4 Expert Tips When Packing for a Cruise

by Susan Evans

Getting ready for your cruise? To make sure your trip goes smoothly, here are four helpful tips on what and how to pack.

Use our printable Travel-Packing Checklist to start and then add extra cruise-specific items.

WHN EXPERT TIP – Weather-Appropriate Packing: “If going to a warm place, pack your swimsuit and a cover-up (many cruise ships ask that you not wander around the decks in your thong). If going to a cold place, think layers, with thermal silk underwear as the first layer.” Jacqueline Church Simonds, frequent cruiser and publisher of Happy Sails: The Carefree Cruiser’s Handbook.


  1. Label your luggage:
    • Do not put a home address on luggage tags (luggage will be returned to an empty house!).
    • Put your business card or write the address on your luggage tag.
  2. Mark your suitcases with a bright-colored tape, ribbon or rubber bands so it’s easy to identify.
  3. Remove old white airport tags (the ones with the barcodes on them).
  4. Leave room in your luggage for souvenirs, clothes, gifts, etc.
  5. Use your carry-on for the following:
    • Valuables such as electronics, mobile devices, jewelry, camera, money, credit cards, etc.
    • All medications in their original labeled container. Bring prescription copies as well as a list of the generic names.
    • Read What’s Allowed In Your Carry-On Luggage for specifics on permitted items.

WHN TIP – Smart Use of Carry-On Luggage: When you check in on the ship, your bags will go through security and might not be brought to your room until a few hours later. Pack all important items that you might need in your carry-on (meds, special need items, swimsuits, other entertainment items).


Some cruise ships have dress codes for certain parts of the ship or restaurants. Check with your cruise line.

WHN Expert TIP – Look the Part: “If the ship has a formal night, pack one nice outfit (hopefully, you have many shirts/pants, skirts that you can switch around). In the ships that don’t have a lot of dining options, they require folks – even if they are eating in the buffet – to be dressed. You can ignore them, but you will get stared at.” Jacqueline Church Simonds, frequent cruiser and publisher of Happy Sails: The Carefree Cruiser’s Handbook.

Special Items

  1. Big items. If you’re bringing bigger items (golf clubs, scuba gear, strollers), check with the cruise line to see if these items are available to rent. It might save you some extra room and travel expenses.
  2. Extra cash. Bring plenty of cash for your end-of-cruise tips. Some cruise lines will add suggested gratuities to your onboard account which you will take care of at the end of the cruise. Check with your cruise line’s policies so that you know when and what will be charged.
  3. Be sure to pack a good watch. You’ll need to watch the time on your shore excursions in order to make it back to the ship on time.
  4. Small day bag. This will be useful for your shore excursions to carry your money, IDs, mobile devices, camera and any other essentials.

WHN Reader TIP – Extra Bags: “Pack a few resealable plastic bags in a variety of sizes. It helps with so many things like keeping sand out of your camera, returning from the pool with a wet suit is easier, and taking snacks on the go are very simple too. I like the ones with a slide resealable top – it prevents accidental opening.” Diana, Fremont, CA

What NOT to Pack

  1. Don’t pack jewelry and valuables. You may want to look nice for the events on board but it’s best to leave the valuable items at home.
  2. Cruise lines may have limitations or safety restrictions on what is allowed on board and what isn’t.

Certain items may only be allowed to use off the boat at the ports (rollerblades, scuba gear, etc.). Check with your cruise line.

WHN TIP – Are Outside Beverages Allowed? If you’re traveling on certain cruise lines, you will not be allowed to bring any beverages (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic) on board. Check with your cruise line about their policies before packing.

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