What to Pack for a Cruise – 26 Packing Tips & Hacks

What to Pack for a Cruise

26 Cruise Packing Hacks

We’re often asked what to pack for a cruise and completely understand why it’s a very sought after topic.  Cruise packing happens once every few years for the majority of us. Unless you’re an ice carver on the Lido Deck, you probably struggle with what to pack.  This isn’t surprising – you’re vacationing in the middle of the ocean with occasional, sporadic stops at vastly different destinations.  It’s an unusual way to travel. We’re here to help – with these Cruise Packing Tips and Hacks, you’ll be more prepared than the captain.

Before checking out the complete list, please watch our fun little video highlighting the 10 Best Tips on What to Pack for a Cruise!

Here are 26 Tips & Hacks on what to pack for your cruise. Enjoy!


what to pack for a cruise - coffee mug

Cruise Packing Tip #1 – Coffee Mug

Do you remember the last coffee you had on a cruise ship?  I bet your scalded fingers do. If I had a nickel for every ounce of coffee I lost walking up and down those stairs, I’d have enough to treat my third-degree burns.  And, you’ll have to make four or five trips there and back to get your regular caffeine fix. Bring your favorite coffee mug, fill ‘er up, and lounge around like Juan Valdez.


cruise packing tip 2 - carry on

What to Pack for a Cruise, Tip #2 – Smarter Cruise Carry-on

Once you check your bags, you won’t see them again for roughly six hours.  If you plan to hit the hot tub, bring your bathing suit.  If you plan to hit the buffet, bring your dentures. Whatever you’ll need for the first half of the day, stick it in your carry on bag.


cruise packing tip 3 - extra clothes hangers

Cruise Packing Tip #3 – Extra Clothes Hangers

I need one hanger for my best tank top, but my girlfriend needs the closet to look like one of those long racks at TJ Maxx.  The cruise line will provide roughly eight hangers.  If you need more (particularly for the longer cruises), throw some extras in your bag.  The wire types take up the least packing space.


cruise packing tip 4 - bathroom door organizer

What to Pack for a Cruise, Tip #4 – Bathroom Door Organizer

The typical bathroom vanity and sink-top has enough room for three cue tips, a hair tie, and a travel sized toothbrush. If you plan to use any of the normal tools for maintaining acceptable levels of hygiene, you’ll want a bathroom door organizer. You can stick shampoos, lotions, aloes, hair dyers, curlers, and all kinds of stuff in there. For under $20, you can get a bathroom door organizer on Amazon.


what to pack for a cruise - power strip

Cruise Packing Tip #5 – Power Strip

The last cruise I was on had two reachable outlets. C’mon – it’s 2014… even my shoe-horn has a plug.  If you plan on running and charging phones, cameras, gaming consoles, hair dryers, curling irons, etc, you may want to bring a power strip.

UPDATE: according to our helpful users, these may actually be banned by some cruise lines (particularly if they look like the pic above).


cruise packing tip 6 - dramamine

Cruise Packing Tip #6 – Dramamine

Motion sickness is one of the worst feelings you can have.  And the captain isn’t going to slow down because you’re hugging a toilet.  Even if you’ve never experienced seasickness, you might want to bring Dramamine or ginger pills just in case.


cruise packing tip 7 - wine

What to pack for a cruise, Tip #7 – Wine

The typical cruiser spends a LOT on booze. Check out the average alcohol consumption per cruise passenger.  People aren’t aware that most cruise lines allow you to bring some alcohol.  Generally, one bottle of wine per cruiser is acceptable.  If it’ll save you $80 between the two of you, why not bring it?


what to pack for a cruise - ear plugs

Cruise Packing Tip #8 – Ear Plugs

Cruises have to squeeze in as many humans as possible to keep costs down.  It’s creepy to think about, but there’s four strangers sleeping within 10 feet of you at night.  And if you’re lucky enough to have 80 pound soft-talkers on both sides, you might still encounter other noises.  If you’re near the ship’s nightclub, engine room, or any busy walkways, there’s likely to be some noise. Shove a couple of these in your listening holes, and let the ocean’s motions rock you to bed.


cruise packing tip 9 - roll your clothes

Packing Hack #9 – Roll Your Clothes

This obviously isn’t specific to cruising, but necessary to include.  If you’re still folding your clothes, you’re also probably worried about sailing off the edge of the Earth.  Rolling creates a denser space and allows more “I’m with stupid” T-shirts.


cruise packing tip 10 - belt in collar

Cruise Packing Tip #10 – Keep a Stiffy

If you’re worried about your collar getting crushed while in transit, stick your alligator (cow also works as does a synthetic if preferred) belt in there for support.


cruise packing tip 11 - luggage leaks

What to Pack for a Cruise, Tip #11 – Avoid Shampoo Blouses

It’s happened to the best of us.  You show up ready to party and your best silk shirt is covered in mouthwash.  By placing a piece of saran wrap inside of the cover, you create a tighter seal when closed.


what to pack for a cruise - inside out jacket

Cruise Packing Hack #12 – Inside Out Jacket

Your jacket can get wrinkled and dirty packed in there with your sneakers and floaties.  Turn it inside out to keep it clean and avoid creases.


cruise packing tip 13 - luggage tag

Packing Hack #13 – Business Card in Luggage Tag

Admit it, you can’t read your own handwriting. Neither can the guy working the tarmac that found your bag in a puddle next to the Delta Hanger.  Slide a business card card in your luggage tag to assure it’s legible.  It also looks pretty professional, which is an added bonus. I’m not guaranteeing a first-class upgrade, but it won’t decrease your chances.


cruise packing tip 14 - jacket

Cruise Packing Tip #14 – Bring a Jacket

I don’t care what the forecast says – the meteorologist wasn’t referring to the middle of the ocean when he said it would be 80 degrees.  It gets cold and windy out there.  Bring a jacket, or at least a windbreaker so you’re not stuck below decks like a troll.


cruise packing tip 15 - cotton swabs

What to Pack for a Cruise, Hack #15 – Cotton Swab Holder

You don’t want to be sticking cotton swabs inside of your skull once they’ve been rolling around the bottom of that seven-year-old travel kit.  Stick them in an empty pill bottle to keep them organized and sanitary. Please make sure it’s clean so you’re not medicating your inner ear canal.


cruise packing tip 16 - fragile bags

Packing Tip #16 – Mark Bags as Fragile

This one may be a bit controversial. Marking your bags as “fragile” will result in better treatment of said bags.  An added bonus is quicker offloading time. For those that don’t think their possessions are worthy of the “fragile” classification, follow Cruise Packing Tip #7 to earn that sincerity.


what to pack for a cruise - Necklace Tangles

Packing Hack #17 – No Necklace Tangles

It once took two sea days to untangle a necklace. No more.  Thread your dainty necklaces through a common straw to keep them perfectly neat and tangle-free.


cruise packing tip 18 - drier sheet

What to Pack for a Cruise, Tip #18 – Drier Sheet Freshness

Your attic smells like a barn and you just pulled your luggage down three hours before heading to port.  If you’d like to make new friends that prefer non-attic-smelling strangers, stick a couple drier sheets in there to eliminate odors.


cruise packing tip 19 - protect your wine

Cruise Packing Tip #19 – Wine Armor

Now that we’ve established that you’re bringing a bottle of wine (see Tip #7), you’ll need to protect it from angry baggage handlers. Lodge it tightly inside of two shoes to make sure it’s well protected along the way. To see if your cruise line allows you to bring alcohol, check this Allowed Alcohol Cheat Sheet by Cruise Line.


cruise packing tip 20 - jewelry case

Packing Tip #20 – Mobile Jewelry Case

For small pieces of jewelry, keep them safe and organized in a daily pill container.  And, if super Type A, you can plan your nightly accessories and place them in the corresponding containers.  Just don’t swallow your earrings hoping to cure that hangover.


cruise packing tip 21 - roll your scarf

Cruise Packing Hack #21 – Scarf Roll

On your next Alaskan cruise, keep your scarves protected using an empty paper towel container. Roll them up to avoid creases.  Once you get to your cabin, use your extra clothes hangers (see Tip #3) for easy closet storage.


cruise packing tip 22 - photograph luggage

Packing Hack #22 – Photograph Your Luggage

One time I was trying to explain my lost luggage to American Airlines.  “Square-ish and with my underwear in it” didn’t make the hunt go any quicker. Always take a picture of your luggage and keep it on your mobile device. Added bonus: when new friends show you pictures of their baby, show them a picture of your luggage for an interesting reaction.


what to pack for a cruise - copy IDs

What to Pack for a Cruise, Tip #23 – Keep Copies of Your IDs

Keep a digital and physical copy of your license and passport when cruising. It’s likely you’ll never need them, but the peace of mind feels good.  Not as good as that last shot of tequila, but whatever.


cruise packing tip 24 - pen

Cruise Packing Tip #24 – Bring a Pen

You’ll have embarkation and debarkation forms to fill out. Avoid the awkward circle of strangers all waiting for one pen by bringing your own. Also, it’s suggested that you don’t bring your best Mont Blanc because you know that guy that’s been coughing up the norovirus is going to ask you to borrow it. A few “throw aways” are ideal.


cruise packing tip 25 - earrings

Packing Hack #25 – Button Your Earrings

This is the last jewelry organization tip, I promise. Keep your sets of earrings together and neat using buttons. This assures your timeliness on your cruise’s formal night.  Hopefully this list will have you as efficiently accessorized as any human has ever been.


cruise packing tip 26 - use Ship Mate

Cruise Packing Tip #26 – Ship Mate Packing Checklist

All of these tips are useless if you forget to bring the mentioned items. The Packing Checklist is one of the many helpful features in the Ship Mate Cruise App to keep you prepared and excited for your trip. It’s free and you can find more info about Ship Mate here.



Did we leave any out?  Do you have any other tips on what to pack for a cruise?  Leave it below.

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120 thoughts on “What to Pack for a Cruise – 26 Packing Tips & Hacks

  1. Love this list. I use a lot of these tips already!! we also bring a refillable insulated cup for cold drinks. even if you purchase a soda plan, the cups are still tiny. I always bring a power strip on vacation for all those cameras and cell phones (i keep the cell on airplane mode and use it for a watch, camera, alarm)

  2. I think perhaps power strips are banned because of fire risk. Especially one that’s overloaded or old. Otherwise some good tips

  3. I do not think that travel mugs/ reuseable drink bottles are a good idea to use. On my last cruise on Allure of the Seas in December I witnessed many cruisers refilling at drink stations where there are clearly posted signs stating not to do so. The reality is that not everyone is thoroughly sanitizing their reuseable beverage containers and are refilling them where they are NOT supposed to . Call me paranoid, but I would prefer to have less causes of something like noro-virus spreading than to risk literally flushing my vacation down the toilet. Other than that, I already practice some of the other great tips!

  4. Hi Mike :) I pretty much do most on this list but would like to add that I do pack a few large zip lock bags and put underwear and bathing suits in them. They can also be used to put your soiled laundry in for the trip home. Packing shoes or sandals into a used plastic grocery bag will keep your clothes clean when packed. Another is a small can of Off for those places where you might get bitten by sand fleas or other bugs. As for the coffee mug, I do bring it but only use it for the first and only coffee of the day. After that it gets thoroughly washed in hot water.

  5. I bring a small pad of paper (sticky notes) for my husband and I to leave each other messages. We don’t usually have cell coverage on the ship so this is the old fashioned texting!

  6. I also pack a “pop-up” clothes hamper to stand in the closet or out of the way corner so I don’t have to keep accessing my suitcase (which is usually stored under the bed) to separate the dirty clothes from the clean ones … when I pack at the end of the cruise I can pull the hamper next to the bed for easier repacking ~

  7. Pack 3M Command Damage-Free hanging hooks in a variety of sizes. There are never enough hooks for hanging up jackets, bags, hair dryers, etc. They can be hung in the bathroom, near the cabin/room entrance, in the closet, on mirrors and more. When you leave just remember to remove and repack them. Bonus: you will leave no damage to wall surfaces.

  8. WOW all great ides thanks for sharing….a friend of mine suggests always bringing along a small pump bottle of antibacterial hand soap for the bathroom, the little tiny bars don’t cut it for her. Im packing wet ones antibacterial hand wipes and pocket size hand sanitizer

    • That is one of my peevs… getting up in the middle of the night for a potty and getting retina burn from the bright lights. I use a small LED light that sticks to the door by a magnet. Its also motion sensor controlled. I wave my hand the light comes on and then shuts off a few minutes later,

  9. Great tips, but bringing your own hangers is not necessary. Every cruise I’ve been on, the steward has been more than willing to bring as many hangers as we needed!!!

  10. These tips were sooo helpful! Thanks so much! Here are few tips that have helped us. Bring some games like cards to play on the beach/deck/balcony. And bring Febreeze spray which can be used to freshen linens, clothes or even as bathroom spray.

  11. I like to bring the small, battery-operated tea light candles to use as nightlights in the bathroom or in different spots in the cabin.

  12. Great list – and great reader add-ons.
    Here are some of our adds — a flashlight or two for getting to the bathroom at night without waking everyone else up, plastic garbage bags for dirty clothes on the way home, a highlighter for daily activities sheets and a few clothes pins to keep curtains shut

  13. A few pieces of bubble wrap for that breakable souvenir and/or bottle of wine. Pack it on the outside pocket of your suitcase. I do this on every trip.

  14. Our first time crusing, both use cpap machines. I am guessing we may need extension cords. And reserved 3 bottles of distelled water.

    • My husband and I also use cpaps, we bring our own power strip and extension cords. The cruise ship charges you to rent theirs. I pack it in our cpap bags= no questions asked.

      • I have a Power Wheelchair and a Bi-Pap machine. I not only take a power strip, but 2 extension cords. The mat beside the balcony fits nicely over the cords on the floor so you won’t trip over them in the middle of the night . The Cruise Line will usually supply Distilled water for your breathing machine if you let them know.

  15. Could you please add 2 cruises I am booked on. Mar 7 2015 P&O Comedy Cruise and 30 Aug 2015 Carnival Singapore to Sydney. My app doesn’t have the Checklist app either. Shipmate is looking useless to me.

  16. Why bring alam clocks or flashlights when you mobile phone has these features? I bring S-hooks (various sizes) and use them to hang everything from my shower cap to my toiletries bag. I also use this trick in normal hotels. There are never enough hooks!

  17. We bring small suction cups, adhere to inside of door to hang our sea passes so we don’t forget them when we leave the room. Also bring jumbo ziplock bag (4 ft) hang on bathroom door for dirty clothes

  18. I didn’t see this listed, but I’ve always done it: Leave a copy of your itinerary with a family member or friend. It’s one of those “just-in-case” things.

    I have a few more adds as well:
    1. Baby wipes
    2. A small sewing kit – I made mine using a bobbin with basic (neutral dark and light) thread colors, a few straight pins, two hand-sewing needles, two safety pins, and four buttons (two light, two dark). This can be stored in an empty pill bottle and takes up no space at all. Your nail clippers can double as scissors for snipping threads.
    3. Black electrical tape – I use it to seal the caps of anything that can spill and the adhesive doesn’t leave any type of residue.
    4. Clothes pins (to hang up your wet bathing suit, etc)
    5. A list of any allergies you have and a list of all your prescription medications and keep a copy of this on you (in your purse/wallet/pack/etc.). You might want to signify your religion as well, since your beliefs may affect the type of medical treatment you need or wish to receive/not receive (not trying to start an argument but this very situation happened on the last cruise I took).

  19. An addition to the sticky notes – Get a bright color and stick one on the exterior of your cabin door. Finding your cabin can take a while… especially if you have a few adult beverages under your belt. Something that will draw your eye really helps! If you write a note on it for your roommate, staff will leave it alone.

    • The group we traveled with had a couple birthdays during our cruise. We brought some scotch tape and a few simple decorations for the doors. This was a fun way to find friends rooms. You could always use the same picture for everyone’s door to find your friends rooms instead of memorizing room numbers.

  20. We bring our Space Bags so that as we have dirty laundry, we put the laundry in the bag and store under the bed in a suitcase. Then as we pack our suitcases for heading home, we squeeze out the air and it saves more room for the souvenirs!

  21. If you have a balcony cabin and want to dry swimsuits in the fresh air, that can be done over the back of the chairs ….. but normal pegs are often not large enough to go over the chair backs. I took some tooth type plastic hair clips that would open very wide over the chair back and hold the swimwear firmly if there is a breeze.

  22. Binder clips (2 inch is best) to use instead of clothspins. They hold tighter and can fit over almost anything.

    Duct tape. You can re-wrap a small amount around a marker cap if you don’t want to take a big roll. Luggage fixes, clothing fixes… Endless uses.

    Small pocket chart (can be found at any teacher supply store) is great for holding smaller items on the wall like door keys, tip money, chapstick, or anything else that you want readily accessible. Most small ones have a single hook similar to a clothes hanger, but command hooks work well too.

    Sticky notes for messages to cabin mates or requests from the steward that can be stuck on the mirror.

    Mesh bag for dirty clothes in the cabin, but a big trash bag for the trip home.

  23. # 2 is a no brainer, especially for experienced travelers. Will definitely use some of these on our next cruise – Alaska 2016 for our 25th Anniversary!

  24. I laminate our luggage tags to prevent lost luggage.
    We take sticky notes so our children can keep us informed of where they are at all times. They put time and where they will be and if they go somewhere else they drop by the cabin and leave another note.
    Most cruise lines will confiscate travel irons and power strips.

  25. I always bring wooden clothes pins to hang wet stuff. You can get them from the dollar store.
    Travel size febreeze
    Wrinkle release spray
    Chair clips for towels at the pool
    A beach bag
    Put your shoes in cheap plastic shower caps
    Great tips – I’m going to use some for sure in April !!

  26. A small pair of binoculars are handy to have, especially if you have a balcony. We also take an eyeglass repair kit. My husband’s lens popped out of his glasses while he was on our balcony. Luckily, the lens did not go overboard, but the teeny tiny screw was never found. The gift shop, nor any of the ports, had anything to fix it. He used a needle and thread from our travel sewing kit to hold it together until we got home.

  27. Small plastic container with suction cups to stick up in shower for razors, etc. these items can slip through wire shelves in most ship showers. Can find at Walmart, or any Dollar store.

  28. I follow almost all of these suggestions!
    Here’s a few more that I include:
    -A small supply of various medicines-cold/cough, heartburn, etc. since these are so pricey on the ship. Then you have a small amount to get you through to your next port.
    -Collapsible hanging shoe and sweater organizers for the closet.
    -Pre-printed labels with cabin number, name and address that can be slapped on luggage debarkation tags. Saves time so that you can enjoy more of your last night on board!
    -A flat bed sheet. Doesn’t take up much space and comes in handy if going to the beach on port days.
    -a small collapsible cooler to use for buckets of beer on board or to have at the beach. Keeps drinks much cooler than their open air buckets!

    • I always use a plastic shower curtain rather than a bed sheet for the beach – the sand doesn’t stick to it and it’s just as light!

  29. I use most of these tips after reviewing cruise boards for years but some will be used in a few weeks when we go on cruise #9.

    On our last few cruises we put a sign on the outside of our door with our first names and where we are from and asked others to “Sign In”. Almost everyone is polite but of course there is always that one, so be ready to cover up what needs to be.

  30. I loved all of the tips. I am going to go thru them and see which ones will be the most beneficial ( or I will have to add another set of luggage ), I am leaving in a few days for my 20th cruise and I am still learning.

  31. Good list and great comments. I only have one helpful addition: Static Guard. Very helpful for the obvious reasons and more. Hair can get a little frizzy and flyaway with the added humidity, but a tiny bit on the brush can help without adding grease, weight, etc.

  32. Thank you cards (12 in a pack) $1.00 cost from Dollar Tree for the crew who went above and beyond. You can write you own words or buy prewritten cards and leave a few $$$ to say you appreciate the service.

  33. Take a travel size can of Lysol to spray down the life jackets, etc. Nothing like a smelly life jacket that has been worn for the muster station drill by thousands of people.

  34. Thank you for all the suggestions.

    I have found that packing some cardboard helps if you purchase photos onboard. That way you don’t have to be concerned about bending in your suitcase or carryon.

  35. Pingback: Friday Favorites: Cruise Tip Round-Up - The Hometeam

  36. We bring lanyards with a clip on the end which you wear like a long necklace. The customer service desk will punch a hole in your ship card, and you can wear it when you don’t have pockets.
    You can buy them online, but many of us have them from conferences, etc.

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