Easy Cruise Packing Hack: How to Easily Organize Your Small Stuff

Updated on June 15, 2019
Deb Vesco Roberts profile image

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

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My Grab and Go Solution for Packing the Small Stuff

Are you are tired of fumbling around for all the small items on your cruise vacation (or any trip, really)? You will love this hack for pulling and keeping it together and organized at home and on board. This is a grab-and-go fix that makes packing a breeze. Some might say being this organized is over the top, but there is nothing more frustrating than being disorganized while living in a small, tight space.

I despise a messy cabin, and it makes it difficult for the cabin attendants to clean with many odds and ends laying around. It also takes a long time to round these items up when packing, and it never fails I forget things and have to go shopping in port or settle for what I find on board. To fix this, I've come up with a great way to organize those small items.

Plastic Organizers Are the Way to Go

I keep the majority of my items in a larger organizer that's always stocked and ready to go (restocking at the end of each trip when I unpack) and I put jewelry in a smaller organizer. When I go to pack for the next trip, I only need to add my makeup items and toss the organizers into my carry-on bag.

Plastic organizers make packing for your cruise and staying organized while on board a breeze.
Plastic organizers make packing for your cruise and staying organized while on board a breeze. | Source

Convenient Cruise Cabin Organization

As much as I appreciate the many drawers and cabinets cruise cabins provide, I still find myself searching for my smaller items, whether it in be the top drawer of the desk, the side cabinet by the mirror, the bathroom medicine cabinet, or the nightstand. Before coming up with the idea to use these organizers, I was forever in search of my glasses or could never remember where I put my nail file. My makeup was in one bag, my sunscreen in another, and I know I brought a corkscrew, but which bag or drawer is it in?

I had a vision of an easy and pre-packed "grab-and-go case" that housed every small necessity that I normally bring on a cruise. Everything inside must also be TSA-approved so I can take it in my carry-on luggage since I only travel with a carry-on and a backpack as my personal item. Another nice thing about this is if TSA wants to check any of these items, they can do so by pulling out the entire case very easily.

I went to a few craft stores and looked at divided storage boxes, found a few I felt could work, and starting sorting and moving things around until I created what I had envisioned—the perfect cruise-essentials case!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the largest of the three sizes I prefer to pack.This is how I organize my items.The lid closes easily and still has room to spare - or for a few more items!This small case has really come in handy for keeping jewelry organized and tangle-free.Keeping your jewelry in an organizer like this will reduce the risk of you losing any during your cruise.
This is the largest of the three sizes I prefer to pack.
This is the largest of the three sizes I prefer to pack. | Source
This is how I organize my items.
This is how I organize my items. | Source
The lid closes easily and still has room to spare - or for a few more items!
The lid closes easily and still has room to spare - or for a few more items! | Source
This small case has really come in handy for keeping jewelry organized and tangle-free.
This small case has really come in handy for keeping jewelry organized and tangle-free. | Source
Keeping your jewelry in an organizer like this will reduce the risk of you losing any during your cruise.
Keeping your jewelry in an organizer like this will reduce the risk of you losing any during your cruise. | Source

Divided Cases Make Cruise Organization Easy

I chose an organizer with decent depth, movable dividers and secure latches. I bought it in two different sizes:

  • medium for my shorter trips (11 x 8 x 3 inches)
  • large for cruises and longer trips (14 x 9 x 3 inches)

I use the large organizer to hold everything from sunglasses and towel clips to chargers and floss. See the second photo below for the full list. I guarantee you will be impressed by how much you can fit into this organizer, not to mention how much easier it will be to stay organized for the duration of your trip.

I also use the small one (9 x 5 x 1.2 inches), in the same design, for organizing my jewelry for the cruise. Cruises are a fun place to put your most fashionable foot forward when dressing for dinner, so fun jewelry is a must, but keeping track of it all can be a pain. This solves the problem of lost or tangled jewelry pieces.

Bonus: This small jewelry case easily fits into the stateroom or hotel-room safe.

Bonus Packing Tip: My Favorite Carry-On Bag

As I mentioned before, we always cruise with only a carry-on bag. While I'm show-casing cruise packing from a woman's point of view, I have added below how my husband also travels with just a carry-on, utilizing his ultra-light trail backpacking pack.

I have five different "Vera Bradley" brand bags I use for weekend getaways and travel and have found these to be the best combination for cruise packing, as they hold the most contents, while still fitting nicely into most airline overhead compartments and under the seat:

  • I love the Vera Bradly Grand Traveler Bag as a catchall.
  • The Vera Bradley Iconic Campus Tech Backpack is perfect for my personal item.
  • For our money, lip balm, ship card, and credit cards, my husband and I each wear the very comfortable, stretchy, adjustable Spiebelt. I leave my purse at home and my husband leaves his walled as well. We have never found a reason to have an actual purse or wallet on any cruise to date and this way is the safe way.

I'm not picky about the patterns for the pieces I buy, and the options with Vera Bradley are many, so I can almost always find great deals on my bags on Amazon or on discontinued patterns from their website directly.

My favorite feature with the Vera Bradley line of bags is that they are made of super durable and light-weight quilted fabric that is washable and molds easily to the overhead bin space of the plane and under the seat. I stuff them as full as I can get away with!

We never want to run the risk of lost luggage prior to cruising, so between our savvy packing hacks and traveling to the port one day early, we arrive stress-free. Our light packing preference and the small cabin space are what possessed me to find ways to pack and organize all the above items in a simplistic manner, while fitting everything easily into carry-on luggage.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Vera Bradley Grand Traveler Bag holds a ton and folds flat for easy storage in your cabin.I has a generous side pocket.The interior is large and roomy, allowing for lots of clothing.Now you have a carrying case for your handy organizers! I use the backpack to hold several pairs of shoes, my snorkel—basically anything I can't fit into my Grand Traveler Bag.
The Vera Bradley Grand Traveler Bag holds a ton and folds flat for easy storage in your cabin.
The Vera Bradley Grand Traveler Bag holds a ton and folds flat for easy storage in your cabin. | Source
I has a generous side pocket.
I has a generous side pocket. | Source
The interior is large and roomy, allowing for lots of clothing.
The interior is large and roomy, allowing for lots of clothing. | Source
Now you have a carrying case for your handy organizers!
Now you have a carrying case for your handy organizers! | Source
I use the backpack to hold several pairs of shoes, my snorkel—basically anything I can't fit into my Grand Traveler Bag.
I use the backpack to hold several pairs of shoes, my snorkel—basically anything I can't fit into my Grand Traveler Bag.

Three Weeks in Europe With Only Carry-ons!

We had at least 12 outfit combinations and various layering items in each of our packs. We traveled in October and had every weather scenario you could imagine across seven countries!
We had at least 12 outfit combinations and various layering items in each of our packs. We traveled in October and had every weather scenario you could imagine across seven countries! | Source

If you found these packing tips for small items helpful, check out my article about cruise cabin organization for shoes and larger items.

Any Other Helpful Suggestions?

This is my personal list, but I'm open to hearing suggestions of other helpful items or tips that you might have too!

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

© 2019 Debra Roberts

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    • Deb Vesco Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Debra Roberts 

      4 months ago from Ohio

      Awesome! I did two plus weeks in Europe on a light load, so hit me up if you need some tips!

    • profile image

      The Sunny Side Lifestyle Co. 

      4 months ago

      I'm planning a European vacation with my family this summer and we are limited our 2-week stay, 4 people, to 2 bags. I'll be utilizing your tips to streamline our packing. Thanks!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      6 months ago from UK

      Your travel organisers definitely beat my rummaging around in a bag or suitcase for the things which I know are in there somewhere, but which I can never find when I need them.

    • profile image

      Mary 

      6 months ago

      I use a cheap tackle box for a divided case! It's genius :)

    • profile image

      Swagata Sen 

      6 months ago

      I have never been on a cruise vacation. But I will for sure save this post for when I will plan my first cruise trip. It has so much useful tips and information.

    • profile image

      Nina Nichols 

      6 months ago

      I especially find dividing cases as very helpful when it comes to packing. I also use ziplock to separate small pieces of our clothing.

    • profile image

      Nominal Nomad 

      6 months ago

      this level of your organization always astonishes me! i´m sure you travel stress free and that´s amazing

    • profile image

      Kari Chairez 

      6 months ago

      I have definitely realized the convenience of packing things in separate containers! Great tips!

    • profile image

      Live Learn Better 

      6 months ago

      My last cruise trip was in 2012 after which myriads of disaster started happening. I enjoyed it but now too scared to even venture into it.

    • profile image

      Subhashish Roy 

      6 months ago

      Some really great tips to keep in mind. I have never been on a long cruise but when I do it would be really useful.

    • profile image

      Lindsay Brown 

      6 months ago

      These are great packing tips! I must admit I am THE WORST when it comes to being organized on trips. But I love these ideas you bring up and find myself inspired to get more organized! Great post!

    • profile image

      Erica (The Prepping Wife) 

      6 months ago

      I am always looking for ways to be better organized! Especially having to go through TSA. I earned myself a free molestation adventure the last time I had to deal with them. Thanks for the suggestions. They’re great! I’m like you, it’s always the little stuff that drives me nuts because I can’t find a good place for it.

    • profile image

      Tracy C 

      6 months ago

      I love your plastic organizer idea, especially for jewelry! I hate when necklaces tangle or earrings get lost. I don’t have any of the larger Vera Bradley bags, but I love using my large VB crossbody bag for a hands-free purse.

    • profile image

      Kristy Bullard 

      6 months ago

      We’ve been on a few cruises and these are great tips. Space is very limited in staterooms so it’s important to be organized!

    • profile image

      Melody 

      6 months ago

      I love organized things. Containers too hold everything makes things so simple. Great ideas. Thanks.

    • twoguyswhoblog profile image

      Scott DeNicola and Vinne Monaco 

      6 months ago from New York

      My wife used to be a merchandiser for Vera Bradley in their early days so I am very familiar with their products. These are great tips and I am totally 100% behind being organized especially when you're on a cruise ship with limited space. These are great tips to help make packing easier for my families next cruise.

    • Deb Vesco Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Debra Roberts 

      7 months ago from Ohio

      I'm loving this! Sure, the 2 cases add an additional 1/2 lb to the baggage, but the ease of having all that small stuff in one place has been wonderful! Plus, it would probably take me an hour or more to round it all up when packing and now, everything but the makeup stays in the case ready for action! It's great for last-minute travel too!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      This looks incredibly well-organised. I used to use a big backpack as a carry on for economy flights. The downside was that I was forever rooting through the bag, looking for things. Maybe I should adopt a similar scheme to yours.

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