15 Genius Packing Hacks That'll Make Your First Cruise a Breeze

Make your next cruise easier by taking the time to practice these 15 cruise packing hacks.
Updated May 8, 2024
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happy woman cruising ship

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Packing for a trip is rarely a pleasant experience, but it’s especially stressful with cruises. 

When traveling by plane or car, you can usually get what you may have forgotten to bring at a store. On a cruise ship, though, you’re stuck with what you have until the ship docks.

It can be harder to anticipate what you’ll need, especially if you're embarking on your first one. Follow these simple cruise packing hacks to set up your travel game and enjoy a stress-free trip at sea.

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Pack your documents separately

alexei_tm/Adobe passports sunglasses camera over maps

Pack all your important documents somewhere separate and easily accessible. This includes your ID, passport, and all other necessary documents. This will make each step of the process, from the plane to the boat, quick and painless.

Make sure to print out your cruise boarding documents, too. Even if you have your pass on your phone, print out a copy to be safe.

Make use of your carry-on

New Africa/Adobe Woman packing suitcase for trip

Be prepared for anything by packing your carry-on bag with purpose. If you’re planning to stay in a hotel before boarding the ship, pack accordingly so you don’t have to unpack your whole luggage set just for some pajamas.

Even if you’re not staying in a hotel, pack overnight clothes just in case. Inclement weather, delays, lost luggage, and other unforeseen events may leave you with just your carry-on for a few days.

Know your plans ahead of time

Monkey Business/Adobe senior couple using smartphone on vacation

To avoid overpacking, review your itinerary ahead of time.

While it’s not a bad idea to pack for a couple of surprise excursions, there’s no need to pack tons of formal dresses if you’re primarily going on outdoor adventures.

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Consider a capsule wardrobe

tatomm/Adobe woman packing luggage for holiday

If you’re having a hard time whittling down the clothes in your suitcase, give yourself more options by preparing a capsule wardrobe.

There are plenty of ways to design a capsule wardrobe, but generally, it includes a couple of shirts, blouses, sweaters, dresses, pants, and one to two dressy options that are interchangeable when putting together outfits — making it a great option for lengthy trips.

Over-the-door shoe bag trick

mdbildes/Adobe Woman packing shoes in suitcase

Living out of a toiletry bag may be OK for a day or two, but it can be a nightmare for long cruises.

Instead, consider packing an over-the-door shoe holder and storing your toiletries in that. They also make over-the-door makeup bags, if you want them to be waterproof.

Bring your own power strip

Bert Folsom/Adobe household surge protector on wooden table

With phone, laptop, tablet, and smartwatch chargers, plus hair tools and other electronics, the number of outlets on board your cruise may not cut it.

If you plan on bringing your own power strip — a smart move — make sure it’s cruise ship approved. This generally means it’s non-surge protected.

Bring your own wine (and corkscrew)

Volodymyr Herasymov/Adobe Stainless wine corkscrew in wine bottle

If you plan on drinking on board, come prepared. Many cruise ships will allow you to bring your own wine (usually for a nominal corking fee, especially when compared to cruise ship wine prices). Plan ahead and bring your own.

Make sure to also pack a (cruise ship approved) corkscrew, so you can actually drink it!

Bring reusable drinkware

spyrakot/Adobe Hand Holding Stainless Steel Travel Mug

Don’t waste your money buying overpriced water bottles during your trip. Especially if you plan on exploring and adventuring, bring your own reusable water bottle.

It’s not a bad idea to bring a couple of bottles, including a thermal mug. If you enjoy tea or coffee, you can stock up during breakfast and have enough for the rest of the day without having to pay extra.

Bring reusable food storage containers

New Africa/Adobe Boxes with vegetables on kitchen countertop

The same can be said for food. Avoid having to pay expensive prices for midday bites by bringing your own bags or containers and stocking up when possible.

These containers and bags can also be used in other situations, including extra organization.

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Bring a laundry bag/bin

Africa Studio/Adobe Laundry basket with clothes indoors

For longer cruises, it’s unreasonable to pack something new for every day of the trip. Even if you can, no one wants to unpack a suitcase full of sweaty, dirty clothes when they get home.

Bring a small, foldable laundry hamper or bag with you so you can keep your room clean, sequester your dirty clothes, and make laundry easier.

Stock up on sunscreen

Antonioguillem/Adobe woman applying sunscreen on beach

Coming home with a tan is one of the best parts of a vacation. Coming home burnt to a crisp is less ideal.

Pack more sunscreen than you think you’ll need, including lip balm with SPF. Especially if you’re traveling to a hotter climate with a stronger sun, be prepared to reapply more than usual.

Don’t forget the aloe vera

volff/Adobe Aloe vera fresh leaves and slices

If you forgot to diligently apply your sunscreen, make sure to bring something to alleviate the pain.

Alongside aloe vera gel, other common home remedies for sunburn relief include oatmeal and baking soda, chamomile tea, and for some, vinegar.


Rob Byron/Adobe Prescription pills in prescription bottles

Aside from bringing any necessary daily medications you take, be sure to bring along some common, over-the-counter medications.

Bring along ibuprofen, acetaminophen, digestion aids, allergy meds, and anything else you commonly reach for in your medicine cabinet at home. Make sure to toss in some seasickness medication, too.

Emergency kit

Supermelon/Adobe first aid kit with medication pads

Put together your own mini-emergency kit for all other random instances. Along with a true emergency first-aid kit, pack other random bits that may be handy in a pinch.

This includes stain-removing pens for your clothes, duct tape for random items breaking or needing to be patched, tampons, a sewing/mending kit, and more.

Pack some cash

Costello77/Adobe Woman taking out dollar from wallet

It’s never a bad idea to have some extra cash on hand, especially if you’re traveling somewhere that accepts U.S. currency.

Don’t bring so much that it would be upsetting if it were lost or stolen, but some small bills are handy for tipping or smaller purchases you don’t want to use your top travel credit card on.

Bottom line

Mariusz Blach/Adobe Luxury cruise ship cruising at sunset

Make the most of your next cruise by being as prepared as possible with these packing hacks. While they may require some more time and money upfront, they’ll help you avoid wasting money down the road.

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Lucy Clark Lucy Clark has considerable experience writing about real estate, as well as homes and gardens, home value, and more. She is savvy and resourceful, and she aims to ensure others can be, as well.

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