Packing for Your Cruise: Our Top 10 Tips

Packing, for many people, is a stressful process that puts a damper on the start of a vacation. Here are some straightforward tips to help make packing for your next cruise vacation a breeze. After all, the sooner you pack, the sooner you can start relaxing! 

1. Use a packing list.

Creating a list of items you know you’ll need alleviates the stress of forgetting anything. Rather than ripping apart your closet and still missing something crucial, taking a few days to reflect on the things you’ll really need will save you time and stress. Plus, many cruise lines provide a list of suggested items, and our Personal Vacation Managers can make some recommendations, too!

2. Bring clothes that mix and match easily.

Bringing a travel uniform—such as a neutral color palette—will make it easy to pick out outfits each day. Plus, you can pack less! For example, bringing a neutral jacket or pullover allows you to wear it with multiple outfits. Consider the “54321 rule” for a long weekend: make 5 outfits out of 4 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 pairs of shoes, and for women, a dress.

3. Bring as much as you want (for the cruise).

Did you know that most cruise lines have extremely flexible baggage limits? In fact, on most cruises you can bring 2 or 3 large suitcases per person—and the cruise line won’t mind! Just make sure you can handle the luggage you do bring, and you know where to put the bags once you unpack in your room (most cruise lines give you space underneath the bed). This is a huge benefit to people who are driving to the port, but if you’re flying, be sure to first check any airline baggage limitations before you pack.

4. Don’t forget your bathing suitor sunscreen!

If you’re a big fan of spending time poolside, bring at least 2 swim suits with you on a cruise. If one suit is wet from the pool or beach, you’ll have a dry alternative. Even if you’re not a big pool fan, sunscreen is a must for any vacation—for shore excursions, tours and even just walking around the deck.

5. You might need formal wear.

The majority of cruise lines offer formal nights, requiring semi-formal or formal wear in the main dining room. Refer to your specific cruise line for more information, but in general, formal wear onboard a ship is a tuxedo or a suit and tie for men, and either a pant suit or cocktail dress for women. The number of formal nights on a cruise is determined by the cruise length; thus, if you’re going on a longer cruise (2 weeks +), you’ll need to prepare accordingly. Don’t have a tuxedo? No problem! You can often rent one onboard. As well, if you do not wish to participate in formal nights, you’re typically welcome to enjoy room service or the buffet, depending on the cruise line.

6. Keep toiletries and other essential items pre-packed.

Putting all of your toiletries into quart-sized bags is sure to make your TSA security check a breeze—all you have to do is reach into your carry-on bag and grab them, rather than having to scramble around looking for bottles. It also limits the amount of damage if one bottle of product ends up spilling into the bag it’s zipped in. The same goes for your passport and tickets—keep them all in one folder or bag for easy access.

7. Leave a little room for souvenirs!

Rather than packing your bags to the max, leave yourself a little room for souvenirs or to squeeze everything in for your journey home if things aren’t folded quite as well as they started at the beginning of the trip. You also never want to have to deal with a busted zipper while in the middle of a vacation, due to over-stuffing!

8. BYO Beverages.

That’s right! Most cruise lines allow you to bring your own (BYO) water and usually at least 1–2 bottles of your favorite wine onboard with you. Spirits, however, are generally not allowed as a carry-on item, though you can buy them duty-free onboard, and you will receive them when you arrive at your debarkation port. Refer to individual cruise lines for their beverage allowances, and be aware that if you bring the bottles with you to dinner, you may be charged a corkage fee. However, if you drink it in your room or on your veranda, no fee is required!

9. Lay everything that you want to pack out before even unzipping your suitcase.

Laying everything out so you can visually see it at once gives you the opportunity to remove anything that really doesn’t match or isn’t necessary. Also, organize things in terms of heaviest to lightest; heavier items should be placed at the bottom of the suitcase so they don’t crush lighter ones.

10. Pack it in!

To flat pack or roll? That is the question! Durable material, like jeans, are usually best rolled, while delicate dresses or items made of silk are best folded crisply to avoid too many wrinkles. Another good tip is to wrap your shoes in plastic grocery bags—a lighter alternative to shoe bags. It also doesn’t hurt to throw in some extra plastic bags for wet or dirty clothes later.