Every trip, we all say it. We’re not going to over pack this time. But, good packing is an art form, and if you’re new to cruising, you may have a lot of questions about what to bring.
So here is some practical advice on what you need, what you may want, and what you should leave behind.
Luggage: You will have to store it in your room. So, if you’re a family of four, each bringing two hard-shell bags large enough to serve as emergency rafts, put it all out in your bedroom and look at it. Are you really going to have room for that? Soft-shell luggage is perfect because it can easily be shoved under a bed. Another great idea is to vary the size of the bags, so you can pack them away inside each other.
Do I Really Have to Dress Up For Dinner?
Clothing: Start with the basics, and build out from there. Stick to a color scheme where everything will go with everything. Think about what you plan to do on your cruise. If you intend to spend most of it lounging by the pool, then you just need a few t-shirts. For shore excursions, good walking shoes are a must.
Pack a suit or a nice dress for a formal dinner, but there are plenty of dining options on a cruise, so you do not have to dress up every night. If you just love dressing for dinner, bring along accessories that can turn one basic black dress into four outfits.
You can get compressible vacuum bags to pack your clothes in. They’re amazing for space saving, but use some of that extra room for a little steamer, because you’ll end up with wrinkles.
Extras: Everyone has heard you shouldn’t drink the water, which is a great moneymaker for ships and people in port selling bottled water. Cruises desalinate water so the tap water on board is good for drinking. Pack your own refillable water bottle for shore excursions. If you prefer, Barry and Kimala have used the Katadyn Ultralight Series of personal water purifiers and love them.
For children, resist the urge to bring every toy they own, in case they get bored. They won’t. The pools, kids clubs and mini-golf will keep them more than entertained.
Bring a small digital camera. The ship will sell disposable camera at three times the cost you’d pay at home. Remember to pack the extras, such as batteries or chargers or digital storage cards.
Don’t forget sunscreen and bug repellent. Not having those can ruin a great shore excursion.
Documents: Photocopy important pieces of paper, such as your passport, reservations and copies of prescription labels. Bring your main documents in your carry on. Put copies in your packed luggage, and leave another copy with someone at home. Or scan them and email them to yourself so you can access them from anywhere.
Before you leave, find out what travel rules apply to you. It’s different for an American, someone living in the U.S. on a student visa, or a South African citizen boarding a ship in Fort Lauderdale. Don’t rely on the customs agent to be up to date. Make sure you have a copy of the rules that apply to you.
Final word: Whatever you bring, don’t leave packing to the last minute. Start gathering items a few days before you leave, so you can plan properly. That will guarantee you have everything you need, without having to bring everything you own on board.