Cruising has become one of the most popular ways to escape and truly enjoy a change of scenery. A 360-degree view of vast open seas blending into a sunset horizon has a way of relaxing just about anyone. If you’re not admiring the ocean, you may be enjoying some of the endless entertainment and amenities on board.
Though you’re sure to ease into vacation mode once you climb aboard the ship, packing for a cruise can be a challenge, as it’s a bit different than packing for other kinds of travel.
In this article, we’ll provide some tips for packing for a cruise, as well as a suggested packing list.
What to pack for a cruise
To get the most out of your cruise experience — like so many other things in life — you're going to have to learn how to master the fine art of prioritization. And packing is the one area where this is most important. Want to bring everything including your golf clubs, tennis racquet and six pairs of shoes? Probably not a good idea. Less is more, but just enough is even better.
Not only is there limited room in your cabin (and on the plane), but there are a wide range of activities to consider — both on ship and on land — that you’ll want to pack for. Deciding what’s a priority is imperative. Easy rule: Don't bring more than two bags per person and have your clothing account for a wide range of activities (and possibly temperatures).
A packing list can keep you focused on needs vs. nice-to-haves and decreases your chances of forgetting something important. After all, you can’t just run out to the store to replace something you forgot to pack.
Tips to pack for a cruise
- Maximize your carry-on bag: Consider your carry-on bag the most important one and put essentials like medications, passport, chargers, sunscreen, one bathing suit and one outfit. This will ensure you have the most important items with you at all times instead of checking a bag that may get delayed.
- Share a checked bag with a friend or family member: If you do check a second suitcase, consider sharing it with someone to cut down on cost and space.
- Add a luggage tracker: For the bags that you do check, attach an electronic luggage tag. These tags have a GPS device that links to your phone so you always know where your bag is, even if it gets misplaced or routed to the wrong place.
- Consider cruise insurance: Cruises can be affected by unpredictable weather. Purchasing cruise insurance beforehand may end up being a wise decision if unforeseen events happen, such as a trip interruption due to weather, a last-minute cancellation or medical emergency.
- Find out what the dress code is: Before packing, make sure to read the cruise line’s dress code for the days you’ll be on board. Some cruises have a formal night where evening wear is encouraged. Other nights may include a theme you can dress up for. You won’t want to miss out on any fun events that require more than resort wear.
- Think about layers: Even if you’re cruising to a warm destination, it can be chilly or windy on the deck in the evenings. It’s helpful to pack light layers that you can take on or off as needed.
- Recycle outfits: There’s nothing wrong with wearing the same thing twice! If you really need some room in your suitcase, plan to pack mix and match tops and bottoms — or repeat outfits that you only wear for a few hours at a time. If not, there are laundry services available on most cruise ships for an additional cost.
Cruise packing list
Packing for a cruise requires careful consideration; after all, you’ll be on a floating resort with lots of different activities and even destinations. The ultimate packing list for a cruise includes a range of items to ensure you’re well-prepared. Here’s a comprehensive list you can use or edit to fit your personal needs:
- Boarding pass for airline
- Boarding pass for cruise ship
- Travel insurance information
- Driver’s license or ID
Toiletries and personal items
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body wash or soap
- Razor and shaving cream
- Brush or comb
- Motion sickness relief
- Hand sanitizer
- Glasses or contacts
- Casual wear for daytime
- Formal or semi-formal for evening
- Hat or ball cap
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Sandals or flip flops
- Jacket or sweater (layers)
- Rain jacket
- Camera and memory card
- Travel adapter or power strip (if cruise line allows)
- Headphones or ear buds
- Books or magazines
- Pool or beach tote
- Over-the-door organizer for the bathroom
- Bag for your laundry
- Water bottle
- Tide stick
What you should not pack with you for a cruise
It’s important to be aware of what not to pack for a cruise to avoid unnecessary clutter and also to ensure you’re following the safety and security regulations of your cruise line. Here are some items that are best to leave at home:
- Valuable jewelry
- Unnecessary electronics or appliances
- Alcohol (check with your cruise line for specifics)
- Extension cords
- Large sporting equipment
Get ready to set sail
A well-planned packing list can help manage the stress of vacation prep. You’ll want to strike a balance between essentials and unnecessary items that will only create the burden of extra luggage. Be familiar with the cruise line’s policies around dress code and security. Finally, consider the destination, weather and any planned excursions when you decide what to pack and what to leave behind. Bon voyage!