15 Things That Are Easy To Forget To Pack for a Cruise

Forgetting these cruise ship necessities could cost you more than a visit to the gift shop.

woman packing a luggage
Updated June 27, 2024
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You don’t want to be caught without your essentials while out at sea. Forgetting to pack necessities can be even more costly on a cruise than your standard vacation — as you’ll likely only have the shops onboard, which can be quite harmful for your best travel credit card.

Being a careless packer can add up for a cruise vacation. To keep you from overspending in the gift shop, here are 15 things that are easy to forget when packing.

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Lanyard badge holder

Pingun/Adobe man holding ID card

Your badge gets you everywhere on a cruise ship — including inside your cabin.

Rather than trying to keep it constantly in your pocket or purse, investing in a lanyard badge holder that you can wear around your neck or attach to your outfit, is a cheap way to avoid the catastrophe of a lockout onboard.

Desk or handheld fan

Renhue/Adobe  hand with blue mini fan

Cruise cabins can get a bit stuffy. If you’re a person who enjoys having a fan on while they sleep, consider packing a slim desk fan for the trip. A handheld fan can also be convenient when hanging out in the cabin or on an excursion on a hot day.

Portable sound machine

Sajawal/Adobe  compact portable speaker

If you’re a light sleeper, a small, portable sound machine is a must for a cruise vacation.

You may get lucky and not hear a peep from inside your cabin — but sleepless nights due to fellow cruisers coming home late and stomping around in neighboring rooms are probably not worth the risk.

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Motion sickness medication

pressmaster/Adobe holding bottle of water and pill

If you need Dramamine onboard, expect a price hike in the ship’s shops. 

Even if you’re not prone to motion sickness, it may take some time to adjust on the ship — consider throwing a pack of Dramamine, or the motion sickness meds of your choice, in your toiletry bag.

Travel adaptor

Shawn Hempel/Adobe travel power adapter

If you’ll be traveling abroad on your cruise, particularly if the itinerary includes a few different countries, a universal travel adaptor may come in handy when you’re off the ship. 

Some travel adaptors also come with USB ports, so you can also charge your devices.

Wrinkle release spray

Krakenimages.com/Adobe woman holding sprayer

An often-overlooked vacation staple, a tube of wrinkle-release spray can go a long way in a pinch. Your cabin may not come with an iron or steamer, but wrinkle-release spray can spruce up those outfits you rolled up as tight as possible to fit in your carry-on.

Bathing suit cover-up

Prasanth/Adobe stack of clothes

If you’re heading somewhere beachy and tropical, you’re probably not going to forget the swimsuit, but cruisers often forget their swimsuit accessories. Remember to bring a bathing suit cover-up or swim shirt for those beach and/or pool days.

Aqua shoes or flip-flops

Anna/Adobe swimming shoes on men's feet

On a related note, don’t forget the footwear. Some beachgoers like to bring aqua shoes to protect their toes while exploring the ocean. If you prefer to go barefoot, at least bring a pair of flip-flops to get you to and from the ship on beach days.

Toiletry bag

RaspberryStudio/Adobe man collects a suitcase

Cruise lovers should consider investing in a hanging toiletry bag. These roll-up bags have several pockets inside and a hook at the top so when you roll them out, you can hang all your bathroom necessities from the bathroom door or towel rack.

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Sunscreen

estradaanton/Adobe sunblock cream lotion

Sunscreen is another necessity that will cost you if you need to buy it while onboard. Even if your destination is not a hot one, the sun’s rays can be strong when you’re out at sea. 

Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 when spending significant time in the sun (including your ship’s decks).

A sun hat or baseball cap

Natali/Adobe sun hat and suitcase in hotel room

A hat is also an important part of your sun protection toolkit, particularly if you’re heading to a sun-filled or tropical destination.

Wide-brim sun hats provide the ideal amount of protection, covering your face, eyes, and sensitive areas like the tops of your ears—but a good old ball cap can also come in handy.

Water bottle

katrinshine/Adobe yellow insulated bottle

Packing an insulated water bottle is a great way to ensure you stay hydrated while onboard, especially if you nabbed one of those all-inclusive alcohol packages.

An insulated water bottle will keep you from running to the dining hall — or worse, the nearest shop — every time you get thirsty.

Shampoo/conditioner

New Africa/Adobe woman packing cosmetic travel kit

Many cruisers and travelers forget to pack shampoo and conditioner, assuming that wherever they’re traveling to, small bottles will be available. 

But seasoned travelers will tell you these don’t always offer the best quality, and it’s more cost-efficient to buy small plastic bottles and fill them up with your favorite brand than to purchase them while on vacation.

Hand sanitizer

Aleksandr Vorobev/Adobe using hand sanitizer gel

Hand sanitizer also tends to get overlooked when cruisers pack their bags, but just a small bottle can go a long way. 

Most cruisers plan to eat and drink a lot while onboard — it’s part of the allure — so carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer that you can break out before any meal is a must.

Walking shoes

Anela/peopleimages.com/Adobe preparing shoes for running

Comfy sneakers/walking shoes may not even cross your mind if you’re packing for an island getaway, but you’ll be doing a good amount of walking even if you never set foot off your cruise ship. 

Most cruise ships are, to put it simply, massive — so even getting around to restaurants, spas, pool decks, and other attractions will likely be thousands of steps per day.

Bottom line

Kittiphan/Adobe traveler packing her suitcase

Luckily, many of your cruising necessities — besides the shoes — come in tiny versions, so they’re easy to pack. 

With just a bit of smart browsing on Amazon, you can find slim desk fans, miniature sound machines, collapsible water bottles, and much more for savvy travelers.

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Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.