Have kids? Then you know how important it is to pack everything they might need for a cruise. Forget something at home, and you won’t hear the end of it. In that way, having the right things packed for your kids is just as important to your vacation as it is to their vacation.
The truth is that packing for a cruise can be tough. After all, you have to bring everything you’ll need for the entire trip — there are no stores to pick up something you forgot when you are in the middle of the ocean.
That said, packing for a cruise with kids is a bit different. That’s because there are a number of things you will need to bring that you might not realize or even consider.
Below we’ve pointed out several items that you’ll want to pack for your kids on a cruise. We’ve split the list into three categories — toddlers, kids, and teens — as the needs of each group are different. Also, be sure to see 39 Useful Things to Pack For Your Cruise (Including 17 You’d Never Think Of) for more ideas on what to pack on any trip.
Note: The links to Amazon used below are affiliate links. Should you make a purchase, we receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
What to Pack for Toddlers on a Cruise
If you have a little one, then you understand the mess that they can make while eating. At the same time, health is always top of mind on a cruise ship. You don’t necessarily want food falling off a plate, onto the table, and then into your kids’ mouth.
A simple silicone placemat is a great solution. It sticks to the table and gives little guys and gals a place to eat without making a mess or getting germs on their food. You can find them for about $10 on Amazon.
Yes, you want to pack a stroller for your cruise. Even walking around the massive ships these days can be exhausting for little legs — much less walking around in port. But your big stroller is going to be way too large and cumbersome to navigate. Take a foldable umbrella stroller to get around easily with your toddler.
You really need to be prepared for anything when you travel with a toddler. Bring any medicines you might need if your kid gets sick while on the cruise. There are pharmacies in port, but the options may be limited for children’s medicine compared to what you are used to having at home. You can find medicines for cheap on Amazon.
A New Toy
We think it’s smart to secretly bring a brand-new toy on a cruise. That way if you run into a situation where you just can’t stop a tantrum, you have a secret weapon. Pull out the new toy, and watch that crying fit stop in an instant.
As well, it’s a great move when you can sense that your kid is getting a little restless, such as sitting through a meal. Just show the new toy and their attention will be on that instead of fidgeting around in the chair.
Not every cruise has a place for kids to swim if they aren’t potty trained (it’s a health issue). However, many are implementing separate areas as a way for small kids to still have fun on a cruise.
You’ll need swim diapers as they won’t be allowed in the water without them. Stock up on Amazon before your trip and bring way more than you think you’d need since they aren’t available on ships.
As a general rule of thumb, apart from high chairs and a sleeping crib (both available on the ship), you’ll need to bring everything else that your child will need. This includes things like sippy cups and bottles. They aren’t available in the dining areas. If you worry about losing them, Amazon has these cups available for less than $10 for a 4-pack.
Consumables (Diapers, Wipes, Etc.)
Diapers, wipes, pastes, and any other consumable products should be brought on board. And we highly suggest packing way more than you think you’ll actually use. In the middle of the ocean you can’t just run out for more diapers (although you can head to a pharmacy in port). Take what you’d normally bring and add about 50% to it just to be sure you have enough.
What to Pack for Kids on a Cruise
Cruises are a great place for kids to start learning some responsibility in a fun way. One way it to get your kids a room keycard (which also doubles as a credit card on the ship). This way they can not only access the door to the cabin, but also do things like hit the arcade. To make it easy to keep track of, we suggest putting the card in a lanyard. This makes it much harder to misplace during the cruise. Amazon sells a 5-pack for about $7.
Not much goes together as well as kids and water. If you have a waterbug, then be sure to bring some snorkel gear so that they can explore underneath the waves. Beginner sets are fairly cheap (around $20 on Amazon) and well worth the cost considering it can cost $10-15 to rent gear when in port. Plus, you don’t have to worry about sharing a snorkel that someone else has used.
Containers for Collecting Sand
One of the best souvenirs is also the cheapest. Bring some of these empty containers (baby food jars or these tubes work well) and scoop up a little sand from the beaches that you visit. Kids love to collect these jars and it can also help remind them of the fun they had on the trip well after the cruise is over.
If you have kiddos, then you know how their stuff can just seem to consume a whole house. Now imagine that mess in a small cabin.
If you bring an over-the-door shoe organizer and hang it on the bathroom door, you have an instant spot to store small items like toys and toiletries. It can go a long way in making the cabin feel less cluttered and costs only about $10 on Amazon.
Think every beach you visit will be beautiful white sand? In reality, many beaches in the Caribbean have their fair share of rocks that can be hard on soft feet. These are also great for around the ship’s pool deck, where the sun can heat up the surface to high temps.
Pack a cheap pair of water shoes for protection. You can get them for about $15-20 on Amazon.
What to Pack for Teens on a Cruise
You might not realize it at first glance, but the ceilings in most cruise cabins are actually metal. With a set of magnetic hooks, you can stick them to the ceiling and then have a place to hang wet swimsuits to dry instead of trying to drape them over doors or putting them out on the balcony. Space is limited, so this little trick can help you make the most of the room you have in your cabin for about $10.
We assume your teenager is going to be exploring the ship on their own quite a bit. That’s where sticky notes can be a lifesaver. You can write notes and leave them in the cabin to let them know where you are and vice-versa. Why not just use regular paper? With a sticky note you can leave your message right where they will see it so they can’t say that they “didn’t see your message” when they are late for dinner.
Walkie-Talkies or Phones
Truth be told, walkie-talkies are a hit-or-miss on a cruise (you can read our review here). Still, they can be useful in many cases for communicating in real time.
As well, you can use messaging apps on your phone if you are connected to the ship’s Internet to keep tabs on your teenager. (Messaging is also available through the cruise line’s app without paying for wi-fi, but message service does cost a few dollars this way.) Walkie-Talkies are nice because they don’t cost you extra to use on the ship.
Want your kid to really enjoy their cruise? Give them a cool camera to let them record the action. You can simply use a phone, but that gets risky on a cruise where there is lots of water around. Instead, these cameras can go anywhere (including under the water) to take some awesome shots of the cruise that they will remember forever.
Watches may not be as popular as they once were now that every checks their time on the phone. However, in the middle of a cruise, you or your teen may not always have your phone with you. A simple wristwatch can help your teen keep track of the time so that they don’t miss dinner or a check-in time with the rest of the family.
More on Packing for a Cruise:
- 39 Useful Things to Pack For Your Cruise (Including 17 You’d Never Think Of)
- 41 Must-Have Tips for Cruising With Babies, Toddlers, or Kids
- Luggage and Baggage Rules for Taking a Cruise (How Much Can I Bring?)