15 cruise packing tips and a free cruise packing list to help ensure you’re ready to set sail! Print your free checklist and get ready for the vacation of a lifetime!
This cruise packing list post is in partnership with Princess Cruises. All opinions are 100% my own.
It doesn’t matter if you’re sailing to Cancun, Roatan, Honduras, or Freeport, Bahamas; this checklist will cover everything you’ll need so you can sit by the pool and enjoy a refreshing Dirty Monkey knowing you didn’t leave anything at home!
What to Pack For A Cruise
My husband and I recently returned from the best Caribbean cruise! We spent a week onboard the beautiful Caribbean Princess, celebrating my husband’s 40th birthday. A Princess cruise is a great way to celebrate a special occasion, and I already want to go back!
You’d be surprised at how little you need to pack for a cruise. Most people spend the week in the same pair of shorts, swapping out a few favorite t-shirts. You definitely don’t need an outfit for every day, nor do you usually wear more than just flip-flops around the ship. But there are some things you need to plan for and some helpful items that seasoned cruisers all consider a must!
Today I’ll show you my personal list of what to pack for a cruise. Even though we went on a Caribbean cruise, these items are perfect no matter where you’re sailing. Take a look –
Things to Pack for a Cruise
10 items you might not have thought of that can save you some headache and offer a ton of convenience!
1. Ziploc Bags
I learned how handy Ziploc bags can be on a cruise ship years ago, and this is always the first piece of advice I offer to first-time cruisers. Not only can use them on board to save food, snacks, and leftover room service in your cabin refrigerator, but you can take them on excursions to keep your phone, camera, and ID away from sand and water. Bigger plastic bags can also be used to store wet bathing suits and water shoes so your other clothes don’t get wet and dirty on your way home.
Leave the designer handbag on board and bring a backpack to all your excursions. Not only are they safe and less likely to be set down and forgotten, but they also come in handy if you plan to purchase souvenirs. Things to pack in your backpack include – your driver’s license (leave your passport in your cabin), your wallet, a bottle of water, sunscreen, and perhaps a towel.
3. Portable Charger
Even though your phone will most likely stay in airplane mode for the duration of your cruise, you’ll still drain your battery using your phone for an alarm clock, a camera, and to check the ship’s app throughout the day. It is also a good measure for safety in your various ports of call. Having a portable charger allows you to charge your phone or tablet back to full battery life – no outlet needed.
- Here is a portable charger on Amazon with great reviews for less than $10.
4. Waterproof Cell Case
Another cell phone accessory I found to be extremely helpful on our last cruise was a waterproof cell phone case on a lanyard. They are cheap (less than $10 at Walmart) and they not only protect your phone, they are a great way to carry cash or a credit card too! We did a few water excursions on our Princess cruise, and I used my cell phone as my camera at each port, so I was constantly using it.
The plastic case allows you to still access your touch screen, and it was so handy to have it around my neck and know that it wasn’t being lost or stolen. Also, when we were in the Cayman Islands it rained on us – hard! Thanks to my waterproof case, I never had to worry about my phone getting wet, or sandy. I even took it on our Zip Lining Excursion and felt secure enough to use my camera while soaring over the jungle!
- Here are a few waterproof cell phone cases, similar to the one I bought at Walmart. They also start at around $6.
5. Power Strip for more outlets.
Most staterooms on a cruise ship don’t have very many outlets. If you are traveling with your family or have multiple people in one room, it could be a fight over who gets to charge their cell phones or tablets each night. A power strip takes up very little space in your luggage and they are affordable too!
- This power strip has USB outlets and is nice and compact
- This universal adapter will allow you to use any European outlet(s) in your cabin.
6. Over the Door Shoe Rack
There isn’t a lot of extra space or storage in your cruise cabin, so hanging a shoe rack with pockets is a great way to organize smaller items. Toiletries, chargers, kid’s toys, cameras… they fit perfectly in a pocket where they are off the floor, spotted at a glance, and are easily accessible.
If you have an inside cabin, a small nightlight can help a child who might be afraid of the dark. It also comes in handy to light the way to the bathroom for an adult who likes to see where they are going! (It gets DARK in those rooms!)
8. Sunscreen + Extra Sunscreen
Make sure you bring more sunscreen than you think you’ll need. Years ago my husband got a pretty nasty sunburn on day 3 or 4 of our cruise and it nearly ruined the rest of his cruise experience – he was miserable!!! If you do run out of sunscreen, the ship will sell some to you, but you’ll pay a pretty penny for it!
9. Bug spray
A lot of excursions suggest bringing bug spray, and it’s for a good reason! On one cruise we did years ago, we decided at the last minute to do an excursion to some ruins. The experience was completely unforgettable, but we were definitely not equipped for the bugs and mosquitos all along the trail. Now, bug spray is one of the very first things I put in my toiletries bag… just in case!
10. First Aid Kit + Medicine Bag
Just as it is unlikely that you’ll ever get bored on a cruise, it is also unlikely to become seasick too! All cruise ships have a medical office where you can get treated for small injuries and illnesses, so if you forget to pack bandaids or Tylenol, no worries. For peace of mind, I try to remember a travel first aid kit and some simple medicines – especially if I am traveling with kids. Here is what I like to include –
- Tylenol / Motrin / Ibuprofen for headaches or fevers
- cough medicine (nothing worse than being in tight quarters with a kid coughing all night long!
- Benadryl – this helped with my husband’s sunburn. (Knocked him out so he was able to sleep!)
- aloe vera lotion – to soothe any sunburns
- Dramamine (for adults and kids) I’ve never had to use this, but on the off chance that someone in your party starts to feel queasy, it’s better to be prepared.
Cruise Packing Tips
5 helpful cruise packing tips to remember.
- Keep a carry-on with you when you arrive at the cruise terminal. All other luggage and suitcases will be tagged with luggage tags from the cruise line and checked with the porters, but make sure you have a carry-on bag with everything you will need access to until dinner time. Most luggage isn’t delivered to your stateroom until the early evening. We suggest having the following items with you in your carry on –
- passport / ID
- wallet with money and credit cards
- cruise documents
- cell phone
- bathing suit
- items for kids/babies (bottles, favorite toys, blankets, etc.)
- Leave the hair dryer at home. Most cruise cabins provide a hard dryer, so you can save some serious space in your luggage.
- When we go to the beach, I bring a disposable diaper to wrap my cell phone, keys, and wallet in. (A clean one, obviously!) Not only is a big white blob harder to lose in the sand, but it also keeps potential thieves from stealing my things. (Just make sure your entire party knows what you’re doing so no one tries to be helpful and tosses it in the trash. 🙂
- On our last Princess cruise, I saw several passengers use colorful spring clamps on the top of their deck lounge chairs to keep their towels in place – genius!! This idea also helps you identify your spot after a dip in the pool. Those bright-colored clamps stand out in a sea of striped towels!
- Bring half of what you initially packed. Lay out everything you think you need, then set aside half of it. This guarantees you only bring the essentials. (If you do run out of things to wear, Princess Cruises has a laundry facility available too!)
Cruise Packing Checklist
Now that I’ve shared some helpful tips, let’s look at a list of evvvvvvverything you need while packing for a cruise!
- Passport + Drivers License / Personal ID
- Wallet with credit card + cash
- Formal Night clothes + shoes – You will see attire all across the fancy spectrum, from tuxedos and ballgowns to nice slacks and cute sundresses.
- daily clothes – shorts, shirts, tank tops, 1 pair of pants/ jeans
- sandals/ flip flops
- closed-toe shoes (some shore excursions require it)
- water shoes (some excursions recommend it)
- nicer clothes + shoes for dinner in the dining room
- swimsuit cover-up
- exercise clothes + shoes (if hitting the gym is your thing)
- sweatshirt/jacket (evenings on the deck can be windy and cold)
- rain jacket or poncho (our last cruise rained EVERY DAY!)
- jewelry, belts, accessories
- power strip to charge all your devices
- cell phone + charger
- portable cell phone charger
- camera + charger / batteries
- iPad/Kindle/ Laptop + all chargers
- selfie stick
- watch (for time changes)
- straightener / curling iron
- hair ties
- hairspray + hair products
- toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash + floss
- conditioner (save room by using the cruise-provided soap and shampoo)
- meds – dramamine, Benadryl, Tylenol, motrin etc.
- bug repellant
- nail clippers + emery board + nail polish
- razor + shaving cream
- first aid kit
Misc. / Optional
- backpack/day pack
- waterproof cell phone case
- over-the-door shoe rack
- ziplock bags
- books + magazines
- water bottle
- snorkel gear (excursions will usually provide you with some)
- playing cards
More Great Cruise Tips
- Making The Most Of Your Days At Sea
- 10 Best Cruise Tips
- The Best Things To See & Do In Nassau
- How To Give Someone A Surprise Vacation
Cruise Packing Checklist
You’ve read all our tips on how to pack for a cruise. It’s time to download a copy of our Cruise Packing List and fill it in with everything you think you’ll need! Enter your name and email address below for immediate access –
Now that you know how to pack for a cruise, tell me – is there anything I forgot to add to our list?
Leave me a comment in the section below!
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This post is in partnership with Princess Cruises. Thanks for supporting our sponsors so we can continue to provide family-friendly travel content to our readers. We appreciate it!
Cruises allow checked baggage as well as carry-ons. To be on the safe side, you should split up what you pack and bring the most essential items in your carry-on. They will be –
Birth Certificate or Passport
Vaccination records (This is a new day, ports will want you vaxxed)
Spending cash, wallet, credit cards
Bug spray for port days
1 Change of clothes
Toiletries, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant
These go in the carry-on because in case your checked baggage is lost, you will be able to get by and enjoy your cruise anyway until you get to port, where you can purchase some more clothing.
I do not recommend any kind of heat element, like a hair straightener, as those are often confiscated by the cruise lines as fire hazards. Just let your hair go, you’re on vacation anyway!
Such great recommendations!
We just went on a cruise last year, and I would add Pepto Bismol or some type of upset tummy medicine. One of my kids ate something that didn’t agree with him and the onboard shop didn’t have anything to help.
Such a great idea, thanks!
glow sticks works really well in bathroom. If you get up in middle of night you don’t have bright light.
That’s such a great idea!
I have found it’s a time saver to take a simple bow, etc with sticky back to place on cabin door. Easy to find your cabin.
Such a great idea! Thanks for sharing!