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23 useful travel items for your cruise packing list in 2023

Sep 06, 2023Sep 06, 2023

Ahoy, matey! Nothing is more relaxing than a vacation along the water, but packing for a cruise can be quite stressful, especially if it's your first time aboard.

Whether you’re searching for the perfect beach bag or SPF balm, we’ve got all the essentials to pack for a cruise to ensure it’ll be smooth sailing. We also spoke to experts to provide tips on the vital items to pack to make your next cruise one to remember.

Cruise packing tips | First-timer advice | Travel essentials to shop | What to wear | Meet the experts

Preparing for a cruise may seem like a daunting task initially, but knowing which items to bring is half the battle.

"Packing for a cruise is much like packing for any trip, but I do advise guests to make a checklist when they pack, so they are sure to bring everything they want with them," says senior cruise director for Carnival Cruises, John Heald. "The vast majority of our itineraries are warm weather destinations, so swimwear is always on the top of the list, and then a pool cover up and non-slip shoes because you can't walk around the ship barefoot and in your swimsuit."

"Consider bringing an external battery for your phone," suggests Princess Cruises Celebrations Ambassador Jill Whelan. "Having extra battery life is vital, and even if you don't ever use it, the peace of mind is everything."

Whelan also recommends bringing a fanny pack with you. "It's so much easier to sightsee having two hands free and without the bother of hanging onto a purse. If it's strapped on, you won't leave it somewhere either!"

Avid cruise goer Renae Krawczyk also suggests bringing a clever travel hack to keep her family's cabin tidy: a pop-up laundry basket as "they fit right inside the closets and help keep the room clean and organized. "

Ultimately, though, less is more when it comes to packing for a cruise. "Try to pack as minimal as possible while bringing the essential items. You will not wear the 10 outfits you packed for an eight-day cruise! After looking back on our first cruise and the amount of stuff, just everywhere was overwhelming," recommends Krawczyk. "[Thinking] back on what we brought on our most recent cruise, everything had a purpose and was used! With the amount of unused stuff from our first cruise, I could have filled an entire checked luggage."

More than anything, it's imperative to familiarize yourself with your new environment and not be afraid to ask questions.

"I always advise first-time cruisers — or even veteran cruisers who are sailing a new ship — to spend some time after embarkation to explore and get familiar with the vessel. And don't be shy about asking questions to the crew! They are used to guests asking for advice and assistance and are happy to help. The crew is going on vacation with you and are part of the experience," says Heald.

"My advice here, would be even if you are afraid of getting motion sickness or seasick, go, take the trip, take the chance! You can come prepared with patches, sea bands or other items that are out there, but take the leap!" suggests Krawczyk.

Good for: Sensitive skin | Finish type: Glossy

Keep your lips hydrated with this dermatologist-recommended lip protectant with SPF. A recent Shop TODAY Beauty Awards Winner for best lip balm with SPF, this Aquaphor product is formulated with a combination of vitamins, moisturizers, shea butter and jojoba oil. This lip repair stick is designed to relieve dryness and soothe chapped, cracked lips so you’ll be ready to smooch your sweetheart all vacation long.

Colorways: 7 | Material: Mesh | Product dimensions: 14"L x 13"W x 24"H

If you’re looking to wash your clothes during the cruise, you’ll surely want to pack this mesh popup hamper that currently has 48,000+ verified Amazon ratings to back it up. As it folds easily, it is the ultimate laundry hamper to store in your suitcase. This resourceful hamper includes super sturdy handles to make it easier to carry down the halls of the ship.

Reusable? Yes | Suitable for: Ages 3+

Avoid getting seasick in front of your new cruise crush with these acupressure bracelets. Each elastic band has a plastic knob sewn inside which stimulates the P6 acupressure point to relieve nausea and motion sickness. With these bracelets, you’ll be able to enjoy every minute of your cruise without getting sick.

Active ingredients: Vitamin C

Don't "burn out the day" with this bestselling after-sun skin care. This organic aloe vera gel is designed to soothe your sunburn and leave your skin feeling soft and healthy, according to the brand. Plus, with its 100% natural thickener Agar, this gel absorbs rapidly with no residue, so you’ll be ready to hit the lido deck.

"I love this product and it actually has aloe in it. Perfect for my son's super sensitive skin! And doesn't leave a weird sticky feeling after applying. Very soothing and works great on sun burns. Highly recommend. Never going back to the old stuff we used to buy," said one five-star reviewer.

Battery capacity: 10,000 mAh | Connecter type: Micro USB

Stay connected while traveling the high seas with this portable power bank with 64,000+ verified five-star Amazon ratings. This scratch-resistant charger includes two input ports and is compatible with iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and more.

This Shop TODAY award-winning gadget is a must-have for international travel.

Input voltage: 240 volts | Compatible with: USB-charged devices

Whether you’re traveling along the Mediterranean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean, this international travel accessory is a must! This all-in-one adapter includes four different plugs that can be used in over 150 countries.

Good for: All hair types | Hair concern targets: Oiliness, volume | Color-safe? Yes

We know you’ll be busy having lots of fun onboard, but don't forget about your hair! This "perk up" product was Shop TODAY's Beauty Awards winner for best overall dry shampoo. This talc-free spray is designed to absorb excess oil, buildup and odor, as well as add volume and nourishment to your scalp.

Colorways: 6 | Dimensions: 12"L x 12"W x 1"H | Closure: Zipper

Who wants to spend a minute unpacking when the ocean is outside your window? Maximize your vacation time with this luggage organizer where you can just hang your already pressed, folded clothes in the closet. This polyester organizer fits easily inside your suitcase and will stay in place during a long flight.

Good for: All skin types | SPF: 60 | Fragrance-free? Yes

Reduce your risk of sun damage with the La Roche-Posay sunscreen that was rated Shop TODAY Beauty Awards winner for best sunscreen for face and body. This sensitive skin-friendly option allows you to relax more and worry less about getting a sunburn.

"I have been using this sunscreen for over a year. It has truly been a life saver! I have a sun allergy therefore going outside can be very painful. I use this sunscreen on my arms and face, it limits the exposure to UVA and UVB rays. I highly recommend it!" said one verified reviewer.

Colorways: 6 | Dimensions: 7.5" L x 4.5" W x 4" H | Material: Recycled polyester

You’ll want to look and feel your very best this vacation, so it's important to pack a makeup bag that will fit all your favorite products. This water-resistant neoprene toiletry pouch from Dagne Dover features a removable air mesh zip-top pouch and Repreve recycled dust bag.

"Great size — fit all my toiletries easily. I appreciate the many pouches and pockets to keep things organized," said one satisfied jetsetter.

Colorways: 4 | Dimensions: 12.6" L x 5.9" W x 2.4" H | Material: Recycled nylon

Keep your hands free with this packable sling bag from Away Travel. This lightweight, water-resistance bag is designed to hold all the essentials including your wallet, sunglasses and more. Whether you’re searching for added storage in your suitcase or wearing it around your waist while sightseeing, this bag will certainly come in handy.

Heat settings: 4 | Good for: All hair types

Give your long locks a little extra love while on vacation with this Revlon volumizer. Rated Shop TODAY Beauty Awards winner for best blow dry brush, this 1100-watt styling brush helps reduce and protect hair against heat damage. This hairdryer/brush also features a detachable design for easy storage.

"My hair is wavy and frizzy. I used to always struggle styling it. It's a whole process to dry my hair and have it styled without spending an hour or more. This literally did it all in 12 mins! My hair is thick too. I ran to my computer to write a review because this product is life changing. I feel reborn. I will never have a bad hair day ever again," said one satisfied customer.

Colorways: 4 | Dimensions: 38" W x 70" L

Show the sand who's boss with this luxuriously soft beach towel that will be the envy of cruise passengers everywhere. Made in Portugal, this 100% organic long-staple cotton towel is hypoallergenic and includes the option to personalize with embroidery.

Material: Cotton

Hey there, beach babe! Gather up your sandals & cover-up and you’re ready to lounge by one of the ship's many pools. Wait — not without this tropical California-themed beach bag from Lilly Pulitzer. Monogram your bag with your initials for a more personal touch.

Colorways: 9 | Material: Polycarbonate hard shell | Capacity: 49-61 L | Expandable? Yes

Keep your packing to a minimum with this carry-on luggage from Béis that was rated Shop TODAY Travel Awards winner for best overall suitcase. Available in chic colors like maple and atlas pink, this modern suitcase includes 360-degree, smooth-rolling wheels ad trolley handle with a cushion for a smoother travel experience. Bon voyage!

"What I like about cruises is the opportunity to dress up and show out, as well as keep it pool chic or casual," says fashion stylist Karen Blanchard. "I recommend packing a mix of both casual and dressier looks. But here's the key — pack things that can double as both to help save space. For example, a black jumpsuit can look casual with some trendy platform sandals or you can really elevate the look with heels and a statement bag."

How does one avoid overpacking? "Something I’m really liking this summer is the "balance it out" trend," Blanchard says. "It's unique in that you can bring two unlikely styles together to avoid overpacking. For example, I recommend choosing cover-ups that can be repurposed for dinner dresses."

Live the life of luxury with this darling straw fedora with 25,000+ verified five-star ratings. Made with 90% natural paper straw, one Shop TODAY writer who tried this UPF50+ option out mentions it packing extremely well. "I can pretty much fold this hat in half, throw it in my luggage and rest assured I'm not doing irreversible damage and rendering it unwearable by the time I arrive at my destination."

Colorways: 4 | Sizes: XS-3X

Slip this bandeau dress over your swimsuit and you’re ready to go explore the island at the nearest port. This flirty frock from Venus will accentuate your curves and is available in sizes XS-3X for an inclusive fit.

Colorways: 43 | Sizes: 4-18 | Material: Nylon, spandex

Channel your inner swimsuit model when you hit the water in this stunning crossover suit, which was recently rated Shop TODAY's Travel Gear Award winner for best one-piece. This super cute swimsuit features soft, wire-free removable bra cups, tummy control mesh panel and a stretched striped bands around the waist to create a more slimming look.

"I bought several of these suits to wear in Mexico. They are very stylish, I wore this with a crochet coverup skirt and a hat and I looked high end on a small budget. They fit well and have good stretch to them. I will have to buy in every color," said one five-star reviewer.

Colorways: 3 | Good for: Heart and oval face shapes

These shades will look puurfect on you! Keep the sun out of your eyes (and whiskers) with these fashion-forward cat eye sunglasses from Prive Revaux. These stylish sunnies feature polarized lenses that filter unwanted light and reduces glare with scratch-resistant coating.

Colorways: 29 | Sizes: XS-XXL | Material: Polyester, spandex

Whether you’re headed to a five-course dinner or a night of dancing, this spaghetti strap dress will have you stealing the show. This darling dress is made of polyester & spandex and features an A-line style with pleated design.

"[I] bought this dress to use on a tropical vacation over the winter. Was the perfect dress for a night out — not too dressy, not too casual. Love it!" said one verified buyer.

Colorways: 4 | Fabric: Polyester | Sizes: XS-XL

Whether you’re going for a quick jog or just looking for a pair of comfortable shorts to throw over your bathing suit, these are it! These performance shorts feature binding, front logo patch and welt pockets, so you can store your cell phone or room key for safe keeping.

Colorways: 5 | Sizes: 5-11

Take your daytime or evening frock to a higher level with these chunky platform slides from Reef. Made with a 100% natural cork footbed that supports your arches and hugs your heels, you'll be more than ready to take on whatever adventure awaits you aboard.

Colorways: 2 | Closure: Twist lock

Most cruisers know to pack more formal attire for a fancy night on the ship, and this Mark & Graham wicker & leather crossbody bag is the ideal accessory to accompany any style dress. This bamboo-handled purse is handmade by artists in the Philippines and features soft linen cotton blend lining and twist lock closure for safer storage. Add your initials so there's no way this bag will end up in the lost and found.

Allie Wise is a freelance SEO writer for Shop TODAY.

Cruise packing tips | First-timer advice | Travel essentials to shop | What to wear | Meet the experts Good for: | Finish type: Colorways: | Material: | Product dimensions: Reusable? | Suitable for: Active ingredients: Battery capacity: | Connecter type: Input voltage: | Compatible with: Good for: | Hair concern targets: | Color-safe? Colorways: | Dimensions: | Closure: Good for: | SPF: | Fragrance-free? Colorways: Dimensions: Material: Colorways: | Dimensions: | Material: Heat settings: | Good for: Colorways: | Dimensions: Material: Colorways: | Material: | Capacity: | Expandable? Colorways: | Sizes: Colorways: | Sizes: | Material: Colorways: | Good for: Colorways: | Sizes: | Material: Colorways: | Fabric: | Sizes: Colorways: | Sizes: Colorways: | Closure: John Heald Jill Whelan Renae Krawczyk Karen Blanchard