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Cruise Packing Tips

Here are a few packing tips that might make your trip more enjoyable. We're not experts, but after 8 cruises, we have some idea of what works and doesn't work.

Luggage Tags

The tags that come with your luggage or that you find at the store are pretty wimpy. Save those and put them inside your bag for identification with your full name, address, and phone number. You don't want your address on the outside of your bag lest a crook read it and figure out no one is home for a few days.

For the outside of the bag, you need a tough tag - one that won't fall off or easily break. I use engraved anodized aluminum tags that are 3" x 1.25", that I buy for around $3 dollars each. I get them from a vendor on eBay of all places. Here is the link to his eBay Store.

He will custom engrave both sides of the tag, so we usually get some kind of graphic on one side and our NAME and PHONE numbers (Home and Cell) only. Even then, I go an extra step and sew a 1/2" polyester webbing strap with a split ring to secure the tag to the bag.

Custom engraved aluminum luggage tag (split ring not shown).

Luggage Marking

For your checked luggage, you want something that will stand out from the tens of thousands of other bags. Typically when you depart the cruise ship, all of the bags are placed on the floor of a huge room, and you have to find yours from all that mess. While numbers or colors are used to separate the areas, sometimes your bags will end up in the wrong area anyway. Ninety-eight percent of all bags are either black or dark blue, so you want your bag to stand out from the crowd.

Solutions are to buy a bag that is a unique color, put tape or some readily visible marker on the bag - or better yet - spray paint your bags flourescant orange! Buy cheap bags so you won't be bothered by painting them. And you are going to be able to find a Lime-green bag on sale pretty easily.

We use "Remove Before Flight" tags for our bags. They are available in multiple colors, attach securely enough to the bags, and unique enough to be noticeable. They could be a bit larger, but our bags certainly won't be mistaken for anyone elses similar looking bag.

"Remove Before Flight" tags.

Other Packing Tips

There are a lot of ideas here, whether it is rolling your clothes, folding them inside-out, or whatever; I will defer these ideas to YouTube and other websites. One thing I have found though is that the better you are at not making "hard corners", the less wrinkled your clothes will be. And some materials, such as polyester are naturally less prone to wrinkle than cotton, so select clothing that is less prone to wrinkle. There is a product we are trying; Eagle Creek Pack-It Garment Sleeve, that has promise for packing our formal wear, so that we don't have to carry a big garment bag.

Another idea is to purchase a Woolite Cold-Wash kit and if you go on an extended cruise - 10 days or more, you can make a week's worth of clothing stretch over the length of the cruise. Some cruise ships have passenger-accessable laundry facilities, and some do not. But who wants to go to the laundry on vacation? Most ships do have a laundry service, but it can be expensive. A few minutes with a bit of Woolite in your bathroom's sink, then hang to dry gives you clean clothes with a minimum of time invested.

Woolite Cold Wash Kit.

Reduce, Reduce, Reduce!

We have found that on every cruise, we have taken more than needed. We usually end up buying a souvenir shirt or two, and we seem to use more shirts than pants. We seem to wear pants for several days. For instance, shorts or swimwear are the uniform of the day, but when you go to the main dining room, you typically have to wear long pants. That means the long pants may only be worn for a few hours each evening, so one or two pair of pants will last the whole week.

Always take your Passport!

You might be amazed at the number of people that get on a cruise ship, go to a port in a foreign country, then get off the ship and leave their passport in their stateroom. Always, always, always take your passport whenever you leave the ship for an excursion. You never know if you will be late in returning and end up having to fly out of the country. Try to do that without a passport! We take a money belt style of container us on excursions that contains our passport, cash, credit card, and even a car key. You just never know! You may prefer a fanny pack, backpack, or other bag, but always pack for your day off-board as though you may not return.

Victorinox Concealed Security Belt

Pack a Carry-on Bag

When you arrive at the cruise port, you will check your bulky luggage. But you should also carry on a backpack or smaller bag that has a change of clothes, swimwear, medication, documents, and any thing of value such as photo gear, iPod, Kindle, and jewelry. You may not see your checked luggage until that evening or in some cases the next morning, so having a change of clothes and swim wear means you can relax at the pool while waiting for your luggage. Consider a backpack that is expandable, so that you have room to take all of your cruise souvenirs home with you.

We like the High Sierra line of backpack/wheeled luggage for this purpose. They are available in several sizes and colors, and while they are not expandable, they do have a special pocket for a laptop. They can also be converted from a backpack to wheeled luggage. My wife sometimes takes a Kipling backpack, which is expandable (but not wheeled). Kipling backpacks are more for women, so men, buy one for your better half.

If you have the room and enough hands, you can also purchase an inexpensive fold-up backpack or duffel bag to pack the extra stuff you buy on the cruise. Fold it up and pack it in your main suitcase, then use it on the way home. We like to pack a folded up lightweight backpack with us up to the pool areas and on shore excursions anyway, so we double-up on using it for the junk we buy.

High Sierra "Chaser" wheeled backpack

Kipling "Hiker" expandable backpack.

Cross Packing

Cross-pack, but don't cross-dress. Consider packing half your clothing in your bag, then half in your spouse's bag, with your spouse doing the same. That way if one bag ends up being delayed or lost, you will at least have half your clothing. To do this properly, you will have to evenly split everything you take into the two bags; i.e. half your underwear, half your shirts, half your pants, and so on.

In conclusion, this seems a lot of stuff, but tailoring to your cruise is the idea. We don't always do everything on this page for every cruise. Remember to pack as light as possible. Packing a Woolite laundry kit is supposed to keep you from having to pack extra clothing. Just don't pack a laundry kit AND extra clothing.


If you pack your formal clothing, they will become wrinkled. So how do you get wrinkles out? Depending on the cruise line, you may not be able to take a travel iron or wrinkle-steamer along as they are considered a fire hazard. If you find you have a wrinkled suit or dress, simply hang them in the bathroom after you pack them. After taking a couple of showers, the hot humid air will remove most, if not all of the wrinkles. Surprisingly, this method works really well.