If you are going on a cruise (or any vacation really) with children, you most definitely want to check out my list of tips and must haves for your trip!
Hello Hello Hello!
My family and I had the most wonderful vacation! We went on a Carnival Cruise and it was an absolute blast! Granted, when we visited Playa Mia Gracelynn wandered off and we couldn’t find her for ten minutes which led to me having a full blown panic attack, but other than that, I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. 😁 Needless to say, I most definitely took advantage of the Cheers Package Carnival offers so I could calm those nerves back down. 😉 We weren’t thrilled about the 18% gratuity and I personally feel guilty if I don’t cash tip when ordering a drink, so we had them remove the 18% gratuity a couple days off the package and cash tipped each time we ordered a drink; it evened out in the end and left me guilt free because we were cash tipping. You can also bring one bottle of wine/bubbly per adult as well as sodas and energy drinks. I’d recommend a folding corkscrew for those as opposed to the one with arms for safety when storing/packing it as well as leakproof wine bottle protectors, just in case. The cruise ship serves free juice, tea, water and lemonade from what I remember too. I packed some favorite snacks, gum and candy to have in our room too. If any of us got hungry and weren’t up for the walk to the Lido Deck to get some food, it was nice to have some readily available. There is 24 hr room service on the boat (woot woot!) but I think you get charged if you’re ordering past 10pm. The snacks are great for when you’re in port sight seeing too.
Don’t forget to pack headphones for on the airplane, especially if you’re taking an early flight out like we did. If you want to go on a cruise, but aren’t sure if it’s for you, check out these 9 Questions To Ask Before Booking A Cruise, it was so insightful for us. Like I mentioned before, we went on the trip with some friends and the night before we were to board the cruise ship, we repacked all our stuff into two of these rolling duffel bags. I cannot even begin to describe what a great idea it was. When we got to our room, we unpacked and collapsed the duffels, and slid them out of the way under the bed; something that’s a lot tougher to do if you’re dealing with a larger, or hard shelled suitcase. In hind sight, I would have used these travel cubes to keep myself and David much more organized. When I packed clothes for my kids, I put together full outfits (shirt, pants, undergarments, socks and hair accessories) in gallon sized baggies and packed them file style inside their suitcase so all they had to do was grab a bag and put it on. This allowed me to store their suitcase in one of the closets, without having to fully unpack it, since we were limited on space. Not to mention, it allowed us to have extra ziplock baggies which were great for putting stuff in that you don’t want to get wet when going to the pool. It’s smart to pack all the pajamas together in one packing cube and the swimsuits in another because both of those are things you are most likely going to need those for everyone all at once. I will be doing that for our next family trip; it will save me so much time when hunting those things down when we need them.
On The Airplane
First things first, store your car keys and parking garage ticket in a safe spot! There’s a small pocket on the front of our suitcase that I keep ours in as well as travel documents. Speaking of which, you must have proper identification. That means your driver’s license (kind of a given) and passport. For your children, their birth certificates should suffice. Verify this with the appropriate government authority to ensure you do have all the proper documents. Store copies of your itinerary/maps/directions separately (like in another suitcase) because you might find yourself in a spot with no signal on your phone to be able to look that information up if you lose original copies. I’m big on being organized, so I got this travel wallet to house all of our travel documents and info. It was so convenient to have everything stored in one place. I was able to manage all of our documents while David kept track of the girls, so we were able to move through security much faster, both in the airport, and boarding the cruise ship.
If you’re like me and have a lot of medications, make sure you have proof of the prescription with you, the original bottle will suffice.
When you are packing you’re carry-on, think about what things you will absolutely need, if, for some reason, the rest of your luggage was lost. So things like:
- Must Have Toiletries – Toothbrush, toothpaste, chapstick etc Just in case you get stranded
- Extra Contacts Lens Case and Rinse/Glasses and a case
- Change of clothes
- Lightweight Backpack
- Book or Ebook – I keep all mine on my iPad
- Snacks and/or gum
- Reusable Waterbottle – Fill it after you’ve passed through security and know that it’s the only type of “plastic” bottle you’ll be able to bring aboard the boat
- Travel Pillow and Blanket
- Earplugs and Eyemask
- Pen and Notebook
- List of Emergency Contacts
- List of Medications
Let each kids pack their own little backpack (with help of course😉) with things to entertain themselves with on the plane – iPad, a few small toys, coloring book/crayons and a couple books. Gracie brought her leap pad with her too.
On The Cruise Ship
When packing your carry-on for the boat, think about what you’ll need as soon as you get on the cruise ship, or en route. You’ll want to pack easily accessible items in your carry-on so when you get on the ship and so you can prep for things like going swimming as soon as you get on board because it can take awhile for your other luggage to get to your room, however you should be able to get into your room shortly after boarding. We brought our pool bag as a carry on (on the boat, not the plane 😜) as well as the girls’ suitcase, just in case, but I think our room was ready about an hour after we boarded. Speaking of swimming, packing multiple swimsuits is a good idea so you can rotate through them and always have a dry one on hand. You should throw some towel clips in your carry-on too; aren’t these flip flop ones hysterical?! It was super windy when we were up on the deck and I WISH I hand packed some of those. Real flip flops are perfect when you’re up on the pool deck. I prepacked our pool bag with some beach towels too when I learned that you would get charged if you lost any of the towels from you room, or the ones you check out from by the pool; I didn’t want to risk any of ours getting lost.
Though we didn’t use the service, Carnival Cruiselines offers what’s called Faster To The Fun and I’ve heard it’s worth it. With it, you get
- priority security lines, check-in and boarding
- early access to your cabin on embarkation day
- priority delivery of checked luggage, dedicated phone line to the guest services desk and an exclusive line there yourself
- priority dinner times
- priority tender service
- choice of early or late debarkation at the end of the cruise
We didn’t learn about it until we were already on board the cruise ship, but I think for our next trip we will definitely look into it a little further. You’ll also need:
- Suitcase Locks – They leave your luggage in the hall when they drop it off, so you’ll want it as secure as possible
- Lanyard (the ones on the boat are a beautiful keepsake, great quality and inexpensive; $12 I think)
- Leakproof Coolers for ice (we preordered a carnival one and had it filled with ice every day for free)
- Travel Clock (set it to boat time because that’s what everything is scheduled according to)
- Fan (preferably battery powered)
- Small Flashlight – don’t forget the batteries
- Swim Floats – these are the BEST! My kids can “swim on their own” with these things on
- Swim Goggles and Wax Ear Plugs for in the pool too
Next on, HAND SANITIZER! The ship is well-equipped with hand-sanitizer stations, but it’s not a bad idea to bring your own personal sized hand sanitizer, especially when you’re in port and walking around town. I wish I’d thought to pack some paper towels and wet wipes too so I could wipe down surfaces in the room when need be. It also gets pretty chilly in some places on the ship because of the air conditioning, so you should have a sweatshirt or jacket in your carry-on.
This was our room, but in a mirror image:
If we had to do it over again I would have bit the bullet and upgraded to this configuration for easier navigation around the room:
You’ll be living there for several days (or longer), so comfort is something you have to decide is worth upgrading to. Navigating around the bed with the bunks down was a major pain in the butt. If you look at this picture of me getting us settled in, you can see how that bunk folds down which means you have to bend over to get around it when it is down, so we tried to keep it stored away as much as possible. David ordered the Birthday Stateroom Decor since we went on our cruise just after my birthday; such a nice surprise!
Navigating the halls to the staterooms are easy peasy when you have your bearings, but in order for us to find our rooms (kids especially!) without having to look at every door decorating it in some super fun way makes that a lot easier. Next time I’ll use more discreet command hooks and really go all out. 😉 Some of the doors inside the cabin and the exterior cabinet doors are magnetic, so magnetic decals or hooks are a great option when decorating too. I would have also used a battery powered nightlight on the shelf under the television for easier navigation in the middle of the night.
So as you walk into our room, the bathroom was immediately to the right and was designed as a full wet room. Basically, all the walls, floor and ceiling were plastic. They had a retractable clothes line at the back of the shower. I LOVED this idea so much I’m adding them in our showers at home so I don’t have to see wet towels hanging in the bathrooms to dry. Using a clear shoe organizer on the back of the door or a hanging toiletry bag would have helped tremendously in keeping all of our toiletries organized. You’ll absolutely want to bring poo-pourri and some air fresheners for that too, because the staterooms are so tight. The bathrooms are so close to the beds that it can be rather unpleasant experience when someone has to go. I was actually sick for the last two days of the cruise so it would have been much more pleasant to have a pretty smell in there while I was throwing up. 😜 Oh how I wish I’d thought of that before it was too late! 😉😂 Oh! I’d have packed a small battery operated fan too because I thought the cabin had a slightly stale smell and unfortunately, I’m pretty sensitive to smells.
To the left of the entrance, across from the bathroom, was a row of 3 closets. The first had a shelf about a third of the way up and under it, I’d recommend putting a collapsible laundry hamper. This was one of those things I wish I’d packed and didn’t but is definitely on my permanent list of things to pack for EVERY vacation. It’s so much better than leaving all your dirty clothes in a pile in the corner. Not to mention, our cabin was teeny, and organization in a teeny space (any space really) is a MUST in my opinion. Because the cabins are on the smaller size, these hooks are a great way to help out with that too.
The room only had one outlet so a charging station is a must. I purchased this one not only for travelling, but for at home as well because it allows you to keep the devices organized upright and maximize table space. I recommend a multi-outlet adapter too (or instead); they tend to confiscate power strips from what I’ve heard. Other “tech” stuff you might think about bringing are:
- Cell Phone – Consider switching to a waterproof case for the trip
- Surge Protector
- Portable Charger/Juicepack for your phone
- Camera – with an extra memory card
- White Noise Machine
- Headphone Splitter
- Chargers for all your techie stuff
- Small portable speaker – I would have loved to listen to music when we were in our cabin.
Like I mentioned before, we ported in Cozumel, Mexico and went to Playa Mia– a beach front water park. It was so much fun! We were only able to take advantage of the park for a couple of hours (I wish we could’ve stayed all day!) because we had to be back on the cruise ship by 3pm. The beach was very clean with plenty of space for everyone to spread out without being on top of each other. We ordered a couple of drinks from the bar and they were pretty stinking strong (not that I’m complaining!) and decently priced. I didn’t have any of the food, but David did and he said that it, while the selection was limited, was pretty good. The hot tub was nowhere near hot, it was the same temperature as the pool. I don’t know if it was because it was broken, or if they just don’t keep it hot because of how warm it is there already? Either way, I wasn’t able to get into the water because it was too cold for me. Everyone else had a blast!
We lost Gracelynn when we first got there, she went off to find the water slides, and it was the most terrifying experience of my entire life. If you are a parent, you know exactly what I mean. When we couldn’t find her after several minutes, I went to find a park employee who immediately jumped into action. Thankfully, We found her soon after that, but man oh man, I never wanna do that again! Next time, I’ll write my phone number on my kids arms in permanent marker and put some clear nail polish over it, just in case. Anyway, for places like where we went, I’d recommend packing:
- Mask and Snorkel – I didn’t think to bring ours, but our friends had these awesome ones!
- Beach Blanket – I like this one because it’s “sand free”
- Wet Bag (I like the ones with a clear pocket in the front for my cell phone and travel docs)
- Travel First Aid Kit
- Sun Hat
- Money Belt or Fanny Pack – I have this one and it fit everything, even my cell phone (iPhone 7Plus)
- Pool Bag
- Sand Toys
Clothes and Accessories
When I was packing my clothes, I realized just how easy it was to over pack. I planned an outfit for each day as well as 2 “cold weather” outfits with accessories to go with them. It doesn’t seem like much, but it was actually more clothes than I ended up needing and a majority of the time I was in some type of loungewear like leggings and a tunic or my swimsuit and cover up. Nevertheless, I brought:
- 5-6 shirts
- 2-3 shorts
- 2 pants
- 1-2 leggings
- 1-2 Sundresses
- Sweats and a sweatshirt (or other “lounge wear”)
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Several different types of shoes – flip flops, tennis shoes, formal night shoes etc… Water shoes are smart too if you go to a beach in port
- 8-9 Undergarnments
- 2-3 Bras
- 2-3 Pairs of Socks
- 2-3 Swimsuits and Coverup
- Jewelry for formal night
When thinking about what to pack with regards to clothes for the kids, think about what they will be doing each day they are there. Will they be in the kid’s club, at the pool, arcade, etc. Shorts, T-Shirts, sundresses, shorts and polos are great options for kids. We did a 4 day, 5 night cruise so I packed:
- 8 – 10 shirts
- 3-4 shorts
- 2 pants
- leggings 1-2 for layering on chilly nights
- 3 dresses
- nice sweater or cardigan
- sweats and a sweatshirt
- rain jacket or poncho
- Several types of shoes (I brought crocs, ballet flats, sneakers, cute sandals and watershoes)
- Undergarnments 10-15
- Socks 6-7
- Sleepwear 2-3 sets
- swimsuits 2-3 so you’ll always have a dry one
- pullwipes and wipes – Anna was still potty training when we went, so we wanted to be extra prepared
- swim diapers (I heard only potty trained kids are allowed in the pool and while mine are, no one said anything about Anna being in her swim diaper)
Don’t forget to pack a nice outfit for formal night too! We wanted semi-matching outfits for our pictures because I knew I’d be purchasing at least that photo (they’re kind of overpriced at $11 a piece!) so I wanted it to be a good one. The girls of course did their own thing, but I am absolutely in love with the picture and wouldn’t change it for the world!
If you are traveling with younger kids I recommend getting these sippy cup lids and these super long bendy straws too. The girls were never served drinks in “kid cups” so we had quite a few messes. The lids were perfect and would’ve been great at dinner because each time the girls wanted a drink, they had to bring the cup into their lap to reach it and the lids are designed to fit any cup. I didn’t think about it at the time, but the cups in the buffet area are the perfect size for the kids to use and they don’t mind if you take it out of the cafeteria, so you could bring a couple of those to dinner so your kiddos have an easier time.
- Sunscreen (50+) and aloe vera – We also brought “reef safe” sunscreen for snorkeling
- Insect repellant
- Basic Meds (Tylenol, Ibprofen, vitamins, etc)
- Dramamine and/or sea bands – If you have a sensitive stomach, you should start taking these 24 hours before you leave port
- Wrinkle release spray – For formal night so you look your best
- Baby Powder – throw one in your pool bag and do a “powder dance”. It’ll make your skin dry faster and make it easier to slip your clothes on’
- Detangler spray
- Cash – small bills for tipping, large bills for gambling onboard and shopping in port
- Highlighter – For highlighting the activities you want to do on the daily schedule they deliver to your room (you can also “favorite” activities on the Carnival app and they’ll send reminders to your phone when the event is about to start.
- Packing Cubes – different color for each person to stay more organized
- Stroller with Sun Shade
If you have a baby or toddler still in a crib, don’t worry about bringing your own pack n play, they have them aboard the cruise ship and you can ask your cabin attendant to set it up if they haven’t by the time you’ve arrived.
My absolute favorite type of vacation has definitely become cruising; Dave and I already booked one for next year! It’s great, not only for people with young kids, but also for people who suffer from a chronic illness that requires them to rest frequently. Having your room always be closely is like having your hotel go with you everywhere you go! Have you ever been on a cruise? What’s your favorite type of vacation/place to go? As always, I love being organized, so I wrote everything down on a packing list, even if I thought I would remember it. Initially, I went down the list and put everything in a pile next to the suitcase and then checked items off as I refolded and packed everything. I’d love to send you a copy of my checklists if you’d like!