What To Pack For A Family Cruise Vacation
Packing for a family cruise can be intimidating. We didn’t know what to expect when we took our first cruise a few years ago. We have a few ideas to help you make sure you’re well prepared and ready for your next vacation at sea.
Prior To Leaving
I’m sure it goes without saying that you should have all of the required documents and identification for everyone traveling. The requirements depend on your ports of call. Keep in mind that if you do need to have passports for people in your party, that these can take a while to get so start the process as soon as you can. We ended up having to pay rush fees on the passports for our first cruise and ooooohhh my that was pricey 🙂
Check your cell phone plans to see what type of coverage is available and what charges might apply. A lot of the ships have an app that allows you to message other guests on board the ship without having to use cellular data.
Here are a few things that are on our cruise vacation packing list.
Motion Sickness Bands and Medicine
- Motion Sickness Bracelets – We keep at least one set of these Sea Band Motion Sickness Bracelets in the car with us when we travel, but they are perfect for cruises. They make sea bands for adults and sea bands for kids. They are pressure point bracelets to relieve motion sickness. There was definitely one night on the boat when we all were wearing them. They are available online, but also at Target, CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart
- Dramamine – helps relieve motion sickness symptoms, but it does make you sleepy. It’s been our experience that the first night of the cruise your ship is usually hauling tail to get out to sea and it can be a little rough to get used to your new sea legs. One cruise when it was pretty choppy the first night, we all ended up taking the Dramamine and called it an early night. They also make a dramamine for kids. It’s definitely something nice to have on hand to relieve the symptoms if you need it.
Packing & Laundry Bags
- Small Suitcase or Duffle Bag – When you board the ship, you’re able to immediately hit the pool and start participating in different activities, but depending on how the cruise line handles the luggage, you might not see your luggage in your room right away. Having a small duffle bag with anything you might need to hit the ground running. We also had no idea that you are supposed to put the majority of your luggage outside of your stateroom the night before you are getting off of the cruise ship. We didn’t have a small day bag with us that we could leave what we needed for the next morning. A small suitcase or better yet a duffle bag allows you to put the majority of your luggage out for pickup and easily pack the rest in the morning before you disembark. We have the Patagonia Black Hole Duffle Bag and really love it, but this budget friendly Gonex Packable duffle bag on Amazon looks like it would do the job too.
- Ebags – Packing for a vacation for a family of five should be an Olympic sport. We used to carefully pack everyone’s clothes in the suitcase and after approximately 3 hours in the hotel, everything would be jumbled up. We’ve mentioned these ebags packing cubes before, but they literally are a lifesaver when packing for families. We have a different color 3 piece set for each family member and it makes living out of a suitcase much more bearable. They come in different sizes and colors and you can easily move them around in the suitcase or between suitcases and still keep everything organized. We use the smallest size for underwear and socks, medium size for jammies and swimwear and the largest size for shirts and pants. You might need additional ones depending on what you’re packing but we’ve been able to squeeze a bunch in the 3 piece sets.
- Dirty Laundry Bags – These dirty laundry bags are such a handy thing to have while traveling. It not only gives you a place to throw all of your dirty laundry, it is perfect for transporting it to the hotel laundry facility to wash the laundry if you are staying for an extended period of time. We usually research if the facility has laundry machines if they take quarters, dollars, etc. It’s much easier to get a roll of quarters, pack a few detergent pods and dryer sheets or whatever you use and bring that with you then figuring that out while on property. Even if you don’t plan on doing laundry at the hotel, you can easily store the dirty laundry and separate it from your clean laundry for the trip home.
- Ziplock bags are perfect for all of those swimsuits or flip flops that haven’t quite fully dried yet. Our kids wanted to hit the pool one last time on our last night on the ship and there was no way those swimsuits were drying before morning. The ziplock bags kept all of the soggy clothes separate until we could launder them.
What To Pack For Stateroom Sanity
- Noise Machines – These are such a helpful item when traveling. Trying to get three kids to sleep in the same little hotel room or cruise ship stateroom. These little noise machines help drown out the surrounding background noise and make bedtime when traveling a little easier. The LectroFan is the standard size and the LectroFan Micro is the travel size version of this little noise machine.
- Portable Charger is perfect as a back up for flights or out on your adventures. If you’re spending all day out site seeing it can provide up to 2 full charges depending on the phone or device.
- Recharging – We try to remember to have everyone’s device fully charged before the trip, especially for flights, but inevitably someone has forgotten and we are handing out charger cables right and left. Extra cables are also good to have on hand. We use one of the small e-bags to throw all of the charger cables and chargers in so we can easily transport them from the car to the hotel room.
- Odor Fighting Spray 😉 These are so very helpful when you have five people sharing one itty bitty bathroom. We absolutely love the Fresh Wave Odor Removing Travel Spray. It is great for use in the bathroom, but can also be used to freshen up the rest of the hotel room or a stinky pair of sneakers after a long day of exploring. I am seriously soooo bummed when we forget this at home. It has made sharing a bathroom on vacations much more pleasant 😉
Family Cruise Excursion And Activities
- When packing for your cruise, take a look at your different excursions and activities you plan on doing. Keep in mind that the excursions usually cost extra and book up quickly, so if you’re interested sign up in advance. For example, my son and I participated in a 5k run on the cruise line’s private island one year so we needed to pack our running gear.
- Reusable Water Bottles like these Hydroflasks are perfect to throw in your daypack for your shore excursions.
- Excursion bags – If you’re heading out on some shore excursions, make sure you have somewhere to stash all of your gear that you’re taking with you We love the extremely affordable outlander 20L travel backpacks from Amazon. We bought each of the kids one of these bags for traveling. They can carry their own water bottle, snacks etc. They come in different sizes too. The lands end lightweight tote doubles as a great carryon bag as well as a beach bag. We also have the osprey daylite plus that we load up to explore the city or take hiking.
Deck Pool & Beach
- Bathing Suit Coverups – whether you’re walking to the pool deck or making your way off the ship to the beach, an easy breezy cover up is definitely on my packing list. I’ve found a few online options to choose from from left to right the Vneck t-shirt dress bathing suit coverup, V neck pleated shift dress swimsuit coverup, and this Ekouaer Women’s Swimsuit Beach Cover Up Shirt. For the little ladies, this one will keep them warm too.
- Flip flops or some type of shoe to wear to and from the pool or beach
- Sunscreen – Remember to pack sunscreen as well. It’s easy to forget if you’re packing in the winter for a tropical getaway, but having it on hand will save you from having to track it down on board the ship.
- Puddle jumper – This is a bulky thing to pack, but if you have little ones that are just learning how to swim, it is sure nice to have.
Travel Journal – Unplugged Fun
Our kids love to doodle. These little sketchbooks can easily be brought to dinner to keep them occupied. It also can be used as a neat little travel scrapbook or travel journal. We fill little plastic pencil boxes with toys, stickers, markers or crayons and a little notepad or spiral and maybe a glue stick to add in photos or other souvenirs. The plastic boxes keep everything together so you can easily transport it in to the hotel, plane, etc. with you. You can also add stickers or little toys or figurines. You could probably find most of this at the dollar store, Walmart or Target.
Family Cruise Theme Nights
Some cruises have formal nights, theme nights or special events during your stay. Our cruise had a few pirate themed events one night during our trip. We threw together a few costumes and brought them with us to wear for the on deck party. But something as simple as a themed t-shirt or even glow-sticks can be fun too.
If you’re taking your family farther north this year, check out or posts on What to Pack For a Family Ski Trip.