My No-Fail Packing List for Cruising with Kids
I have been on a lot of cruises over the past 7 years. Our first cruise was our honeymoon cruise in 2011. We took a January Eastern Caribbean cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines Epic. At the time, the ship had just recently been released. It was maybe 6 months old or so when we sailed on her. Basically, we started off our cruising adventures right! She ship was gorgeous, the service was amazing and everything about the trip was perfect! We were still on our cruise when we decided we had to do this again because it was truly a spectacular experience for us. Since then we have also sailed on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. We do at least one sailing a year, sometimes 2 because this is the best way we can think of to truly get a vacation with your kids and still feel like you're on vacation. The amenities on board for kids to do without parents are great and since it's a part of their service (except for babysitting) you're not paying extra just for your kids to be entertained while you're getting a massage or having a nice dinner with your significant other.
Packing for a Cruise with Kids
Packing for a cruise can be tricky though. On my own, I can fill a good-sized suitcase because of all the extras clothes and things you need to take for a cruise. You need to make sure you're packed for a nice night out, for an island adventure, and everything in between, so I pack a lot. With kids and all the stuff they require, it gets tricky. What I've learned though, is that many different cruise lines have their own allowances and provide different things. For example, the last time we sailed with Norwegian, they provided things like shampoo and conditioner, whereas, with Royal Caribbean and Carnival, you need to ask your stateroom attendant because it's not automatically in the shower. They don't allow things like extension cords or irons, and some may not even allow your own blow dryer or hair straightener, so you really need to check out the list of excluded items for your particular sailing.
Can't Forget Kids Items
There are a few things that I absolutely cannot sail without, especially with little kids. Cruise lines don't usually have child-friendly cups, so we always make sure to sail with our own sippy cups. It just makes life so much easier, especially with suitcase space is at a premium. You definitely don't want to have to take extra, extra clothes just because your child doesn't know how to maneuver a cup yet.
I also always take our water bottles. My husband loves his Yeti water bottle and I have a fascination for my S'well bottles. You will need to pour water into it from their little plastic cups, but that's alright. They don't let you stick the bottles underneath anything for fear of contamination. For the kids, I take their Thermos Foogo bottles. With all our bottles, every time we hit an area that we can refill with water, we do. Even if the bottle just needs to be topped off a little, that way you can be sure you always have water on hand.
Something else I always love to bring is some simple toys for kids. Things like coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, hot wheels cars, etc. Basically, toys that are small, portable and will keep them entertained for a while. There will be moments that you need the kids to be entertained in the cabin, like when you're trying to dress for a nice dinner out, and you don't want them going batshit crazy in the room, so you can break out a few of their smaller toys and let them have fun. If those toys don't work, then break out a Kindle Fire/iPad that doesn't need to have wifi access for them to watch a movie or something. TV onboard is very limited and they may not have cartoons that the kids enjoy, so taking something with you loaded with stuff they like will be your best bet.
Don't Bother with These
Unless your child is particular about their pack and play, leave it at home. There is zero room in the cabin for a pack and play and it will take up all the space you have. With the way the beds are set up, you can comfortably sleep with two small kids between you if you need to, and I'm sure baby would sleep super comfortably there with you. They also provide a crib if you need one. You can ask when you make your reservation or ask the stateroom attendant and they will provide one for you. Honestly, though, I have always just either slept with the kids in bed with me or one in the spare bed, one with us. We all slept great and comfortably.
Don't bring your full sized stroller. They are big, bulky, and hard to maneuver around the ship. The best thing you can do is babywear and/or bring an umbrella stroller or something equally small. I usually bring both my carrier and my Summer Infant 3D One stroller, because it's small enough to just slide under the bed or in a closet when it's not in use, and it's narrow enough to get around anything, but it can hold a bunch of stuff if needed and can accommodate a napping toddler. For me, it's the perfect travel stroller on a budget.
I have compiled a packing list from my experience cruising with my kids. This is the same list I will be using on an upcoming cruise (that I will be blogging about soon so stay tuned!) on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas and really helps to keep me organized. I keep it in a clear page protector so I can then use a dry erase marker to check things off as I go and I can also reuse the list as many times as I need. If you would like your copy of my nifty little packing list, sign up below to receive it. By signing up, you are also agreeing to receive once a week blog updates. I will also send you any affiliate deals I receive that are just too good to pass up or exciting blog news. I promise, at the most it will be no more than 3 emails a week, but will normally be just the once a week blog update. I don't like email clutter and I'm sure you don't either, so I just won't do that to you.