Packing for a cruise may seem like a daunting task, but in reality it not all that different from packing for any land based vacation. As much as I’d love to write a definite packing for your Disney Cruise post, I do not think that is possible. The reality is that we all travel differently; we all have different packing needs and different levels of luggage restrictions based on how we are traveling to the cruise terminal. I’m going to start with the most important thing you need to have well before it is time to pack your luggage.
The most important items you will need when cruising will be your personal documents such as passports, state-issued birth certificates and government-issued photo ID. At the present time, you are not required to have a passport to sail on a closed loop cruise (a cruise that starts and ends in the same port), but this can change at any time. This is not a Disney Cruise Line rule; it is a government regulation. For the most up to date information, I suggest consulting the US State Department’s website for the latest travel restrictions.
There are pros and cons to having passports, with the biggest con being the upfront cost for a family. However, we have sailed with and without passports, and I feel it has worth the investment; plus it provides an added bit of insurance if something were to happen while you are out of the country and needed to fly home. If you already have passports, check the expiration dates to make sure they do not expire before or during your vacation.
Take a few minutes to read the cruise document section of the literature that Disney provides to ensure you have the all required documentation based on your cruise itinerary and citizenship. If you do not have the required travel documentation, you will NOT be allowed to board the ship and you will not receive a refund! No amount of pixie dust will help you if you do not have the proper documentation!
Once you have your government required travel documents in order, it is time to organize the remaining cruise documents that you printed and signed when you checked in online, or received in the mail. We keep our check-in documents in a folder that we keep in our carry on bags for easy access throughout the port arrival and check-in process.
At check-in, you will need to present all required documentation, and proof of citizenship for each member of your family. If you are traveling with a minor without their parent or legal guardian you will need a completed Minor Authorization Form.
Disney Cruise Packing List
We are all different, so there is no possible way my family’s packing list will work for you and your family. I wish there was a universal packing list we could all use, but I think we can all agree that is not going to work. Instead, I am going to try and focus more on the important items that may not be so obvious to newer cruisers and offer some tips that may make packing for your next cruise about 1% less hectic
Over the years, we’ve developed a packing list that is constantly being updated, we even take it with us on our cruises to make changes when we think of them. Here is a cruise packing list for use as a starting point to develop your customized packing list. This list is the boiled down version of our list with some basic items that you may find helpful when packing for your next cruise.
I would like to point out a few items that are on my must pack list:
- Travel Documents – I realize I covered this already, but it is really important. Keep these documents with you and do not pack them in your checked luggage, you will need to have quick access to these documents during the check-in process.
- Sun Protection – I cannot stress this enough – bring extra sunscreen. You are not going to enjoy your vacation once you have a sunburn. Plus, if you run out, it is one of those items that is not cheap to replace onboard. Also, be sure to reapply often.
- Watch – Even though you are on vacation, is very useful to know the current time on a cruise, especially when you venture ashore on port days. The ship is on a time schedule, and unless you are on a Disney Cruise Line Port Adventure, the ship will not wait for if you are running late. It is also important to set your watch to ship time, which depending on your itinerary and time of year, could be different from the local time.
- Travel Mugs – good news; up on the pool deck there are free self-serve soda machines. The bad news is that the cups provided are the small ones found in the parks. There is, however, one catch; you must use the disposable cups to refill your personal travel mug. If you have never cruised before, you will quickly learn that cleanliness and preventing the spread of germs is a top concern on all cruise ships. It may seem like you are wasting a cup, but you are doing your part to keep everyone from getting sick.
- Highlighters – Each evening, a Personal Navigator will be delivered to your stateroom. The Personal Navigator is essentially the schedule of events and activities available for the following day. Before we turn in for the night, we look over the schedule and highlight the activities we would like to do the next day. If your family plans to do separate activities, use a different color highlighter for each person. This way, you can have a master schedule to keep track of the kids and each other.
- Cash – Keep in mind that you do not need cash on the ship, but it does come in handy while venturing ashore paying for cabs, or grabbing something to eat at a local restaurant. We try to have a decent amount of smaller bills available for easy tipping.
- Sweater – I tend to find the air conditioning a little too much for my liking. I’ve stopped at the gift shop on the way from dinner to the show to buy a sweater on more than one occasion.
- Medications – You will be leaving the country, and while there is a medical center onboard, it is in your best interest to bring more than you need, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
- Sea Sickness Aids – This would normally fall under medications, but I did not want it to go unnoticed. We usually do not have any issues with sea sickness, but that does not mean it has never happened. When our daughter was younger we packed Sea-Bands for our daughter to have her wear them on the first night as preventative measure.
- Rain coat/Poncho – living in Florida you get accustomed to the rain, but it is never fun to be soaked. Our raincoats live in our car for a reason, and depending on where we are cruising I make sure they put in our luggage when we head to the port. On more than one occasion, we have encountered inclement weather during Port Adventures in the Caribbean, as well as rain upon returning to Port Canaveral. Depending on your rain coat, it can also double as a light jacket/windbreaker for times when it is cooler on the open decks.
- Trash bags – In addition to rain coats, I pack a large trash bags in my camera bag, and any other bag we may take out on an excursion. In the event we are caught in a down pour, we can quickly and easily protect our bags from getting soaked! The trash bags can also be helpful at the end of the cruise if you have wet swim suits you need to pack.
- Alcoholic Beverages – One of the great things about Disney Cruise Line is that you can carry on your own beer or wine to consume in your stateroom with limitations. Disney does require you to carry-on your beverages to prevent accidental damage to other guests’ luggage if a bottle breaks. If you choose to bring a bottle of wine to dinner, just keep in mind a corking fee will be charged.
- Multi-port USB Charger – There are a few outlets in the room, but they can be a hot commodity and since DCL no longer permits surge protectors a multi-port USB charger is a great way to charge multiple USB devices while only using one of the staterooms electrical outlets.
- Thank You Cards – instead of just using the tip envelopes provided, we place the gratuity tickets in with a thank you card which my wife adds a personal note to each person. On longer cruises, you can really become close with your serving team and stateroom host/hostess. In a way, they almost become an extended family member.
- Return Address Labels – On the last night of your cruise, you will receive luggage tags in your stateroom to affix to your bags before you set your luggage outside your stateroom. Instead of writing your name and address on each tag, we’ve found it really easy to just stick on a return address label.
- Air Freshener – I really do not need to explain this one; just grab a small travel size spray. I’ve also been told this product is a must pack for any cruise vacation.
- Beach Blanket – We’ve found having a light-weight, packable beach blanket is worth its weight in gold. We use the Grand Trunk parasheet. It is not waterproof, but does a great job repelling the sand!
I wish a had a Fairy Godmother that could say those magical words and all my clothes would be packed; but that is not the case. In fact, this is the least desirable part of my pre-cruise planning. Luckily, my wife devised an excellent worksheet we use to plan what we will need for each day of our cruise. Click here to download a copy of our clothes packing worksheet. This worksheet will accommodate up to a seven-night cruise. Start by entering the scheduled ports of call each day. Next, note any planned excursions and dinning reservations at Palo or Remy. With that information, just make a note of what you will wear each day.
Packing for fun in the sun, hiking in Alaska, or exploring Europe is one thing, but you also need to consider what you will be wearing to dinner and the shows. For most evenings, dinner attire is cruise casual. Depending on your cruise, you may also have Semi-Formal and Formal evenings. If you plan have dinner at the adult-only restaurants (Palo and Remy), you will need to dress more formally than you would at the rotational restaurants. There is one unique exception to the dress attire, and that is Pirate Night, where Disney encourages everyone to dress up in their best pirate costumes. Pirate night is for everyone; not just the kids! One thing I do is stage my clothes on the bed then remove a few items as I am a chronic over packer. The ships have self service laundry facilities so you can always pack lighter and wash clothes on the ship.
Once you have your stuff ready to pack into your suitcase, consult Disney Cruise Line’s list of prohibited items. If found, these items will be confiscated by security and returned at the end of your cruise. Just remember, surge protectors and extension cords are not permitted so plan ahead on how you will charge your devices and camera batteries.
Pack A Carry On
Last, but not least, plan what you will pack in a carry on bag carefully. You should take everything you and your family members may need on embarkation day. First and foremost, make sure you have all your travel documents and identification with you, and ensure they are easily accessible to avoid check-in delays. You will need these documents immediately upon arrival to the port. Depending on when you arrive you may board the ship before the staterooms are ready which is usually around 1:30 PM, your checked luggage will be delivered the hallway outside your stateroom piece by piece up to 5:00 PM.
If you plan to be onboard earlier in the day and want to swim or just enjoy the pool deck, make sure you pack swim suits and sun protection in your carry-on. Additionally, you should keep all your important documentation and medications with you to avoid any issues while you are waiting for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom.
Remember to take your final packing list with you so that you can make notes during your cruise while it is fresh in your head. It is also helpful to make note of things you packed and did not use and do not think you will need in the future. Keeping an updated customized packing list will make it easier the next time you are packing for the next cruise.
What are your must pack items? Is there anything you’ve packed but realized you never needed?