What to Pack for a Cruise

Take the stress out of packing for a cruise with this packing list.

What to pack for a cruise
What to pack for your next cruise vacation.Shutterstock

Preparing cruise packing lists can be difficult. Daytime attire tends to be pretty casual (think swimsuits and flip-flops) while evening outfits are typically more on the business-casual side, if you plan to have dinner in a fancy restaurant or dining room. For general themed cruises and music cruises, just make sure you're not bringing your favorite Princess Leia costume to a Star Trek cruise.

If you’re cruising for three nights, there will likely be at least one formal night, and, if you’re sailing for seven, you can probably expect two. Be sure to check with your cruise line directly on how they expect you to dress (a good rule of thumb: Aim to be overdressed rather than underdressed) before completing your cruise packing checklist.

Women should wear a dress or a nice blouse and slacks, while men can wear a suit and tie or a button-down shirt with a blazer and slacks or khakis. And, although dress codes have become more relaxed over the years, we still recommend saving the jeans until after dinner.

Here are some handy cruise packing tips, outlining what to expect on and off your cruise, plus 10 additional items you wouldn't expect to bring.

What to Pack for a Cruise for Men

  • Shorts
  • T-Shirts/tank tops
  • Jeans (for after dinner)
  • Formal attire, like khakis or slacks, blazers, button-down shirts, a suit and tie
  • Walking shoes

What to Pack for a Cruise for Women

  • Sundresses
  • Maxi skirts
  • T-shirts/tank tops
  • Shorts
  • Jeans (for after dinner)
  • Formal attire, like dresses, khakis or slacks, blouses
  • Heels, wedges or flats
  • Walking shoes
  • Bathing suit cover-up

What to Pack for a Cruise for Everyone

  • Bathing Suits
  • Sunscreen
  • Toiletries, like toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant
  • Jacket or sweater
  • Underwear
  • Workout attire
  • Hat or sunhat
  • Camera
  • iPod and headphones
  • Kindle, books, magazines
  • Charging cables for all devices
  • Dramamine or ginger pills
  • Earplugs
  • Sleep mask

Pro-tip: Be sure to leave space for souvenirs and alcohol.

What to Pack for a Cruise in Your Carry-On

Among the best tips for cruise packing, there’s this: You’ll probably have to wait several hours before you can access your stateroom, so keep these items on your person to make the most of your time.

  • Travel documents, like boarding passes, identification, passport
  • Wallet
  • Swimsuit
  • Change of clothes
  • Medications
  • Toiletries

10 Things You Wouldn't Think to Pack for a Cruise

These items may seem quirky, but you’ll want to pack them for your next cruise. Here’s our list:

  1. Power strip: You'll need extra outlets to charge everyone's electronic devices.
  2. Extra clothes hangers: Most cabins only come with a few, and you'll want to hang all of your formal attire.
  3. Bathroom-door organizer: Cabin bathrooms are small, so hang this on the door to organize toiletries and maximize space.
  4. Bottle of wine: Most cruise lines allow passengers to bring one bottle of wine per person.
  5. Post-it notes: Leave notes for your cabin mates or your steward.
  6. Thermal coffee mug: Skip the small coffee mugs at the buffet, and bring your own for maximum caffeine intake.
  7. Refillable water bottles: If you drink a lot of water throughout the day, filling your own water bottle is a must.
  8. Waterproof dry bag: Take this on excursions to keep your electronics nice and dry.
  9. Clothespins: The best way to hang wet bathing suits and towels to dry.
  10. Antibacterial wipes: Chances are you'll be surrounded by thousands of other cruises, so protect yourselves from germs.

Pro tip: Pack for your cruise using a duffle bag or soft-sided suitcase so it takes up less space in your cabin.

Popular Cruise Destinations

If you’re looking for ideas for your next cruise vacation, check out these popular destinations: