Wondering what to pack for a cruise? This list consists of some of the best and most affordable items to buy and throw into your suitcase before you head to the port.
These affordable cruise hack items are a must-have for regular cruisers. (Photo Credit: Cruise Fever)
On my first cruise I packed way too much. The giant suitcase was jam packed with things I never really needed for a cruise.
I should have removed half of what I brought and replaced it with most of things on this list. Now, after cruising consistently for 14+ years I know better.
The items on this list are affordable products that veteran cruisers bring on just about every cruise vacation. Most of them are $10-$15 and they solve all kinds of problems and issues that you might face while at sea.
Check out our other list of tech items to bring on a cruise for some pricier items you can pack for a cruise.
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Here are 35 cheap cruise hacks you’ll wish you knew about sooner:
1. Magnet hooks
I can’t recommend this one enough. Magnet hooks are a lifesaver in cruise ship cabins. There is never enough counter space, so magnet hooks are a great way to hang a hamper, clothing, bags, and other items. I like to use magnet hooks to hang up my hat and hoodie by the door as well. Just don’t pack them next to your electronics.
2. Magnet clips
Magnet clips are another great way to organize your cabin space. You can use them to clip papers like the cruise planner you get in your cabin each day or maybe print outs about your excursions. Some people use magnetic clips for cabin door decorations too, as you aren’t allowed to use tape.
3. Luggage tag holders
Paper luggage tags are notorious for being ripped to shreds before your suitcase can make it to your cabin door. Plastic luggage tag holders help protect them and keep them from falling off your bags. This can save you from a huge headache in your bag being delayed or lost, so it’s well worth the small investment.
4. Quick-dry travel towel
These small quick-dry towels are light and easy to carry and perfect for a day in port.
5. Flotation strap
If you have an especially heavy phone you might need to buy two wrist-straps as each one can carry about 150 grams of weight.
6. DEET-free mosquito bracelets
If you don’t want to use DEET as a mosquito-repellent, a bracelet like this is safe and effective and won’t wash off when you go for a swim.
7. Cruise card lanyard
A cruise card lanyard is a great way to keep your cruise card close at hand and protect it from damage. Some cruisers like to wear their cruise card lanyard around their neck, so they don’t have to worry about losing it or misplacing it.
This could be helpful if you’re traveling with children as well.
8. Collapsible straws
With some cruise lines starting to do away with plastic straws, bringing your own might be a good idea. If you’re like me, you can’t stand the taste and texture of a cardboard straw. Instead, you can buy a rubber straw that folds up into a container or bring a metal collapsible straw for all your trips.
9. Water shoes
If you love to snorkel and will be spending time in the ocean checking out some amazing coral and colorful fish, you will want some water shoes. Also, certain beaches have a lot of jagged and rocky coastlines that can really cut up your feet if you don’t have some protection. Water shoes lay flat in your suitcase and will save your feet from problems later on.
10. Mesh beach bag
Another great beach day accessory, mesh beach bag offers a convenient way to carry your beach gear without tracking sand and water all over your cruise ship cabin. It is also easy to rinse out and dry, and the see-through nature of the bag helps make sure you have everything you need at a quick glance.
11. Lip balm with sunblock
Lip balm is a must-have for any cruise passenger, as the sun and wind can dry out your lips quickly. I like to use lip balm with SPF protection to protect my lips from the sun’s harmful UV rays when on a cruise to the Bahamas or Caribbean. The sun is way more intense in these regions than most Americans are used to.
12. Reef safe sunscreen
You’d be surprised at how harmful some common sunscreen ingredients can be for coral reefs. Coral can die quickly with exposure to chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate that are found in many sunblock lotions. Reef safe sunscreens are made without harmful chemicals that can damage coral. Certain areas actually will restrict sunscreen with the aforementioned chemicals.
13. Collapsible water bottles
And since they are collapsible they won’t take up much room in your suitcase.
14. Waterproof phone pouch
Many cell phones are advertised as waterproof or at least water resistant. But in my experience using smartphones under the water to capture video of some tropical fish, always carries a risk. I’ve had to place my phone in a bag of rice more than once after a cruise because the tiniest bit of water messed things up and wouldn’t allow it to charge properly. Use a waterproof pouch so you don’t have to worry about it, especially if you already have a crack on your screen.
A waterproof phone case pouch is a great way to protect your phone from water damage while swimming, snorkeling, or kayaking. It is also a great way to protect your phone from sand and dust
15. Fragrance spray
Those cruise ship cabins are on the small side, and ventilation isn’t always that great. Don’t let unpleasant aromas from the bathroom or dirty laundry ruin the experience. This is especially important if you are in an interior stateroom without access to some outside air. Some fragrance spray can be a lifesaver if traveling as a family too.
Whether it’s some Febreze spray, a travel size bottle of Poo-Pourri, or both, pack some fragrance spray of your choice for a better experience.
16. Pop-up hamper
A pop-up hamper is a great way to keep your dirty clothes organized and out of sight in your cruise ship cabin. I like to use a pop up hamper that folds up flat so that I can easily pack it in my suitcase. Some cruisers like to use hanging mesh hampers in combination with some magnetic hooks as well.
17. Electronics organizer bag
An electronics organizer bag is a great way to keep your electronic devices like phones, cameras, cables, etc. organized in your cabin. All those charging cables, USB cables, and earbuds can easily get lost in the shuffle, so keeping them all in one place both for packing and use on the ship can come in handy.
18. Travel hangers
You can always ask your cabin steward for extra hangers, but some people like to have their own with clips and other features. Travel hangers are lightweight and foldable hangers that are perfect for packing in your cruise ship cabin. You can also use these for drying wet clothes when the shower clothes line is full.
19. Towel clips set
Contrary to common belief, these aren’t for saving deck loungers, but simply to make sure your towel doesn’t fly off in the sea breeze. Of course, you can hold your spot for a few minutes with them, but even when you’re lying on a lounger the wind can pull the towel off the chair and onto your face or the deck floor. You can find all kinds of towel clips for your next cruise. Towel bands are better if you are going to be on padded loungers.
20. Hanging toiletry bag
It also keeps all those bathroom essentials nice and organized.
With most laundry services on a cruise ship costing quite a bit of extra money, having a Tide-to-Go pen should be considered essential. You can stay on top of any stains that inevitable will happen on a cruise, and this little magic pen hardly takes up any room in your bag. You can get a two pack for around $10 and always be ready.
22. Wrinkle Releaser
With no irons in your cabin, getting wrinkles out of clothes is always an ordeal on a cruise ship, especially since many ships don’t have self-service laundry rooms these days. I like to use a travel-size Downy Wrinkle Release on my clothes that I will spray right after I unpack. This gets most of the wrinkles out so I can at least be presentable.
23. Mini first aid kit
You don’t need to bring the entire medicine cabinet from back home. But having a mini first aid kit can save you a few bucks when there are minor cuts and burns. The medical center on a cruise ship can cost a pretty penny, so if it’s something very minor that you can take care of yourself this little kit can help. This is especially handy if traveling with small children.
24. Waterproof Band-Aids/Bandages
Part of your first aid kit should be waterproof bandages, and since most of these kits don’t come with bandages like this you will have to buy them separately. Whether you get cut while walking on some jagged rocks at the beach or develop a blister from wearing sandals all day long, a waterproof Band-Aid will stay on even when wet. After all, no one wants to see a Band-Aid on the floor that fell off because it wasn’t waterproof.
25. Hand held mini fan
At first glance, this might appear to be an unnecessary luxury, but that perspective changes quickly when you find yourself sweltering in 100-degree heat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. On longer excursions where you can’t escape the heat for hours, a portable fan can prove ever so necessary. And this one charges with a simple USB cable.
26. Multi-plug power outlet (without surge protection)
Most modern cruise ships have more electrical outlets than older ships, but it never seems like enough with all the devices most cruisers bring with them. A multi plug power strip can come in handy. Just make sure it does NOT have a surge protector, as that is not allowed on a cruise ship because it cases problems with the ship’s electrical system.
27. Over the door shoe organizer
Some people hate these, and others love them. There was even a time when some cruise lines banned them. For the ultra-organized an over the door organizer can be used for shoes, clothes, sunscreen, bug spray, and all kinds of smaller items that don’t need to take up counter space. If your cabin has plenty of drawer space at least this over the door organizer did not take up much room anyway.
28. Night light (motion sensor)
For those interior cabins, the darkness of the room can make for some great sleeping conditions. But stubbing your toe in the middle of the night because you can’t see can be avoided by having a motion sensing night light. Just place it low enough so it doesn’t trigger when you’re rolling over. This night light is battery powered and can be placed anywhere you’d like.
29. AirTags or SmartTags
Anyone who checks baggage when flying should have one of these trackers already. But on a cruise ship they can come in very handy. Use AirTags or SmartTags in your baggage to make sure your luggage makes it to your room, and if it doesn’t you at least will know where it is instead of playing the guessing game and hoping you will end up with your belongings before the cruise is over.
This one costs a little more than other items on the list, but it had to be mentioned because it can save cruisers from so much frustration.
30. Packing cubes set
A packing cubes set is a great way to organize your clothes and other belongings in your suitcase. It keeps every type of article of clothing together and makes unpacking a breeze when you finally make it to your stateroom on embarkation day. This is key for light packing on a cruise.
31. Passport holder wallet
A passport holder wallet is a great way to keep your passport, cards, and a little cash all protected while you are traveling. This helps keep all of the essentials together. I recommend getting one with RFID blocking as well, especially if you will be traveling with your passport on you off the ship.
Bonine is an over-the-counter medication that can be used to prevent motion sickness. You can buy the chewable tablets and be prepared for any rough seas on your cruise. It’s supposed to make most people less drowsy than Dramamine but your experience may differ.
For those who want a drug-free approach to handling seasickness, a company called Sea-Band has created a wristband for natural relief. It may not work for everyone, but if it works for you then you may not have to take any Bonine or Dramamine to take care of any nausea you are experiencing.
34. Ginger candy
Ginger is another natural remedy for motion sickness. Ginger has been shown to be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting, and it is safe for most people to consume. Ginger candies are a convenient and easy way to take ginger for motion sickness, and they can be found at most drugstores and grocery stores.
Never underestimate how badly you will need some aloe after you have also underestimated how badly you were cooking under that tropical sun. Sure, you can just buy this in the shop on the cruise ship, but it will cost you a pretty penny and you will be so desperate to get some relief from your skin burning you probably won’t even hesitate. Bring a small bottle of it instead.
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