19 Cruise Packing Mistakes Everyone Makes (And How To Avoid Them)

Even the most meticulous of us have slipped up while packing for a cruise, be it overstuffing our bags or missing a crucial item like formal wear.

We’re here to navigate you past the choppy waters of packing mishaps, ensuring your cruise experience is nothing but smooth sailing.

Let’s dive into some common missteps cruisers make and how to steer clear of them for a hassle-free adventure.

Common Cruise Packing Mistakes

Bringing The Wrong Luggage

Selecting the right luggage is a crucial step often overlooked by even the most seasoned cruisers. Most cruise lines suggest a reasonable limit of two suitcases per person, each under 50 pounds, striking a balance between necessity and convenience.

Soft-sided luggage is a popular choice among sea voyagers for its flexibility and ease of stowing away in cabin quarters. However, the journey to the ship is just as important as the voyage itself.

If your cruise adventure begins with a flight, be mindful of the airline’s weight and size restrictions to avoid unexpected fees.

While ships are typically lenient with luggage, airlines are less so. Double-check your airline’s policy to ensure a smooth sail from your doorstep to your stateroom, making your travel as carefree as the ocean breeze.


When it comes to cruises, less is often more, especially when it comes to packing. A common blunder is overpacking, transforming your vacation into a juggling act of outfits.

The key is versatility: choose clothing that can be mixed and matched, aligning with the climate of your destination.

Essentials include climate-appropriate attire and formal wear for those special nights on the high seas. Footwear is crucial – think comfortable walking shoes for excursions and sandals for leisure. This approach not only saves space but also leaves room for those must-have souvenirs.

Additionally, remember that most ships offer laundry services, so you can re-wear your favorites.

When it comes to toiletries, keep it light and compliant with both TSA and cruise line regulations: travel-size containers for liquids, gels, and aerosols should not exceed 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters each.

This strategic packing not only eases your load but also ensures a smoother, more enjoyable cruise experience.

Selecting Appropriate Attire

When embarking on a cruise, choosing the right attire is crucial to ensure you’re comfortably stylish for every occasion, from formal dinners to adventurous excursions.

It’s all about striking the right balance between versatility and adhering to the ship’s dress code. Whether you’re lounging on the deck or exploring a new city, your wardrobe should be as prepared as you are.

Consider Cruise Formalities

Formal Night: These elegant evenings are a cruise staple. Men should consider packing a suit or tuxedo, while women might opt for an evening gown or a chic cocktail dress. On the other hand, casual dining doesn’t require such pomp. Men can go for khakis and polo shirts, and women can enjoy the evening in sundresses or a nice blouse with trousers or skirts.

Planning for Destinations and Activities

Excursions: Your destination’s activities will dictate much of your packing. For water-based activities, include swimwear, a rash guard, and reef-safe sunscreen.

City tours call for comfortable walking shoes, a sunhat, and breathable clothing. Don’t forget workout gear for onboard fitness centers and multiple swimsuits to ensure a dry option is always available.

Consider Weather Variations

Tropical Climates: Light, airy fabrics like cotton or linen are ideal, but always pack a rain jacket or poncho for unexpected showers.

For cooler destinations like Alaska, layers are your best friend—start with thermal undergarments and add up to a sturdy, waterproof outer layer.

And never underestimate the value of warm accessories like gloves and hats to combat the chill.

Waiting to Unpack

There is A LOT happening on embarkation day. You’ll be tempted to leave your suitcase unopened as you rush to explore the ship, dip into the pool, or toast to the voyage with a drink?

While it’s tempting to dive right into the festivities, delaying unpacking can lead to unnecessary stress and a sea of wrinkled clothes.

Taking a bit of time to settle in and organize your cabin on the first day ensures that you’re prepared and wrinkle-free for the adventures ahead, making for a smoother and more enjoyable cruise experience from start to finish.

NOT Packing Sunscreen

Not packing sunscreen for a cruise is a major oversight that can lead to discomfort and health risks. Extended exposure to the sun, especially at sea where the sun’s rays are stronger and reflected by the water, can cause sunburn and long-term skin damage.

Always include a high-SPF sunscreen to protect against harmful UV rays. It’s a simple addition to your packing list that plays a crucial role in ensuring a safe and enjoyable cruise experience.

You can always buy sunscreen onboard but it tends to be much pricier.

Forgetting Chargers or Adapters

You would be surprised how many passengers forget chargers or adapters.

Most people don’t forget their phone charger at home, since phones have become a sort of lifeline for most. However, cameras, kindle, and tablet chargers are often forgotten.

Make sure to take inventory of everything you do pack and have the appropriate charger nearby as well.

Adapters are another major thing often overlooked. Cruising international waters? Different countries mean different outlet types. A universal adapter is essential to keep your gadgets charged, no matter where your ship docks.

Overpacking Entertainment Devices

Space is a luxury when packing for a cruise. Prioritizing multifunctional devices is essential due to limited luggage space.

A smartphone, for example, can serve multiple roles, acting as a camera, map, and guidebook, significantly reducing the need for additional gadgets.

This not only saves valuable space but also streamlines your travel experience, making it easier to capture memories and navigate new destinations.

There is a lot to do on a cruise and the chances of you needing your iPad, Kindle, Nintendo Switch, AND karaoke mic are slim to none.

Pack the essentials! You can also simply download games or the Kindle app on your smartphone for the trip.

Not Keeping Your Documents In ONE Place

Italian Passport and American passport
Source: nicdnyc

Organizing travel documents is a critical yet often overlooked aspect of cruise preparation. Your passport should be kept in a waterproof holder to prevent accidental damage from splashes or spills, a common mishap on cruises.

Additionally, consider a passport wallet with RFID blocking to safeguard your personal information from unauthorized scans.

Visas are another essential component if your cruise stops in countries that require them. Always carry photocopies stored separately from the originals. This precaution makes replacement faster and less stressful in case of loss or theft.

Making sure your documents are secure and easily accessible can make the difference between a smooth journey and unnecessary complications.

In addition to securing passports and visas, keeping boarding passes and reservation confirmations accessible is vital.

Store your boarding passes in a spot within your carry-on that’s easily reachable, such as a dedicated slot in your travel wallet or a transparent sleeve in your day bag. This ensures smooth boarding and less fumbling at the gate.

For reservation confirmations, printed copies are invaluable. Compile these into a small folder or binder and make it a habit to check them regularly during your trip.

This organization not only helps in confirming details at a glance but also serves as a backup should electronic copies be inaccessible.

Common Toiletries and Medication Mishaps

Adhering to TSA Regulations

For those flying to the cruise port, understanding and complying with TSA regulations is essential. All liquids, gels, and aerosols in carry-on luggage must be in containers of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or smaller.

These items should be neatly packed within a clear, quart-sized bag. Essentials like toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer all must adhere to these rules.

Organizing these items beforehand ensures a hassle-free experience at airport security and helps maintain the orderliness of your belongings.

Anticipating Health Needs

Your health is paramount, especially when at sea. Packing a personalized first aid kit, along with any regular prescription medications, is a must. Ensure prescriptions are in their original labeled containers and consider a doctor’s note for controlled substances and injectables.

Over-the-counter medications for pain, motion sickness, and digestive issues are equally important. They address common ailments that can occur during travel.

Additionally, include Band-Aids and antiseptic for minor injuries. Being well-prepared in this aspect means you can quickly address health concerns and get back to enjoying your vacation.

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes!

Properly selecting footwear for a cruise is a critical aspect of packing, often underestimated in its importance.

The goal is to bring shoes that are versatile enough to handle a range of activities while also being compact enough to not overburden your suitcase.

Balancing Comfort and Style: During the day, prioritize comfort for walking and relaxation. Sneakers or supportive sandals are ideal for daytime exploration and can easily transition to poolside wear.

As the evening approaches, the need for a more refined look arises.

Opt for stylish yet versatile shoes like dressy flats or low heels that can pair well with multiple dinner outfits. This approach allows you to look elegant without overpacking.

Excursion Ready: For those planning to partake in shore excursions, the right footwear is crucial. Sturdy, closed-toe shoes are a must for navigating various terrains, whether you’re hiking through nature trails or exploring historic cobblestone streets.

They provide safety and comfort, allowing you to focus on the adventure at hand.

Remember, the key to cruise packing is versatility. While it’s tempting to pack multiple pairs of shoes for different occasions, choosing footwear that can serve multiple purposes is the smarter choice.

This strategy not only saves space in your luggage but also spares your feet from the discomfort of wearing the wrong shoes.

Forgetting an Umbrella or Rain Jacket

Forgetting an umbrella or rain jacket can be a regrettable oversight when packing for a cruise.

Sudden showers or stormy weather are common, especially in tropical destinations, and having a compact umbrella or waterproof rain jacket ensures you stay dry and comfortable.

These items take up minimal space in your luggage but offer significant convenience and protection, allowing you to continue enjoying your activities regardless of unexpected rain. Always include them to be prepared for whatever weather your cruise might encounter.

Overpacking Accessories

Takes Up Valuable Space: Accessories can quickly fill up suitcase space, which is often at a premium when cruising. Packing too many options can lead to clutter and disorganization.

Decision Fatigue: With too many choices, deciding what to wear each day can become overwhelming, reducing the enjoyment of getting ready for different cruise events.

Bringing Valuable or Flashy Jewelry

Risk of Loss or Theft: Cruises are generally safe, but the risk of losing jewelry during excursions or misplacing it on the ship is always a concern. Expensive items also attract unwanted attention and increase the risk of theft.

Practicality and Comfort: High-end jewelry might not be practical for many cruise activities, especially outdoor adventures or water-related excursions. Comfort often takes precedence over style in these settings.

Smart Packing Tips for Accessories and Jewelry

The key to accessory packing is versatility and restraint. Choose simple, elegant pieces that can seamlessly transition from a casual daytime look to an elegant evening ensemble.

This approach allows you to maximize your style options while minimizing luggage space. Aim to pack just a few key items that can enhance your outfits without cluttering your bag. It’s also wise to leave highly valuable jewelry at home to avoid the stress of potential loss.

Instead, consider bringing costume jewelry or more affordable pieces that provide the same aesthetic appeal without the worry. To keep your selections organized and tangle-free, invest in a compact jewelry organizer.

This not only protects your items but also ensures you can easily find exactly what you need to accessorize any outfit on your journey.

With these strategies, you’ll have a well-curated selection of accessories that add a touch of personal style to your cruise wardrobe without the excess baggage.

Forgetting a Laundry Bag

Forgetting to pack a laundry bag is a common but easily avoidable mistake when preparing for a cruise. A laundry bag helps keep your cabin organized by separating dirty clothes from clean ones, preventing clutter and maintaining a hygienic environment.

It’s also convenient for using ship laundry services or repacking at the end of your trip.

Choose a lightweight, foldable bag that won’t take up much space in your luggage. Including this small but crucial item ensures a more organized and stress-free cruise experience.

Forgetting Your Swimsuit (Or Just Packing One!)

You’d be surprised how many forget to pack a swimsuit on a Caribbean cruise! And those that don’t forget often pack just one.

Bringing just one swimsuit might leave you with a damp garment and an uncomfortable experience. It’s advisable to pack a minimum of two swimsuits to ensure you always have a dry one ready for your next dip.

Neglecting cover-ups, flip-flops, a sun hat, and sunglasses can also limit your comfort and protection from the sun when moving between indoor and outdoor areas.

Forgetting Appropriate Gym and Casual Wear

Who works out on vacation?! A lot of people, shockingly!

Plus some cruises offer yoga and workout classes which could be a fun way to get a sweat in. Not packing the proper gym gear can be a missed opportunity for those looking to stay active.

Lightweight, breathable workout clothes and suitable sneakers are essential not only for the gym but also for any on-deck activities or shore excursions.

Similarly, not bringing casual yet versatile outfits like shorts, tees, and a light jacket or sweater for cooler areas can leave you unprepared for the ship’s varying climates.

Bringing Banned Items

Bringing banned items onboard is a common mistake that can lead to unnecessary hassle and even serious consequences. It’s important to familiarize yourself with what’s not allowed before you start packing.

Understanding Prohibited Items: Cruise lines typically have strict policies regarding what passengers can bring. Prohibited items often include:

  • Alcohol and Illicit Substances: Most cruises have regulations about bringing alcohol onboard and a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs.
  • Weapons and Dangerous Goods: Items like firearms, knives, and other weapons are strictly banned, as are flammable liquids and explosives.
  • Electrical Appliances: For safety reasons, items like irons, hot plates, and certain types of hair dryers may be prohibited.
  • Food and Beverages: Some cruises restrict bringing certain types of food and beverages onboard, particularly alcohol and perishable items.

The Importance of Checking: Before packing, check your cruise line’s website or contact customer service for a comprehensive list of banned items. Policies can vary significantly between lines and even between ships within the same company.

Consequences of Non-Compliance: Bringing prohibited items can lead to various consequences. At best, the items will be confiscated and returned at the end of the trip; at worst, it can result in denied boarding or legal issues, especially in the case of illegal substances or weapons.

Packing Toy Guns

On a similar note, toy guns are NOT allowed. Leave them at home.

Packing toy guns or any items resembling weapons is a serious mistake when preparing for a cruise ship.

Cruise lines have strict security policies and prohibit weapons of any kind, including toy replicas, to ensure the safety and comfort of all passengers.

Bringing these items can lead to unnecessary delays and complications during boarding and security checks.

Last-Minute Packing

Last-minute packing is a common cruise mistake that leads to stress and forgotten essentials. To ensure a calm and comprehensive packing process, here’s a structured plan to avoid the frantic rush:

Start Early: Begin packing at least a week before departure. This provides ample time to remember and gather all necessary items, from clothing to toiletries, and even make last-minute purchases if something essential is missing.

Make a List: Create a detailed checklist of everything you need to bring, categorized to ensure no aspect is overlooked.

Include categories for clothing (with specific items like swimwear and evening attire), essentials (like medications and travel documents), electronics (chargers and adapters), and miscellaneous items (such as sunscreen and hats).

Check Twice: Once you think you’re done packing, go through your list and suitcase again. Tick off each packed item to confirm nothing is missed. This double-checking ensures all your essentials make the trip.

Plan Outfits: Strategize your clothing choices by planning outfits that can be mixed and matched. This approach minimizes luggage bulk while ensuring you have a suitable ensemble for every occasion. Laying out your clothes before packing can provide a clear visual and help eliminate unnecessary items.

Gather Essentials: Important items like travel documents, medications, and a change of clothes should be packed in your carry-on. In the rare event of misplaced checked luggage, you’ll still have your most crucial items with you.

Enlist a Buddy: Have a friend or family member review your packing list and suitcase. A second pair of eyes can catch anything you might have missed and provide reassurance that you’re well-prepared.

What clothing, shoes, and accessories do I need to pack for a cruise?

For a cruise, pack a variety of clothing to match all activities and weather conditions, including swimwear, casual wear for daytime, and formal attire for evening events.

Include comfortable walking shoes for excursions, flip-flops for poolside lounging, and dress shoes for formal nights.

Accessories should be versatile and functional, like a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection, a lightweight jacket for cooler evenings, and a selection of jewelry to complement various outfits.

Don’t forget to consider the specific destinations and activities planned, adjusting your packing list accordingly to ensure you’re well-prepared for every aspect of your cruise adventure.

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