Packing for a cruise vacation when traveling with small children or toddlers is an important task. Follow these tips for a happy and successful cruise. Cruising with toddlers can be a very rewarding experience, but it pays to be well organized before you embark. Having the right equipment packed can make the difference between a successful and a stressful vacation experience.
Check out the Cruise Ship Itinerary
Firstly, find out what the ship has on offer for toddlers. If there is a children’s program, what activities typically occur? Finding out that crafting or dancing is offered can give you an idea about what type of clothing your child will require. Comfortable clothing that is easy to move about in is important. Preparing for activities such as painting with clothing that you don’t mind getting soiled reduces your own stress when they return proudly with their masterpiece and a freshly painted shirt.
Most cruise lines have ‘theme nights’. Your toddler will enjoy dressing up. Check out what the theme nights are going to be, and choose costumes or accessories before you go. Purchasing these items on board is an unnecessary expense. Make sure you dress up as well, and have your photos taken with the photographer.
Look at the ports of call next. If your cruise is stopping in tropical climates you will require different items than if you are stopping in large cities or in cooler climes. In cooler areas it would pay to pack easy to dry thermal layers, such as merino undershirts. These will keep your toddler warm without bulky layers. Merino will also continue to warm your child even when it gets wet, which is a terrific advantage. A waterproof jacket is a great idea, especially one that can easily be rolled into a backpack. Traveling ashore with spare socks and waterproof trousers will provide you with a lot of flexibility for weather changes. A warm hat that can be tied under the chin should keep your child at a comfortable temperature.
In warmer climes, you will need some strong sandals. Shoes designed for allowing air to travel around the foot as well as supporting the arches are important. Make sure the shoes can also get wet. You do not want your children on the beach barefoot, so aqua booties, Crocs or Teva style sandals are well worth the investment. You will need to bring a sunhat ashore as sunburn especially from the reflected light from the ocean is common and painful. A high spectrum waterproof sunscreen and insect repellent is crucial. Aim for a spray on sunscreen or a color change sunscreen so that you know your child is covered. Having a light over-shirt or a rash vest is important in the heat of the day to prevent burning. Watch the time as you will need to re-apply sunscreen more frequently because of the water and heat. A tropical strength insect repellent is ideal. Aim for a roll-on variety or a non-aerosol spray. Some cruise lines do not allow aerosol cans, and most airlines do not either.
No matter where you land, your toddler should carry their own backpack. Try to keep this fairly light, but it is important for their sense of independence to have their own bag. Pack their water bottle, a coin purse with the correct currency in it, and smaller spare items. Have them carry their own spare socks or tee shirt. Remember to include a card in the bag with your child’s name, cruise line name and cruise number, and the ships departure time. If you have global cellular roaming, include your own contact details. Being prepared for lost gear, or a lost child is important. In busy venues, consider a strap to connect you to your child, so they can still walk by themselves but you can keep them nearby.
You will not be able to remove food from the boat. However, traveling with single-serve sachets of formula or powdered juice will mean that you can mix something up on shore if you need to. Ask politely at a local cafe or restaurant if you can purchase milk usually works well onshore. Your cruise line will most likely take water stations over to the port, so aim to drink this rather than local water.
You will need to bring a sippy-cup or plastic tumblers that your child is used to. Drinking from the glasses offered on board can be challenging for small children. Peace of mind is also a key benefit for you. A water bottle is a must, especially for shore days. A bottle that your child can carry in their own backpack is a good idea. Their backpack can be carried around on board with things they need during the day.
A few carefully selected items in the bag can make sitting in the restaurant or waiting for a show easier for all. Colored pencils and a coloring book, small toys as cars or dolls can be entertaining, and easy to manage quiet time. A storybook is also a good idea. If you have an iPod Touch or iPad, load coloring applications, children’s movies, and age appropriate games for a quick and easy solution to entertaining a small child.
Make time to spend with your toddler. Borrowing a board game from the games room or reading stories can be great for winding down. Taking your own bottles on board and filling them up for when your child goes down for a nap is a good idea. Travel with formula if you use it, but be prepared to leave an opened can on board. Take disposable diapers or pull ups with you, as being caught short on shore or away from a bathroom on board can happen.
If your cruise ship has a swimming pool, remember to bring swim-diapers, the kind that can either be re-used or disposed of. Swimming goggles are a great idea. The pool will either be salt water from the sea or chlorinated. Goggles will save a great deal of eye-pain later. For long hair, use water-proof hairbands, the rubbery kind that don’t slip out. This will mean their hair will stay tied up, and you won’t be searching for missing hair ties onshore.
Clothing and Laundry
You will probably want to make the most of the on board laundry. Take the correct currency for the coin operated machines on board, and your own laundry powder to avoid allergies. These industrial machines are fast and efficient, but some clothing is not suited to them. Try to take lightweight clothing that can be tumble dried. For items such as swimwear, take a camping clothesline- the elasticated kind with built in pegs. Trying delicate items and swimwear in the bathroom is a huge bonus, especially as the industrial driers often can ruin your togs.
Cruising with a toddler is a rewarding experience, but packing correctly is the key to making sure you can relax and enjoy your vacation.