Tips for Packing for Your Cruise Vacation
What to Pack for a Cruise
My husband and I recently went on our very first cruise for his 40th birthday. We had a fantastic time, and I learned a lot about preparing and packing throughout the process. I tend to like to have a "system" for everything, and it was so overwhelming to pack for a vacation when I didn't know exactly what we'd be doing and what we'd have at our disposal.
Now that we've returned, I have a much better idea of what we did right, and what I'd change when we go again (notice I didn't say "if" we go again!). We went on a cruise to the bahamas, so this lens will focus more specifically on cruises somewhere warm, but I'm sure there will be good info for any first-time cruisers. Bon Voyage!
Let me begin by encouraging you to check the information that your cruise line and your airline give you very carefully. This information may change and this list isn't meant to be totally inclusive. I just want to give you some tips that I found helpful. Some of the normal items you'll want to remember are your airline tickets (or documentation), cruise tickets (or documentation), your passports, health information, license and insurance, money (credit cards, ATM cards, debit cards, traveller's checks), important phone numbers (credit card phone numbers, emergency contact numbers).
Here's some tips:
- If you need a passport, get one early! The paperwork can take several weeks to process. In some cases, you may not know where the paperwork is that you'll need to get the paperwork processed. It's a headache, and you'll be glad you worked on it early.
- Make some photocopies of your documentation. We gave one copy to our family back home, packed another copy in one of our bags. It was good to know we had this information in case something went wrong.
- Call your bank or credit cards ahead to let them know you're traveling. My husband and I are Dave Ramsey fans and don't use credit cards, but we found out when we bought our tickets that our bank has a daily spending limit. We had to call ahead to get it lifted just in case. We also used ING to open additional accounts to spread the money out in case we had a card or number stolen.
You'll meet lots of fun people on your cruise. If you dine in the formal dining room, you may have eight or so people that you'll get to talk to quite a bit while you're away. Have some personal calling cards made up with your contact information. If you hit it off with people you can give them your information and have them email or facebook you. For personal safety reasons, you may choose to only put certain information on your card such as your email address or facebook profile.
Great Item to Pack for a Cruise: Underwater Camera
You'll want to buy an underwater camera before you go on your cruise. They will have these available wherever you can scuba dive, but they'll cost 2-3 times as much. You can pack these in your carryon bags and bring them home to develop them. Our photos turned out great--we just weren't too good at getting the fish IN the pictures.
Would you rather have packed too much or too little?
You'll want to bring your necessities like your phone charger, iPod charger, cell phone (don't forget to turn off the reception AND the data once you leave the port), batteries for your camera and a charger for the batteries. In addition, you may want a pair of binoculars (especially if you're going somewhere with scenery like Alaska), a digital camera (I love the compactness of the Nikon coolpix), extra SD cards if you like to take lots of photos. You'll want an extension cord. Many rooms have only one socket. You'll also want a travel alarm clock, flashlight or a night light. Especially if you have an inside stateroom, cruise cabins are DARK at night. You may have a hard time getting out of the bed and finding the bathroom in the middle of the night without a clock or nightlight on.
iPods to Pack for a Cruise - Don't risk breaking your best iPod or iPhone
When we went on our vacation, we chose to purchase some back up iPods to bring with us. I normally use an iPhone for my iPod and my husband usually uses an iPod touch. I read a blog about a person that accidently got their iPod in the ocean one day and the replacement cost while away was very high comparatively. I also read horror stories of people who forgot to turn off their data settings while away and was hesitant to bring my phone. My husband chose an older version iPod nano and I chose an iPod shuffle. I read online that shuffles weren't much good for podcasts (my preferred listening) but I used it and it was really fantastic. We loaded them up before we left and had plenty to listen to the whole time. It felt great to know that if we did have a mishap, we wouldn't be ruining a $200-600 piece of equipment.
I love to read. I actually spend a lot of time reading non-fiction, which doesn't really translate well to beach-reading. Here's some of our tips from our vacation on reading materials and supplies. You'll for sure want to bring your reading glasses, reading sunglasses if necessary, guidebooks and foreign language books if necessary, and fun reading material! Novels, magazines, whatever you like to read to relax.
- Go ahead and bring a journal to make notes about your trip. I brought my journal but did not write in it and now I regret it. I was surprised by the third day or so how much things started to run together. I wish I had a better record of my impressions of things as they happened.
- If you plan to send cards or notes home, bring addresses and stamps. We found a nice mailing station at one of our ports--remember to do this on one of the first days! It may take a long time for your family to receive your notes. We have small kids and considered mailing some ahead of time so they'd receive them while we were gone instead of after we were back.
- Resist the urge to bring anything related to your work. For some, this is a non-issue. I did not resist. I brought supplies and reading material that related to my job. Thank goodness I was having too much fun to look at it!
Why to Pack a Kindle for a Cruise - If you don't already have one
While we talk about reading, let's talk Kindle. I just got on the kindle bandwagon. How many times have you wanted to read a book and you just can't wait a few days for it to come in the mail? Now, Kindle! So I love it. I get a new hobby every few weeks and now whenever the desire strikes me I can purchase a new book, some for just a dollar! So if you're away and your book isn't so great, you can choose a new one. Another great thing about a kindle is that it's small. Half of my packed items are usually books. They're heavy and take up space. This is a great compromise. Tons of books, no space! Two checked suitcases on some airlines will total more than the cost of this device, so it's a good investment before your vacation.
Health Items to Pack for a Cruise - Plan ahead, you'll be glad you did!
Aside from the regular items (your prescription meds, for example) here are my three biggest health items tips. We live in the midwest and must fly to the port. The earplanes I recommend because they work. I usually have plugged ears when I fly for several hours after landing and that's just miserable. I use earplanes every time I fly.
I recommend the ear plugs in case you have loud cabin neighbors or a loud seat mate on the plane. True story, we sat a row away from a very sad, very loud, whiny girl who's fiance had fought with her and taken her car and abandoned her on their vacation. Any one of the people on the plane would have paid $25 for a pair of our earplugs. We had offers.
I also would highly recommend taking a first aid kit. I brought broken in shoes but still had lots of problems with blisters and was SO glad I had brought a snoopy first aid kit with band aids in it. It saved my dancing feet for the dance floor!
What kind of cruise planner are you?
What to Pack for a Cruise Tips!
Use the travel containers for all of your shampoo, conditioner, hair styling products and sprays. When you get ready to leave you can leave all these items in your stateroom garbage can, leaving more room for fun stuff you found on your vacation!
Choose one or two colors to build your wardrobe around. You can narrow down the number of shoes and bottoms you pack if all your tops are one or two colors. I chose black, white, and burgundy so everything coordinated and I could dress to my mood.
I won't go through the entire list of clothing you'll want to bring, a lot will depend on how much you enjoy dressing for an occasion and where you're going on your cruise. I do have some tips that I learned while planning this cruise.
- Even if it is a warm destination, bring a sweater. The weather was very steady each day but there was one day the ship itself felt cool. It was also quite windy.
- Do read the definition of the word "casual" in your cruise booklet. This usually includes khakis or dress pants--not jeans. And even though most ships won't say anything if you show up at dinner in jeans or shorts, many of your cruise companions will feel you're cheating them out of the ambiance they were expecting.
- Fewer bottoms, more tops! No matter what you were thinking of bringing, I'm going to bet you could use a few more tops and subtract a bottom or two. We wore half the shorts and pants and skirts we brought and almost ran out of tops. I was surprised how many times we changed each day depending on what we wanted to do!
- Bring comfortable shoes that you've broken in. You will be on your feet a lot, even if you are relaxing. There's a lot of walking and a lot of dancing opportunities.