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26 Cruise Packing Hacks to Accentuate Your Small 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 10th, you'll love organizing your small cabin space with my tried-and-true hacks! Bringing these handy essentials simplifies packing 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. I can't rant enough about the handiness of this featherweight organizer! If you take anything away from what I'm about to share, this is it! 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, etc. The walls and doors of your cabin are metal. Yes, you read that right, metal! These hooks can be hung anywhere and used in endless ways. These rank second in importance to the mesh shoe organizer.

packing-for-your-cruise-vacation-big-essentials-for-small-spaces

3. Compressible Backpack. 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. There's nothing worse than having no way to carry your island purchases or beach essentials to and from the ship.

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

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.

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8. Your 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 correctly. We prefer fog-free, panoramic masks, and dry snorkels. You can get quality sets on Amazon that are pretty affordable.

9. Small Corkscrew. We always bring the two allotted bottles of wine on board, but never a 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 corkscrew. While this corkscrew is TSA-approved, the inspectors may still ask you to take it out for inspection. Stow it in an easily-accessible side pocket if taken inside your carry-on bag.

10. Outlet and USB Port Extender. The ships have U.S. and EU options, but outlets are often limited to two by the desk/vanity area. Two outlets can't cut it since we take our laptops, cell phones, and fitness watches. 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. 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.

11. Waterproof Cellphone Case. Our phones are a necessity. Keep yours clean and dry at the pool or beach using a waterproof case. (be sure to do the recommended water test first). With this particular case, your phone can also double as a great underwater camera, 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.

packing-for-your-cruise-vacation-big-essentials-for-small-spaces

12. Tide or Bleach Pen. A stain remover pen or wipe is critical 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 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 various sizes that can hold up a hem, replace a button, or repair a bra strap.

16. Chlorox Healthcare Hospital Grade Disinfectant Wipes. Before unpacking anything, I wipe down the shelves, drawers, desktops, bathroom counter, nightstand, and doorknobs. To kill the giant 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. A virus-free cruise is a happy cruise.

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, indigestion, 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 hit my head on the ship's railing when my chair was too close. I popped up to grab my hat before it blew away. I couldn't 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 use plenty of sunscreens. Smaller 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, aerosols, collecting shells, and keeping personal items dry and sand-free. The Space-saver bags are more substantial and handy, especially on the return trip home when you most likely need more space for duty-free liquor and other souvenirs! You'll find numerous uses for these throughout your cruise.

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 touch 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. I've tried several chair clips and find these to work the best. 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 Bills. Singles are handy for tipping the luggage porters upon arrival at the port and for incidentals on the islands. Hands are 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 during the wee hours. We love this lightweight fan to block the sounds of the hallway stampedes.

Let's Stay In Touch!

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

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

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: 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!

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.

© 2018 Debra Roberts

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