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Tips for Taking a Toddler on a Cruise

Updated on June 16, 2011

In Spring of 2010 we had the pleasure of taking our toddler on a 5 day Carnival Cruise to Mexico.

Here are some tips for making your trip as delightful as ours.In the Spring of 2010 I had the privilege of taking my 15 month old baby girl Kassidy on a Carnival cruise to Mexico. I had been on 10 or more cruises previously so I knew what to expect. When I told my friends and family that my toddler was going on the cruise, some of them thought I was crazy.

We had a great time! There were very few toddlers on board but it is a vacation I would recommend for families with toddlers, especially if you are a couple with one child who is a toddler. There are some things about cruising that made it an ideal vacation for a toddler. The flight was free for her because she was under two. The cabin price for her was half because she was the third person in the cabin. We were in one place the entire week. We only had to unpack one time. Everything we needed was on the cruise ship. We didn't need to drive. There was always food available. There is always something to do yet you can always retreat to your cabin and do nothing.

Here are my 10 tips for those who are cruising with toddlers:

Toddler Cruise Tip Number 1: Try to stay on the schedule you follow at home

Kassidy sleeping in our bed.  Cruising is hard stuff.
Kassidy sleeping in our bed. Cruising is hard stuff.

When planning your day on the cruise, consider typical mealtimes, naptimes, and sleep times. Try to plan your day around your toddler's usual schedule. This probably mean planning any trips into the port for mornings, leaving afternoons for naps (you will need it too).

I also suggest you request early dining (6 p.m.) as the late dining time (8:15 p.m.) usually has fewer families with children as is usually a bit more formal, particularly on formal nights. I usually love the formal dinners, but we only ended up eating in the formal dining room twice during our cruise. The wait times between courses, the formality dining room, and even the food choices were not something our toddler enjoyed. The buffet was much more her style.

The Original Mommy Hook Stroller Accessory Black
The Original Mommy Hook Stroller Accessory Black

This is a great thing with many uses!!

 
Columbia Trekster Diaper Bag - Orange and Grey
Columbia Trekster Diaper Bag - Orange and Grey

This is the best diaper bag ever! It's comfortable and it holds everything.

 

Toddler Cruise Tip Number 2: Request a balcony if you can afford it.

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We didn't purchase a balcony, but due to a cruise line computer gliche, we were upgraded to a balcony. It ended up being a blessing because during her naptime, we could sit out on the balcony. In my 10+ cruises I had never requested a balcony because I never thought it necessary, but because we ended up spending more time in the cabin with a toddler, it was a nice addition.

Packing List for Cruising with a Toddler

  1. A Pack-n-Play - You can check it with the airline as your free baby item. In it pack 2 blankets, 2 sheets, 2 sleepers, and diapers. You can use a cruise ship towel as padding.
  2. A decent, but lightweight, stroller, preferably one with an eating tray, a hood, and a basket underneath big enough for your diaper bag
  3. Some type of sling, front pack or backpack
  4. Comfort items from home such as Lovey, blanket, pacifier
  5. A few of your baby's favorite foods and drinks - take ziploc baggies to fill with ice from your room to take on day trips.
  6. Basic first aid kit - Benadryl, Baby Ibuprofen or Tylenol, band-aids, constipation medicine and/or suppositories,calamine lotion
  7. Bottles and/or sippy cups - We found that our daughter drank a lot of milk when she's somewhere there in unfamiliar food. She drank soy milk so fortunately we took a lot of it with us because it was not available on the ship. I had called the cruise line ahead of time to see if it was available. It was not so I also requested that we be permitted to use the mini-bar refrigerator in our cabin for her soymilk.
  8. If you still use bottles, I suggest taking extra lids and nipples because you can purchase bottles anywhere (even another country) and your baby will probably be o.k. if the nipples are the same.
  9. Diapers - We like Huggies Overnights for trips
  10. Baby wipes - Try to use washcloths and soap when you can to make sure you don't run out
  11. Bottle brush and a small container of dish soap (you can use an empty pill bottle)
  12. Individually wrapped hand sanitizer wipes or a small bottle of hand sanitizer
  13. Disposable bibs and changing pads - We also took one plastic washable toddler bib that we could easily wash in the room
  14. All-in-one laundry detergent sheets - You can use shampoo for stain remover
  15. Baby wash/shampoo and Hair products, brush, rubber bands, and other accessories if necessary
  16. An all purpose moisturizer/diaper rash cream - I love Aquaphor
  17. Take easy, inexpensive clothes you can wash out in the sink and two dressier outfits. Don't take a lot of clothes for yourself or your toddler. Save the extra room in your luggage for things you can't wash or replace, such as the other things listed on here.

    You can take toddler swimmers and a bathing suit but most cruise lines don't allow babies and toddler in the pool except for Disney Cruise Line.

  18. Shoes for Baby - 2 casual in case one gets wet and one dressy or sandals

    Don't forget socks

  19. Music - download favorite toddler tunes and lullabyes on your phone, IPad or IPod. You won't be able to use your phone to call people but you can keep it charged for your baby. Pictures, stories and videos are a good idea also.

    There is t.v. in the room but you have very few choices of channels.

  20. Passports for all travelers, including the baby; medical and insurance information; phone numbers and emails of relatives
  21. A harness restraint for your toddler if you wish

Toddler Cruise Tip Number 3: Get to know the morning breakfast hostess.

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It seems our toddler thought going on a cruise meant waking up at 5:30 every morning. I had never been up that early on a cruise before. It turns out it's a very quiet time of day. We would go up to the buffet every morning. We got to know our lovely breakfast hostess from the Philippines. After a couple of days she took it upon herself to have a highchair waiting for us and a plate of my daughter's favorite fruits. Our daughter ended up being quite a hit with several of the crew who unfortunately missed their children from home.

My Favorite Slings - I couldn't live without them. I still use one.

I never thought I would be a sling-wearing Mommy but my baby had reflux and had to be held upright all the time. I grew to understand and revere the art of baby-wearing. I think it' one of the most important things a mom can do, especially an adoptive Mom, because we don't have the opportunity to bond through breast-feeding.

Lite-on-Shoulder Baby Sling(Flower Wisper)
Lite-on-Shoulder Baby Sling(Flower Wisper)

This is the type sling I used th most. It has many different positions and can be thrown in the diaper bag. We kept one in each car.

 

Toddler Cruise Tip Number 4: Come prepared to do laundry.

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We made sure our cruise ship had a laundry room and we requested that our cabin be close to it. My previous experience with cruises told me that we would go through a lot of laundry due to the heat and I knew we would be even more in need of a laundry room with a toddler. We did laundry a couple of times during the week. It allowed us the opportunity to pack lighter and save room for things which could not have been replaced easily (such as diapers, blankies, "lovies", soy milk, bottles, favorite sippee cups, etc.) Something really nice to have are the All Detergent Sheets.

Toddler Cruise Tip Number 5: Take turns with your spouse exploring the ship, swimming, going to the casino, and other activitie

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Toddler Cruise Tip Number 6: Go to the Kids' Camp area - On Carnival it's called Camp Carnival

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There will likely be no programming for your toddler; however, we discovered that we were welcome to bring her up to the play area at anytime provided that we stayed with her. This was a nice and air-conditioned area to take her.

Toddler Cruise Tip Number 7: Pack twice as many diapers as you think you'll need.

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I found that our baby typically drank about twice as much as usual when on vacation. Because of the unfamiliar solid foods, she tended to retreat to her familiar milk. This happened on the cruise and when we went to Disney World. Fortunately, we brought more than enough diapers on the cruise. Diapers typically cost up to $3.00 each in tourist destinations such as resorts, cruise ships and amusement parks.

Evenflo BPA Free 12-Pack Tint Bottle 8 oz.
Evenflo BPA Free 12-Pack Tint Bottle 8 oz.

I always recommend basic bottles. I love Evenflo becaus they have great lids that can be replaced.

 

Toddler Cruise Tip Number 8: Don’t be afraid to take some form of harness if you feel you need it.

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We have never used it again, but we purchased one of those backpacks with a strap for the cruise and I’m glad we did. She was just learning to run and wanted to be on the move all the time. The harness offered us some degree of assuredness on the cruise, particularly with all of the open stairwells onboard. The harness was also helpful at the airport. She was too short to hold hands with us all the time.

More great stuff I couldn't live without

Huggies Overnites Diapers, Size 5, 52 ct
Huggies Overnites Diapers, Size 5, 52 ct

These diapers are great for travel and overnights. They almost never leak.

 
Huggies Disposable Changing Pads, 8-Count Packages (Pack of 5)
Huggies Disposable Changing Pads, 8-Count Packages (Pack of 5)

Great to have, especially in a foreign country.

 

POLL TIME

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Have you ever been on a cruise?

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Toddler Cruise Tip Number 9: Take a Pack n Play and a lightweight stroller.

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The cruise lines say they have cribs available but we were told they sometimes run out. We have checked into a hotel before and been told they were out of cribs so my advice is to take a pack-n-play and a stroller. You can check the pack-n-play free on the flight because you get to check one baby item and you can take the stroller on the plane as carry-on luggage. We took a mid-sized stroller and are glad we did. As opposed to an umbrella stroller, we liked having the basket part underneath for her diaper bag and souvenirs and we also found it necessary to have a stroller with a cover due to the sun.

Toddler Cruise Tip Number 10: Be prepared in the event of a medical emergency.

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Get travel insurance and carry your important medical information in the event of a serious medical emergency. This is my advice whether you are traveling with a toddler or not. Our toddler got an ear infection while on the cruise. Fortunately, our ship's doctor was available and we were able to get antibiotics onboard for a reasonable price. We had all of our medical information with us which was helpful.

As I'm a Newbie, I'd love to hear what you think of my lens. - Don't be afraid to be honest.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Awesome post! We are going on a Carnival cruise next week with our 15 month old so your tips couldn't have come at a better time! And so funny that your little one was the same exact age. Really gives me a good idea of what to expect. Thank you so much for the info!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is an amazing resource! I have cruised 6 times before, but I have never done it with a toddler. I never would have thought of many of the things you suggested. Thank you so much for taking the time to create and share this page. Your daughter is gorgeous.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is very encouraging. I am hoping to adopt and I would like to travel with my child even when he is very young.

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      ShamanicShift 6 years ago

      Amazing, encouraging and inspiring -- SquidAngel blessed -- SquidWOW!

    • surfin4dough lm profile image

      surfin4dough lm 6 years ago

      I think it's a well done lens. The personal pics of the toddler give it a genuine feel and I think any parent should check out your info before they go on a cruise.