Come Sail Away - The Essentials to Pack for a Family Cruise Vacation
Updated: Nov 23, 2019
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 #15 for my hubby and I 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! 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 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 🥁....Here are Magan's Must Have Essentials to Pack on a Cruise 🛳️
Okay, so let's jump right in and let me explain why these are all on my essential packing list for your next cruise!!
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 first hand 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!!🍹
Okay, so I'm a bit of a gadget nut!! And these beach towel chair clips are one of those silly gadgets that actually are really helpful!!! The deck around the pool can get pretty darn windy, and these clips keep your towel from flying away. Does your cruise have a private island beach? These are perfect for those loungers on the beach too! 🔥HOT INSIDER TIP🔥 when your have these clipped to your towel and chair, no one will mistaken 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! 😉
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 these type 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 🤣)
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!)
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 phones!?!? Honestly, there are so few outlets in a cruise cabin room, that using accessories like hair dryers, sound machines, clocks, and curling irons can get a bit crowded...I'm sure it has nothing to do with 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!!
OMG!!! I LOVE THIS INVENTION!! Have I mentioned I'm obsessed by 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!! 🕺🏽
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"...seriously, you gotta buy it just for that hilarious name alone!! Believe me, whether your vacationing with close friends or family members, they will thank you for bringing this little miracle worker along! 🙏🏽
If you are a cruising novice, the one thing that will probably surprise you in person is how small your cabin room is! 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 bathroom organizer! You can hang it and use it will 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!
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 lanyard for easy handling or hanging!
You know what is worse than dirty clothes after a weeklong cruise? WET and DIRTY clothes!! 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 swimsuits, coverups, 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.
On most cruises, you're going to spend A LOT of time around water...whether it's around the pool, or 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 String Ray City! That's why taking along a waterproof cell phone case is a must!!
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!
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 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 wets. 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! 🌬️
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 vacation itinerary, 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!!
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 nightlight 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 motion sensor with a magnetic base may become your nighttime bestie! The magnetic base attaches to cruise cabin 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!
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 swim suits and sunscreen too! This crossbody style backpack is a great choice because you can also take it on any excursions you've booked, it's lightweight, and lays flat in your suitcase for when you are heading home!
There you have it folks, MY Top #15 Items to bring on your next cruise! Do you need to buy every single one of these to have an amazing trip?? No, of course not!! Maybe you are like me and just keep adding to your cruise accessories over time or you might have some similar things at your house that will serve the same purpose!
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 bring along too!! 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
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!!
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 peaceful night's sleep!
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
Many people swear by these mini Rechargeable Battery Operated Fans. If you have one of these, you may not need
a white noise maker!
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!
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!
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!
In tight quarters in your cruise cabin, staying organized will help keep your small space feel more tidy, 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!
Another item from my local dollar store that keeps things neat in the stateroom are plastic clothespins. We use them to maximize space in the bathroom by using them to hang wet pool and beachwear in the shower when not in use.
If you are snorkeling fan, 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 space-wise!!
Be sure to read my hot tip above at #15 about packing a beach bag or backpack! I have one like this Extra Large Beach Tote, and it has lots of compartments making it the perfect carryall!
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
Be sure to check out your destination BUG REPORT!! 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 be stay on the safe side!
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!
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 member might like which activity happening that day!
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.
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 what you should wear!! I'll be writing about that in an upcoming post!! So stayed tuned!
I've love to hear what you think are cruise essentials...shoot them at me in the comments!!
Other Cruise Posts:
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