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How to Pack for a Cruise

A woman stands in front of a cruise ship

Packing for a cruise can be both exciting and daunting. The anticipation of sailing to exotic destinations is thrilling, but should you pack differently for this type of travel than you normally do?

Here’s everything you need to know about packing for a cruise, from luggage choices to clothing, toiletries, and important documents.

How Much Luggage Can You Bring on a Cruise?

A woman holding a suitcase in front of a cruise ship

Before you begin packing, it’s important to understand the luggage restrictions of your chosen cruise line. Different cruise companies have varying rules regarding baggage allowance, so you’ll want to check the individual guidelines on the website of your chosen company.

Generally, most cruise lines allow you to bring one or two checked bags per person, along with a carry-on bag, similar to an airline. That being said, you’ll want to pack efficiently to make sure you have space for souvenirs, snacks, and other things you want to bring home.

Travelers Club Expandable Midtown Hardside 4-Piece Luggage Set

This set has everything you need for a successful cruise.

What Type of Luggage Is Best for a Cruise?

Many different types of luggage
Maurizio Milanesio/Shutterstock.com

When selecting luggage for your cruise, opt for sturdy and easily maneuverable suitcases with wheels. Hardshell suitcases can offer protection for delicate items and will keep your stuff safe. Don’t forget to include luggage tags with your contact information in case your bags get misplaced.

Samsonite Winfield 3 DLX Hardside Luggage with Spinners

If you want to pack light, this carry-on will keep all of your things safe.

You’ll also want to bring a personal bag for your cruise essentials. This bag is ideal for keeping your travel documents, medications, and other necessities close at hand. Also, if your suitcase gets delayed, having a well-packed carry-on can save the day.

BAGSMART Weekender Bag

This weekender bag is perfect for keeping all your essentials in one place.

What Types of Clothes Should You Pack for a Cruise?

An open suitcase someone is packing

The clothing you pack will depend on the destinations you’ll be visiting and the activities you plan to engage in. When considering what to pack for a cruise, don’t forget these clothing items.

Beach Attire

If your cruise includes sunny beach destinations, pack swimsuits, cover-ups, and sun hats. Many cruises have pools and hot tubs onboard as well, so you’ll want to bring beach/swim attire for that reason alone.

Ekouaer Womens Beach Cover Up

This cover-up can also be worn as an oversized shirt with other outfits.

Casual Attire

As you enjoy the various amenities and entertainment options offered by the cruise ship, you’ll want to be dressed in clothing that allows you to relax and move freely. Consider packing a selection of shorts as well as a few breathable tops. Cotton and linen will be your friends.

One of the secrets to efficient cruise packing is versatility. Look for clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits. For instance, a pair of neutral-colored lightweight pants can be paired with various tops to create distinct looks. Packing versatile pieces also allows you to travel lighter while still having plenty of outfit options.

ANRABESS Women's Summer Two Piece Outfit

This linen set is perfect for a warm-weather cruise.

Formal Attire

Many cruises include formal nights, giving you the opportunity to dress up. Pack elegant outfits such as cocktail dresses, suits, or even tuxedos if you prefer. Keep in mind the cruise line’s dress code when selecting your formal attire.

If you don’t want to participate in these events, you don’t need to keep as much space in your luggage for formal clothes. However, you may want to bring a nice shirt and some dress shoes just in case the moment strikes.

Adidas Originals Men's Stan Smith Sneaker

These can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.

Shoes and Accessories

You’ll also want to focus on versatility when it comes to packing shoes. Pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes, such as sneakers or walking sandals, for exploring ports and participating in onboard activities.

Reebok women's Club Memt Sneaker

White sneakers are perfect for traveling because of their versatility.

You should also bring a pair of comfortable sandals for lounging by the pool or strolling on the ship’s deck. For formal evenings, consider packing a pair of dress shoes that match your formal attire. Opt for shoes that are stylish yet comfortable, as you’ll likely be on your feet for extended periods.

VJH confort Women's Flat Sandals

These comfortable sandals can be dressed up as well.

When it comes to accessories, sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes from the sun’s glare. A wide-brimmed hat also belongs on your cruise packing list. It not only provides sun protection but also adds a chic element to your look.

Joopin Unisex Polarized Sunglasses

Everyone needs a pair of black sunglasses.

What Toiletries Should You Pack for a Cruise?

A woman puts toiletries into travel-sized bottles
Elizaveta Galitckaia/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to toiletries, it’s best to pack travel-sized items to save space. Be sure to include these cruise essentials in your luggage.

Hygiene Items

Like any trip you take, you’ll need to pack personal hygiene items on your cruise. Along with essential toiletries like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap, there are a few additional items you’ll want to make sure you pack in order to have an enjoyable cruise experience.

BAGSMART Large Toiletry Bag

Keep all of your toiletries in one place.

Sunscreen is a must-have, especially for sun-soaked destinations. Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF rating to shield your skin from harmful UV rays.

You’ll also want to consider adding insect repellent to your cruise packing list in order to protect yourself from pesky bugs during outdoor activities and shore excursions. If you don’t want to pack a bug spray, you can bring bug-repellent wipes instead.

Repel Insect Repellent Mosquito Wipes

An easier way to pack bug repellent.

Hair and Makeup Items

Simplify your hair and makeup routine while keeping your travel bag light by opting for travel-sized versions of your essential products. While some cruises offer complimentary shampoo and conditioner, you might still want to bring your own in case their version doesn’t work well with your hair.

Other hair products, like leave-in conditioner and hairspray, will be up to your discretion to bring. If you tend to have frizzy hair and are heading to a tropical destination, you may want to throw in some hairspray for those inevitable bad hair days.

TRESemmé Extra Hold Non-Aerosol Hair Spray

Stock up on hairspray for all your future trips.

When it comes to makeup, focus on versatility. Pack a makeup palette that offers a range of shades suitable for both daytime and evening looks. If you’re a skincare enthusiast, include travel-sized cleansers, moisturizers, and any specialty products you use to keep your skin looking its best.

First Aid

While cruise ships are equipped with medical facilities, having a basic first aid kit can be incredibly useful for addressing minor ailments. Pack motion sickness remedies such as wristbands or medication if you’re prone to seasickness.

Bonine Non-Drowsy Motion Sickness Relief

Chewable tablets are easy for all ages to take.

Even if you don’t normally get seasick, you should definitely bring something to help with motion sickness. Nausea can quickly ruin your trip, so you want to be prepared just in case your body doesn’t agree with the water.

In your first aid kit, you should also include pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to address headaches or minor discomfort. If you have any prescription medications, ensure you have an adequate supply for the duration of the cruise. Don’t forget any specialized medications you might need, such as allergy medication or antacids.

Be Smart Get Prepared 85 Piece First Aid Kit

This small first aid kit is easy to pack.

What Documentation Should You Pack for a Cruise?

A woman holds a passport
Jsnow my wolrd/Shutterstock.com

You will need several documents to board your cruise and to get back home. Make sure you have packed all of these before you leave.


Many U.S. cruises visit foreign destinations. You will need a passport to visit these destinations, except in some cases. Avoid hassle by making sure you have a valid passport before you leave for your cruise. Most countries also require that your passport is valid for at least an additional six months before letting you pass their border, so you should get yours renewed if you are cutting it close on that deadline.

KAOBAN Passport Cover

Keep your passport and important documents safe.

Boarding Passes

Just like what you would need for a flight, a cruise boarding pass will allow you to board the ship with the other passengers. You may be able to pull up your boarding pass on your phone, but it’s a good idea to have a printed version in case of last-minute technical difficulties.


Some cruises might require visas for certain ports of call. Research the visa requirements for your itinerary and ensure you have the necessary documents. Someone from your cruise line can help you get a visa if you aren’t sure about the process.

Five Star 2 Pocket Folders

For carrying all of your important documents.

Health Information

Depending on where you’re coming from and which ports you are visiting during your cruise, you may still be required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine and/or a negative COVID test. Check with your cruise line directly for the most updated information.

Deciding what to pack for a cruise can feel stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. By following these guidelines and tailoring your packing list to your specific journey, you can ensure a stress-free and enjoyable vacation.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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