Adventure Ocean Boy Playing inside Tunnel
Adventure Ocean Boy Playing inside Tunnel

How To Pack For A Family Cruise

A Mom's Foolproof Packing Tips for a Family Cruise

By Cynthia J. Drake | Published on March 17, 2022

It was not the best way to start our family cruise: My husband and I had packed our suitcases meticulously with everything we needed — except we'd left our bags in the care of the luggage porters at the pier and only now, staring down our 18 month old, did it dawn on us that there were no diapers to be found in our carry-on bag.

Mishaps happen, but packing with a plan and following a few key tips can help you start your trip with ease.

What To Pack For A Cruise – Packing List Essentials

Having cruised with small children across the globe for a decade now, I've developed some foolproof strategies for how to pack for a family cruise. I've certainly had my share of "fails" when it comes to planning, packing and preparing, but I still love cruising with my family as a way to reconnect and explore the world together as well as get a little relaxation time myself (as opposed to just momming it up in another setting).

Whether you have babies, school-aged kids or teens, these tips will help you to ensure your cruise is set for smooth sailing with your whole crew.

Packing For A Cruise With Babies And Young Children

1. Check Out The Cruise Ship’s Childcare Facilities

Debating over packing the tablet or that extra toy? When planning your travels be sure to explore the Adventure Ocean amenities onboard the ship ahead of your trip to help you determine what you really need to bring and what can be left at home. Babies may have fun exploring the treasure trove of new toys in the onboard nursery, while young kids and adolescents are sure to be wowed by the experience of making new friends and participating in cruise activities in the kids' clubs. They may even forget about their phone or tablet for a while.

2. Consider A "Baby Concierge"

Sometimes, it just feels too stressful to pack and lug all of your diapers, bottles, baby food, etc. from home to the cruise ship. Royal Caribbean's Babies 2 Go program makes ordering the essentials easy — and they'll be waiting for you in your stateroom.

3. Involve Your Kids In Packing For Their Cruise

Traveling on a cruise for your kids when they are as young as 3 or 4 can be a breeze when you involve them in helping pick out their own clothes. You can even turn it into a counting lesson, corresponding the number of cruise days with the number of pants and shirts. This helps to teach them responsibility so that, with any luck, you can eventually offload this task to them in a few short years.

4. Throw In A Little Extra For The Necessities

As a seasoned parent, you probably already know to pack a few extra outfits in case of spills or accidents, but that goes double for cruising. Err on the side of packing extra to ensure you don't run out. You only have to unpack and repack once, anyway, so packing a little heavier is no biggie. That also goes for diapers and wipes. Be sure to put them in both your suitcase and carry-on, too!

Packing For Pre-k To Elementary Age Kids On A Cruise

1. Prepare For All Occasions (And Weather) When You Pack

Cruise life means your kids can be swimming, building sandcastles, playing mini golf, dining at formal restaurants and scaling rock climbing walls all in one day. Solution? Think through the most likely activities your kids will partake in and what the weather will be like during your sailing. Pack pieces that can be repurposed and layered, depending on the activity. For example, I love to dress my little ones up in sport coats for formal night, so (barring spills), we reuse the jacket and pants for evening meals and swap in a new shirt as needed. When deciding what to pack for an Alaska cruise, you might include jackets and sweaters that can be layered depending on the weather. Ponchos are small and easily packable — and always useful in the event of rain.

2. Don't Forget The Special Cruise Package Items

If your kiddo is old enough to be trusted with his or her own Seapass® card, tuck a lanyard or waterproof fanny pack into your luggage so it can be safely stowed while your child is exploring. (Or you may prefer to order a WOW Band). If you're heading to a beachy island destination like the Mediterranean or Caribbean then packing, an extra bathing suit, water shoes, and your kid's favorite swim goggles are necessities.

3. Throw In Some Handy Extras

Our packing list always includes a few extra bags — either totes or backpacks — for carrying towels and extra items on shore. We also like to bring our own reusable water bottles.

What To Pack For The Rest Of The Family

Tweens, Teens And All Ages

1. Plan Your Family Photo

When you are dealing with busy family schedules back home, family portrait opportunities can be few and far between. So, be sure to take advantage of the onboard Royal Caribbean photographers and pack a coordinated family wardrobe. You might even want to pack several options to ensure you have an array of choices.

2. Think Through Communication

If your kids are older, communicating with the family might be via cell phone, text message or onboard ship phones. Want to go a little old school? Bring along a dry erase board and markers to leave messages for each other on your stateroom door.

3. Pack For Independence

Consider that your older kids will probably spend most of their time exploring the ship away from you and encourage them to pack accordingly — be sure they have their own sunscreen, for example, and a personal phone charger and battery pack so that they can stay in touch.

4. Leave Room For Souvenirs

From personal experience, it's never a great sign when you're barely able to zip up your suitcase before you even leave home. Your luggage will expand — that's just a fact of cruise life. So, encourage your older kids to leave a little space in the 'case when they're packing. That goes for you, too, parents!


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