This isn’t your average cruise packing list. These are things cruisers forget the most — things a lot of people don’t even think about until they actually need them on the ship.
You already know to pack your toothbrush, swimwear, and sunglasses.
There are other places to get a complete, comprehensive packing list. Here, we will focus on the often overlooked items. And even though I’ve been cruising for 14 years these are things I often forget myself.
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Packing for a cruise can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. With so many things to remember, it’s easy to forget a few essential items that could make your cruise experience more enjoyable.
In this article, we will discuss some of the most commonly forgotten items that cruise passengers should pack.
I’ve talked about why you should bring cash on a cruise a few times on Cruise Fever. Cash is one of the easiest things to forget when you go on a cruise. After all, everything is either already paid for or can be settled through your on board account.
But bring some small bills for things like tipping the luggage porter at the terminal, buying souvenirs at straw markets in port, using local taxis, and leaving tips for your wait staff or cabin steward.
Personally, I like to have a lot of 1s and 5s on me when I’m exploring a cruise port and its surroundings. And don’t forget to tip local tour guides.
Most cruise cabins are made of metal, which means you can use magnets to hang all kinds of things, like daily schedules, notes, excursion tickets, and even some playful decor. Remember, you’re not supposed to use tape on the walls in your cabin.
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Some cruisers like to pack magnetic hooks as well. You can use these to hang a light jacket, an umbrella, your hat, and any kind of article of clothing. Use these on the back of the cabin door or on one of the metallic walls. Once you use magnets like this on a cruise you’ll always want to pack them.
Just be sure to keep the magnets away from any electronics or credit cards.
It’s important to pack all your medications, including any over-the-counter drugs you may need. It’s also a good idea to bring a copy of your prescription, just in case you need a refill while you’re away.
And while many will remember prescription medications to bring they might pack them in the wrong bag. Make sure you pack any medications in the bag you will carry with you on the ship, not the bag you will hand to the porter.
It’s always a good idea to pack some generic medications like Tylenol, Aleve or Ibuprofen as well. Yes, you can buy these on the ship but they are much more expensive. The same goes for any kind of motion sickness relief you may need. Some cruise ships will have Dramamine available for free if you just ask at guest services, but I like to have some on hand just in case.
4. Approved sunscreen
Many cruise lines ban the use of certain types of sunscreen, such as those containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, which can harm coral reefs. Before you pack your sunscreen, be sure to check with your cruise line to ensure it is approved for use on board.
You’d be surprised at how many cruisers forget their sunscreen on a cruise to the Bahamas or Caribbean. And again, while the ship will gladly sell you a very expensive bottle of sunscreen you’re better off bringing your own. You may need it more than you think.
The sun in the Caribbean can be quite intense and you don’t want to suffer severe sunburns at the start of your cruise only to be in agony for the next 5 days.
The sun and wind on a cruise ship can quickly dry out your lips, so be sure to pack some ChapStick to keep them moisturized. Even if you don’t normally use any kind of lip balm you might wish you had some after a couple sea days on the ship.
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Some lip balms also offer sun protection which you will be thankful for by the end of your vacation. I’ve tried to skip this one before and regretted it right away. Pack some Chapstick. It’s easy enough to throw in your toiletry bag.
Related: 12 things you can still get for free on a cruise ship
6. Refillable water bottle
Staying hydrated is important on a cruise, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time in the sun. Packing a refillable water bottle will help you save money and reduce plastic waste. I like the water bottles that are collapsible so they don’t take up much room in my bag and offer more flexibility.
Check out the collapsible water bottle on Amazon here. Nope, it’s not an affiliate link.
7. Extra bag for port days
I’ve seen too many cruisers trying to use a plastic grocery bag to carry all their stuff onto a private island because they forgot to bring an extra bag for port days. I like to bring a small backpack or tote to carry things like towels, sunscreen, water shoes, snorkel gear, etc.
You’re also likely to accumulate some souvenirs or beach gear during your port days. Packing an extra bag will make it easier to carry everything back to the ship.
Read: Cruise ship room service and everything you need to know
8. The right kind of shoes
Most cruise ships won’t allow you to work out in the gym or participate in activities on the basketball court if you’re wearing open-toed shoes. This has happened to me several times when I had to head back to my cabin to change out of my flip-flops.
You also might want to bring some water shoes if you’re going to do some snorkeling or enjoy certain water sport activities.
Depending on the type of cruise you’re taking, you may need to pack different types of shoes. If you plan to go hiking, you’ll need comfortable hiking boots, while sandals are perfect for beach days.
9. Towel clips
Cruise ship decks can be windy, very windy. This means your towel may blow away from the lounger you worked so hard to secure. Towel clips will help keep your towel in place and prevent it from flying off.
The first time I saw people using this I laughed and said it was unnecessary. But having chased “many a towel” on the lido deck I get it now. Don’t forget to pack a few towel clips so you don’t have to figure out creative ways to keep your towel in place.
Related: See our 9 handy Amazon items you should bring on your cruise.
10. Power strip and adapter
Cruise ship cabins often have limited outlets, so packing a power strip and adapter will make it easier to charge all your devices. Just make sure you bring a non-surge protector power strip as surge protectors are not allowed on most cruise ships.
Having an international power adapter can come in handy as well. I’ve sailed on some European cruise lines that had both European outlets and 3-prong American outlets, and by having an adapter I could use both for more charging options.
Related: 10 things you should never do in you cruise cabin
11. Bug spray
Forgetting to pack some bug spray could be a huge mistake if your excursions take you to certain regions of the world. I’ve seen some nasty bites from jungle excursions that make it seem like some of these bugs are bred for battle.
Even a small can of bug spray can make a big difference if your off-road adventures take you to remote areas where these little biters seem to thrive. You’ll thank me later on this one.
If you’re planning to go on shore excursions or spend time outside, be sure to pack some bug spray. It’s also a good idea to pack some anti-itch cream, just in case you get bitten.
12. Wrinkle release spray
Cruise ships don’t have irons in the cabins and many don’t even have irons in the launderettes, so packing some wrinkle release spray can help you keep your clothes looking their best. A few sprays of wrinkle release might be all you need and could save you $5 – $10 in having to pay for the cruise line for your clothing to be pressed.
Another trick I like to try is spraying my wrinkled shirt with a little water, giving the shirt a sharp snap of my wrist as I hold it up and pull it downward, and then letting it hang for a few minutes to dry. Sometimes it’s just enough to get most of the wrinkles out.
Check out some travel size wrinkle release sprays on Amazon here.
13. Laundry bag
Packing a laundry bag will make it easier to keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean clothes. People forget this one all the time, myself included. Some cruise lines will have a dirty clothes bag you can use, but I like to bring a little mesh laundry bag that can breathe and is easy to throw into my suitcase.
A laundry bag makes it easier to carry everything if I do my own laundry at one of the self-service launderettes as well.
14. Travel umbrella
Why would you even think of bringing an umbrella if you’re cruising to an area known for it’s sunny days and tropical breezes? Well besides the regular afternoon showers that often wash through, it can be nice to have an umbrella to beat the heat as well.
An umbrella can give you little extra shade for your time at the beach if you don’t want to pony up a few extra dollars to rent one. The only problem then is the wind and your umbrella taking off. So whether it’s to get out of the rain or out of the sun, a travel umbrella can be a nice thing to put in your port bag.
15. Light jacket
Even if you’re cruising to a warm destination, it’s always a good idea to pack a light jacket or sweater. Nights can get chilly with that ocean breeze, and some indoor areas of the ship are kept on the cold side. I always like to bring a hoodie or light jacket that I can throw into my bag without taking up much room.
Read: 10 biggest cruise tipping mistakes cruisers make
A few extras you can bring along that you might not have thought about
- Nail clippers: Don’t let that hangnail trip up your cruise vacation.
- Lint roller: Not a must-have, but comes in handy for those formal nights when you’re wearing all black.
- Passport copy – You know to bring your passport, but having a copy of it to keep in your safe or in your bag can come in handy in certain situations.
- AirTags or SmartTags to track your luggage at the airport and cruise terminal.
- Clear plastic locking bags: They come in handy to keep your phone, jewelry, cash, or other items dry and out of the sand on the beach.
- Travel insurance: Sure, it’s not a physical thing you can pack, but having some travel insurance on your cruise can save you from a nightmare situation.
What do you like to pack on your cruise that most people don’t? Let us know in the comments below!
Read: 8 things that always surprise 1st-time cruisers