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Shopping for a Cruise on a $100 Budget

Am I the only one who buys something new to wear on vacation? I certainly don’t think it’s necessary to go shopping before you travel, but there is something so fun about debuting a new item in a new destination!

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For my upcoming Caribbean cruise with Carnival, I decided to issue myself a little challenge. I gave myself a $100 budget and a limited time frame (a couple hours) to get everything I needed for the trip. My wish list was:

  • denim shorts
  • fedora/sun hat
  • swim cover up
  • dress to wear to dinner
  • those comfy, printed pants that look like pajamas

To be honest, I didn’t think I would find everything on my list. Shopping in October for summer clothes is completely out of season, so I wasn’t feeling too confident that much would be available. Not to mention 5 items for under $100 is a tall order. I figured I would only find a couple things, but I wound up with everything on my list, and my grand total was only $88! (Score!)

Here’s what I bought:

  • jean shorts (photo 2): American Eagle, $18
  • fedora/sun hat (photo 2): Francesca’s, $10
  • swim cover up (photo 4): Forever 21, $22
  • dress for dinner (photo 3): Forever 21, 18
  • comfy printed pants (photo 1): TJ Maxx, $20

I tried on several pairs of printed pants before I found the TJ Maxx pair (photo 1) that I purchased. Photo 2 is Macy’s, photo 3 is American Eagle.


I searched for denim shorts all summer with zero success, so I was thrilled to finally find a pair! These denim shorts at American Eagle were on clearance, hidden on the bottom of a table in the back. I must’ve tried on 15 pairs. I bought the ones on the left, which are a Boyfriend fit. The ones on the right are Boy Midi fit.


One retailer that’s summer-friendly year round is Forever 21. I tried on a ton of dresses for the trip. I got the first one to wear for dinner. (Bonus: I can wear it with tights and boots this fall!)


More cute dresses I tried at Forever 21. The last one was perfect as a swim cover up! If it’s even possible, having a couple new things for the trip has made me even more excited to go on this cruise.


The real challenge now will be waiting to wear everything until the trip! Check out my tips for shopping for a cruise/vacation below and tell me – do you like buying something new for vacation or do you prefer sticking to old favorites? What are your best vacation shopping tips or finds?

My tips for cruise/vacation shopping:

  • Consider every possible scenario for your trip. What activities will you be doing and do you have something to wear for each possibility? Also consider: what can you wear in case of inclement or unusual weather?
  • Give yourself plenty of time. For my trip to Europe three years ago, I spent several months planning outfits and researching climates and activities. Don’t wait until the night before to take inventory of your closet and make sure you have everything you’ll need for your trip.
  • Fashion sometimes means function. On vacation you may find yourself on your feet sightseeing for hours, or snorkeling, or doing a number of things you wouldn’t normally do. Consider the function of what you’re wearing – shoes that can withstand a beating, swim cover ups that you can throw on fresh out of the ocean, etc.
  • Think beach brands. If you’re going on an out of season beach vacation, head to stores like Pac Sun, Hollister, American Eagle and Victoria’s Secret that carry bathing suits, shorts, cover ups and flip flops year round.
  • Only buy things you can wear outside of vacation, too. I will get plenty of use out of the swim cover up and denim shorts outside of my trip. And the fedora, printed pants, and dinner dress will work for the current season (fall). Don’t buy it only for vacation, buy it so you can use it after vacation, too!
  • Don’t blow the bank. Along the same lines, if you’re setting a vacation budget, be sure to keep it in perspective. Vacation is a special time, but it’s only 1-2 weeks out of the year, so I recommend putting the majority of your budget towards your usual daily activities.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.