You don't need to overextend a credit card to fill your suitcases with brand-new cruise duds. Despite any anxiety you may have about what to bring on your trip, you more than likely already have almost everything you need. You will, however, have to know your cruise line's policy on cruise wear, and be considerate by adhering to each evening's dress code (ranging from casual to formal). Making a packing list in advance helps, as does reading up on some key packing strategies. Make the planning and packing stage of cruise preparation a family affair by enlisting everyone's help.
Packing for Adults
Cruise wear falls into three general categories: casual, informal, and formal. Cruise documents should include information indicating how many evenings fall into each of those categories, and the daily newsletter will tell you the dress code for each evening.
Packing for Children
Packing for babies and toddlers will be the parents' responsibility, but kids can help with their own packing. To make things easy, make stacks of clothing for children for every day of the cruise, including underwear and socks. Put each day's stack in a zip-top plastic bag and label them Monday, Tuesday, and so on. Once on board the ship, each child can easily unpack his or her own suitcase and slip the plastic bags into drawers. Every morning they will know what to wear. Obviously, this won't work for older kids and teens, but parents may want to keep an eye on what they've chosen to oversee the appropriateness of their wardrobes.
Packing Your Carry-On
Because you may not have access to your checked bags for a few hours after boarding (or the morning of disembarkation), it's important to pack a carry-on with what you might need both on the plane and on your first and last hours on board your cruise ship. Needless to say, you'll have time to put your last day's clothing aside on the evening before you dock, but it's just as important to have your toiletries and a few other things you might need to freshen up in case your bags don't arrive. It's not a bad idea to include a change of clothing for dinner on the first night.
Walter Christen's insight:
Some really excellent advice here on what to pack for your cruise vacation. I really liked the description of the difference between formal wear, casual wear, and informal wear.
In the many years of cruising my wife and I have done we have some tricks and hints that we use to minimize the amount of luggage needed.
- If you need to take medications on a regular basis, take more than you will need for the length of your cruise. On a seven day cruise, I normally take 10 or 11 days worth. Goes without saying that these should only be placed in your carry-on luggage. We also bring our own supplies of over the counter medications. Very expensive on the ships and may not be available in the ports of call (besides, who wants to look for a pharmacy while on vacation).
- I always bring an extra belt. On one cruise we were on, the buckle broke on the belt I brought. What fun it was trying to find a new belt in Roatan.
- Depending upon the cruise line, I have left home the suit for formal night and instead wore a pair of dress slacks and a dress shirt. Occasionally I add a sport jacket.
- Because we live in Florida and drive to most of the cruise ports, our carry-on has a lot less that what is detailed in the article. Cruise documents, passports, camera equipment, jewelry, Kindle, medications are the bare essentials. If we need to fly to the embarkation destination, I am sure the list would expand.
- Because I need to wear glasses, I always bring a extra pair. I also have one of those repair kits that come with a little screw driver and an assortment of screws.
- Travel size toiletries are a must to conserve space. If what we need or use is not available, we use the small airline approved bottles for shampoo and such.
- Plastic bags ( the zipper type) are very useful for many things such as keeping your toiletries organized, and prevent leakage if something breaks in your luggage. We also take a large black plastic bag to use as a place to put dirty laundry. We keep in the bottom of the hanging closet in the cabin. I liked the suggestion if you are travelling with small children to organize their clothing for the day and store in individual plastic bags.
- Be aware of the weight and size of your luggage especially if you need to travel by the airlines. When our family went on an Alaskan cruise, we were due for new luggage. Before we bought new we weighed what we were contemplating purchasing (now, most luggage tells you how much they weigh). We were fine going to the cruise but just barely made the weigh restrictions on the way home because of things that we purchased. Also be aware that your luggage normally goes under the bed in your stateroom while you are on the cruise. You may have to leave it open to fit it under.
- When my children were teenagers and travelled with us more, we let them decide what they would bring in their carry-on (with veto rights). My son always tried to bring a large assortment of electronics to keep himself amused. He cut down what he would bring when he was reminded that he was responsible for carrying it around until we could get in the cabin.
- My wife takes exception to the suggestion that you use the laundry on the ship and wash clothes mid cruise. It is her vacation also so that will not happen. In dire emergency, I think I would use the ships laundry service and have them clean what is needed for a fee.
My wife and I are not experts in packing for a cruise and it seems that we still have unworn clothes when we disembark, but we are getting better. Also as indicated in the article, we also cross pack so that if one suitcase is delayed or lost, at least we have some of our clothes. Also remind yourself that you can wear some clothes more than once. The other passengers will not notice or care if they did.