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The number of variables present means packing for a cruise is going to be a highly individualized process. Consider: Where is the cruise going? What time of year is it? How many days is the trip? What is your tolerance for wearing the same clothes for five days in a row? All of these things have an impact on your packing plan.

Crucial Carry-On

The most important piece of luggage when traveling is always the carry-on. Yes, you should keep your medications and expensive items in there, along with a change of clothes (as you likely won’t see your suitcases until after the first dinner). Most importantly, though, with a cruise, if you don’t have your ID, passport, and boarding information on you, you’ll be on the pier waving goodbye as the ship sets sail.

Shoe Wars

When traveling, wearing the biggest, bulkiest shoes you are taking saves valuable room in the suitcase. For a cruise, flip-flops are a virtual necessity. If you are going to be walking at one of the ports or utilizing the fitness center, you need sneakers. Chances are you’ll want nicer shoes for dinners, shows, and/or clubbing, so plan accordingly. If you’re hitting a beach in the Caribbean, water shoes are a smart investment.

Space Ace

The average cruise cabin is only a few hundred square feet, so maximizing the space makes it easier on all involved. Most staterooms allow for storage under the beds, so unpack, throw your suitcases underneath, and use them for dirty laundry and souvenir storage. Generally, the closets come with a fair but limited number of hangers, so if you want all of your clothes suspended, either bring some extra hangers or be prepared to double up clothes on the ones provided. The most cramped part of any cabin will always be the bathroom, especially if you are sharing with multiple people. A hanging toiletry kit that allows separate pockets where everyone’s stuff can be kept organized and apart is a godsend. Carve out a space in one of the drawers where you keep important items, like phones, cameras, room cards, and such, so you don’t have to dig around while you’re trying to hustle your way out the door.

Clothing Options

Today there’s really no right or wrong way to dress on a cruise. It used to be that cruises required formalwear for dinners, but rarely is that required anymore. Even on the “dress-up nights,” you’ll see everything from tuxedos to jeans, with the majority of men in a jacket and tie and the ladies in a nice dress. The majority of your attire will likely range between resort casual and business casual. If you’re heading to a warm destination, heavy clothes likely won’t be needed, but the ability to add or remove layers at night will be a welcome luxury.

General Tips

  • If you are traveling with multiple people, pack a little bit of everyone’s stuff in each bag. That way if one bag never shows up, everyone is still OK.
  • Just because there’s still room in a suitcase doesn’t mean you should bring more stuff. The more room you begin with, the more stuff you get to buy on vacation.
  • Bring a cheap, flexible bag you can throw over your shoulder when in port. Don’t keep your valuables in it, but it’s perfect for sunscreen or in case extra clothes or towels are needed.
  • Check with your cruise line regarding its policies on bringing liquids aboard. Some lines allow two bottles of wine per person, which is nice, and some will let you bring a modest amount of canned soda on.

Here’s everything you need to know about cruising.  

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