Packing for a Cruise? These Are the Essentials You Forgot

Some essentials, like a swimsuit and sunscreen, are no-brainers. But, there are a few unexpected things that most travelers may not think to pack... and will regret it as soon as they step onboard!

It’s been a long time coming, but you’ve finally booked that amazing cruise vacation. Perhaps you’re looking forward to relaxing and sticking your toes in the sand at a far-away beach. Or, maybe you’re packing your hiking shoes so you can trek through the jungle to see mysterious ancient ruins.

Regardless of where you’re going, there are a few must-haves that apply to any cruise.

It’s probably safe to assume you know to pack the essentials, like clean underwear and a swimsuit. But as someone who has stepped onboard a cruise ship more than a few times now, I’m here to clue you in on a few other necessities — the kinds of things that you’d find yourself missing as soon as you step foot on the cruise ship.

A Carry-On Bag

woman with a suitcase and backpack

As soon as you board the ship, it’s time to switch into vacation mode, right? Let’s hit the pool and grab a drink! Well, not so fast…

If you’ve never set sail on a cruise before, you might not know that your luggage won’t arrive to your stateroom until a few hours after you’ve walked onboard. That means that your swimsuit, poolside novel, and sunscreen won’t be available for a while, unless you pack yourself a carry-on. Put in anything you might need for those first few hours, so you don’t have to sit around in your travel sweatpants waiting on your suitcase.

Ziploc Bags

ziploc bag

Resealable storage bags are the unsung heroes of vacations. They are key to keeping sand and water far away from your phone and its charging port. Plus, you can still use the camera and touch screen through the plastic of the bag.

Pack extras to throw your wallet in, to keep it dry. Plus, a larger Ziploc bag wouldn’t be a bad idea to stick things like sunscreen or lotion into before throwing them in your bag, in the off chance that something might leak.

Outlet Adapter

many devices plugged into surge protector

You likely haven’t realized how many plugs you use on a daily basis, but you will as soon as you arrive onboard. Between cameras, tablets, phones, curling irons, hair dryers, and more… you’re going to wish you had more outlets in that small cabin.

Packing an adapter or two that will expand the number of plugs in your room is a smart move. Trust me on this one!

Wrinkle-Release Spray

spraying clothes with wrinkle releasing spray

Here’s a pro tip for anyone that hasn’t been on a cruise before. While most things about your onboard stateroom are like being in a hotel, there’s one important thing that’s missing: a clothes iron. It’s a fire safety thing!

So, if you crammed your formal wear (for dinner, duh!) into an already-packed suitcase, do yourself a favor. Bring a wrinkle-releasing spray to take care of all those creases.

A Lanyard or ID Holder


I know that wearing a lanyard around might seem kind of nerdy, but just trust me on this one. Your ship pass is a plastic card. You’re going to be using that pass for everything: it’s your room key, you’ll order drinks with it, you use it to play in the casino, and you even need to scan it to get on and off the ship when you arrive at a destination.

A someone who is notorious for losing things out of my pocket, I urge you to tether that card to your body! Besides, do you really want to have to dig around in your pocket, wallet, or purse every time you need it? You can opt for a lanyard, or get fancy with a retractable ID holder that clips on. It’ll make your card easier to reach and harder to lose.

Proper Identification


It seems like a no-brainer, but you absolutely need to bring proper identification. Sure, you’ll need your ID when purchasing all those daiquiris, but you also need to bring the big guns: a passport or birth certificate. A passport is going to be your best bet, hands down. But in the event you don’t have one, some closed-loop cruises — that means they start and end at the same port — you may only be required to bring a government-issued birth certificate. Check with the cruise line to verify what you’re required to bring.

A word of caution about traveling without a passport, though: if you accidentally end up stuck in another country, like say, you miss the boat… you WILL need a passport to get back home. If it’s possible to get a passport before your trip, go ahead and do that.

One More Thing… A Bottle of Wine!

bottles of wine and a corkscrew

You read that correctly! Most cruise lines will let you to bring a bottle (or two!) of wine or champagne with you. Double check with your cruise line to find out how much they will let you carry onboard. This will save you later when you realize your unlimited drinks package doesn’t apply to room service! Oh, and don’t forget the corkscrew.

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