’ll need; waterproof bandaids, polysporin, immodium, pepto-bismal or tums tablets, re-hydrate tablets, pain reliever, throat lozenges, allergy medicine like benadryll, calamine lotion and cough candies.
This is what I bring and include on my cruise packing list, but I suggest you write out your own cruise first-aid kit packing list.
22. Lanyards for Cruise Ship Cards
You might be wondering where to keep your cruise card? Having cruise lanyards for your cruise key card is a convenient way for cruisers to be a bit more hands free on a cruise.
With this must-have cruise essential, you won’t be losing your cruise card!
Recommended: Cruise lanyards (available in different colors)
23. Waterproof Phone Case
Consider bringing a waterproof phone case (great to pack for shore excursions) on a lanyard. You can take photos and videos with the phone case on, and avoid ruining your phone on a cruise!
24. US small bills
Why bring small bills on a cruise? You won’t need cash to pay cruise ship tips or gratuities, as this can be charged to your credit card during your cruise. For your convenience, you can even prepay gratuities before your cruise if you like.
However, it’s a good idea to have small bills to tip the luggage porters as you drop off your luggage on embarkation day, or if they assist you for disembarkation. You may also want to tip for room service delivery, tour guides in a cruise port and have cash to make small purchases in a shore side market.
Keep in mind that US dollars are welcome in most Caribbean cruise ports. However, when you cruise in Europe or outside of North America, make sure to use the local currency.
Cruise tip: Avoid using your credit card in cruise ports, unless it’s for larger purchases. Even then, keep an eye on the currency being charged and that the amount is what was agreed upon.
25. Credit Cards
It’s always a good idea to have a credit card or two when you’re traveling and visiting cruise ports of call. A good cruise travel hack is to apply for a credit card that has benefits like reward points and travel insurance.
26. Seasickness Medication
Make sure to be prepared for possible motion sickness on a cruise. While we all hope not to get seasick, seasickness medication or prevention should be on your cruise packing list just in case.
Years ago I used to bring scopolamine or motion sickness patches, although we never used them. If you are prone to seasickness, I do suggest bringing them as people report that they work really well. You can also bring seabands, which are great for the cruise ship as well as boat excursions.
27. Sunscreen & Aloe Vera
Recommended: Reef-safe sunscreen (spf 50)
This is my favorite aloe vera gel! We used it on our last cruise when we got too much sun, and it was effective, non-sticky and moisturizing.
28. Lip balm
Protection from the sun goes beyond our skin. Don’t forget to pack lip balm with an SPF for each member of the family, to avoid unwelcome swollen lips on a cruise.
I used this Neutrogena tinted lip balm on my Caribbean cruise and highly recommend it!
Recommended: Neutrogena tinted lip balm with SPF
29. Ziplock Baggies
Pack a few bandaids in a baggy and throw them into your cruise shore excursion bag. Use baggies to pack a few snacks for your children from the buffet. You may even want to make a DIY wet bag and put wet bathing suits in large ziplocks after a beach excursion.
30. Water shoes
If you’re going to the beach, water shoes will be very useful. We brought water shoes for a shore excursion to Virgin Gorda, the Baths and have decided to bring them on every Caribbean, Bermuda and hot weather cruise from now on!
Recommended: Water shoes (men’s & women’s sizes & styles)
31. Children’s Items
If you’re traveling with young children, bring what you would need for any trip: diapers, wipes, rash creams. Bring some children’s tylenol or your preferred medication as well. Do check with the cruise line as to what will be provided as food, and what you may need to bring and add that to your children’s cruise packing list.
Related: 7 Best Cruise Lines for Families
32. Sand Toys
There really isn’t much of a limit on what you can bring on a cruise, so if you’re cruising with young children, why not pack sand and beach toys? These can really keep the kids busy on beach days, and having fun on your cruise!
33. Towel Clips
If you’re going on a cruise, you’ll want to pack towel clips to keep your towels from blowing away with the sea breeze.
I bought these towel clips a few years ago. Not only are they probably my favorite cruise accessory, but they are so useful! When it’s breezy on a cruise ship on sea days, or even on our beach days, I simply clip my towels to the lounge chairs and they stay in place.
Recommended: Boca Clips Beach Towel Holders
Recommended: Towel bands (check price & reviews here on Amazon)
35. Microfiber Towel
While you don’t have to pack a towel for a cruise, there are many cruisers who swear that bring their own fast dry towel is a great cruise tip!
The cruise ship will provide you with towels that you can use on the lido deck as well as in cruise ports. However, they can be heavy and take time to dry when they get wet.
Consider packing lightweight microfiber towels that dry quickly (and stay sand free) for beach and water excursions.
36. Inexpensive Watch
Consider bringing along an inexpensive watch so that you can be sure to stay on ship’s time in the cruise ports of call.
37. Luggage Sleeves
Protect your luggage when you fly or cruise with a reusable luggage sleeve or cover.
Recommended: Luggage cover (see through)
38. Reusable Straws
Cruise lines have banned plastic straws in recent years. Consider packing silicone reusable straws if you’d rather not have the soggy paper straws.
These make a great gift for the cruise lover in your life that seems to have it all.
39. Pill Organizer Box
I love this pill box with several compartments for over the counter medication and vitamins. This pill organizer box has separate compartments in a handy folding design.
40. Cruise Luggage Tag Holders
After you print your luggage tags for your cruise, make sure that you purchase cruise luggage tag holders for your cruise line. This cruise packing hack will ensure that your paper tags don’t fall off your luggage during the boarding process.
- Carnival luggage tag holders
- Royal Caribbean luggage tag holders
- Princess luggage tag holders
- Norwegian luggage tag holders
- Celebrity luggage tag holders
- MSC luggage tag holders
- Holland America luggage tag holders
Cruise Packing Hacks to Save Space & Pack Better
These cruise packing hacks will save space in your luggage, stay organized educe wrinkles in clothing.
41. Use Packing Cubes for Organization
Use packing cubes to separate different categories of clothing for your cruise. Daywear, evening and sleepwear can all be placed in their own packing cubes.
42. Roll clothing instead of folding
Rolling clothes is a great way to pack clothing and reduce wrinkles. Many people also claim that rolling clothing is also a space saver.
43. Use tissue paper between clothing items
Tissue paper can be placed between clothing make of linen or cotton to reduce friction, which increases the chance of wrinkles forming in the clothing.
44. Place socks, scarves and small items in shoes and handbags
There are a lot of small places to pack items. This includes shoes and handbags. Putting soft items in handbags will preserve the shape of designer handbags.
45. Pack belts in dress shirt collars
A commonly known packing hack is to place a belt in the collar of dress shirts. This helps to keep the shape of a man’s dress shirt and also saves space in luggage.
46. Use dry cleaning bags for blouses and formal dresses
Dry cleaning bags can be placed between dresses and other clothing, and rolled. It will prevent wrinkles in formal wear.
47. Use bubble wrap to wrap fragile and glass items
If you’re packing fragile items like perfume bottles, why not use bubble wrap you’ve saved from packaging?
48. Use a plastic shower cap to cover shoes
Cover the sole of your favorite shoes as you pack them in your luggage.
49. Pack dryer sheets to keep clothing smelling fresh
Dryer sheets are great to have in your luggage to keep your clothing smelling fresh. This is especially important as you pack up at the end of your cruise, and will likely have dirty clothing.
50. Pack a kitchen garbage bag for dirty laundry
Put your dirty clothes in a scented kitchen garbage bag before you put them into your luggage at the end of your cruise.
51. Lock luggage with a TSA approved combination lock for safety
Don’t fly without locking your locking your luggage with a TSA approved lock. You can also lock valuable items like laptops and luxury bags in locked luggage to keep your items secure in your cruise cabin.
52. Pack a Separate Pre-Cruise Hotel Bag
Remember to have a packing cube with change of clothes and other items you’ll need for a pre-cruise hotel stay.
53. Make Your Luggage Stand Out
Most of us have black or gray luggage, which isn’t easy to spot in a sea of suitcases. Use ribbon, yarn or duct tape on your luggage to make it stand out at the airport and cruise terminal.
Cruise Packing Hacks for Your Cabin & Cruise Essentials
These are some ways to organize and add more storage to your cruise ship cabin. Many cruise passengers use a few cruise cabin hacks.
54. Over the Door Organizer
Use an over the door shoe organizer to hold toiletries, flip flops, umbrellas and other items and add vertical storage to your cruise ship cabin.
55. Foldable Travel Hangers
You can request extra hangers from your cabin steward. However, if you prefer to bring your own, you can bring some lightweight foldable hangers so that you can unpack quickly.
56. Magnet Hooks
Pack some magnet hooks to hand your hats, sweatshirts and even backpacks in your cruise cabin. Many cruise ship cabin walls are metal, so magnetic hooks are genius! Make sure they are heavy duty (50 lbs plus).
57. Sticky Notes
Pack sticky notes to leave notes for your cabin attendant or cabin mates.
Cruise lines have apps where you can your daily schedule. However, if you like a paper cruise planner (as I do), then bring a highlighter to mark the activities you want to check out.
59. Travel Fan
Cruise ship cabins can get hot and stuffy. Consider packing a small travel fan.
60. White Noise Machine
If you need white noise to sleep, consider packing a small white noise machine or download a white noise app on your cell phone.
First time cruisers should know that cruise ships can have noises that you won’t hear in a hotel room (like ocean sounds, hallway noise and creeks).
Would you like to see more about packing for a cruise? In this video I share more cruise packing tips you’ll enjoy!
61. Cruise Cabin Night Light
Cruise ship cabins get very dark at night, especially inside cabins. You may want to pack a motion sensor cruise cabin night light.
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Final Thoughts on Cruise Packing Tips and Hacks All Cruisers Need to Know
In this post we went over what to pack for a cruise, as well as over 60 useful cruise packing tips and hacks for new and experienced cruisers. I’ve also included some of the most useful cruise items that can make your cruise easier as well.
I hope this post has been helpful to give you a good idea to know what to pack for your cruise vacation.
What are your cruise packing tips or must-haves items you bring on a cruise? Please let me know in the comments below.
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