26 Cruise Packing Hacks That Will Make You Love Your Space

I'm always looking for savvy ways to make travel and packing easier. Here are some helpful items I think you'll love!

These essentials will take the stress out of packing for a cruise!

These essentials will take the stress out of packing for a cruise!

26 Helpful Items to Make Cruising Better

Whether preparing for your first cruise or your tenth, you'll love organizing your small cabin space with my tried-and-true hacks! Bringing these handy essentials simplifies the packing process and keeps your small area tidy and organized.

The following items are quick and easy to stash in a shoe organizer and are my top recommendations of must-have items for a stress-free, organized cruise!

To pack and organize your small necessities, check out my other handy packing hack you won't want to miss!

Shown on inside of cabin closet door. Can be hung on adjoining cabin or bathroom doors, or on a wall using magnetic hooks.

Shown on inside of cabin closet door. Can be hung on adjoining cabin or bathroom doors, or on a wall using magnetic hooks.

1. Over-the-Door Shoe Holder. If you take anything away from what I'm about to share, this is it! I can't rant enough about the handiness of this featherweight organizer! Keep your shoes, snorkel gear, hair-irons, hats, and all the luxury items I'm about to share, organized, and easy to grab and go. Your cabin attendant will thank you for a tidy cabin, and you'll love relaxing in your clutter-free room!

2. Heavy Neodymium Magnetic Hooks. These are great for hanging your charging cables, lanyards, wet bathing suits, and more. The walls and doors of your cabin are metal. Yes, you read that right, metal! So, these hooks can be hung literally anywhere and can be used in endless ways. These rank second in importance to the mesh shoe organizer.


3. Compressable Backpack. There's nothing worse than having no way to carry your island purchases or beach essentials to and from the ship. We love these thin, water-resistant packable backpacks. They pack like a compact rain poncho, yet hold a cruise-ship-issued beach towel or even a bottle of your favorite island spirits.

4. Insulated water bottle. A reusable, insulated bottle is key to optimal hydration, especially if you opt-out of purchasing a pricy beverage package. We take our Yeti 20 oz. Tumblers (with the "Magslider" lid option). They are the bomb for piping hot morning coffee or iced beverages at the pool deck or your balcony.

5. Lightweight Beach Sand Blanket. You'll find on many islands, local pressure to pay a pretty penny for beach chairs and umbrellas, which can cost $20–$40. We take this oversized, parachute-fabric blanket (with sand stakes) because beach time is often limited, while we explore much of the islands on foot or taxi and hate spending a ton of money for a short time. This blanket is huge and has room for up to four people.

6. Water Shoes. Snorkeling is fun, but a slice on your foot from a sea urchin or coral isn't. Take along water shoes for seaside wading, swimming, or snorkeling.

7. Rain Poncho or Compact Umbrella. The weather can be unpredictable when cruising, so pack for precipitation when walking around the ports of call, as the rain comes and goes without warning.

8. Your Own Snorkeling Gear. Whether on a chartered excursion or exploring on your own at nearby beaches and coves, be prepared, sanitary, and comfortable with gear adjusted to fit properly. We prefer fog-free, panoramic masks, and dry snorkels. You can get quality sets on Amazon that are quite affordable.

9. Small Corkscrew. It was two cruises bringing wine onboard to learn we had no way to open it. I had a hard time finding a corkscrew to take in my carry-on, so I was excited when I stumbled across this TSA-approved one. Save yourself the hassle and get this for the wine you're permitted to bring onboard or that you buy and consume while visiting the islands. While this is TSA-approved, you may still be asked to take it out for inspection. Stow it in an easily-accessible side pocket if taking inside your carry-on bag.

10. Outlet and USB Port Extender. The ships are equipped with both US and EU options, but outlets are often limited to two by the desk/vanity area. Since we both take our laptops, cell phones, and fitness watches, two outlets can't cut it. If you opt for a different one, be sure it's a non-surge type. Otherwise, the crew will confiscate it until after the cruise. The outlets are mounted low to the top of the counter, so you'll want one that is long and narrow like the one I suggest.

11. Water-proof Cell Phone Case. Our phones are an essential necessity. Keep yours clean and dry at the pool or beach by using a water-proof case. (be sure to do the recommended water test first). Your phone can also double as a great under-water camera with this particular case, perfect when snorkeling and snapping photos in the water. It has a wrist strap for added safety. I've tried several, and this one works the best for the money.

12. Tide or Bleach Pen. A stain remover pen or wipe is key when you need to remove the stains from the wine you spill on yourself!

13. Laundry Bag or Pop-Up Hamper. A place for dirty laundry will keep clean items separate from the dirty or sandy ones.

14. Lint Roller. Everyone's pet hair on ship furniture becomes your pet hair.

15. Safety Pins. These are great for quick repairs and mishaps you don't want to or can't sew. I pack a variety of sizes that can hold up a hem, replace a button, or repair a bra strap.

16. Chlorox Healthcare Hospital Grade Disinfectant Wipes. I wipe down the shelves, drawers, desktop, bathroom counter, nightstand, and doorknobs before unpacking a single thing. A virus-free cruise is a happy cruise. To kill the big bugs like Noro and Rota Virus, the ones that hit cruise ships fast and hard, you'll need the most reliable wipes available, and these are it.

17. A Small First Aid Kit and Over-the-Counter Meds. Though you hope your cruise goes without incident, it's wise to come prepared. I recommend bringing something for headaches, diarrhea, motion sickness, and indigestion, as well as band-aids, butterfly closures, antibiotic ointment, and sunburn gel. It's not fast nor easy to get to see the nurse or doctor on board, and you'll pay a pretty penny for these items at the ship's store. I once hit my head on the ship's railing when my chair was too close as I popped up to grab my hat before it blew away. I wasn't able to find anyone in the infirmary to fix my gash, and the butterfly closures and antibiotic ointment saved the day. Being a nurse helped too!

18. Several Travel-Size Sunscreens. Being sunburned on your cruise is awful, so be sure to use plenty of sunscreens. The smaller-sized containers are less cumbersome and decrease your pack weight when leaving the ship.

19. Gallon-Size Ziploc-Type Freezer Bags and Space-Saver Bags. These are perfect for wet clothing, leaky bottles, and aerosols, collecting shells, and keeping personal items dry and sand-free. You'll find numerous uses for these throughout your cruise. The Space-saver bags are more substantial and handy to use, especially on the return trip home when you most likely need more space for duty-free liquor and other souvenirs!

20. Liquid Hand Soap and a Potent Hand Sanitizer. Both are better than using that tiny bar of soap in your cabin. Even though you did the "washy washy" ritual as you entered the restaurant, you'll be touching the menu, serving spoons, and other surfaces before eating. I recommend this spray to disinfect your hands again before touching your food. Take it from someone whose entire family of six got Norwalk Virus on a cruise back in 2002!

21. Towel Clips for Your Beach Chair. Clothespins pop off, and Amazon has a wide variety of fancy, colorful, larger-sized towel clips that are sturdy and can better withstand the high winds on the deck and balcony. These are also great for hanging your swimsuits to dry.

22. Sea Pass Neck Lanyard. You'll need to keep your Sea Pass with you at all times, and it's more convenient than digging it out of your bag each time you need it! Amazon has quite a large selection.

23. Bubble Wrap. Bubble wrap is handy for packing and protecting your purchased alcohol and souvenirs for the trip home.

24. $1 Dollar Bills. Singles are handy for tipping the luggage porters upon arrival to the port and for incidentals on the islands. Hands are out and open for tips once you exit the ship and the locals truly appreciate this kind gesture when they have helped you.

25. Highlighter. You'll find many uses for a highlighter, from marking what you want to do on the "Cruise Compass" (itinerary) to filling in your BINGO cards.

26. Portable Fan to Block Noise. The nightlife runs into the wee hours, and people are less than mindful of their voices and feet when navigating the hallways in the wee hours. We love this lightweight fan to block the sounds of the hallway stampedes.


Call to Action

I hope you're enlightened by my packing tips to prepare you for the perfect cruise experience! Be sure to stop back often as I keep this list current with the latest and greatest items. I'd love for you to follow me and be "in the know" when I post new cruising tips and advice, ship reviews, and more great packing hacks. If you have something to share or you just loved this article, your comments keep me motivated to stay on top of my travel blogging!

If you enjoyed this article, please check out my other articles on packing your small items as well as tipping and gratuities.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: I will be sailing to the Caribbean, and I am concerned about sea sickness. Do you have any tips?

Answer: First off, are you prone to motion sickness when traveling by car? If the answer is no, you will most likely be fine at sea. When we cruise, we find that the waters are relatively calm during January, as it's post-hurricane/tropical storm season. I only experienced motion sickness once, and that was en route to Bermuda during Hurricane Isabelle, and it lasted one day before I finally acclimated without the need for any interventions. You can take some Bonine with you, get some Sea Bands, or have your doctor prescribe a patch. But be warned that alcohol will interfere with the action of these medications and could make you sick that way. We took our neighbors this past January on their first cruise, and they were so sure they would be motion sick, they donned patches the second they boarded, against my better advice. The first night, the husband was basically confined to his cabin with flu-like symptoms, felt better the next day, but for two days on, was seeing double and could not read the menus. (they had the alcohol package and were making good use of it). Finally, on day three, I told them both to ditch the patches and trust me. They both immediately started to feel "normal" and that evening said they'd never use them again! So, my advice is, take the meds with you and only use if you are feeling bad and not acclimating. Most of all, don't think about the movement, just enjoy it and relax and breathe...our minds are our own worst enemy! I would get acupressure bands, as they are non-medicated. Try them first, then move on to about half the recommended Bonine dose, and work your way up. It causes drowsiness, and that is no fun.

Question: Were you able to take a curling iron or hair straightener on the MSC Seaside? I have read on their rules that they are not allowed. I’ve also seen posts from women that say they were able to take and keep theirs and others that say no they do not allow them. I’m confused! We’re leaving in the near future and I don’t know if I should pack a straightener or not.

Answer: I have never cruised MSC, but in general, both are permitted on Royal, Princess, and Norwegian. The best thing to do is to call the customer service line and confirm.

Question: Do the cabins have a blow dryer?

Answer: Yes, there is a small blow dryer in the drawer of the desk or mounted in the bathroom.

Question: Do you have any suggestions for a non-beach cruise? ie: Alaska?

Answer: What a fantastic question! I am going on an Alaskan cruise next July, so I hadn't considered this until now. I will certainly give this thought and create a section for non-beach cruises! Please bookmark my article and check back in a few weeks once I've had a chance to ponder this!

© 2018 Debra Roberts


Karen on September 07, 2020:

Thanks for sharing, it was very helpful. Only question I have is where do you find a portable fan and will it fit in our checked suitcase? And where can you find the bottle opener at? Did you buy it on Amazon or in a store???

Michael on December 09, 2019:

My girlfriend and I are leaving for a Norwegian Cruise out of New Orleans in 2 days. We are experienced travelers, but this is our first cruise. I really Enjoyed the packing tips and especially the direct one touch link from the recommended items to the actual item on on Amazon Prime. With our departure only 2 days away I didn’t think that I’d be able to find any of them. With Amazon’s next day delivery I was able to get everything I needed. What a country!

Michael on December 09, 2019:

What a great list. We are departing in 2 days from New Orleans on our first cruise, 9 day, 5 ports of call with Norwegian Cruise Lines. I was able to use the provided links to connect dir

Donna M Sargent on November 01, 2019:

I would also pack a small, cloth carry on luggage type suitcase that collapses and fits inside another suitcase when empty. That way when you pick up those trinkets and what nots that you just have to have to remember your voyage you have something to pack them in to get them home.

Dharmendra Chahar from Jaipur on October 31, 2019:

This was very helpful to me as we are first time cruisers!! Thank you for all of your info!!!

Thuy on June 06, 2019:

I’ve never been on a cruise before! I’d definitely bring the over the door shoe organizer and I never thought of bringing my own snorkel gear, but that’s such a great idea

Erica (The Prepping Wife) on June 06, 2019:

I've never been on a cruise, so I would have no idea what to pack before reading this post. I find this especially true for the shoe rack to hang over the door. I'm always packing too many things, so this list will be invaluable when I do embark on my very first cruise.

Live Learn Better on June 06, 2019:

Great and informative post you have here. I'll keep this bookmarked for any cruise plans in the future.

Lindsay Brown on June 05, 2019:

Wow this is an awesome list! Ive never been on a cruise but have always wanted to. I've always felt that there is something very glamourous about cruising. Especially if one is as well equipped as you are when packing! I love the over the door shoe holder idea. This would work well for any vacation too! I will definitley be keeping your list in mind for my next trip!

trish veltman on June 05, 2019:

Comprehensive list of necessary items - I've never beenb on a cruise but I imagine the cabins are pretty small so those space-saving tips are very useful!

sharon wu on June 05, 2019:

to be honest i am not the biggest fan of cruises when it comes to vacationing, BUT my parents LOVE it. i will have to share these packing tips and essentials with them for their next cruise!

Snehal on June 05, 2019:

That portable fan for block unnecessary noise is something new to me. And it is so cool! I would like to check it out. Very informative post for those planning a cruise trip. :)

Lyosha on June 05, 2019:

awesome tips! magnetic hooks are golden! such a fab idea! i wish I knew it before because I am sure I will enjoy my cruise way more now!

Luna S on June 04, 2019:

This is wonderful! Many of these I would have never thought to bring with but they all sound so helpful, thanks for putting this together and sharing it with all of us.

Tracy @ Cleland Clan on May 07, 2019:

This is a really extensive list! I'll definitely be pinning it to reread before our next cruise. I would never have thought to bring bubble wrap--what a great suggestion!

Ntensibe Edgar Michael on May 06, 2019:

Hhhhmmmmm....good one here! I have pinned it for when that time comes. Thank you for sharing.

Shannon Dewease on May 05, 2019:

What amazing tips! This informative post will no doubt make any travellers packing for a cruise easier and lighter. Ive never been on a cruise, however, its on my bucket list. So, when the time comes, thanks to you, I'll know exactly what to pack!

Deepa Jaisingh on May 04, 2019:

That's such a good informative post on Cruising as I myself is planning to do my first cruising this year, this list will come in handy.

pbj Happy Dogs on May 04, 2019:

Thank you for the great packing tips. We will be using them on our next trip.

Scott DeNicola and Vinne Monaco from New York on March 19, 2019:

Very useful post for any cruiser out there. With the size of cabins, it's best to maximize your space in any way possible! And definitely bring your own snorkeling gear for obvious reasons. :) Disinfectant wipes are a big one too. I will certainly use these on my next cruise expedition.

Hollysbirdnest on February 16, 2019:

Great post! We all can use this for any traveling!! Thank you!

Tammy Staley on February 15, 2019:

This is a great list, I have never been on a cruise but i think this list would be very helpful! Thanks!

Mary Beth on February 15, 2019:

I love the idea of the compressible bags. I have those and hadn't thought of those. I would also add BUG SPRAY! OMG! I got eaten alive at one beach along the way. Of course, we were there at twilight when the bugs are at their worst. Great list though. :-)

Ntensibe Edgar on February 15, 2019:

Hhhhmmmm...this list is quite long but spelt out well enough. Mostly, I was struck by the safety pins and how important they are, while on water, you know.

Nero on February 15, 2019:

This has got to be the most comprehensive list I’ve ever seen, of items to take with you on a cruise. I think out of this list, I’ve only brought sunblock with me on a cruise.

Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on October 28, 2018:

Thank you! The links must be pretty helpful, because people are buying many of the items I recommended! I'm obsessed with being organized, so I'm pretty proud of this blog :)

Donna of The Upward Blip on October 28, 2018:

I have never been to any cruise and would really love to experience it one of these days or maybe when the kids are older. These are great for the inexperienced like myself! Thank you so much for the tips!

P.S. Your amazon links look cool!

Keke on October 28, 2018:

Great tips! We’ve only been on a couple of cruises, but hope to do more in the future. Would have never thought of several things on your list.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 18, 2018:

Thanks for the information. I will check it out.

Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on October 17, 2018:

Liz, you first need to set up an Amazon Affiliate account with Amazon (using your existing account or a new one if you don't have one). They you link your affiliate i.d. with your HP earnings account. Once it's setup and approved, you can add products to your blogs as long as they are discussed and relevant to your blog post. I hope this helps get you started. It took a bit of trial and error to get it to work, but I have had a few people buy things using my link, so it's working!

Liz Westwood from UK on October 17, 2018:

How did you set about doing your Anazon links?

Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on October 16, 2018:

I know, right? Live and learn! I am pleasantly surprised to see that people are actually ordering many of the items I suggested and linked to Amazon! This was a fun post to put together for sure!

Liz Westwood from UK on October 14, 2018:

Great list. I laughed at the corkscrew and bubblewrap. I take them wherever I go. Nothing worse than a corked bottle with no means of opening it! The bubblewrap works wonders in keeping bottles intact in a suitcase in the hold of a plane.

Related Articles