Don't know what to pack for a cruise? Get this free pdf checklist printable, complete with tips for family travel, vacation essentials, packing hacks, & more!
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My family really puts an emphasis on travel. We're not big "stuff" people - we choose to spend money on experiences instead. For our kids' birthdays for the past few years, we've given them family vacations instead of physical gifts, and it's been one of the best decisions we've ever made as parents.
So, you could say that we've been there, done that - and I'm here to share the good, bad, and ugly of what to pack for a cruise. 🙂 I've made my suggestions into a printable family cruise packing list pdf that I hope you'll find super helpful when planning your next trip! Grab the printable version of this family cruise packing list at the bottom of this post.
Most of the items on this packing checklist printable are common sense, but if you're like me, you need it written down to remember it. So, I've included both must haves you've probably already thought about and a few (kind of random) things that I've found really helpful when traveling with kids. If you're unsure why I put something on the list, check below for an explanation...I tried to include some of my best packing tips in this post as well.
What to Pack for a Cruise
- Passport/Birth Certificates/Identification - Make triple copies of all of your important documents. If you're cruising, some cruise lines require the original copies to board, so bring those and put the originals in your safe as soon as you get to the room, using the copies when you can.
- Flight Documents
- Vaccination Cards
- Credit Cards - Make sure the card you pick has no foreign transaction fee!
- Cash - Get double what you expect to need. Include lots of small bills for tips.
- Insurance Cards
- Currency for Foreign Countries - the conversion rate is usually higher once you get to the country...most ports around America accept US dollars, but if you're planning on exploring out of the port or are going to a country that's further away, go on and get some foreign currency before you go.
- Underwear (1 per day)
- 1 Casual Outfit Per Day (+2-3 pairs shoes)
- Swimsuit/Cover (1 per day for beach vacation)
- Flip Flops
- 1-2 Dressier Outfits (+ shoes)
- Comfortable Walking Shoes
- Workout Outfits (2-3...don't go overboard)
- Pajamas (1 per day per person)
- Flip Flops
- Light/Rain Jacket
- Sun/Baseball Hat
- Beach Bag - we like to pack an inexpensive, small beach bag just to get our stuff from point a to point b. You can even use a reusable shopping bag!
Family Vacation Toiletries
- Body Wash/Soap
- Pain Medicine
- Dramamine or
- Seabands - Some people report that these bands (that use pressure points to ease sea sickness) work as well as Dramamine if you're on a boat.
- Cough Medicine
- Other Medicine (Prescriptions)
- First Aid Kit
- Feminine Products
- Band Aids
- Makeup Wipes
- Straightener/Curling Iron
- Hair Dryer
- Ponytail Holders
- Hair Products
- Ear Plugs
- Eye Mask
- Insect Repellant - We bring along wipes for this - they were so convenient.
- Hand Sanitizer
- Anti Chafe Balm/Powder
- Contact Lenses/Solution
- Cell Phones & Chargers
- Smart Watches & Chargers
- Tablets & Chargers
- Computers & Chargers
- Cameras & Chargers
- Extra Memory Cards/Batteries
- Power Strip
- USB Hub - We don't even need a power strip when traveling because we brought this amazing thing.
It's simply a one-plug outlet with several USB plugs on the other end. Perfect for charging lots of things at once!
- Headphone Splitter
- Waterproof Phone Case
- International Power Adapter - A must for your American electronics if you're traveling internationally!
- Portable Power Bank - If you're not planning on being in your hotel room a lot, this is a great thing to have for electronics. It's perfect for charging laptops, tablets, and phones on the go.Walkie Talkies
- Walkie Talkies - If you find yourself in an area without internet, these can be helpful for communicating with family when separated.
Always make sure to bring all charging cords for a camera, laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc. A good tip I use is to pack the charging cable as you pack the electronic device.
Kids' Items for a Family Cruise
- Water Shoes
- Floaties - Check with your destination before packing these items - many cruise lines and resorts have floatation vests for kids.
- White Noise Machine
- Baby Powder - If you're planning on going on a beach vacation, make sure you bring the baby powder to get sand off! Just sprinkle some on the skin with sand and it will wipe off like magic.
- Swim Goggles
- Night Light
- Fanny Pack
- Sticky Notes - This is an easy way to leave notes for family members around the room.
- Dry Erase Board - We picked one up at Dollar Tree and had it on our door (when cruising; it might be better to leave inside a hotel room otherwise). It's nice to leave notes for family members or a room steward when leaving for the day.
- Cruise Card Lanyards - If you're cruising, you need your cruise card basically everywhere you go on the ship - it's so much easier to keep it on a lanyard! We made sure to hang ours by the door when we came in the room. Just make sure to punch the hole in your card in a place that isn't used for scanning.
- Soft Drinks
- Ziplock Bags - I am the HUGEST fan of using zip-top bags to pack for kids!
When they were younger, I organized all of our kids' clothes for each day in a bag, including underwear and accessories. It was so easy to get them to pick an outfit each day.
I also use zip-top bags to pack things that might leak. I put a little bit of packing tape around the top of the bottle and put it in a bag to prevent the rest of your clothing from getting dirty.
You can reuse these bags once on vacation too! I saved some to pack wet clothes for the return home.
- Dish Soap
- Waterproof Dry Bags
- Disinfecting Wipes - These are available at Dollar Tree and are so easy for cleaning hands quickly!
- Suction Hooks - Also available at Dollar Tree - this is a great way to store hats, sunglasses, lanyards, etc. on the wall.
- Magnet Clips - Yet another Dollar Tree find that we used so much!
When cruising, the walls in your room are magnetic; use these on the wall to hang your cruise newsletters, Wifi passwords, and even art from the kids' club.
- Vacuum-Sealed Cup/Water Bottle - I'd definitely bring these for the whole family. You'll want a larger one (like this) so you're not constantly refilling. Those water bottles get expensive - this is a great way to save money! Just make sure the water you're drinking has been purified for safe consumption.
- Towel Clips - This is one of those things I had no idea we would use so much!
We use these to clip towels to our chairs. Perfect for windy days! They're also good for hanging wet clothes on the line in your shower. They sell them in ports for much, much more, but we got ours 6 to a pack at Dollar Tree.
- Hanging Shoe Organizer - Let me sing the praises of this thing from the rooftops! This was the best organizational tool we bring on vacation.
We used most of the spaces for shoes, but the bottom extra pockets held our medicine, laundry items, sunscreen, bug wipes, etc. It was such a big help in organizing a hotel room or cruise cabin.
- Collapsible Laundry Hamper - this fit perfectly in our closet to let us put dirty clothes all in one place. It's kind of small, so once it filled up I emptied it into a larger laundry bag that I stored out of sight. (These hampers are kind of hard to find at dollar stores, but I have seen them there before!)
- Vacuum Laundry Bag - This is such a space saver for getting your dirty laundry home.
Even if you don't have a vacuum cleaner to use, you can typically get most of the air out of these by just pressing down on them. This saves a ton of room in your suitcase.
- Stain Remover Wipes - You'll definitely need these once or twice! Much easier than carrying along a bottle of stain remover.
- Wrinkle Release Spray - Not only can you not bring an iron with you on board, but there are usually not irons available to use. Clothes are so wrinkled when they come out of a suitcase, so this is a must!
- Dryer Sheets - These are great for putting in drawers to freshen your clothing. You can also put a few in a bathroom to reduce odor.
- Air Freshener
And a few random family cruise packing tips...
- Packing cubes, packing cubes, packing cubes! These are amazing for packing an organized suitcase. When you get to your destination, simply place in the drawer and unzip - that's it, you're unpacked! Simply pull the clothes out of the packing cube as needed. It's a super easy way to organize those big, awkward drawers or closet shelves. (Mine can be found here.)
- Roll your clothes to save space. This is my go-to method for folding t-shirts and towels now, even when not traveling. This allows you to see and access the contents of your packing cube in one glance!
- An easy way to find your luggage in a big sea of suitcases is to put something distinctive (like our oh-so-fancy keychain 😉) somewhere on it. I've also seen people put a large piece of duct tape with their name on luggage too.
- We don't so much pack an overnight bag; instead, we pack a 24 hour bag. Pack everything you need for 24 hours before your trip and 24 hours after your trip in one suitcase and keep that one with you. Often, you won't get your luggage until hours after you board the ship. I pack all of our toiletries, a couple of changes of clothes and swimsuits, and chargers in this bag.
Packing Tips & Tricks Video
You can check out some of my favorite vacation packing tips and tricks in this video!
PDF Checklist - Free Printable
If you'd like to grab a printable version of the family vacation packing list you see above, I've got you covered! You can download a pdf version of this printable by clicking the link below.
Alright friends, I'd love to hear your best family vacation packing tips! Leave them in the comments.