14 Best Shore Excursion Packing Tips

Pools, restaurants, shows, activities — there’s a lot to do on board a cruise ship. But you can give your cruise vacation to Mexico, The Bahamas, or the Caribbean some extra spice by adding shore excursions to your itinerary.

There are certain items you’d definitely need to bring with you when you debark the ship, but you don’t need to lug your whole suitcase either. Here are 14 shore excursion packing tips to help you prepare for fun.

woman sitting on a hammock, admiring the caribbean beach during a shore excursion

1. Don’t Forget Your Fanny Pack

Or tote bag, or backpack, or whatever you like to carry. You’ll need this essential for obvious reasons — to hold your personal effects — but consider throwing in a collapsible bag, which may come in handy for toting those exotic souvenirs, gifts, or pre-packaged snacks you’re likely to buy at local shops on a city tour.

Will you get wet on your adventure? Throw a zip-top plastic bag or reusable wet bag into your carryall for when you change out of youlisar wet things and into a dry change of clothes.

2. Keep in Step

Planning to bring a single pair of sandals for the whole cruise and call it good? Sandals will get you by (for the most part) on board the ship, but you’ll likely want more substantial footwear for your excursion. Shoes, however, add bulk as well as weight to luggage, so you don’t want to pack shoes that you aren’t going to wind up wearing on shore. Give it an extra moment of thought.

Sneakers or a comfortable pair of walking or running shoes are suitable for the vast majority of excursions. If you’ve already booked a tour, then scan the excursion details to see the recommended footwear, such as closed-toe shoes. You might also want to pack hiking boots if you expect to encounter rough terrain.

3. Skip the Short Shorts

You can sport just shorts and a T-shirt for many shore pursuits, whether you’re tromping through the colonial villages of Mexico or exploring the Xunantunick Mayan ruins or zip lining in the Caribbean. Leggings and capri pants are other good alternatives. If outdoor temperatures are hot then wear shorts instead.

If you’re going zip lining though, pass on the short shorts. You’ll be wearing a harness that sits high on both legs, and it could grab at the shorts. Knee-length shorts are more comfortable. You’ll also need closed-toe shoes. The stations are a pulse-pounding climb, and you don’t want your shoes to fall off from a height.

man wearing a tshirt and shorts, riding on a zip line during a shore excursion

4. Get Ready for Horseback Riding

Cowboy boots, a pair of chaps, and a rootin’ tootin’ cowboy hat might put you in the spirit for horseback riding, but they’d sure take up a lot of space in your bag. Unless you plan to be out on the trail all day, a pair of sturdy jeans will serve you well for riding that bronco, and protecting your legs from brambles.

Also, wear a t-shirt that is long enough that it won’t ride up. Most sturdy shoes or boots will serve you well for riding. Swimwear is also an option if your horseback excursion takes you into the water.

5. Bring on the Heat

Mom is right when it comes to this shore excursion packing tip; you do need a jacket. That is, you may want a jacket if your itinerary includes air-conditioned stops like museums or craft breweries, which are a welcomed change from the heat. A sweater or light jacket can even come in handy if the indoor temperatures at a restaurant get chilly.

Beyond that, evenings and mornings can feel rather nippy in The Bahamas and the Caribbean, especially when a breeze kicks up. Outdoor temperatures can also dip pretty low in Mexico, especially at night, depending on the region and time of year.

6. Bring Shoes and Shirts for No Problems

If there’s a restaurant you want to try at a certain onshore destination, make sure you’ve got the right clothing for the joint. Don’t plan on walking into an eatery in just your bathing suit. Bring along a top, some bottoms, and shoes just in case. You know the drill.

It’s possible that one of the ports is home to upscale restaurant on your bucket list. Check to see if you need to bring something a little nicer to wear so that you don’t miss out.

woman eating at an upscale restaurant during her day in port

7. Stay Dry

Every generally sunny resort area has a rainy season, or so it seems. In Mexico, it lasts from around November through May. It’s rainiest in The Bahamas and Caribbean in summer and fall. But don’t worry, the rain comes and goes fairly quickly, so you shouldn’t worry about being stuck inside!

A lightweight, waterproof hooded jacket should be all you need to stay dry in a regular afternoon drizzle. Be sure to also take it along on deep-sea expeditions, water tours, or any other time you’ll be aboard a boat.

8. Prepare for Pics

Packing tips for your shore excursion extend beyond your wardrobe. Undoubtedly you’ll want to take selfies, snapshots, and videos during your cruise vacation. So, in addition to your smartphone and digital camera, don’t neglect to bring your all-terrain action camera, selfie stick, or a waterproof camera bag.

Speaking of waterproofing, if an unexpected wave crashes on you at the beach, the smartphone in your pocket is in danger. Any plastic or waterproof bag may come in handy for simply keeping your electronics extra safe while you’re on that catamaran or sailboat.

9. Shield Your Peepers

As lovely as a sunny day can be, you don’t want to be squinting into the landscape. Sunglasses are a must. Polarized lenses cut down on glare, and be sure your shades are the kind that shield you from UV rays.

woman with sunglasses swimming in the caribbean sea during a shore excursion

10. Safeguard Your Skin

Sure, you want to return from your cruise vacation with a gorgeous tan, but you certainly don’t want to resemble a boiled lobster. Sunscreen is essential when you’re on the cruise ship as well as on shore excursions. Ditto for insect repellant. Don’t let bug bites get in the way of your fun.

Be aware, though, that certain shore excursions, such as the Dolphin Close Encounter in Freeport, The Bahamas, forbid the use of either suntan oil or excessive amounts of sunscreen.

11. Mind Your Head

It’s never a bad idea to stash a hat in your bag. Bucket hat, baseball cap, fedora, scarf, or visor, you’ll be glad you brought one along. Also, tours of some churches may require women to cover their heads.

If the sun is sizzling, consider bringing along a cooling cap, bandana, or scarf. Put it on ice in your room before debarking, and it’ll keep you feeling fresher longer in the tropical heat.

12. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle

Bring bottled water with you wherever you go or bring along money to purchase bottled water on shore. It’s important to stay well hydrated in any hot climate, so you may even feel that it’s worth it to tote along your favorite water bottle from home to ensure you always have a container to keep refreshments close at hand.

couple drinking water during their shore excursion to a mayan ruin

13. Remember the Little Things

When it comes to shore excursion packing tips, sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference. For example, a bandage or a travel pack of pain reliever can go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable when a blister appears on your heel or a headache suddenly attacks. The same principle holds for tissue, a granola bar, and hand sanitizer. It’s the little things.

14. Consider Cards and Cash

You don’t want to bring valuables ashore, such as expensive jewelry, but do carry some cash and cards. About $50 in cash should get you through for incidentals, and consider smaller bills for tips. Leave your passport aboard the ship for safekeeping, but take your driver’s license along with you for ID purposes.

If you’re thinking about bringing your debit or credit card, check with your bank to see what fee, if any, is applied to using your card abroad. In case of emergency, it’s always a good idea to have a credit card on hand to handle any last-minute needs.

With these packing tips for your shore excursion, you’ll be ready to have the time of your life. A little planning can keep worries, disappointments, or inconveniences at bay so you can enjoy your time on shore to the fullest.