If it seems like this blog has been on radio silence all week, it’s because our entire family has been on a Caribbean cruise (with the exception of Samuel, who was unfortunately in the middle of his surgery rotation in medical school and couldn’t join us).
We had a blast, but we definitely learned a few things about cruising with children in the process. If you go, here’s our list of cruising essentials you’ll want to be sure you pack in your bags.
Top 12 Take-Alongs for Your Next Cruise
Tuck some Scopolamine patches and/or Dramamine into your suitcase to deal with any queasiness you feel while on the ship. My only regret is that I took off my patch as soon as I disembarked at the end of our trip. The room kept rocking for two more days, and I wish I’d had the Scopolamine in my system a little longer to deal with that.
Don’t let sunburned skin spoil your vacation. Pack plenty of sunblock and slather up before hitting the beach. A good pair of sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are helpful, too.
Jacket or hoodie
The deck can get a little chilly, especially after dark. Take along a light jacket to stay warm.
Something to read
Relaxing on the beach or beside the pool is more enjoyable when you have a good book with you. (It also provides a nice diversion when you’re cooped up in the cabin with napping babies.)
Lanyards are one of my favorite cruise take-alongs, because they make it so easy to keep up with your room key: just punch a hole in it and hang it around your neck.
Unfortuantely, if you wait until you’re on the ship to remember this tip, you’ll have to spend $10 or more to purchase one. That can really add up if you travel with as many people as we do. So, instead of shelling out a bunch of money before we ever leave port, I just bring lanyards from home. Between leftover lanyards from conferences we’ve attended and dollar store or thrift store purchases, we had enough for everyone in our party.
Our phones didn’t work on the ship, so we were wishing we’d let the boys bring their walkie-talkies, like they’d suggested doing before we left.
Pen and paper
In absence of phones and walkie-talkies, a few sticky notes and a ballpoint pen allowed us to keep everybody in our group abreast of each other’s whereabouts. I’d post the day’s schedule on our door each morning, so our older children would know where to find us on the ship at any given time.
Tanks and flip-flops aren’t allowed in the formal dining room, so we brought along a sport coat for each of our boys and nice dresses for the girls. The little ones really seemed to enjoy getting spiffed up for dinner.
Instead of booking shore excursions through the cruiseline in advance, we saved a bundle by negotiating prices ourselves once we reached the port. Carrying cash made it all the easier to do so.
The showers in the cabin were cramped, and our kids spent most of the day in the pool, so we were usually able to make due with cleaning their hands and feet with a wet wipe before bed and calling it good. Wipes are great for wiping up spills and other unexpected messes, as well.
This may not be a true cruise-essential, but it does make it easy for your kids to recognize your room when you decorate your cabin door. Especially if you’ll be celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion aboard, adding a homemade sign, a wreath, or some colorful cutout is an easy but festive way to make your time on the open seas even more memorable.
Don’t forget to bring tape to hang your sign with. (Bonus: The tape may come in handy for other onboard challenges. We used ours to help build a parachute for the last day’s egg drop competition, for which we took second place!)
There are lots of great memories to be made on any family vacation, and a cruise is no exception. Be sure you bring a camera along to capture a few for the photo albums.
This is only the second cruise our family has ever taken. The first was back in 2002 — the bottom had fallen out of the travel market after 9/11, and we got unbelievably low rates. This time, we took advantage of Carnival’s “More the Merrier” pricing, and some last-minute itinerary changes made it even more affordable.
It wasn’t the first cruise we’ve taken, and I’m hoping it won’t be the last. Cruising was a good way to get extended family together, and it was a great choice for celebrating some significant milestones in four of our children’s lives: Jonathan’s graduation from nursing school, David and Bethany’s graduation from dental school, and Joseph’s graduation from high school.
More Travel Ideas for Families
If your family loves to go as much as mine does, check out my book Pack Up & Leave. It’s chockful of smart tips that will make your next family road trip or vacation more economical, educational, and memorable.
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