Everyone knows the normal items to pack for a trip. Some things are the same whether you’re setting up in a hotel near the beach or taking to the sea on a cruise. Toothpaste and underwear are entirely non-negotiable. Dramamine…well, that depends on your stomach constitution.
And regardless of the “Pack light!” recommendation from every experienced traveler—and dad—out there, some of you will still feel the pull to bring five pairs of shoes and outfit options. After all, how do you know you won’t need a long sleeve formal black dress on the camping trip?
This article defines the less-thought-of items that should be on your packing list. Things that you might not consider when you’re filling every nook and cranny of your suitcase but that you’ll definitely miss when you get on the boat. For new cruisers and old hats, skim though for a reminder of the things that will make your sailing a lot smoother:
Sea cards are to cruises what driver’s licenses are to everyday life. Whenever you leave your home base, you really should have it on you. At all times. And since all-inclusive packages often let you unchain yourself from your wallet while you’re on the boat, there’s not an obvious place to keep the card that gets you all the cool perks.
A lanyard is perfect for this. It’s easy to wear and will keep your card from accidentally fall out of a pocket. It might feel weird to do this in public, but it’s practical. And you definitely won’t be the only one. You’re on a cruise now. Normal fashion rules don’t apply.
2. Communication System
iPhones are great, but when you’re in the middle of the Caribbean, they’re as useless as a pager. So, if you’re travelling with someone you might actually want to meet up with again at some point before it’s time to sleep, you’ll need to think though a communication system.
Cruise ships are huge. There are thousands of people wandering about and having fun doing any one of 500 different things offered on different decks. Considering you might not want to do the same things at the same time for seven whole days, what is the easiest way to talk to each other?
Will you bring walkie-talkies? Will you use a notepad in the room for when you’re inevitably stopping in at various points in the day? Some people are planners. If that’s you, go ahead and make a schedule for you or your group. Plans may change, but at least you’ll know when and where to meet for dinner. If you’re more of a go-with-the-flow type, buy some notepads.
3. Shoe Holder (Makes Great Multi-purpose Organizer)
One of the first things you’ll notice on your first cruise is how inexplicably tiny the bathrooms are. There’s not even a little space behind the mirror to leave your contacts case and floss. Enter: the organizer. Bring an over-the-door shoe holder that’s collapsible to solve all your bathroom worries—well, the ones related to storage.
They won’t take up much room in your suitcase, and they’ll make sharing an outhouse-sized space much easier. Say goodbye to hauling your toiletries back and forth like a college kid. You’re an adult now and your toothpaste needs a home.
4. Takeaway Containers
The food is paid for, so you might as well eat it! Bring a plastic container or something more eco-friendly to take some snacks with you when you go into a port. Those buffet cookies are perfect for long walks on the beach or when you don’t have time to stop for a meal on your way back to the boat.
Even if you’re planning on taking your cues from the locals for restaurants on land, it’s a healthy precaution to take. Everyone has a friend or family member who gets unreasonably angry when they haven’t eaten in a while. Save the day. Be the hero. No one wants an irritable travel companion. That apple you grabbed could be the difference between an exciting adventure and going back to the ship early.
There’s actually a lot to see when you’re out at sea: islands, birds, people, other ships. And you’ll no doubt want to check out the ports in greater details before you disembark. Seasoned cruisers all have a pair of binoculars close at hand. Today you can get a good quality, small pair of binoculars on Amazon for around $30.
6. Night light
Cruise ship cabins (sorry, staterooms) can get quite dark – especially if you’ve booked an interior room that doesn’t have windows. You’ll want a small night light to guide your way to the bathroom at night. And there’s no need for it to be on in the daytime. Get one that senses ambient light and automatically turns off if not needed.
7. Power strip
Most cruise ship cabins have only 1 or 2 electrical outlets. If you’re bringing numerous electronic gadgets (phones, tablet, bluetooth speaker, action camera, etc) you’ll quickly wish you had more. However, cruise lines don’t allow you to bring a regular surge-protected power bar from home (they will confiscate). Be sure to bring one that’s non-surge protected. This type is a “cruise approved power strip”.
Bonus: An Introduction Sign
Here’s one more for you: an introduction sign. While it’s not vital, if you’re interested in finding some new travel buddies at any age—this isn’t just for the backpacker crowd—find a unique way to identify yourself and whomever you’re travelling with on your door.
This can be a sign as simple as “Hello! From the Sandersons of Wisconsin”. It’s especially fun for families with young kids to be able to see where everyone is from. And as cheesy as it sounds, you’re making it very clear that you’re friendly and open to chatting with your neighbors. Go ahead. Invite them to join you for dinner.
Ask cruise-enthusiast friends if they’ve made any lifelong friends onboard. Their answer may surprise you. If nothing else, it’s nice to find someone who wants to try the climbing wall with you while your sister goes to the spa.
Hopefully, this list is helpful to all the soon-to-be people on a boat. Now you just need to make sure to pack all of the normal stuff. You definitely won’t want to forget your swimsuit.