Cruise Packing List – What (and What NOT) To Take With You

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[toc heading_levels=”1,2,3″]Woohoo! You’re going on a cruise!

But, now, what? The reality is that as exciting as going on a cruise is, properly packing for a cruise is crucial.

Packing for a cruise is so exciting when you think of all of the fun activities awaiting you – swimming, sports, a wonderful dinner by candlelight, excursions, day visits, and spa days!

Cruises are a wonderful choice for a couple or a family; they provide a little something for everyone when it comes to participating in a variety of events, so you must be all set with the items you will need.

How to Pack for a Cruise

While it is often easy to get overwhelmed and overpack for a vacation, packing light and keeping it simple on a cruise can be beneficial for multiple reasons, such as carrying around a lighter bag or leaving plenty of room for souvenirs.

Most of us probably know how easy it is to overpack a bag and only wear and use half of what you packed!

Packing for time away from home can be an overwhelming commitment knowing that you can’t just return for a clothing change, so making a list and adding your must-haves can be a game-changer.

Start by thinking about those items that you absolutely can’t leave behind, such as a toothbrush, clothes for different scenarios, and any personal items.

It is often helpful to make a checklist into categories, such as toiletry items, clothing items, shoes, and accessories, such as hats and sunglasses.

Cruise Packing Checklist

Ensuring a wonderful, care-free trip can be partially guaranteed by simply being proactive. Take advantage of the pre-planning moments after you book your cruise to think about your day-to-day necessities.

In considering all of the items that you use regularly, you can make those the focus of your cruise checklist. Once you have those daily items identified, you can add any additional items that you think could be of significant importance on your vacation.

1. Clothing

No cruise packing list, or for any trip for that matter, is complete without packing some of your favorite attire.

Formal Wear

It’s horrifying to think about getting stuck wearing a swimsuit coverup and flip flops to a five-star dining experience.

When packing for a cruise, consider packing items that you would wear to a nice restaurant, such as a date-night dress or dress pants and a button-up. If you prefer, a ball gown and a suit and tie are also in the range of formal wear that you might see on a cruise.

For a lot of cruise lines, certain restaurants will have a specific dress code that you can view ahead of time. If you’re unsure of what to pack, a quick online search for your cruise line’s clothing expectations should be easily accessible.

It isn’t necessary to bring your whole closet; bringing 2-3 items should suffice! That way, you will have a few outfits to rotate through and repurpose for another night if needed.

Swimwear and Cover-Ups

Swimwear is essential on a cruise, especially if you are sailing off the coast of somewhere warm. Often, swimsuit materials take a while to dry. Having a few swimwear options allows each piece the ample opportunity to dry before wearing it again.

Bringing a variety of swimsuit types, such as one-pieces as opposed to bikinis, can also be beneficial for those who want to participate in events that require more comfortable and reliable pieces.

One of the worst feelings is sitting around in wet clothes after a swim, so cover-ups that dry quickly are a must.

You might even want to consider packing a longer cover-up, such as a dress style, for those times on excursions when you want to look dressed while visiting a shop or restaurant.

Bringing along a back-up plan in your beach bag is always an option, too, as many cover-ups don’t take up too much space.

Casualwear and Rainwear

On a cruise, there might be times when you just want to walk around in casual clothes as opposed to a swimsuit for a change. You also might visit a few restaurants that allow casual wear. In these instances, bringing a couple of changes of shirts and shorts can be beneficial.

Don’t forget to consider the weather patterns of where you’re visiting, as well. While you might be extremely warm during the day, there’s a good chance you will want a sweater or a light jacket on your cruise at night due to the chilly evening air out at sea.

Also, some shops and restaurants tend to be pretty chilly, so it is best to come prepared in case you require something warm. A pair of sweatpants or pajama pants could come in handy just in case any unplanned chilly weather makes its way on deck.

Packing workout clothes is also an option if you intend on exercising during your trip.

On a different note, no one wants to think about vacation getting rained out, but it happens. It’s best to come equipped with a rain jacket and a waterproof shoe choice, such as flip flops, which can also be multipurpose around the pool or on the beach.

Sometimes cruising through the tropics leads to unexpected rain showers, so packing these items means that you can embrace it rather than hide out in your room!

Variety of Shoes

Since we already know that cruises can provide a variety of different events and restaurant options, our shoe options need to offer variety, as well. You will want to pack a pair of shoes that are simple to slip on and off, especially around the pool and on the beach.

If you like to participate in workout classes, sports events, or get in a daily sweat session in the gym, you will also want to consider a pair of sneakers.

Formal shoes are also a must-have for anyone wanting to visit restaurants with a more specific, upscale dress code.

Don’t forget that you need to have at least one pair of shoes that serve the purpose of walking long distances. This seems obvious, but many times we buy new shoes for special occasions, only to find out that they rip our feet to shreds upon wearing them the first few times!

Extra Socks and Shirts

When it comes to the clothing that you pack for your cruise, extra socks and shirts should be on the top of your list. Once you’ve added a few special pieces (swimwear, formal wear, etc..), make sure to pack plenty of socks and shirts.

You never know when accidents may happen, including sudden weather changes and slips into pools. Better be safe (or dry in this case) than sorry (and soaking wet).

2. Accessories

In addition to all your favorite clothes, what packing list is complete without the perfect accessories?


Whether you’re sitting by the pool or lounging on the beach, a hat is essential. There’s truly no better way to prevent a sunburn than by just keeping your shoulders, neck, and face covered from the get-go.

Consider packing a lightweight, flimsy hat that is easy to pack into your bag and provides plenty of airflow so that your head doesn’t get overheated in the warm sun.


Lounging on the beach is a much more enjoyable experience when you don’t have to squint and hide your eyes with your hands. Bringing sunglasses is a necessity for anyone who plans to spend a significant amount of time outside, which is most of us, while on your cruise.

These will come in handy when you’re lounging by the pool, on excursions, and when you’re taking day trips to tour the amazing destinations.

Gloves and Scarves

Swimsuits and flip flops are great, but what about those cruises that don’t entail much, if any, tropical weather? After all, not all cruises are centered around visiting tropical and warm climates. So bringing nice, warm gloves is perfect, but bringing smartphone gloves is even better.

Consider those moments when you catch something in action and have to pull off your gloves to get a photo; the moment will have passed by the time your gloves come off. With smart gloves, you can do essentially anything on your phone that you can do without the gloves.

Another item you will want to have on a cooler cruise is a light-weight scarf. Many scarves can have more than one use; daytime’s warm scarf can be dinner’s formal shawl.

Tote Bag

Going on excursions means lugging around necessities, such as a water bottle, towel, camera, and snacks. Bringing a large tote bag or a beach bag can be helpful for all of those little must-haves when exploring on land.

Additionally, many day visits include visiting souvenir shops, and there’s a good chance something will catch your eye! It’s easy for your tote to fill up quickly, so don’t feel like you have to pack it to the brim before you even take off on your excursion.

3. Toiletries

One area of your packing list needs to be dedicated to basic toiletries, especially if you require certain brands of shampoo or toothpaste.

Lip Balm

There’s nothing like chapped lips to put a damper on the vacation. A seemingly small problem can cause a lot of pain and unwanted suffering.

Also, buying lip balm on your cruise ship will probably cost double the amount that you could have paid at home. Actually, chances are, you probably already had some lying around your house!

For extra protection, pack a lip balm that has built-in SPF. Burnt and chapped lips are never fun for anyone, but especially on vacation!

Aloe Vera

If you have ever gotten sunburn on the first day of vacation, you know that the rest of your trip isn’t quite as enjoyable as you would have liked. Not to mention, matters can be made a lot worse if you aren’t adequately prepared to address the burn.

Packing a small, or big depending on your need, bottle of Aloe Vera is a smart decision, especially for those prone to sunburn.


This one seems obvious, but sunscreen is one of those toiletries that is often forgotten while packing, forcing travelers to purchase on the ship. On a cruise, especially if your destinations are somewhere tropical, you are probably going on outdoor excursions or doing day visits, hopping from one location to another.

These are times when the sun tends to creep up on you without your knowledge. After all, we know we don’t have to be sun-bathing to get a tan or burn. Having a bottle of sunscreen readily available is handy and preventative.

Shampoo, Conditioner, and Toothpaste

Let’s be honest, many of us are spoiled pampered brats when it comes to the hair care products we use. Whether it’s the sent, the organic ingredients, or that it reminds you of your Grandma Bonny, we all have our reasons. Make sure to pack your favorite shampoo and conditioner.

There are slim chances the ship is going to have your favorite brands. That said, toothpaste is another significant item that we all have our preferences for. Most ships are equipped with some basic Crest of Colgate toothpaste. For those who require a specific brand/type of mouthcare products, be sure to add them to your cruise packing list.

What NOT to Pack for a Cruise

Along with packing all of the right things, you want to not pack certain items as well. In this section we’ll fill you in with some of the most significant things you shouldn’t pack for the best cruise packing list.

Books and Magazines

A go-to activity for many people on vacation is to indulge in a good book. It may seem odd that you’re being told to NOT bring physical books and magazines on a relaxing vacation, but they can take up a lot of space in your luggage.

When trying to be conscious of how much room you’re taking up, magazines and books only require a simple swap.

Try bringing along an e-reader instead. It requires a little thought in the beginning because you will have to purchase books to download, but it’s a much better choice for those wanting to save as much room as possible in their suitcase.

Not only will this free up space, but your bag will also weigh less – win, win!


When packing for your cruise, an item that probably crosses your mind is a hairdryer, especially if you’re used to using one every day. Many cruise ships provide hairdryers that are stowed away in your room, just as you would find in most hotels.

Start by looking in the bathroom. If you can’t find it there, check any drawers, closets or cabinets.

If your room doesn’t seem to be equipped with a hairdryer, reach out to your cabin steward. They will usually have a few readily available for those who ask.

If bringing a hairdryer is an absolute must for you, make sure to check with your cruise line before packing. Many cruise lines do not allow specific items that generate heat, due to safety precautions.

Too Many Outfits

It’s easy to get carried away when picking outfits for a vacation. Thinking of all the fun events, dinners, excursions, and beach visits can make you feel as if you need a different outfit for everything!

However, a good rule of thumb to follow when packing your clothing items is to just keep it simple and comfortable.

Keep in mind that you can also bring items that suit more than one purpose. For example, a tank top can serve as a shirt option as well as a cover-up. Shorts can also be used for a casual outfit or a grab-and-go cover up when you’re headed to an excursion or a casual restaurant.

Mixing and matching a few shirts with a few different shorts or pants can be a big space-saver in your luggage, especially when you’re traveling back home with more than you came with!

Heirloom Jewelry

Do you love wearing that special wedding ring that was passed down from your grandma? Well, someone else may love it, too!

It’s much safer to keep your precious jewelry at home. Most rooms on cruises will provide a safe box; however, in some instances, personal belongings are accidentally left in the safe due to being out of sight and out of mind.

Also, we absent-mindedly tend to take off our jewelry and place it in various places. Leaving your special jewelry at home is a great way to avoid any idle hands or eyes wandering about your room when you’re not present.

While going on excursions, snorkeling, or sun-bathing, you will probably feel safer without your jewelry anyway, as some jewelry can slip off and be lost forever.

What’s the point of leaving your heirloom jewelry in a safe all vacation long as opposed to being safely placed somewhere intentional back home?


On a cruise, your room will be pre-stocked with many items. A lot of times, each segment of the cruise ship will have the items that are necessary to partake in a specific event, such as swimming or working out in the gym.

Towels are often readily available and easily found on a cruise ship. One good thing about that is they are typically replaced and restocked daily. If in doubt or need, you can always call your steward and ask for more. In not packing towels, you are saving more space for other, more important, items in your luggage.

Smart Cruise Packing Hacks

Once you’ve successfully created the best cruise packing list possible, following some of the hacks listed below will make the process even easier.

Carry On

Have you ever been told to pack a carry-on just in case something happens to your luggage? Well, in this case, hopefully, nothing happens, but sometimes you will make it to your room before your luggage arrives.

Packing your essentials in a carry-on guarantees that you will have the most important items already available to get your cruise started on the right foot.

Multipurpose Clothing Items

When packing for your cruise, consider packing items that serve multiple purposes. For example, a few shirts and a few pairs of shorts can easily be mix-matched to provide various outfits.

It is also helpful to choose clothing items that are somewhat neutral in color, making it easier to pair them up with another item.

Emergency Contacts

This one might seem silly but hear me out. The last thing anyone wants to happen on vacation is for something going wrong. However, if something out of the ordinary were to happen, wouldn’t you want your family to know?

Keeping your emergency contacts can be as simple as making an “Emergency Contact” list on your phone or writing it down on a piece of paper in your room.

List of Medications

This one kind of ties into the aforementioned tip. Many of us have daily medications that are an absolute necessity. Risking missing one dosage of medicine can be detrimental for some, so providing a list of medications along with your emergency contact list sure can’t hurt anything.


Make sure to remember all of your toiletries when packing for a cruise. Shopping for travel-sized products can pay off in the long run, as purchasing toiletries on the cruise ship can often cost double what you would have paid at your store back home.


If you’re the type of person who likes to enjoy a nice glass of wine while on vacation, this one’s for you. It’s no secret that cruise lines make a lot of their profit off of alcohol sold. While most cruise lines do not allow passengers to bring along beer or liquor, wine is usually permitted.

According to Carnival, on the day your ship embarks, travelers over the age of twenty-one are allowed to bring one 750 ml bottle, per person, of unopened champagne or wine in their carryon.

Packing Cubes

Last but not least, this one is a lifesaver. Packing cubes are not cubes at all. They’re usually small, fabric bags that zip up to compress your clothing items. They can aid in taking a stack of ten folded shirts down to half its size.

They’re a real space-saver when it comes to packing, as you can stack them geometrically in your bag. Also, they are really helpful to those who tend to continuously overpack!

Your Cruise Packing List

With the wealth of information we’ve laid out for you, putting together the best cruise packing list for you and your loved ones should be a breeze. That said, keep in mind the basics while coming up with the items of your list.

You can start off by writing a list of all the items you think you’d like to bring along. After choosing what luggage to bring, and estimating how much space you have, work your way back over our list.

Do you have a suggestion for the best items to add (or not add) to a cruise packing list? If so, leave us a comment in the section below!

Have a great time planning your cruise!