Make sure you have everything you need for your cruise packing list — Photo courtesy of Halfpoint / iStock Via Getty Images

When cruising with the family, especially children, you want to make sure you have everything you need. Knowing what to pack for a cruise includes some obvious items, such as the right clothes, toiletries, and medications. But there are several things to bring on a cruise that could improve your experience both for you and the kids.

Here are 10 cruise essentials you should always include on your cruise packing list when traveling with the family.

Power strips (without a surge protector)

Today’s newer ships are starting to include USB ports for charging devices in the cruise cabin, but there might not be enough for all the devices one family brings with them. If you’re on an older cruise ship, a power strip is a necessity to keep everyone plugged in. (Cruise lines stipulate that power strips can’t have surge protectors as a safety issue.)

Many power strip manufacturers are designing smaller strips with more outlets, so it won’t take up much room in your suitcase or on the stateroom counter.

Zip-close bags

Every cruise packing list should include a few zip-close bags of different sizes. They come in handy for a variety of uses and take up little space in your suitcase.

“Baggies may sound like a trivial thing to pack for cruising, but they are so versatile,” says Becky Beall, founder and host of The Travel Voice by Becky. “When in port, baggies are good for storing documents all in one place, keeping sand out of phones on a beach, and making instant ice packs should one be needed.”

Zip-close bags also are great for holding cereal, crackers, and other snacks while by the pool or when exploring a port.


Cruise ship bathrooms typically have a clothesline inside the shower where you can dry swimsuits and other items. But given the small size of the bathroom, don’t expect a long clothesline. With clothespins, you can maximize your clothesline space by clipping just a portion of the swimsuit instead of having to drape the entire item over the line.

This is especially important given it’s against ship policy to hang clothes and towels on the balcony (for those who have one) to dry.

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Reusable or plastic grocery bags

When packing up for the trip home, stash your dirty clothes in reusable or plastic grocery bags to keep wet, sandy, or dirty clothes separate from clean clothes. This also works for dirty shoes. The added bonus? When unpacking at home, you can pull out the dirty clothes quickly and deposit them in your laundry room or hamper.

Night light

A cruise packing list must for traveling with young children: Night lights. When all the lights are turned off, staterooms can be quite dark, which can be a bit scary for the wee ones.

“If you’re traveling with children, having a night light in your cabin could be helpful,” says Doug Parker, founder and host of “Cruise Radio” podcast. “This can help them sleep better and feel more secure, especially if you have an interior room. The interior cabins are completely dark since there are no windows.”

It also can help everyone navigate to the bathroom during the night.

Door organizer

Hanging organizers with a lot of pockets for stashing things help keep clutter out of the stateroom. It’s also handy so you can find everything, from toiletries and hair accessories to medications.

There’s not a lot of shelf or counter space in the bathroom, so this adds much-needed storage to any cabin. You can hang up a second one in a closet to hold shoes, socks, underwear, sunglasses, books, and other items.

Over-the-counter medications

While you may remember to pack your prescription medications, add over-the-counter medications and first-aid essentials on your cruise checklist, too.

“Over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol, Benadryl, Dramamine, and tummy soothers are not always readily available aboard ships, and if they are, they’re likely expensive,” Beall says. “Pre-packing a bag with these items, plus bandages, sunscreen, and any prescriptions that may be needed, can be a lifesaver when a need arises.”

If you’re catching a flight to get to your port city, be sure to review TSA rules on packing vitamins and over-the-counter medicine.

Reusable water bottles and reusable straws

While each cruise line provides cups at their drink stations, the cups aren’t very big, and you don’t want to spend your time at the pool running back to refill your drink. Every cruise packing list should include a reusable water bottle for each family member so you can fix your drink, take it with you, and relax for a bit before getting a refill.

Reusable bottles with lids are particularly handy if you have young children prone to spills. Also, many cruise lines are ditching plastic straws as part of their eco-friendly policies. If having a straw is important to you, bring along some reusable ones.

Portable chargers

Spending the day in port shopping or relaxing on the beach provides many hours of fun, but all those photos and videos you’re bound to take can drain your phone battery. To keep your phone active, add a portable charger and charging cord to your cruise packing checklist. That way they’re in your bag to plug in if needed.

Also, using a portable charging device can go miles in preventing identity theft while traveling, as hackers have figured out ways to compromise public charging stations.

Portable DVD player

Television and movie offerings are notoriously limited on cruise ships, so bring along a portable DVD player and a few DVDs to keep everyone entertained before bedtime, or during those lazy mornings on your cruise vacation. Make sure to pack all the appropriate power cords, too.

DVD players are handy because most cruise internet packages don’t offer access to streaming unless you purchase the most expensive option. Even then, the service may not support streaming services, or it may block access to popular streaming sites.

Also, most cruise lines don’t allow you to plug into the TV in the room, so plan on having the kids watch the small screen and leave the TV gaming systems at home. Throw in a few of mom and dad’s favorite DVDs, too.

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