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Cruise Packing List Must-Haves – The Often Overlooked Essentials to Bring on a Cruise

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A guide to all the essentials you better not forget on your cruise packing list. Take the guesswork out planning and packing for your next family trip with this comprehensive list of cruise vacation must-haves!!

Cruise Packing List Must-Have Essentials

Anyone who knows my family can attest to the fact that we are complete and total CRUISE JUNKIES!!

We absolutely love taking cruises, and this summer we are heading on another one, and we can’t wait!!

I believe this will be #15 for my hubby and me…along with #5 for the kids.

There are SO many reasons to love cruising, but I’ll save that little speech for another blog post!

This blog is going to be all about what to take on a cruise…as a semi-professional cruising veteran, I’ll share my list of must-haves with a few packing yips!

Most of these items you can find on Amazon while others I just pick up at my local dollar store, but I promise they will help your cruise vacation trip go extra smoothly!!


(Note: The links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, and we will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through our links at no cost to you. Read our full disclaimer policy here.)

So let’s dive right in!!

DRUMROLL PLEASE…

Magan’s (Often Overlooked) Cruise Packing List Must-Have Essentials

The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

Okay, so let’s jump right in and let me explain why these items are all on my essential packing list of things you need to pack for your next cruise ship vacation!!

1. Lanyard with Plastic Sleeve

Lanyard with Plastic Sleeve

Listen, if you like wasting money, which I’m betting is a BIG FAT NO, then you’ve got to get a lanyard before you set foot on the ship.

On our first family trip, we spent over $40 in lanyard purchases alone…such a racket!!!

You can snag one of these from Amazon for much less, and I’ve even seen some cute “blingy” ones at the Dollar Tree!!

Lanyards are truly the easiest way to keep track of your key card (that you use not only for your room key but also for onboard purchases)!

Believe me, I know firsthand what a pain it is losing your key card, and no one wants to be wasting their time standing in the L-O-N-G line at the Guest Services desk when you can be on the Lido Deck sipping a Mai Tai, so toss a lanyard for each guest into your carry on bag and you’ll have it ready to roll before you set sail on the cruise!

2. Beach Chair Towel Clips

Beach Chair Towel Clips

Okay, so I’m a bit of a gadget nut!!

But I’ve been on many cruise ships so I know the best-kept insider tips!

And these beach towel chair clips are one of those silly gadgets that actually are really helpful!!!

No matter what the weather forecasts may predict, the pool deck can get pretty darn windy, and these clips keep your towel from flying away.

Does your cruise line have a private island beach? These are perfect for those loungers on the beach too!

* HOT INSIDER CRUISE LINE TIP * – when you have these clipped to your towel and chair, no one will mistake it for an available spot…not that you’d ever “reserve” your chair at the pool, which is strictly prohibited…I’m sure you’re not a vacation rule breaker like that!

3. Magnetic Hooks

Magnetic Hooks with hanging items

You know how you’ve got a place where you ALWAYS put your keys when you get home (unless you are my husband who can’t ever seem to find where he left them!)

You need a spot like that in your cruise cabin too….and here comes the perfect solution…magnetic hooks for the back of the door!!

We have both of these types of magnetic hooks and some with clips so we can put any important papers (like the daily activities sheet) that we want to keep in an organized spot.

(Important side note – This is not my photo…we don’t normally take whisks on vacation! They won’t be on the list of Must-Haves)

4. Luggage Tag Protectors

Luggage Tag Protectors for cruise vacations

As a cruise veteran, there are still a few things I have on my wish list and these Cruise Luggage Tags are one of those items!!

For every bag (besides carry-on items) you bring on the ship, you need to label them with a room tag so the crew knows where to deliver your bags once you board.

These heavy-duty tag pouches will give you peace of mind that your tags aren’t torn, wet or lost!!

So you can enjoy your happy hour by the pool and not worry a bit about untagged, misplaced luggage!!

(Thing to remember…different cruise lines have different size tags, so be sure to check the dimensions online or buy the ones that are “universal” size!)

5. Outlet Extender


Wondering what the #1 most popular cruise purchase is??

Well, I’ll tell you…it’s a cruise power strip. ( I promise that I didn’t just make that up!).

I know what you are thinking…“What? Why can’t people put away their cell phone!?

Honestly, unlike hotel rooms, there are so few outlets in a cruise cabin room, that using accessories like a hairdryer, sound machine, alarm clock, smart devices, and curling irons can get a bit crowded…I’m sure it has nothing to do with cell phone addiction!!

Most cruise lines no longer allow the long strip power surge type of cords anymore so this little cruise accessory will maximize your outlet space and keep you off the cruise naughty list!!

6. Collapsible Water Bottle

Collapsible Water Bottle

OMG!!! I LOVE THIS INVENTION!! Have I mentioned I’m obsessed with nifty gadgets?!?

If you are in the market for a new water bottle, this one is perfect for cruising because it’s collapsible, so it helps you maximize your suitcase space!

On your days off of the boat at the ports of call and excursions, you will want to stay extra hydrated, especially after overindulging at the 70’s dance party in the club last night, so toss this collapsible water bottle into your beach bag for the day!!

7. Bathroom Spray

Bathroom Spray

When an item gets 5 stars on Amazon and the review quote is “This stuff is a gift from the poop gods”, then you know you have a winner in Poo-Pourri!

Nothing can tick off your cabin mates faster than leaving a stinky deuce in the john!

Poo-Pourri to the rescue!!

This specific one is made especially for cruising and it’s called “Ship Happens” and comes in travel-sized bottles…seriously, you have gotta buy it just for that hilarious name alone!!

Believe me, whether you’re vacationing with close friends or family members, they will thank you for bringing this little miracle worker along so be sure to add it to your list of things to pack for a cruise!

8. Hanging Toiletries Bag

Hanging Toiletries Bag


If you are a cruising novice, the one thing that will probably surprise you in person is how small your cabin room is!

There is so little storage space that your old college dorm looks like a palace in comparison!

And the bathroom in your cabin room is teeny-tiny with very little counter space.

So the best way to maximize what little space you have are products like this hanging toiletry bag bathroom organizer!

You can hang it and use it while you are getting ready, then stow it out of the way when you are done so your bathroom counter won’t turn into an avalanche of toiletries and grooming products!

9. Travel Sound Machine

Travel Sound Machine


Depending on your sleeping habits, this next product may not be a “Must Have” for you, but in a home full of “fan sleepers”, The Weber Fam HAS to have some sort of sound machine!

This portable white noise sound machine is the right choice for a cruise for a few defining reasons!

1. It is rechargeable so no need to plug it in…remember the lack of outlets?

2. It’s small so it won’t take up much space in your luggage or in your teeny tiny cabin room!

3. There are three sound options..bright white noise, deep white noise, and gentle surf, so you can choose what you are in the mood for!

4. It’s perfect for travel and on-the-go use because it includes a lanyard for easy handling or hanging!

Essentially making this travel sound machine a must-have on your packing checklist!

10. Wet/Dry Bag

Woman sitting on beach next to a Wet/Dry Bag

Do you know what is worse than dirty clothes after a weeklong cruise?

WET and DIRTY clothes!!

With usually no laundry facilities available, I always feel a bit stressed on that last day of a cruise when I start assessing what items are still damp and trying to figure out how to get them all back home without making everything wet!

A wet-dry bag solves that dilemma in a flash!

It’s a total lifesaver because it’s perfect for all of those wet bathing suits, coverups, water shoes, and gym clothes.

I love this line made by Teamoy because they have many cute, eye-appealing patterns and colors, and they are made of high-grade material lined with polyurethane laminate to keep moisture and yucky smells from seeping through the bag making it the perfect laundry bag for anything damp!

11. Waterproof Cell Phone Case


On most cruises, you’re going to spend A LOT of time around water…whether it’s around the pool, on an excursion, or at a private beach.

You know what you don’t want on your vacation…a water-logged phone or worse yet, missing the perfect picture while in Sting Ray City!

It’s also a wise choice to have just in case the weather forecast calls for inclement weather like rain!

That’s why taking along a waterproof phone case is a must on any cruise ship!!

So when your daughter yells “Watch me, watch me, watch me” while diving in the pool, you can tell her you took an underwater picture because it lasts longer!

12. Travel Beach Blanket

Woman sitting on beach blanket looking at ocean

The number #12 must-have item is a total veteran cruiser hack!!

If you are going to a beach on your cruise, the amount local vendors charge in cruise ports for chair usage sometimes feels like a money scheme, and then you are stuck in that one spot for the duration of your stay!

If you bring your own beach blanket, you don’t have to pay anything and you can go explore wherever you want!

I like this sand-proof beach blanket because it comes in a handy travel bag, and it’s quick-drying if it gets wet.

It also has weighable pockets and comes with 4 anchor loops and stakes, so if it happens to be a breezy day, it won’t fly away!

13. Beach Towels

Two women walking on beach holding towels

Once you’ve paid $20 for ONE crappy beach towel (think 99 Cents Store quality), you will never make that mistake again!! (True Story)

So if you have a “beach day” planned in your cruise itineraries, you might want to bring along a compact beach towel.

When we travel as a family of 5, I don’t bring any towels due to the shortage of suitcase space, but I always am sure to grab some when leaving the ship for day excursions (most cruise lines have a big container of them as your heading ashore)

When it’s just me and the hubs, I throw a couple in!!

These Dock & Bay Microfiber Towels are awesome because they dry three times quicker than traditional cotton towels, come with a travel bag, are super soft, and are made in TONS of festive colors and designs so it’s an easy add-in to the cruise packing checklist!!

14. Cruise Cabin Night Light

Cruise Cabin Nightlight

There’s nothing much worse than waking in the middle of the night, needing to use the restroom, being confused about where you are, and then proceeding to trip on suitcases and shoes on the floor on the way to the cabin bathroom!

Pretty much every family vacation I bring a plug-in night light for those middle of the night trips to the “loo”, but in case you’ve forgotten, outlet plugs are pretty sparse on a cruise, so this battery-operated cruise cabin nightlight with a motion sensor with a magnetic base may become your nighttime bestie!

The magnetic base attaches to the cruise cabin closet or walls/doors and is motion censored to light up with movement. The rotating light face points in any direction so you can customize your lighted path in the dark!

15. A Travel Bag/Backpack

Man carrying a black travel bag/backpack


I’ve saved my best “Cruise Hack” for Must Have Item #15!!

On the day you board the ship you will want to keep some personal items out of your checked luggage because it will be HOURS before you are allowed in your room and even then, your bags may not be delivered yet!

So be sure to pack all of your personal items in a bag/backpack of sorts!

The Weber Clan is a pool family so we head straight to the pool as soon as we are on board (well, right after we grab some grub at the Windjammer Cafe…food is the #1 priority, then the pool!) so we use a bag to pack swimsuits, cover-ups, sunhats, flip flops, and sunscreen too!

This crossbody-style backpack is a great choice because you can also take it on any shore excursions at the cruise port you’ve booked, it’s lightweight, and lays flat in your suitcase for when you are heading home!

Speaking of things you can use from home…I have a quick list of other things you probably have sitting around your home that you should add to your packing lists too!!

If you want to grab my printable cruise packing list, check out my post:

“The Ultimate Cruise Packing List”

The Ultimate Cruise Packing List



So here’s a cliff note version of a few other things I ALWAYS bring on cruises that I didn’t need to purchase specifically for the purpose of cruising.

————————————————————————————————–

 

Cruise Items Found at Home or at a Discount Store


1. Large Insulated Water Bottle

Pink Hydroflask water bottle

My teenagers are OBSESSED with their Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottles (believe the hype, they really do stay cold FOREVER!) so I am sure these bad boys will be going on vacation with us too…keeping teens hydrated is a must!!

2. Disposable Foam Earplugs

On top of using a sound machine, these little HEAROS Noise Cancelling Disposable Foam Earplugs take up hardly any space in your luggage and will help ensure you have a peaceful night’s sleep!

3. Travel Size Wrinkle Spray

Electric steamers and irons are a big “No-No” on cruises (hello, fire hazard) so if you are worried about unsightly wrinkles, toss in a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser.

4. Battery Operated Mini Fan

Many people swear by these mini rechargeable battery-operated fans.

If you already have one of these, you may not need a white noisemaker!

4. Portable Phone Charger

Portable Phone Charger

If you don’t have a portable phone charger, stop what you are doing and go get one RIGHT. NOW.

Of all the “travel accessories” we own, this one is the TOP DOG in our house!!

We take it on every trip, not just cruises!

5. Mesh Laundry Bags

If you’ve got a dollar store near you, you might want to pick up one of these Mesh Laundry Bags.

They are perfect for keeping all of those dirty clothes separate from the clean ones!

6. Playing Cards

Another thing that dollar store always seems to have are decks of cards for super cheap.

We take cards on most vacations because they are a great non-screen way to have some fun together!


7. Packing Cubes

Stack of black packing cubes


In tight quarters in your cruise cabin, staying organized will help keep your small space feel tidier, and these mesh packing cubes (we have the black ones but they come in other colors too) are the absolute best in keeping all of your items neatly stored in your luggage.

We take them on every trip, but they are especially helpful for cruising!

8. Plastic Clothespins

Other items from my local dollar store that keeps things neat in the stateroom are plastic clothespins.

We utilize them to maximize space in the bathroom by using them to hang wet pool and beachwear in the shower when not in use.

9. Snorkel Mask

Snorkel Mask

If you are a snorkeling fan and plan to do some beach shore excursions, you may want to pack your own set!!

This Foldable Free Breathing Full Face Snorkeling Mask with Detachable GoPro Mount is super cool!

As a family of 5 with too much luggage, the snorkel mask just has never made the cut for our cruise packing list space-wise!!

10. Pool/Beach Bag

Be sure to read my hot tip above at #15 about packing a good beach bag or backpack!

I have one like this extra large beach tote, and it has lots of compartments making it the perfect carryall!

11. Motion Sickness Relief

If you are one to get motion sickness, luckily there are lots of products that can help!!

You can take Dramamine Motion Sickness Relief Tablets to help prevent nausea, dizziness, and vomiting or you can try the MQ Motion Sickness Patches or Sea-Bands Wristband.

12. Sun Protection

Whether you are taking an Alaskan Cruise or a Caribbean Cruise, the sun can be intense!

So be sure to add sunscreen, chapstick with SPF, and some aloe vera to your packing list!!

13. Bug Spray

Organic bug spray

Be sure to check out your cruise destination BUG REPORT before you finalize your cruise packing list!

During our last cruise, the Zika virus transmitted from mosquitos was on the news cycle, so we brought some Organic Deet Free Bug Repellent to stay on the safe side!

14. Communication Products

Staying in communication with traveling mates can be a bit tricky so we ALWAYS bring a small magnetic dry erase board with magnetized markers for the front of our cabin door to leave each other notes of our plans and some sticky notes for inside our stateroom to leave any messages we don’t want public!

15. Highlighter Markers

Although many ships are now making their daily activities sheets digital, I still love getting the printed one every day, and I bring several highlighters so I can color code which family members might like which activity happening that day!

16. Binoculars

Pair of black binoculars

If you are a nature lover and are heading to a location with unique animal species, you may want to take a pair of binoculars with you, especially if you have a balcony room or are taking a nature-oriented excursion.

17. Over The Door Organizer

I’m currently on the lookout for an Over-The-Door Organizer & Shoe Holder.

I’ve seen photos of the various ways that people have used these to keep their room extra organized, and it looks so functional!!

It’s definitely on my wish list for our upcoming trip!!

So there are a million and one (well, I guess more like 32) ideas of things to pack for a cruise that will keep you super organized and ready to have an epic vacation with your loved ones!

We haven’t even addressed the cruise line dress code and what you need to pack to wear!! Evening gowns, rain gear, and hiking shoes – oh my!!

I’ll be writing about that in an upcoming post!! So stayed tuned!

I’d love to hear what you think are cruise essentials…shoot them at me in the comments!!

XOXO,

Magan


Other Cruise Posts:

The Ultimate Printable Cruise Packing List

What to Pack in Your Cruise Carry On Bag for Embarkation Day

Top 10 Prohibited Items on Cruise Lines – What You Should Not Pack on Your Cruise Vacation



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Magan Weber

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