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The Complete Cruise Packing List with 8 Great Cruise Packing Tips

By Kit KieferJanuary 29, 2019

(Photo credit: Charl van Rooy via Unsplash.) 

 

It’s cruise season, and what worries travelers most about cruising? Packing! These cruise packing tips will help you bring just what you need for your next cruise – no matter what happens.  And it all starts with our complete cruise packing list!

 

1. USE A CRUISE PACKING LIST

Tip #1 has to be use a cruise packing checklist to keep yourself organized.  Download our cruise-packing-list PDF at the link below.

 
Clothes/Accessories:

  • Undergarments
  • Socks/stockings
  • Sleepwear
  • T-shirts
  • Dress shirts
  • Casual shirts
  • Jeans
  • Pants
  • Shorts
  • Dresses
  • Skirts
  • Sweaters/sweatshirts
  • Formal wear
  • Swimsuits
  • Coats/jackets/rainwear
  • Hats
  • Gloves
  • Scarves
  • Umbrella
  • Laundry kit (soap, stain remover, dryer sheets)
  • Hiking/athletic shoes
  • Dress/dancing shoes
  • Sandals/flip-flops
  • Belts
  • Ties
  • Jewelry
  • Purses
  • Collapsible tote/laundry bags
  • Secure clothing (money belt, storage pouches, etc.)

 
 
Toiletries:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Brush/comb
  • Hairstyling appliances
  • Face cleanser/moisturizer
  • Pain relievers
  • Vitamins
  • Mini-hangers
  • Sunscreen
  • Contact lenses/solution
  • Shaving supplies
  • Makeup
  • Makeup remover
  • Feminine-hygiene products
  • Birth control
  • Over-the-door toiletry/storage bag
  • Nail file/clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bandages
  • First-aid ointment
  • Insect repellent
     

 
Miscellaneous:

  • Office supplies (Post-Its, paper clips, rubber bands, envelopes, and a writing pad)
  • Nightlight
  • Outlet strip
  • Plug adaptor
  • Copies of passport/credit card/prescriptions
  • Emergency contacts
  • Credit-card/bank contacts

  
 
Carry-on:

  • Books/magazines
  • Cell phone
  • Earbuds/headphones
  • Travel blanket and pillow
  • Ear plugs/eye mask
  • Changes of clothes (2)
  • Food/snacks/gum
  • Water bottle
  • Medications including seasickness remedies
  • Jewelry and other valuables
  • Cash
  • Credit/ATM cards
  • Insurance cards
  • Maps/directions/guidebook/itinerary
  • Spare shoes
  • Tissues
  • Lip balm
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • Toothbrush/paste/floss
  • Camera and accessories
  • ID/Passport/visa
  • Writing materials
  • Chargers (including a power bank)
  • House keys
  • Laptop/tablet
  • Deodorant

 
 
Download the cruise packing checklist!

Keep this checklist close by when packing for your next cruise.

DOWNLOAD CHECKLIST

2. PACK YOUR CARRY-ON LIKE IT’S THE ONLY BAG YOU’RE BRINGING WITH YOU

We just listed a lot to pack into a carry-on, but it’s important to have the essentials with you. Depending on the ship's size and the cabin stewards’ efficiency, you might not see your main bag for hours or even days.

A carry-on that can handle any contingency can be a lifesaver when your luggage takes a vacation of its own.

Just don’t let that bag out of your sight!

You’d be amazed how far you can stretch those few clothing items in your carry-on, especially if you replenish them with cheap T-shirts and sandals bought in your ports of call.
 

Photo of swimsuit, sunglasses, passport, cash, phone and planner

(Photo credit: STIL via Unsplash.)

 
3.  PACK FOR A (SOMEWHAT DRESSY) VACATION

As you can tell from our cruise packing list, the way to pack for a cruise is the way you’d pack for any resort vacation.

But don’t some cruise events require formal wear? And what’s formal and informal on a cruise?

In general, “informal” means “business casual,” and for all but the most formal evenings, even on the more upscale ships, that should suffice.

Women should pack dresses or pantsuits; lightweight sport jackets are fine for men. Formal wear is typically cocktail clothing for women and sport coats or suits for men.

Check with your cruise agent before you leave home if you’re unsure about packing fancy clothing. Your ship may also rent formalwear like tuxedos, so you don’t have to bring your own.

 

Photo of men in suits toasting beer bottles near palm trees

(Photo credit: Kats Weil via Unsplash.)

 
4. Pack for the weather

Obviously, not all cruise-packing tips are going to be the same. Tips for packing for a round-the-world cruise are going to be different from Mediterranean cruise packing tips, which are going to differ from Alaska cruise packing tips.

To an extent, anyway.

What you pack may differ, but packing tips for all these cruises basically boil down to four:

Check the forecast

Before leaving, check long-range weather-forecasting models like those from AccuWeather or the International Research Institute For Climate And Society to get a feel for temperatures and precipitation at sea and at your destination, and pack for the weather – not your destination.

Don’t think, “Oh, it never rains in the Greek islands,” because sometimes it does. Conversely, don’t think, “It’s going to be frigid in the Arctic all the time.” They don’t call it the Land of the Midnight Sun for nothing. 

Beware of the heat

If you’re heading from cold weather into warmth, remember that even modest warmth is going to seem really warm, and that sun! Have a contingency plan for your winter clothing, and pack extra sunscreen.  

Layer for the cold

On the other hand, if you’re living in Houston and taking an arctic cruise, pack layers of layers, with a breathable base layer and a waterproof outer layer at least one size larger than what you usually wear. And remember: nothing beats warm, dry socks.

Pack that jacket

No matter where you’re going, the most versatile thing you can pack is a lightweight waterproof jacket. It can double as a windbreaker or an impermeable outer layer, and it’ll shed the water you’re bound to encounter.
 

Photo of person  in yellow raincoat standing on cliff by ocean

(Photo credit: Taneli Lahtinen via Unsplash.)

 
5. Subtract – don’t add

If packing anxiety has you overwhelmed, relax and follow this simple tip: make your cruise packing list, lay everything from your list on your bed and start subtracting.

You’ll be amazed at how little you really need to take to make a great cruise.

 

6. Believe in packing cubes

You learned back in kindergarten that cubes stack and pack really well. Packing cubes are the gear manifestation of that realization. (Here’s what we mean.)

Especially on a cruise, where many clothes are lightweight and a few wrinkles are no big deal, packing cubes are a major space-saver.

Pack your underwear in one, shirts in another, and socks in another, or pack a whole day's clothing in each.
 

(Photo credit: Toa Heftiba via Unsplash.)

 
7. Sweat the small stuff

Use a pencil case or sunglass case to hold loose cables, cords, and an empty pill case to organize your jewelry. These cases will help keep your vital chargers and connectors from getting lost or tangled, and your jewelry from poking through a plastic bag and/or getting lost.

An Altoids tin makes a great container for a sewing kit or a first-aid kit. The smaller tins from Trader Joe’s Green Tea Mints are perfect for non-prescription meds, like ibuprofen or naproxen.

 

8. Lock it up

It’s a sad but true fact that things can get stolen on cruises. If that concerns you, pack a theft-deterrent travel bag.

The Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 has interlocking zippers and a stainless-steel cable that can be secured to one central point, letting you lock it to a secure fixture like a lamppost or table leg.

Another option is the Pacsafe Travel Safe, a bag made from slash-proof material with a heavy-duty locking system that can keep your valuables safe when you leave them behind.
 

(Photo credit: rawpixel.com via Unsplash.)

 
The most important item to pack: Travel insurance

Luggage has been known to get lost, and cruisers have been known to get sick or injured.

You can’t stop these cruise mishaps from happening, but you can get reimbursed for your inconvenience with travel insurance.

Also, the travel assistance that comes with many insurance plans is great if you have a medical issue or a lost passport, or just want some information on your next port of call.

Looking for more information on travel insurance for a cruise? Consult our cruise-insurance page or our comprehensive travel-insurance guide.

With these cruise tips packed along, your next cruise is sure to be a memorable one. Safe (and happy) travels!

QUESTIONS ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE?

Check out our online guide, "What Is Travel Insurance All About?" We’ve provided in-depth answers to all your travel insurance questions, starting with the basics.

Check out the guide!
Kit Kiefer
Kit Kiefer

Kit Kiefer is a former travel writer for The New York Times and has more than 30 years of freelance experience writing about domestic and international travel. He blogs and produces content for Winbound, a content marketing firm.

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