Top 10 Must-Pack Items For Your Cruise

There are countless lists out there of items you must pack for your cruise, but I’m here to tell you the 10 we never leave home without. Now, this list isn’t one of those that includes sunglasses and flip flops. You know you need these things already.

This is a list that will make your time on a ship more comfortable and less worry-free. If you’d like to skip reading, and just see our must have items, you can see them here.

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission [at no additional cost to you] if you make a purchase using these links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)

1. Cruise Luggage Tag Holders

Before your cruise, and after you’ve completed on-line check in, your cruise line will generate a packet of paperwork for you to print from home. It will include your boarding passes, important information, and your cruise luggage tags. These tags will tell the crew who you are and what cabin you are in. The instructions indicate you should print them and TAPE them to your luggage. You can probably guess what happens to paper that is taped to your luggage – it will rip and/or get lost. This will lead to it taking longer than necessary for your luggage to show up in your room.

There is a quick, easy, and cheap way to make sure this doesn’t happen: plastic luggage tag holders. Available on Amazon, and usually specific to EACH cruise line, these plastic holders give you a waterproof and secure way to affix your paper tags to your luggage. (Some are wide and short and some are long and skinny.) I’ve linked to a few specific tags below by cruise line. You can use this link for a general search for all cruise lines. Below are specific cruise lines and their corresponding tag holders.

2. Lanyard

Each cruise line will give you a cruise card that will function as your room key, charge card, and your pass off/on the ship. It is very important that you have this with you at all times and that you don’t lose it. A lanyard will keep your card handy and safe. Some cruise lines will punch a hole in it for you for easy hanging from a lanyard, and some won’t. If your card isn’t punched, you can either bring a hole punch or you can get a lanyard that includes a plastic pocket to place the card in.

If you forget your lanyard, the cruise lines will sell them on board, but buying them in advance will defnitely save you money.

3. Over The Door Shoe Organizer

No, this isn’t for the countless shoes you’re bringing! This is for all the random stuff you’re bringing. Cruise cabins are small and, as a result, get messy really fast. This orgainzer will keep all your small items organized and easy to find. We use ours to store our sunscreen, playing cards, charging cables, towel clips, and, well, basically everything. The clear slots make items easy to see and find and storing everything in the closet keeps your room neat and tidy.

4. Magnetic Hooks/Clips

Cruise cabins are small and they get cluttered quickly. We keep our room tidy with magnetic hooks and clips. Cruise cabin walls are made of metal so you can keep your surfaces empty by putting things on the walls.

We use the magnetic clips to keep the paper we receive visible and out of the way. Examples of paper can include the day’s activities, your room steward’s card with his contact information, photos and even paper to leave each other notes on.

The hooks are great for hanging hats, small bags, towels, face masks, and more. The hooks come in different weights so you can pick and choose which you buy and what you hang on them. For towels you will need larger hooks, but for things like baseball caps, you can use smaller hooks.

5. Motion Sickness Relief

I have two kids that get car sick, so they get seasick as well. But even if you don’t, you should pack some motion sickness relief items. I never get seasick, but I remember one particular cruise where we hit a pretty bad storm. The hangers in the closet were swinging back and forth and that’s how my stomach felt as well. I was so glad to had packed a couple of motion sickness options.

For calm seas, my kids wear pressure point sea sickness bands and they work fairly well. These generic ones work just as well as the way more expensive brand name ones, and you have enough to give everyone a couple and have extras.

When it gets a little more choppy, Dramamine (or its generic) works great. We’ve found that the “less drowsy” version does not work as well. I buy these big bottles of generic Driminate. The price is WAY lower than the brand name Dramamine. I keep one in my car at all times and then take a couple on the ship in case one gets lost.

6. Towel Clips

Ships/islands can be very windy and chasing down your towels is no fun. In addition, the clips give everyone eyeing your pool chairs a clear message that the chairs have been claimed. You may leave your pool chairs unattended while you go get a drink or meal, and towel clips are a clear indicator that the chairs are in use. We also sometimes take our own towels so that there is a very clear visual someone is sitting there, but if you want to keep your packing light, the clips will suffice.

You can keep your clips basic like these, or you can get fancy with Flamingos, flip flops, or even cocktails.

7. Uno Cards/Playing Cards

Your cruise director will keep the cruise hopping with all sorts of activities, but sometimes you just want to sit somewhere, have a drink or a snack, and play a low-key game. For us, that’s UNO. My youngest daughter loves it, and even my oldest daughter will play. Uno knows no age limits and can be taken anywhere. It takes up almost no space and is fun for everyone. The same can be said about card games played with a regular deck of cards.

We’ve sat and played UNO while waiting to get on the ship, off the ship and everything in between. It’s a great way to pass time and keep kids quiet. Plus, it’s cheap and if you lose a few cards, you can still play. I’ve seen Harry Potter versions of UNO as well as Super Mario UNO and Minecraft UNO.

8. Extension Cord/Multi Outlet Cord

Cruise ships are notorious for having very few outlets and the older ships do not have USB charging capabilities if you don’t bring a brick. Bringing an power strip/extension cord with both 3 prong outlets and USB outlets will save you a lot of frustration and time when trying to charge your devices. Surge protectors are NOT allowed on cruise ships so make sure you get cords that don’t have surge protectors on them. We have found that the kind with fabric cords are easier to pack and have a smaller footprint. This cord is one of our favorites. It has a flat profile, a five-foot braided cord, and has three regular outlets, three USB ports and one USB-C port.

Side note: If you need extra lightning cables, I recommend these from Anker. They aren’t the least expensive, but they charge fast and don’t break quickly like the generic ones seem to.

9. Waterproof Tote Bag

We have a large waterproof RTIC tote bag and we take it EVERYWHERE on our cruise. It comes on board as a carry-on with pretty much everything on this list. Then, we take it to the pool on sea days and on excursions when we’re in port. It’s big enough to hold all of our towels (we’re a family of five) and our sunscreen, extra clothes, and all the random stuff we take off the ship. The other nice thing about it is that you can set it down anywhere and not worry about your stuff getting wet. Excursion boats often have wet floors and it’s great to not have to worry about the bag and the items inside.

RTIC often runs specials, and while a little pricey, we wouldn’t leave home on a cruise without this bag! It’s so popular people often ask us where we got it so we wrote our name on the inside just in case it wandered off.

If you want a little extra storage, and a zippered place to put valuables, add the sidepack from RTIC. The tote bag has clips on it so you just affix this to them. Now you have extra space without having to carry and extra bag.

10. Vaccination Card Holders

If you have vaccination cards, you know you have to keep them safe. These plastic holders have a zip closure at the top, to keep them safe and dry. When you’re on a cruise, there is water everywhere and you’ll have to carry these cards with you. These holders are rigid and water resistant so they will keep your cards dry and protected.

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