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

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


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.

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!

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.

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!

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

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 like the idea of the Spiebelt instead of carrying a purse. Is there a model of the Spiebelt that's bigger or expandable to hold a passport and a case for hearing aids?

Answer: The large pocket Spiebelt (Expandable to 8" x 4"x 2") should hold both items. However, you don't need to carry your passport when in the cruise ports; your ship card serves as proof enough. But if you still wish to carry it, this is the link to the large size: https://amzn.to/2LxrJas Happy Cruising!

© 2019 Debra Roberts


Frank on November 13, 2019:

Being a senior I utilize empty pill plastic bottles

Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on April 26, 2019:

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

The Sunny Side Lifestyle Co. on April 26, 2019:

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!

Liz Westwood from UK on March 02, 2019:

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.

Mary on March 01, 2019:

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

Swagata Sen on February 28, 2019:

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.

Nina Nichols on February 28, 2019:

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

Nominal Nomad on February 28, 2019:

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

Kari Chairez on February 28, 2019:

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

Live Learn Better on February 28, 2019:

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.

Subhashish Roy on February 28, 2019:

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.

Lindsay Brown on February 27, 2019:

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!

Erica (The Prepping Wife) on February 26, 2019:

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.

Tracy C on February 26, 2019:

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.

Kristy Bullard on February 26, 2019:

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!

Melody on February 26, 2019:

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

Scott DeNicola and Vinne Monaco from New York on February 26, 2019:

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.

Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on February 09, 2019:

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!

Liz Westwood from UK on February 09, 2019:

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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