You’ve found the definitive cruise packing list. With years of cruising under our belts, this list isn’t just thrown together so we can say we have a list and tell you to get some magnetic clips :)… Cruise packing is what this site is about.
We break down each area, give tips and tell you WHY you may want to make certain packing decisions.
One thing we love about cruising is that it’s always changing and always different. That view out your balcony is a great example of this. Along those lines we’ll continually refine this list. We’d love your help! Got a great packing idea, gadget or tip? Let us know!
But Wait, Don’t I NEED These 30 Items to Cruise??
We want to put you at ease. You’ve seen plenty of “You Must Have These 10 Essentials” types of lists and videos. That’s not what this is. This is a written version of the conversation we’d sit down and have. A big list that will help you think through what you may personally want to take along on your cruise vacation with tips and explanations.
For the Cabin
- Night light – Cabins can get dark at night, especially interior cabins. A night light can help prevent you from bumping into things. Traditional night lights take up a precious outlet. Some alternatives…
- USB night lights – These plug into a USB port. That means no outlet taken up. They could go on a laptop, USB wall charger or power bank.
- 220v Travel Night Light – Many ships will have both 110 and 220 outlets. I’ll venture a guess that most US travelers leave the 220v outlet unused. This night light fits into compatible 220v outlets and as a bonus gets you a USB wall charger.
- Rechargeable Night Lights – Charge as needed, no outlet used! Also great for…
- Highly Recommended: Rechargeable Night for your cabin bathroom. Some cabin bathrooms are completely dark. Like… completely dark. Also a lot of times the light switch is on on the outside of the bathroom. To avoid being trapped in a small dark box you need to turn on the light before entering and potentially disturb your cabin mate. Also that much light can have a tendency to wake a person up. Okay, so… plug in a night light? Think again, most cabin bathrooms don’t have an outlet. Put one of these in the bathroom and turn on before going to bed and… problems solved.
- Sunrise alarm clock – especially for inside cabins.
- Small fan – double check to make sure your cruise line still allows these. Most do, some don’t. I know Norwegian has banned these at points.
- White noise machine or app
- Bluetooth speaker
- Travel alarm clock
- Travel Hangers – Cabins closets are typically lacking in hangers.
Power and Charging
Pictured: European Travel Plug Adapter, TESSAN International Power Plug with 2 USB, Type C Outlet Adaptor Charger for US to Most of Europe EU Iceland Spain Italy France Germany – See: Hands on Review: TESSAN International Power Plug with USB
Many cruise cabins have a common problem… lack of outlets. This has generally gotten better with newer ships, but can still be an issue. Even newer ships that have more cabin outlets, the outlets can be placed in such a way as to limit their usability. If two outlets are too close together… you can only use one.
Here are some solutions and tips for making the most of the outlets you’re given.
The other thing to consider is most cruise ships ban surge protectors. Check with your cruise line to be sure, but it’s a great general rule of thumb. Make sure the devices you bring with do not feature surge protection.
- Outlet Extender – Turns on socket into multiple sockets. Keep in mind most cruise lines do not allow surge protectors
- USB Wall Charger – A lot of times the problem we’re trying to resolve is getting enough USB ports to charge our devices. If that’s what you’re wanting to do, you can skip the intermediate devices (extender or power strip) and get a USB charger.
- Combo devices – There are some travel combo devices that have both USB ports and outlets. Consider: Cruise Power Strip No Surge Protector with USB Outlets or Anker 20W USB C Power Strip.
- For Norther American/US/Canada travelers – Many ships will have both 110 and 220 outlets. Assuming most of your electronics are standard three prong US style plugs, you can gain an extra outlet or two by bringing along a plug adapter. This makes use of an other wise unused plug! Adapter do not convert voltage so make sure your devices are rated to work at 220 volts. See Cruise Ship Power Solutions – Making Use of the 220 Volt Cabin Outlet On Your Next Cruise – for more information
- European Travel Plug Adapter, TESSAN International Power Plug with 2 USB, Type C Outlet Adaptor Charger for US to Most of Europe EU Iceland Spain Italy France Germany – 1 three prong outlet + two USB ports – Hands on Review!
- Two Outlet Version: European Travel Plug Adapter Converter | TESSAN International Power Plug Converter with 2 USB | Type C Outlet Adaptor Charger | for US to Most of Europe EU Iceland Spain Italy France Germany
- [3-Pack] European Travel Plug Adapter, VINTAR International Power Plug Adapter with 2 American Outlets- 2 in 1 Travel Essentials to France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Israel, Spain (Type C)
- Ceptics Europe Travel Adapter, Ultra Compact Dual USB Power Plug – for European Type C – 3 Inputs – iPhone, Laptop, Galaxy, Cell Phones, Camera Chargers, iWatch & More – CTU-9C
- Search Amazon for “type c outlet adapter” to shop around
- Use a nightlight that doesn’t take up a 110 outlet. Rechargeable, USB or 220v – More About Night Lights
- Phone Charger
- 4 in 1 Charging Cable, USB A to USB C to Lightning < reduce the number of cables you’re carrying with multi-function options
- Laptop Charger
- Tip: Cabin phones and lamps sometimes offer USB ports for charging.
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Pictured: DIYMAG Magnetic Hooks
There are a few items that can really help to organize your cabin for a more enjoyable vacation
- Magnetic Hooks – Cabin walls are made of generally made of metal. Magnetic hooks will attach to walls and ceilings for organization. Here are the ones we use
- Magnetic Clips – Same idea as hooks but for daily cruise planners and such.
- Magnetic Whiteboard – These can be used inside your cabin or on the outside of your cabin door to communicate with people in your group
- Shoe Organizer – hang over a door, use the pockets for storing smaller items. Since most of these are clear you can easily see contents
- Collapsible Laundry Hamper – Doesn’t take up much room and acts as a centralized place for dirty clothes.
Pictured: WHALEZON 5 Pack Clear Passport Cover
- Passport/Birth Certificate – We actually take both and keep separate just in case one is lost.
- Marriage license – If you’re married and your name has changed and traveling on a birth certificate, most of the time a certified marriage license is required.
- Boarding documents – A lot of cruise lines are using apps for check in. Having backup printed documents is nice and can sometimes be quicker.
- Cruise Luggage Tags – You’ll receive these from your cruise. Generally they’ll be a printable PDF
- Highly Recommended: cruise luggage tag holders – These are really nice because they are sturdier and more secure than tape or staples and they also mean you don’t need to carry along tape or staples. These also keep your tags dry (and readable) in the event of rain. Because your tags are more likely to stay on, you’re less likely to have delayed luggage on the ship. Size of these varies based on cruise line. Look for one that’s compatible with your cruise line tags.
- Shore excursion information – If you’ve booked any third party shore excursions, print out confirmations and instructions.
- Insurance cards and travel insurance information
- Digital copies of all your documents – Saved on your phone so you don’t need internet to access these.
Thoughts: Should You Take Your Passport With You on Beach Days?
I used to think… What are the odds that I’m not going to make it back on the ship vs the odds that I’m going to lose my passport? Which is the bigger risk? I normally decided that losing the passport was the bigger risk and left it in the room safe. This wasn’t a great situation.
What about passport cards? As of this writing US passport cards are not valid for international air travel, so leaving your passport book in your cabin safe and taking your passport card with you isn’t a great solution either. It’s not useless but it’s not a 1:1 replacement. Let’s say you got left in Cozumel. Your path to the US with a passport card would probably require you to fly to a city on the US border and then walk across.
I realized, we also bring our birth certificates and… as US citizens passports aren’t usually even checked upon re-entry. If you’re not a US citizen, you’re normally going to get back to your embarkation country to work it out from there. I also realized one of the fears that was keeping me from taking my passport to the beach wasn’t that it would get lost it was that it would get damaged. So I got a high quality waterproof pouch and now take our passports when we get off the ship. The only time I don’t take my passport off the ship with me is on private islands.
Medications and Sunscreen
Pictured: Non-Drowsy Bonine for Motion Sickness
- Prescription Medications – In original containers that show your name and prescribing professional. Always keep these in your carry on,
- Pain medications – buying these on board can be extremely pricey. We’ve lived with a headache on past cruises just because we made the mistake of not packing these and didn’t want to pay outrageous prices.
- Motion sickness medication – Hopefully you won’t need this on your next cruise and lots of people don’t. However even if you’re not prone to sea sickness… the sea changes. Grab some for your next cruise and be prepared. Some options: Dramamine, Bonine, MQ Motion Sickness Patch
- Sunscreen – Bring along plenty of sunscreen. This will save you a lot of money compared to ship prices. We’re huge fans of Sun Bum.
- Lip balm with SPF protection
- After sun lotion
- Travel size first aid kit – Guest services may have some of this that you can get for free. If not, you’ll be left paying cruise prices band-aids and such. We use this one (.7 size). It’s actually intended for hiking, which we also use it for, but that’s perfect because easy to carry and has the basics. Here is another option.
- Swimmer’s Ear
- Moleskin – for blisters
Pictured: This is my Disembarkation Day T-shirt
We’re not going to get too specific on clothing because this varies so much from person to person, but a few specific recommendations as well as some things to consider.
- Flip Flops
- Water Shoes
- Swim Suits
- Swim Trunks + Compression shorts to wear under swim trunks
- What’s the dress code for your cruise? Is there a formal night you’re interested in participating in?
- Will there be any theme nights you’re interested in participating in? White night, 70s night, etc. These can be tough to figure out. A best bet is to look for daily planners from a past cruise to see what may be happening. For Royal Caribbean Royal Caribbean Blog does a great job of tracking these.
- Theme t-shirts. Some couples and groups choose to wear matching t-shirts. The practical benefit of this is being able to easily identify fellow members of a larger group.
- Even if you’re sailing the Caribbean consider bringing at least one warmer outfit. Weather can be unexpected and air conditioned spaces can get cold.
- Wrinkle releaser – this combined with hanging your clothes in the bathroom while you take a hot shower will save you most pressing fees.
- Disposable poncho – Hopefully you won’t need these, but if you do, buying a cheap poncho ahead of time will save you time and money. Of course you could bring a re-usable rain jacket, but that’s a lot of space for something you hopefully won’t need.
- Contact lenses and solution
- Mouth wash
- Feminine products
- Travel size tissues – most lines provide tissues
- Razor/shave cream
- Hand sanitizer
- Shampoo/Conditioner/Body Wash – most cruise lines provide these products, but you can also bring your own
For On The Sun Deck, the Beach and In Port
- A beach bag
- Day pack for non-beach port days
- Towel Clips or Towel Bands – we’ve used both but have recently settled on these bands
- Waterproof phone case
- Waterproof bag or pouch – I use this one for our passports, phone and cash
- Waterproof camera or GoPro
- Bug spray
- Kindle Reader, other e-reader or book
- Inflatable Float & Water Hammock
- An offline map app – These allow you to download maps for offline use. That means you don’t have to have service. We use CityMaps2Go – Android, iOS
- Phrase book or an app – many people in regularly visited cruise ports will speak english. I suggest saving the space and money and using an app. Just make sure it works offline or that you’ll have internet.
- Highly Recommended: A regular watch. By regular I mean, not a smart watch. We use this one. You don’t have to necessarily wear it if you don’t want to, just set it to ship’s time and throw it in your bag. The regular/non-smart watch part is important to me. Phones and smart watches have a tendency to automatically adjust based on location. I’ve had this happen even when connecting to WiFi, with the phone in airplane mode. Of course, you can change your device’s settings so that it doesn’t auto adjust, but having a simple watch with you is the easiest way to know you have the right time
- Tip: Most of the time your cruise line will include emergency contact information for ports on the daily planner. Take a picture of this with your phone so you have it if needed.
General Travel Related
- Travel size roll of duct tape – Duct tape has helped people get back home from space. I’ve used duct tape time and time again when traveling
- Zip top bags – lots of uses for these
- Personalized luggage tags – We use these exact tags. Multiple color options are available. I chose blue for high visibility. I also chose the option to have my information printed on both sides. I like to double tag our bags because periodically tags get ripped off. Having double along with the airline tag increases the chance you’ll end up getting your bag back.
- Baggage trackers – We’ve recently started using AirTags and I love them. It’s really nice to tell where your bag is and know that it’s made in on the plane or ship. Note that these (at least AirTags) don’t work perfectly at sea. If you see that your bags are 20 miles behind you in the middle of the ocean… don’t worry they’re probably still in your cabin. See: Do AirTags work on Cruise Ships? – for more infuriation. If you’re not an Apple user, consider Tile Trackers
Related: Do AirTags Work on Cruise Ships?
Thoughts: Luggage Sizing
This is a personal preference thing and if you have something that works for you… skip to the next section. Personally we prefer medium sized checked bags in the 25″ range. We both each have one of these – direct from Travelpro.
Sure the larger 29″ size checked bags are appealing because you can get so much stuff in them. But, when you get so much stuff in them… you have that much stuff to lug around. It’s also tough to actually fill these up without surpassing airline weight limits. If they’re half empty your stuff gets to bounce it’s way around to the next cruise.
25″ to 29″ sounds like, uh.. 4″. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. Using Travelpro’s Maxlite 5 as an example the 25″ bag has about 4,950 cubic inches of interior space while the 29″ bag has about… 7,431 cubic inches of interior space. That’s just over 50% usable space. That’s a lot.
The fact is people are going on cruises everyday using carry on size bags in the 21″ range. We’re not willing to go that far, but for us, the medium size 25″ bag is a reasonable size.
Packing Tips & Packing Lighter
- You probably don’t need as many clothes as you think you need. You can re-wear some items.
- You can wash clothes on the ship. Some lines have self serve laundry facilities. Most offer laundry service (that’s usually quite expensive). You can wash and dry smaller items in the sink, just bring along some laundry detergent.
- If you’re doing travel on the front end of your cruise, let’s say going to Disney for a few days before your cruise, find a local laundromat and wash your clothes before embarkation.
- Some room on toiletry items by packing travel sizes
- Use travel refillable bottles to cut down on size and weight
- Some containers I like and use
- These lab bottles – these are 1 oz, I use them for vitamins and medications. But they also make larger sizes
- Baby soda bottles – great for vitamins, medications, Q-tips, small amounts of liquid products. These are also great for bringing home a little bit of sand as a souvenir.
- Humangear GoToob – These are nice because they are carry on size and have a relatively wide opening for more easily filling with liquids and lotions
- Packing Cubes – If you organize like items together, unpacking can be as simple as taking our your packing cubes and placing them on shelves and in drawers
- Alternative to Packing Cubes – Some people including one in our travel party really like compression bags instead of packing cubes. So, we’ve got 1 vote for packing cubes and 1 vote for compression bags between the two of us. This comes down to how you like to pack and what works best for you. Both are generally reasonably priced so maybe a combo works best for you.
- Shoe Bags – these are specifically designed to store some of your dirtiest items… your shoes.
- I have also have these SUITEDNOMAD Shoe Bags for Travel Set of 3, Extra Large Shoe Packing Cubes Portable Pouch with Zipper
- I have larger feet, standard size shoe bags work for my smaller shoes, but larger shoes are a tight fit and I don’t really want over stuff these, especially when they’re nicer, more delicate shoes, like dress shoes. For those I like to use an Osprey Dry Sack. Those are a lot larger and are waterproof.
Odds and Ends
Pictured: Cruise Lanyard for Ship Cards
- Cash – You’ll need money to… pay for things. Bring small bills for tips on travel days and for cruise staff. It’s also nice to have a variety of bills to make purchases in port. Giving close to the correct amount makes things easier.
- Lanyard – For your cruise ship key cards
- Alternative to Lanyard: Phone Card Holder – put on your phone and keep your cruise ship card with your phone
- Ear plugs – I keep ear plugs in my travel backpack for all sorts of travel. You never know when things are going to get… loud. I’ve only used these on one cruise, but I’m so glad to have had them. These take up very little room, I suggest including a few fresh pairs every time you travel.
- Corkscrew – Most lines allow you to bring a couple bottles of wine on board. Wine glasses can be easily had by asking your room steward or a bar tender. Opening the bottle is a different thing. Most lines charge a corkage fee. I’ve had some bar tenders open up a bottle without charging the fee and I’ve had some that have tried to charge me the fee. Bring along a corkscrew and skip the fee. There are also smaller travel size corkscrews.
- Stainless Steel Clothes Pins – I have a handful of these in my travel pack. I use them for hanging up clothes and as chip clips for snacks.
- Small pair of binoculars – Especially if you’re going to Alaska
- Reusable water bottle – Cabin water is typically potable. Water from buffets and such usually tastes better. Usually you’re not supposed to refill your own bottles for public safety reasons. Just fill up a couple glasses and use those to refill your reusable water bottle.
Snacks and Food
It’s great to have some snacks for travel days, flying and for port days.
- I use these Rubbermaid containers for packing snacks, protein bars, etc in my checked bag and in my backpack. Yes, zip top bags work and I use those too, but these protect things from getting crushed. Eating an intact protein bar is just a whole lot less depressing than one that has been pummeled in transit. I use two of these. One fits perfectly in the bottom of my travel backpack, making a great base for adding other stuff on top and I put one in my checked bag. I can get several protein bars along with several single serve nuts and snacks in each container.
- Some packable snacks to consider…
Non-perishable food items for your cruise – Many lines will allow you to bring non-perishable food items on board. You can bring along a certain salad dressing or condiment you like, a favorite snack or if you need something to dietary reasons. Double check with your cruise line for their specific policies.
What to Pack in Your Embarkation Day Carry On
If you leave your luggage with porters when you check in, it could be several hours before you see it again. It will usually arrive outside your cabin before dinner. So, what should you carry on with you?
- Identification documents including Passport
- Wine or Champaign – Cruise lines that allow you to bring on wine or champaign typically require that you carry this on. We have this neoprene carrier to help protect against breakage.
- Water and sodas – Cruise lines that allow you to bring a limited amount of wine and soda typically require that you carry this on.
- Any electronics that require gentle handling
- Swimsuits – If you want to swim or get in the hot tub right away, bring your swimsuit along. You’ll have generally have access to your cabin to change before your luggage arrives, you can also change in a restroom