My must-haves for a family cruise vacation


Long before I started writing Love Overboard, my cruise romance, I was just a traveller. I’ve taken five cruises (three on Disney Cruise Line). Hands down, cruising is my family’s favorite vacation. We have plans to take two more in the next three years and–in light of the start of summer vacation–I thought I’d share some of our must-haves (and one must-leave-at-home).

Baby powder

If you’re on a warm cruise, you’ll definitely be spending some time at the beach. Travel size baby powder is a quick and easy way to remove sand.

Beach toys

A few dollars at the box store can save you a ton of money. I wasn’t so sure about taking up space in my suitcase for beach stuff on our first trip. When we got to the beach–and saw they were selling what I bought at home for $10 for over $50–I was really glad I did. You don’t have to get a ton of stuff. Rakes, shovels, and sifters are flat and easy to pack but can keep kids entertained at the beach.

Journal and pens

On a family trip we took with my cousins, my Mom and Aunt bought a spiral bound notebook and everyone took turns writing about what we did each day. This book has become one of our most cherished possessions. It’s hysterical to read the entries 30 plus years later.

Pre-printed address labels

Filling out addresses for postcards before you even leave home makes it so simple to send mail on the trip.

Refillable insulated mugs and Bounty plus Dawn paper towels

Especially true for Disney ships, the paper cups next to the coffee and drinks stations are not big enough for me or my family (especially in the morning). Usually, I’ve finished the drink before I return to my table and my meal. I like to pack my own refillable mugs and if they are insulated, I can use one mug for both hot and cold drinks. Bounty sells paper towels with Dawn soaked into the sheets. I first found these for a trip to the Dells when I was still bringing bottles for my youngest. So easy to use, just wet and you have an instant dish sponge. I’ve found them in travel sections at drug stores, grocery stores, and big box stores. If you’re going to pack your own mug, make sure you have a way to clean it.

Leave at home–snacks

“If you see it, eat it.” This was the announcement of a cruise director on a trip we took with my parents (and subsequently, my mom’s favorite cruise quote). I’m including this because a sweet friend who had never cruised before showed me a bag of snacks she packed for her trip. These weren’t specialty, food-allergy friendly items. (If you have a restrictive diet, you might need to bring some things for yourself.) Cruise ships are overflowing with food. From healthy to indulgent, the kitchen prepares every kind of morsel you can possibly crave. Save the room in your suitcase for souvenirs.

One final tip I share about travel in general, but especially with kids, is: plan ahead but be flexible. If you’re trying to stick to a really tight schedule, you are bringing stress on the trip. I prefer to study the guide book of excursions and activities I *think* we’ll enjoy but don’t plan every second. Instead, when everyone has a say, the vacation is so much smoother.




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