11 Things We Pack to Upgrade Every Cruise
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A cruise is a unique trip to pack for: You’re essentially booking a moving hotel that has its own social scene and will likely take you through multiple destinations, climates, activities, and vibes.
That’s why “cruise packing list” is such a commonly Googled term — and we know you can find plenty of basic checklists across the internet, or even in your inbox courtesy of the cruise company you chose.
Hear us out: Yes, you want to pack layers, the essential toiletries, and preventative medications (Bonine over Dramamine always, by the way), plus a dressy outfit or two for formal nights, if that’s your type of cruise. But we’re here to help you bring your cruise packing to the next level with the “extras” that have enhanced our cruise experience every time. That’s our goal at Just Packed: to make sure every trip you take is your favorite trip ever, because you arrived perfectly prepared.
We’ve been on Caribbean cruises, Alaskan cruises, European cruises, Disney cruises, river cruises, and more — across the world and in different seasons. These are the items we always pack for a cruise, no matter what, to make every day at sea, at port, and beyond better than the last.
Cruising = walking. You’ll walk endless laps around your enormous ship and then arrive at each port wanting to take it all in, likely by foot. This means comfortable footwear is more than key. Our go-to? Effortless, neutral sneakers you can dress up or down, pair with anything, and wear from day to night.
Buy It: Cole Haan GrandPro Topspin Sneaker, $140
Your room may come with a robe, but on a cruise, you’re going to want the robe. We mean the perfect robe for post-swim or shower lounging, curling up with room service after a long day of exploring, or most importantly, sitting out on your breezy balcony (a highly enjoyable photo opportunity).
Buy It: Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Side Tie Robe, $100 (orig. $168)
Matching Lounge Set
On long days at sea, you’re going to want to explore the ship. That can mean anything from pickleball, to the spa, to the casino, to dining, and it all feels sort of like a giant snow day with friends (who you met at the buffet or bar the day before). You want to be comfortable, but you want to look cute — you will run into these people again. It’s a fact.
Buy It: Open Edit 3-Piece So Soft Rib Lounge Set, $89
Cute Workout Set
Even if you’re the type who packs workout clothes for every vacation and never uses them, we stand by this choice. Cruises are known for over-the-top food and drink, and that’s accurate, but they also have so many workout opportunities. Whether you’re walking the upper deck track with ocean views, challenging a friend to an impromptu basketball shootout, getting tempted into sunrise yoga, or signing up for a bike tour, you’re surprisingly more likely to use your activewear on a cruise.
Buy It: Free People Good Karma 3-Style Bundle, $168
Whether you’re on a sunny, island-hopping cruise or a cold-weather cruise, you’re going to end up in a pool or Jacuzzi while on board, and you’re also going to want a snack. It’s more than likely your room will be much further from the pool deck than the nearest restaurant. You’ll want to pack a cover-up that you can throw on and keep on until you’re really ready to make a detour to your full wardrobe.
Buy It: Vitamin A Playa Linen Oversized Shirt Dress, $148
All the Hats
Hats are something we love to have on hand but sometimes resist packing because they can be tough to transport from place to place. Enter the cruise: A trip where you pack once and your closet travels with you, making this a non-issue. Plus, you’ll be at sea, so you’re almost guaranteed to have windy, salty days, and to encounter various types of weather that wreak havoc on your hair. This is your excuse to finally go hard on hats: A sunhat, a beanie, a baseball cap — pack them all.
Buy It: Hat Attack Luxe Vented Packable Hat, $159; Madewell Recycled Cotton Beanie, $35; Grace Eleyae Satin Lined Baseball Cap, $32
From chilly mornings and breezy nights to unexpectedly cool days, make your cute dresses and tanks work double duty with a shawl you can throw over your shoulders or in your bag as a stylish security blanket, just in case.
Buy It: Quince Mongolian Cashmere Wrap, $100 (orig. $198)
You already know you’ll want a backpack or a crossbody for days on land, but for dinner, drinks, and on-ship outings, you’re going to want to grab the essentials without lugging a big bag along. Pack a clutch that matches any evening outfit and can fit just your phone, room key, and lipstick, and thank us later.
Buy It: Bembien Flora Clutch, $155
Whether you’re browsing European markets and boutiques, Caribbean jewelry stores, local craft stalls, or souvenir shops, you’re likely to shop while you’re off the ship (and, actually, while you’re on it). It’s smart to always come prepared with a foldable tote you can have on hand just in case something takes your eye.
Buy It: Baggu Set of 3, $42
Day Planner/Daily Journal
From shore excursions to on-ship activities, cruise itineraries can be intense. Writing your schedule down the old-fashioned way will make every day easier — and it’s also a great place to log your favorite memories at the end of each day, so you won’t forget a moment.
Buy It: Papier High Hopes 2023 Planner, $32
A cruise is such a unique experience, and you’ll want to capture it all. Phone photos are great, but throw it back with polaroids and you’ll have instant, priceless souvenirs for everyone in your group, without having to pretend you’re going to print your camera roll when you get home.
Buy It: Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 Camera, $70 (orig. $77)