Take the stress out of packing for a cruise with these handy tips

When it comes to easy vacations, it’s difficult to top a cruise. You get to enjoy multiple ports of call, have plenty of time to relax and only have to unpack once. 

But staterooms on cruise ships are notoriously small, so you don’t have much space for your belongings. That means you need to be more careful about how you pack than you are for the average vacation. You want to bring everything you need without so much clutter in your cabin that you’re uncomfortable. 

Do you need help figuring out how to pack for an upcoming cruise? Here are some tips to help you figure out what you need to bring and recommendations for products that can help make packing — and your overall cruise experience — as stress-free as possible.

How to pack for a cruise

Consider the destination and season

Most people seek out warm-weather cruises, which is why Caribbean routes are so popular. Mediterranean cruises usually take place in late spring or summer to take advantage of warm weather. You need lightweight clothing like shorts, T-shirts and sundresses for these cruises. You’ll also want options for lounging around the pool on deck, so don’t forget your favorite swimsuits and cover-ups either.

If you’re taking a cruise to a cooler location like Alaska or Antarctica or a Mediterranean cruise in early spring or fall, you’ll need to pack outerwear for the colder weather. You may also experience rain or snow, so gear that can keep you dry and warm, such as a rain jacket and parka, is essential.

Understand the dress code

Cruise ships call for pretty casual attire during the day, so you can wear shorts, T-shirts and even your bathing suit around the deck. However, it can get tricky at night because some cruise lines have formal events.  

If you like to dress up, you can go all out and wear a formal gown or tuxedo. However, for most cruises, you can get away with more casual attire. Cocktail dresses or long sundresses are popular choices for formal dinner wear as are suits or button-up shirts and dress pants.  

Since each cruise line has its own dress codes for attire and formal dinners, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the guidelines for that particular cruise to know exactly what you need.

Prepare for limited storage

Since it’s likely your stateroom won’t be very large, it’s important to pack just the essentials. If you overpack for your cruise, your cabin can wind up feeling very cramped. Limit yourself to a suitcase that’s 28 inches or smaller so you’re not tempted to bring more than you need. 

You can also maximize space in your stateroom by bringing items that offer additional storage options, such as an over-the-door shoe bag or other hanging storage. Many of these items are designed for travel, so they’re lightweight and foldable, keeping them from taking up too much space in your bag. 

Leave some room in your suitcase

When visiting various ports on your cruise, you’ll inevitably pick up a souvenir or two. You probably will also want to take some gifts home to family and friends. These new items have to fit in your luggage for the trip home, so you should leave some space in your suitcase when packing. You can even use your clothing as cushions for your souvenirs so they don’t break in transit.

Place essentials in a carry-on bag

It can take some time for your luggage to make its way to your stateroom when you arrive on a cruise ship. Since you don’t want to wait until your suitcase shows up to start having fun, pack the items you think you’ll need on the first day in your carry-on bag. Toss items like your swimsuit, sunglasses, sunscreen, flip flops, identification and wallet in your carry-on bag so you’ll have them with you even if you don’t get your luggage until dinner time. 

What you need to buy for cruise packing

Zegur Carry On Garment Bag

Zegur Carry On Garment Bag

This compact garment bag can help keep your dress or suit wrinkle-free for formal occasions on the cruise. It is water-resistant polyester and features small pockets for items like ties and shoes.

Sold by Amazon

Veken 6 Set Packing Cubes

Veken 6 Set Packing Cubes

Maximize space in your cruise suitcase with these versatile packing cubes. They are made of waterproof 600D nylon to keep your belongings dry and come in multiple sizes to help you organize your clothes and other items.

Sold by Amazon

Dayday Travel Wallet Organizer

Dayday Travel Wallet Organizer

If your cruise requires a passport, keep track of all your travel documents in this pouch-style travel wallet. It can fit up to four passports for families and has nine slots for credit cards and more. 

Sold by Amazon

Handy Laundry CanvasTote Beach Bag

Handy Laundry CanvasTote Beach Bag

This canvas tote bag makes an excellent carry-on bag or beach bag for a cruise. It has an extra-large interior to hold plenty of items and is double-stitched along the seams to ensure it’s strong enough to hold wet towels and other beach supplies. 

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Delsey Paris Chatelet Hard+ Hardside Luggage

Delsey Paris Chatelet Hard+ Hardside Luggage

This hard-side suitcase is the ideal size for a cruise to ensure you won’t overpack. It’s solidly built but still lightweight enough for easy carrying. You can choose from multiple colors too. 

Sold by Amazon 

Bagsmart Electronic Organizer Bag

Bagsmart Electronic Organizer Bag

This durable organizer bag keeps track of all the chargers, cords and power banks for your electronic devices. The material is water-repellent to protect the items inside, and the compact design helps maximize space in your suitcase or carry-on bag. 

Sold by Amazon

Narwey Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag

Narwey Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag

This hanging bag saves space in your cabin and keeps all your toiletries organized. It has a compact square shape, so it fits easily in your suitcase. It comes in multiple patterns.

Sold by Amazon

Vera Bradley Travel Pill Organizer

Vera Bradley Travel Pill Organizer

With this convenient pill organizer, you won’t have to worry about missing your medication on your cruise. It holds enough pills for eight days with the compartments clearly labeled with the day of the week. It also has an inner pocket for storing your medical ID.

Sold by Amazon

Hibag Travel Compression Bags

Hibag Travel Compression Bags

These compression bags help maximize room in your suitcase by reducing the space your clothing takes up by almost 75%. They don’t require a vacuum to compress and are made of durable plastic that allows for repeated use. 

Sold by Amazon

Bagail Mesh Laundry Bags with Zip Lock

Bagail Mesh Laundry Bags with Zip Lock

Keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean outfits with these mesh laundry bags. Each set contains six bags in different sizes for trips of any length. The zippers also have a protective coating to prevent breakage. 

Sold by Amazon

Travel Smart by Conair Travel Jewelry Roll Bag

Travel Smart by Conair Travel Jewelry Roll Bag

This roll-up jewelry case has three large and three small compartments to protect earrings, necklaces and other jewelry. It also has a hook, so you can hang it on the back of your stateroom door to maximize space. 

Sold by Amazon

The Laundress Crease Release Wrinkle Remover Spray

The Laundress Crease Release Wrinkle Remover Spray

If your clothes are wrinkled when you unpack on your cruise, this wrinkle release spray can help smooth the creases. You can use it safely on all fabrics, and it has a pleasant fragrance with notes of lily of the valley, jasmine, citrus and sandalwood. 

Sold by Amazon

Neosmuk Magnetic Hooks

Neosmuk Magnetic Hooks

These nickel-coated magnetic hooks are perfect for a stateroom’s metal walls and ceiling. They hold up to 225 pounds, which allows you to hang your clothing, travel storage bags or other items to keep your cabin organized. 

Sold by Amazon

Native Union Jump+ Wireless Powerbank

Native Union Jump+ Wireless Powerbank

Save room in your suitcase with this portable charger to charge electronic devices, including your smartphone and tablet. It can charge three devices at once with a USB port, a USB-C port and a wireless charging dock on top. 

Sold by Amazon

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 Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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