Barb Winters and her husband took their two youngest children on a cruise to Mexico. While enjoying a day at a beach, her daughter, 11, stepped on something that caused her foot to turn red and begin swelling. Barb wished she had brought some Benadryl along. Though she did find some back at the ship’s store, she says she’ll never travel again without it on hand.

You may have read all the literature from your cruise line about what to bring, but listed here are a few additional ideas about what and how to pack, recommended by those who have been there.

3 tips for when you arrive

When my family of four boarded, we found our room and toured the ship. It was a beautiful day, and many other families were already enjoying the ship’s pools. The kids begged to go swimming.

Unfortunately, we had packed our suits in our luggage and were unable to swim until our suitcases were delivered to our room several hours later. Next time, I will put our swimming suits and sunscreen in our carry-on bags. – Barb Winters

Ideas from other parents:

  • Bring something to make your door look unique, such as a ribbon to tie around the knob, or hang a family-designed knob hanger. It will help your kids easily find your door in a hall where all the doors look the same.

  • Bring along a blank journal for everyone to write a sentence or two in each day, perhaps to report why they were thankful that day, write a favourite Scripture verse or remember one fun thing they did. Photos can be added to this memory book once you arrive home.

8 things to bring for a better experience

Deck and walking shoes were a life saver for us. We wished we had brought our umbrella or raincoats for the children. The thought that it may rain did not dawn on us. In the same way, it is the small things that can make the difference. My daughter’s favourite pants tore on the ship. I wish I had packed a small sewing kit. – Sugandha Jain

Ideas from other parents:

  • Bring clips and twine to hang and dry bathing suits. If the clips are large enough, you can also use them to hold down your towel on deck chairs, on a windy day.

  • Hang a toiletry bag on the bathroom door to hold personal hygiene items.

  • Download the Bible, a Sunday sermon and a devotional study to your phone, so even if you don’t have service, you can have family devotions.

  • Ask for additional hangers or bring extras so you can hang up as much as you can. You can also use clips to hang more than one item on a hanger.

  • Consider bringing a collapsible clothes hamper or a large plastic trash bag to hold dirty clothes. (Just keep the trash bag out of reach of young children.)

3 helpful tools for snacks and meals

One of the best parts of a cruise is the evening meal, but if you have a toddler who can’t sit still, it can be challenging. When we took a cruise with our two-year-old, each dinnertime I brought along a backpack that was filled with quiet activities for him to do. I’d purchased an Etch-a-Sketch, a new colouring book and crayons, and several books. Since these toys were new to him and only used at this time, his interest level was high and he (mostly) behaved himself at dinner. – Diane Stark

Ideas from other parents:

  • Pack pint-sized plastic bags to carry snacks for the kids and a soft-sided cooler to keep juice and water at hand so no one becomes dehydrated, especially on port adventures.

  • A backpack is also a great item to use on port adventures (to carry food, liquids and other items) so your hands are free for your children.

4 solutions for cruising challenges

Bringing motion-sickness remedies (Dramamine for us) on our cruise was perhaps the best decision we made. We did not want to relive the seasick experience we had on a fishing trip a few years prior. – Sean Nolan

Ideas from other parents:

• Benadryl (as mentioned earlier)

• Duct tape (you will be amazed at how many problems it solves)

• Night-light (your room may be darker than you think).

3 ways to communicate better

The top item we bring on family cruises is a set of walkie-talkies. Mobile phone service is expensive at best while at sea, if you can even get service on the ship. Walkie-talkies allow our family to split up and still communicate when it’s time for meals or to change a family meeting spot. It’s a great way for tweens to explore on their own, while feeling the connection and safety of getting in touch with Mom or Dad if need be. – Audra Krell

Ideas from other parents:

  • Bring a power strip for extra plugs so everyone’s phones, walkie-talkies, tablets, games, etc., can be charged.

  • Use a small pad of paper, preferably with an adhesive back, to leave notes for each other, especially if you’re travelling with teens. Agree on a location in your room to leave each other notes.

5 ideas for enjoying cruising with young children

We brought a sippy cup for our young child to drink from at meals to minimize the spills in fancy ship restaurants. Along with the sippy cup, we brought travel-size dish soap to wash the old milk out of our child’s cup each night.

And a stroller is a must-have item on a cruise with young children. We used our stroller both on and off the ship. An umbrella stroller, because of its small size and ability to fold down easily, is preferable because of the sometimes-narrow hallways on a cruise ship. – Lindsey Bell

Ideas from other parents:

  • Consider packing a mini, inflatable pool for little ones if your bathroom only has a shower.

  • Binoculars will keep kids entertained, as long as you’re there to supervise.

2 more ideas (and a water bottle bonus!)

My in-laws took 15 of us (ranging from 5- to 75-years-old) on a four-night Disney cruise. Fortunately, people suggested bringing a night-light, chargers for electronics, plastic bags for wet bathing suits and our own lanyards for carrying the room key. However, the best advice was to bring our own water bottles. By filling up our large water containers first thing in the morning at one of the beverage stations, my kids were able to carry them around and stay hydrated. Plus, I could see how much water they were drinking, and it discouraged them from going overboard on complimentary soft drinks.

We all chose our own activities during the day, and we all came together at dinner. My middle-school daughters loved participating in the scavenger hunt and cookie decorating at Edge – Disney’s tween club – as well as playing pingpong and foosball with their younger cousins. The grandparents enjoyed taking all the grandchildren to the after-dinner shows, while the parents spent time with each other. One night, my husband and his two brothers played trivia. Another day, I went to the spa with my mother-in-law. It was the perfect balance of spending time alone with my husband, time with just our immediate family and time with the in-laws. – Rebecca Ruffin Leffler

© 2016 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at

If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.

Our recommended resources

Free advice on marriage, parenting and Christian living delivered straight to your inbox

View comments ()