The Ultimate Family Cruise Packing List — with Free Printable!

Mimi Slawoff Avatar

Packing for a cruise may seem daunting. From casual to dressy outfits, you’ll need diverse attire for an array of activities. But don’t go overboard. Staterooms are small with limited storage for a family. Believe it or not, you can bring everything you’ll need for a warm or chilly cruise in a carry-on bag plus a backpack for daily essentials and shore excursions. Follow this family cruise packing list to travel light and have everything you need on a cruise vacation.

Following a cruise packing list for efficient packing
With mindful packing, one carry-on bag and backpack per person is all you need for a family cruise. Photo Credit: Flickr

Everything You Need: Family Cruise Packing List

1. How to Pack Efficiently
2. Ultra-Light Packing Cubes and Carry-on Luggage
3. Personal Items to Pack
4. Things to Bring in a Backpack or Shoulder Bag
5. How to Pack a Carry-On Bag for Tropical Cruises
6. Cruise Packing List for Alaska
7. Toiletries (in travel size bottles)
8. Basic Electronics
9. Essentials for Daily Ship Activities and Sea Days
10. Things You’ll Need for Port Days
11. Formal Night Attire
12. Cruise Packing List: Miscellaneous Handy Items
      Printable Packing List

Whether packing for the balmy Caribbean or brisk Alaska, it’s possible to fit everything in carry-on luggage. With 20-plus years of sailing, my family of five has fine-tuned our cruise packing list. Each person brings one carry-on and one backpack or shoulder bag for personal items. I pack a small cross-body purse to use in ports.

For the flight to the cruise ship, we wear sneakers and a light jacket. This way, we don’t have to pack bulky items. This has worked for us on short and longer cruises with Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Disney cruise lines.

The key to packing efficiently for a cruise ship is to plan in advance what you’ll wear and need for activities onboard and in ports. Nothing extra. Try it, it’s liberating! Besides, onboard shops sell an array of products in case you forget or need something. Not only that, most cruise ships sell popular items like hats and t-shirts for port days. Ditto for costume jewelry and evening purses for formal nights.

Plus, you can shop good deals in ports. I bought a hat in Mexico and a cool beach bag in Aruba that I still use years later. So if there is anything you do forget, you can always buy it later.

an efficient cruise packing list begins with carry-on bags
Traveling with carry-on bags helps keep a stateroom clutter-free. Photo Credit: Mimi Slawoff

1. How to Pack Efficiently – Cruise Packing Tips

We pack clothes and toiletries in our carry-on luggage. On most cruise lines, each adult can bring one bottle of wine onboard. (Bring a corkscrew that doesn’t have a small knife.)  We pack a bottle or two of wine (purchased in the departure port city) in our carry-on luggage, which goes through security at the cruise terminal. Meanwhile, we walk onto the ship with our backpacks. These contain our bathing suits, electronics, sunglasses, and anything we need before the luggage is delivered to our cabin. This way we can enjoy the lunch buffet and welcome aboard activities right away. (One thing we never travel with is expensive jewelry.) Check ahead of time to see if there is a dress code for some of the dining experiences onboard.

For many reasons, cruising is the easiest way to travel with kids. The hardest part is choosing the best cruise for your family. A family cruise planning guide can help you narrow down your options and provide to you our best cruise tips and hacks.

A cruise packing list helps you assemble the right gear for sailing from a Greek island hopping cruise to adventures in Alaska. This cruise packing checklist should help you as you plan your vacation.

2. Ultra-Light Packing Cubes and Carry-on Luggage

At the top of my cruise packing list is ultra-light mesh packing cubes from Amazon.com.

We roll our clothes in the cubes, which keep everything organized. Shirts go in one cube, pants in another. Lingerie and other items in the smaller cubes.

3. Personal Items to Bring

  • Passport
  • Drivers license
  • Credit/debit cards and cash
  • Health Insurance Cards
  • Sunglasses
  • Earplugs
  • Medication for seasickness
  • Travel Insurance information

4. Things to Bring in a Backpack or Shoulder Bag

5. How to Pack a Carry-On Bag for Tropical or Caribbean Cruises


  • Swimsuits (two)
  • Swim cover-up (one)
  • Sundresses and/skirts
  • Shorts
  • Capri pants
  • Long pants
  • Tank tops
  • T-shirts
  • Slip-resistant flip-flops
  • Dressy shoes (one pair)
  • Sandals (one or two pairs)
  • Water shoes
  • Snorkel gear
Traveling with just a carry-on is possible even for an Alaska cruise
Long pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sneakers are perfect attire for shore excursions in Alaska. Photo Credit: Mimi Slawoff

6. Cruise Packing List for Alaska

  • Cruises take place in summer months, so it’s not as cold as you may think.
  • Long pants
  • Capri pants
  • Shorts (optional)
  • Bathing suits (optional)
  • Swim cover-up (optional)
  • T-shirts
  • Sweatshirt
  • Windbreaker (one)
  • Warm but not heavy jacket (one)
  • Sneakers
  • Dressy shoes (one pair)

Check out REI.com, they are recommended for travel gear and clothing from our SheBuysTravels.

7. Toiletries (in travel size bottles)

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Dry shampoo
  • Hair products
  • Shower cap
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Make-up (just the essentials) — check out this cosmetic bag recommended by our SheBuysTravels
  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe Vera lotion
  • Moisturizer
  • Razors
  • Lip balm
  • Bug Repellent
  • Find out ahead of time if your room comes with a hair dryer.

8. Basic Electronics

  • Cell phone (and waterproof case)
  • Camera (water camera for tropical cruise vacations)
  • GoPro
  • iPad or laptop (optional)
  • Chargers and adapter if needed
  • Mini power strip

9. Essentials for Daily Onboard Activities and Sea Days

  • Small day pack or beach bag to hold daily items
  • Bathing suit (for tropical cruises)
  • Bathing suit cover-up
  • Sweatshirt (for Alaska cruise)
  • Windbreaker
  • Slip-resistant flip-flops
  • Sneakers (for the gym and other activities)
  • Workout clothes
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle

10. What You’ll Need for Port Days

  • Your Ship (cruise ID) Card to exit and enter the ship (a lanyard is great for this)
  • Passport (inquire with cruise line its policy)
  • Backpack, tote or beach bag
  • Sneakers or good walking shoes
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Plastic bags for wet clothing
  • Cell phone dry pouch
  • Hat
  • Windbreaker or sweatshirt for cooler days
  • Camera
  • A change of clothes if you’re planning to swim.

cruise packing list includes formal wear attire
Long or short, a simple black dress doubles as formal night and evening show or club attire. Photo Credit: Mimi Slawoff

11. Formal Night Attire 

  • Cocktail dresses (two)
  • Cardigan or shawl – Check out our SheBuysTravels favorite travel shawl.
  • Dressy shoes or sandals
  • Small evening purse
  • Jewelry
  • Sport jacket for men
  • Collared shirt
  • Trousers for men

12. Cruise Packing List: Miscellaneous Handy Items

  • Small sewing kit
  • Small first aid kit
  • Compact nail file kit
  • Plastic baggies for wet clothes or souvenirs
  • Mini packets of laundry detergent
  • Laundry bag (optional)
  • A nightlight if you’re traveling with young kids who get scared of the dark

Thinking about your next cruise? Check out currently cruise deals at Expedia.com.

Mimi Slawoff Avatar
Native Angeleno and seasoned travel journalist Mimi Slawoff writes for numerous print and digital publications. She is also the author of Oldest Los Angeles (Reedy Press, 2022). A lifelong world traveler, Mimi is an award-winning journalist who writes about outdoor adventures, cruises, Europe and cultural activities. Mimi has three grown kids and lives with her husband and their dog, Maya, in Los Angeles.
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4 responses


  1. Amazed you have packed Two formal dresses and shoes & Purse as well as all the other items in a Carry-On bag. Like to see a picture of all these items in the Carry on bag.

  2. i’m going on a cruise in September and this definitely helped. So, thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. thanks for sharing
    Best advised you
    For family vacation

  4. thanks
    good information

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