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Ultimate Cruise Packing Tips for Families

When it comes to a family vacation, nothing beats a cruise. With swimming pools, waterslides, mini golf and games of all kinds, it’s impossible for families not to have fun on board a cruise ship. Exciting shore excursions make the experience even more memorable. To make sure your cruise vacation goes off without a hitch, prepare by taking advantage of this cruise packing checklist for families.

carnival horizon sailing in the ocean

Comfortable Water Shoes or Sandals

Because you might be exploring Mayan ruins one minute and be swimming in a natural spring the next, it’s important to have versatile footwear for shore excursions. Think water shoes or sandals for the whole family: shoes that are comfortable and quick to dry. In addition to providing versatility for a range of outdoor activities, water shoes or sandals offer traction on slippery pool decks, and they protect feet from sharp rocks.

group of people on the cozumel amazing secret river excursion

Sunscreen and Mosquito Repellant

When cruising to any destination, sunscreen is a must-have. Whether you’re taking a SkyRide or enjoying a shore excursion, sunscreen protects skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. At the minimum, doctors recommend a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15, but shoot for one with an SPF of 30 or more for optimal protection. For rainforest hikes in Alaska or the Caribbean Islands, make sure you’re armed with travel-size mosquito repellant. For more information about our Shore Excursion sunscreen policies, visit here.

kids playing at carnival waterworks

A Power Strip and Charging Devices

If you’re like most families, you have a host of gadgets between you, from smartphones and tablets to electronic gaming devices. To keep gadgets functioning and useful throughout your trip, make sure to pack a small power strip and the necessary charging cords for devices.

girl laying on her bed in her stateroom looking at her digital camera


If you’re wondering what to pack for kids on a cruise, make sure to throw in a few walkie-talkies. With family members often going in different directions on multi-level cruise ships, these two-way radios help parents and kids stay connected. Make sure to label each walkie-talkie with a name and cell phone number, and bring along extra batteries to keep them running.

Dress Clothing

Whether you’re having dinner in the ship’s Steakhouse or sitting down to a scrumptious Seaday Brunch, it’s important to dress appropriately. For fancier onboard dining venues, pack slacks and collared shirts for the males in the family and nice pants, dresses or skirts for the females. Make sure grownups wear closed-toe footwear.

two families eating dinner together on a carnival ship

Light Jackets, Sweaters or Sweatshirts

You may be heading to a warm, tropical climate, but temperatures always dip after the sun goes down. Keep everyone in the family warm and toasty when the weather gets chilly or breezy with a light jacket, sweater or sweatshirt.

Hanging Toiletry Bags

A hanging toiletry bag makes a great space saver in any cruise ship stateroom. Look for one with lots of pockets that can hang on a door hook or towel rack. Fill it with shampoo and other hair products, lotion, deodorant, shaving essentials, contact lens solution, nail clippers, tweezers, toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss.

Over-the-Door Shoe Organizer

For even more organization in your stateroom, bring along an over-the-door shoe holder with clear pockets. Not only do the roomy compartments offer storage water shoes, but they hold smartphones, wallets, sunglasses and water bottles. Keep everyone organized by designating a row of pockets for every family member.

Medical Kit

Because you never know what might happen on vacation, it’s good to be prepared with a small medical kit. Stuff it with the basics like pain relievers, adhesive bandages, antacids, antihistamines, antiseptic wipes and products for a sour stomach. Make sure to add any prescription medicines and/or epi-pens for severe allergies.

Motion Sickness Products

On a cruise, one product in your medical kit deserves its own mention: a motion sickness aid. While the movement of sailing on the ocean may have no effect on some family members, there’s the possibility that it could make others feel slightly queasy. A number of products offer relief, including wrist bands, skin patches, sea goggles, over-the-counter medications and ginger chews.

Day Packs

Don’t leave for an island tour or other shore excursion without a day pack. These handy carryalls hold important essentials like maps of the area, snacks and emergency rain jackets while still offering room for small souvenirs. Bring along an extra day pack to hold a few refillable water bottles, which save your family money and keep the whole gang hydrated in warm weather.

group of people on a shore excursion on the beach

Wet Bags

Waterproof bags (or wet bags) make a good addition to any day pack. Not only do they keep electronics, cash and other valuables dry and protected, but they offer convenient storage for wet bathing suits after swimming in the pool or ocean. You can find wet bags in a variety of styles and sizes.

Night-Light or Flashlight

A night-light or small flashlight comes in handy in the middle of the night in a dark stateroom. A soft-glow, battery-operated or plug-in night-light comforts little ones who are frightened of the dark and offers easy navigation to the bathroom. If your family prefers a dark room for sleeping, place a small flashlight on the bedside table for nighttime bathroom trips.

Miscellaneous Essentials

A few miscellaneous cruise essentials for your packing list help make any family cruise more comfortable. Consider packing these items for a more enjoyable trip:

  • Waterproof camera for exploring ocean reefs and other adventures
  • Small spritz bottle for de-wrinkling clothing
  • Low-denomination bills for tipping
  • Spot stain remover
  • Sippy cups
  • Paperback books or kids activity books
  • Swim vests or water wings
  • Stuffed animals or small blankets
  • Magnetic dry erase board for family messaging
  • Lanyards for cruise ship keycards

Packing right for a cruise with kids adds to the loads of fun you’ll have on your family vacation. Make sure you remember all your family must-haves with this handy checklist. Before you pack your bags, always consider your destination, the length of your journey, the shore excursions you might take and the onboard activities your cruise ship offers.

Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.