How to Go On a Cruise Economically with Kids Under 12

Going on a cruise can be an enjoyable and economical way to travel with your family. A little preparation can let you focus on having fun! Happy cruising! Here are many helpful things you might not think to bring on a cruise.


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    Take along lanyards for security. The purser can punch a hole in your sail and sign card, much easier than trying to carry the card around in a wallet/purse/pocket. This is especially great for kids (5+), because they are less likely lose their card.
    • Note: go to the purser and request that your younger kids do not have any signing privileges just in case the card gets lost and someone tries to use it. Also if you can find those small flat watertight containers, that helps for shore excursions so you don't have to bring a purse/wallet.
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    Use plastic compression bags (the ones you squeeze or vacuum the air out of) for packing. You can pack everyone's clothes separately (tops, bottoms, underwear, swimsuits, dressy items). This way when you get those weird, awkward, small shelves (like on Norwegian), you can shove 2 or 3 bags in each (the lowest ones can go to the youngest kids) and you can save your drawer space for other junk items like hairbrushes, itineraries/those daily sheets, sunscreen, etc. that needs to be contained. This makes packing a snap, keeps your clothes clean and most of all, helps you find where your clothes are without digging!
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    Include a pop-up laundry basket. Everyone's dirty laundry goes in it and it makes keeping your dirty clothes separate and contained; the room is small enough! Leave it in the bathroom under the sink. Later on in the week, when they offer the laundry special, you can easily sort the clean clothes back into the compression bags which makes packing and unpacking (when you get home) a breeze.
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    Don't forget an extension cord/power strip. You're likely to have tons of things to plug in: cell phones, Game Boy charger, portable DVD player, etc.
    • A nightlight is essential, especially if you have an interior cabinet and little kids. It gets pitch black in the interior rooms and you cannot see a thing with the lights out. Also, it makes the kids feel better in case they wake up during the night.
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    Pack plenty of wide mouth water bottles. Make your own drinks, and fill it with ice and water and it stays cold during those shore excursions.
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    Add an alarm clock. You might be on vacation and want no time constraints, but with kids, it helps you make it to dinner, shows, and classes, but most importantly, when you need to go and pick up the kids!
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    Take spray sunscreen, an SPF 45 face cream, bug spray (depending on where you go) a little thing of hand sanitizer, and if you are really crazy like me, a small bottle of anti-bacterial dish soap (for the water bottles) which doubles as hand soap in the bathroom. If you are super neat, use antibacterial wipes (especially in winter, to wipe down the door handles, phone and bathroom). With current airline restrictions, they might have to go in your checked luggage. Keep them in zip lock bags and you can use those bags on the trip.
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    Bring a portable DVD player. It keeps the kids busy while traveling and while you're dressing for dinner. You can also use it as a CD player.
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    Include a set of walkie-talkies; they are great and help you communicate. Note this only works if both people actually turn them on (batteries help too!). If you forget, some cruise ships have them for rent approx. $50 for a week.
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    Make sure everyone brings a good attitude! Things will go wrong, and the only way you'll get through the week is if you all keep smiling!


  • Do your research! Try or one of the other travel websites. Read the reviews. Look up info about the different stops so you have a plan on what you can do.
  • Try to bring your own snorkel gear, you can buy it cheaply at home, esp. at the end of the summer. If you borrow it from the cruise ship it's approx $25 per day per person. Up to you-life vests for little ones. Check about the boat's swim diaper policy.
  • Make sure to pack a change of clothes, any medications, and swim/reading stuff in your carry on so you can start your vacation as soon as you get on board. If you get there early, you might not be able to go into the rooms until later and your luggage can get delayed.
  • Bring things and small snacks to keep your kids busy during dinner.
  • If you are planning to rent cars often (e.g. cruises in Hawaii), bring your own car seat.
  • Spa services are cheaper on port days, they also run specials during the week. Look in the daily sheets. Also if you are interested the spa usually has tours on the embarkation day and offer discounts if you book then.
  • Sign up for the kids' camp on the embarkation day. Get a copy of the ship map and walk around the ship to get your orientation.
  • Talk to your kids in advance; make up the rules together (no jumping overboard, no running around the pool, staying together, trying new foods, no nose picking in public, etc.)
  • Bring clothes that have similar and coordinating colors so everything is easy to match and you can limit the pairs of shoes. It also makes it easy for the kids to dress themselves.


  • The under-bed cot for little kids: small children can roll off the cot in the middle of the night and get stuck under the bed. This can be solved by using the life preservers as buffers.
  • Pays to do a little research and not just book shore excursions for convenience. For certain places that are more dangerous (e.g. Jamaica) or are farther away, it is worth it to book through the shore excursion desk. If their bus/trip gets delayed, the boat has to wait for you. If you use your own transportation, they are not required to wait for you.
  • Bring your passport and credit cards on shore excursions. Heaven forbid you get stranded, you'll need that to get to the next stop on the cruise.
  • Always ask about how much things cost in advance!
    • Always ask the cab driver, how much per person, and how much for kids and if they charge for kids under 3. Most places, you can negotiate the price.
    • If menu prices are not posted, check first how much it will cost.
    • At the markets/street vendors, make sure to haggle over price and be prepared to walk away.

Things You'll Need

  • Suggested things
    • lanyards
    • plastic compression bags
    • pop up laundry basket
    • extension cord/power strip
    • nightlight
    • wide mouth polycarbonate water bottles
    • alarm clock
    • spray sunscreen from Neutrogena
    • SPF 45 face cream
    • bug spray
    • sanitizer/antibacterial wipes
    • anti-bacterial dish soap
    • zipper-style storage bags
    • portable DVD player
    • Ipod
    • walkie-talkies
    • batteries for everything
    • camera
    • swim/snorkel gear
  • Optional stuff
    • Car seat
    • waterproof container

Article Info

Categories: Travel Cruises