How to Pack for a Cruise Vacation

Packing for a Cruise

Packing for a vacation can be stressful for some people. They try to remember how many outfits to bring for all of the days, which toiletries might be needed along the way and what sort of entertainment to stow away for random bouts of boredom. Packing for a cruise can be even more stressful because travelers are contained in one building without the luxury of a quick run to the store for anything which was forgotten.

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First and foremost, pack all necessary documents! This cannot be stressed enough. Your cruise departure depends on it. You will need your driver’s license/state ID, birth certificate, passport/visa, airline (see: How to Buy Cheap Airline Tickets) and cruise tickets. Make copies of these documents to store in your luggage, carry-on bag and to leave at home with a trusted friend or relative.

You should also make sure you have your medical insurance card in case of an emergency. Thinking ahead, you may want to list medications that you’re on and any allergies. You never know what emergency may arise, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Safeguard Your Luggage

Because most cruises take you outside of the country, you will have to deal with Customs. Customs officials aren’t known for gingerly poking around luggage. Instead, be prepared for broken zippers and banged up suitcases. Cruises are the last form of travel where you want to use your good luggage.

An unfortunate fact is that sometimes luggage gets lost. Play it safe and leave anything of value at home. Also, pack multiple suitcases, even if you don’t necessarily need them all. This way, you can ration clothing and toiletries between them and if one gets lost, at least you’ll have some of your belongings for the trip.

*Use luggage tags so that your bags can be returned if found.


Most cruises hold formal dinners which absolutely require formal evening wear. This means suits, or even tuxedos, for men. Women should plan on packing long evening gowns and jewelry. The itinerary which your cruise line sends you prior to departure will let you know how many formal dinners are to be expected. Pack number of formal outfits accordingly.

Aside from the required formal wear, what you wear is up to you. Plan on experiencing all types of weather. Even summertime cruises can become cold in the late afternoon and evening. Light sweaters are always a good idea. Pack a range of clothing that can be layered for temperature changes, and for various outfits (if you can create multiple outfits out of a few items of clothing, you’ll save room in your cruise cabin as well as in your suitcase for souvenirs).

Wear what is fun and comfortable to you. You may find that by the end of your cruise, your clothing may not feel so comfortable after all that cruise food you’ve indulged in! Pack a couple of loose fitting outfits in case this happens.

As for shoes, they may be bulky in your luggage, but they are very necessary. Shoes that have grip are great for the upper deck by the pool and Jacuzzi. Formal shoes are required for formal wear and tennis shoes can be a life saver if you exit the ship for excursions at your ports of call. Be kind to your feet because even though you’re going to be spending most of your time on a boat, you’re going to be on the move!


If you forget anything essential, don’t panic. Cruise ships have stores where you can buy typical toiletries, but at a steep price! Expect to pay at least double for your goods on this ship or even at the port of call. It’s the price you pay for convenience. To avoid this, make sure you have these essentials in your bag

  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • dental floss
  • mouthwash
  • deodorant
  • sun block
  • insect repellent
  • lotion
  • hair products
  • soap
  • tweezers
  • nail clippers
  • hair dryer
  • curling iron
  • makeup
  • watch (mainly for times when off the ship)
  • medications (prescription, pain relievers, heartburn, seasick pills, sinus and allergy)


One of the best parts about going on a cruise is the photographers. They’re stationed everywhere- at the entrance when you arrive, in the dining rooms, outside of the ballrooms and even at the ship’s exit when you leave for a day filled with touristy fun. You can then visit the ship’s photo kiosk and buy these photos at a very high price. Chances are that you’ll want to own a couple of these professional photos, but to keep costs down you’ll also want to take your own!

Go ahead and pack your point and shoot digital camera (also pack a couple of disposable cameras in case the digital camera becomes lost after a couple of cocktails at the ship’s casino!). Depending on the length of your cruise trip, and how click-happy you are with your camera, you might want to consider bringing extra storage for your photos. You can buy additional memory cards and simply replace the full cards as needed. Off-brand memory cards work just as well as name brand cards, and only cost about $10.

Another option is to bring your laptop. If you choose to do this, be sure to bring it as your carry-on to keep it safe. Not only can you use it to upload photos from a dangerously full memory card, but you can also access the ship’s wi-fi network if you become bored or need to check in with work.


Cruises are a lot of fun, but can also be extremely hard on the body. Between bouts of seasickness, more alcohol than you’re typically used to and indulgent food, it’s a good idea to give yourself some downtime in your cabin. It may be cramped, but the bed will still offer much needed rest.

To enjoy this alone time even more, do yourself a favor and pack your iPod. A good book that you’ve been meaning to get to is also a nice choice. Anything that aids in your personal relaxation is something to add to your packing checklist.

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