So you’re going on a cruise! You hung your ticket and passport on your fridge, set your out-of-office message and bought a brand new swimsuit — you are ready for the vacation of your dreams. Now, all you have to do is pack.
But figuring out what exactly to pack can be a little harder. This isn’t your average vacation, where you’re probably only a short walk away from a convenience store. Packing for a cruise involves just a little more forethought, even if you’re usually a last-minute packer not much of a planner.
Study the itinerary, and make sure you have all the proper attire for the things you want to do. You should usually bring at least one formal outfit, a couple of bathing suits (they’ll take longer to dry than you think) plus cover-ups for walking around the ship and comfortable walking shoes.
Please — really, PLEASE — don’t forget your toothbrush, your phone charger or your passport. I also have a habit personally of forgetting to bring a razor to shave my legs, so I urge you to remember that too.
After you have all the basics accounted for, there are a few other things you don’t want to forget.
Even though you’re going to be in a relatively confined space, probably with your family or significant other, that may or may not have a window, you aren’t going to stop being human. Which means that at some point you’re going to have to go No. 2. Probably multiple times.
Sorry, but it’s true! You’ll thank me when you remember to buy some toilet spray or some sort of air freshener to make sure the only thing you have to smell in your cabin the ocean breeze. There’s Poo-Pourri, the “before-you-go” spray, or all kinds of other small, discreet sprays for this exact purpose. Even some air fresheners that are small enough to pack in your bag and forget about — until you really need it.
And on the topic of being in a small room, if you can work out some way to bring a little fan, you’ll really be in good shape if it’s a little hotter than you bargained for. A cool, sweet-smelling cabin is the key to a happy trip.
Maybe this seems basic, but I cannot emphasize this enough: bring plenty of sunscreen. As someone who is particularly fair, I have been in the position of being spectacularly burned on the first day of vacation. Not only can make even the smallest movement feel anywhere from uncomfortable to agonizing, it’s embarrassing! Don’t be that person who everyone looks at and winces, and don’t set yourself up for weird tan lines.
Bring sunscreen and make sure you apply it every hour. It’s worth it, I promise.
And just in case you fall asleep on the deck … bring some aloe gel to give your burning skin some relief and promote faster healing. Maybe you’ll be able to salvage some of your trip.
Even though your cruise to a tropical paradise may be filling your head with visions of bikinis and suntanning, you still need to bring a sweater or jacket. It can get downright cold in some locations at night, including in the middle of summer. It doesn’t have to be the puffy coat you use in the winter at home, but something light to cover up may be your saving grace.
Your Own Wine and Corkscrew
Most cruises allow you to bring some of your own wine or champagne on board, and this is my favorite thing about cruises. You should absolutely take advantage of this by bringing a bottle (or two, or three, whatever they allow!) with you onboard. Check with your cruise line to see what’s allowed, and treat yourself to a bottle of wine on the deck with your favorite person in the evening. Take in the sights and relax!
To make sure this goes smoothly, make sure you pack the bottles somewhere safe, like air-tight bags inside your carry-on. If they somehow leak, you don’t want everything you brought to be wine-soaked for the whole trip.
And don’t forget a corkscrew! It’s harder to get corks out of wine bottles than you’d think without one.
It’s easy to forget this one, because if you’re anything like me you rarely carry cash anymore, but it’s important! Bring a wad of cash in smaller bills, for all your tipping needs, and to use when you get off the ship and visit somewhere new that may not accept credit cards as easily as they do in the U.S.
Wrinkle Spray and Some Plastic Bags
Lastly, and weirdly, two things I always need no matter where I go: wrinkle-remover spray, and a few plastic grocery bags. The wrinkle spray changed my life when I discovered it, and I promise it actually works. It makes you feel like a human when you’re living out of a suitcase and from tiny bottles of weird shampoo. And plastic bags always come in handy, for dirty or wet clothes, or trash somewhere along the way, or a million little things that could come up. So just stuff a few in a side pocket, and sail off into the sunset worry-free.
About the writer: Cassidy Alexander is a journalist based in Florida, who is on a mission to travel somewhere totally new twice a year.