Right after my twins turned 3 we went on a 7-day Caribbean cruise. The trip was a wonderful experience and gave me a much-needed break. I wanted to share some tips with you that helped make the trip a smooth and enjoyable one for us.
1. Fill out all of your paperwork online before your cruise begins.
If your child is going to attend the Camp on the cruise ship or another childcare option on the boat, it is better to already have your contact and emergency contact information already on file. If you are traveling with family, place all the members that will be eligible to pick up your child from the childcare room on the list. Don’t assume that only you will be picking him or her up.
2. Bring ID/Badge Holders
I like to save money, so taking our own ID/Badge holders saved us a couple of dollars and was extremely useful. On the boat you will always need to keep your Cruise ID cards with you so this made it extremely easy to carry our cards and our kids cards with us.
The cards open your doors and help you get back on the ship when you leave the boat so you will need to have an easy way to keep the cards with if you don’t always carry a purse, or wallet.
3. Pack Light
Don’t take too many carry-ons or luggage items. I had two children to watch while entering and exiting the cruise ship so having less luggage to keep up with is better.
You can bring many outfits for the trip but bring light-weight clothing. We went to a warm place so we packed: 4 pairs of pajamas for each child, 7 casual outfits and 6 dressy outfits a-piece for each child. 3 types of shoes for the kids: 1 pair of flip/flops or sandals, casual close-toe, and rubber-sole dressy shoes. I also packed 3 alternate shirts if there was an unplanned spill. At the time my children were already potty-trained so I wasn’t worried about other kinds of accidents; however, if you are, you should throw in 3 extra bottoms as well.
Make sure you like one of the dressy outfits enough for family pictures. On the way to dinner in the restaurants there are great opportunities to take pictures. There is an extra cost of about $20 per picture, but if the results are great, why not.
**Bonus tip** Roll Your Clothes For Added Space
I rolled all of our clothes to get all the outfits in my suitcase. I really like the ease and separation provided by eBags packing cubes.
Keep in mind that on a cruise one of the main attractions is eating so don’t forget to include your child’s bib (if he or she is young enough to wear bibs) or something to cover their clothes during meals.
**Bonus tip** Take Clothespins
You may also want to include a hand-full of clothespins to hang up your swim suits after you take a swim. Your bathroom room will probably already have a little clothes line over the shower area, but clothespins will give you a little more room.
4. Pack Comfortable Rubber-soled Shoes
Make sure all the shoes you plan to wear have a rubber-sole. The boat is lovely, but there are times when it does rock and sway. Traction on the bottoms of your shoes is a must-have and not optional; especially when you may need to be quick and on your feet with your toddler.
5. Pack a wrinkle releaser spray
Irons aren’t allowed in rooms. While some cruise lines have ironing rooms and laundry services onboard, but it is also quick and easy just to spray it with a wrinkle releaser (aff). I recommend you pack clothes that don’t need ironing.
6. Bring a laundry basket.
I brought a mesh collapsible laundry basket from Target that was absolutely perfect. You will accumulate a lot of laundry so having a neat place to put your laundry is important to keep your area neat and clean. A basket that folds small (aff) is preferable.
7. Bring your own water
The dinning areas will have water, but if you are thirsty in your room, have your own bottled water on hand. This will help limit the extra fees that may appear on your bill after you’ve finished cruising. If you’re flying, consider taking a filtered water bottle onto the boat so you can drink filtered tap water.
8. Enjoy the Childcare
The ship offers safe licensed childcare during the day and is great! My husband and I are very particular about who we let watch our children, but we visited the camp and met the workers. I felt at ease allowing them to watch our children. We didn’t use the service as much as I wish we did :-D, but we used it enough that my kids still remember how much fun they had and really enjoyed themselves.
The camps during the day are free and they also offer babysitting services during the late hours (10 pm-3 am) for a reasonable cost. The camps also give you a cruise-friendly pager or cellphone while your child is in their care if they need to get in touch with you quickly.
Some of the 2-5 year old camps do change diapers/ pull-ups. If your child needs these items label them and bring them to the camp instructor so they will be on hand if they are necessary. I highly recommend cruising after your child is at least day-time potty trained. I think your child will be able to do more and your will have more peace of mind.
9. Bring a Walkie-talkie
We had a lot of children in our group so the adults had a walkie-talkie/ 2-way radio so the kids could communicate with each other. Our cellphones did not work at sea.
In this day and time, I am sure you will have a couple extra tech gadgets with you so you may need more plugs than the room has available in order to charge all of your items. In the first couple of days while you are out at sea, explore the ship. If you need some time to adjust to the boat and the ocean air, have some good digital books on your electronic devices, which will help relax you. It can be helpful to bring multiple charging options, but keep in mind some ships don’t want you to bring an extension cord, but it could be useful.
There will also be a safe in your room so store your gadgets there while not in use.
10. Bring a big carry-on foldable bag.
When you get on the boat, it takes a long time for your luggage to arrive so pack everything you may need to hold you over until your luggage arrives. Also when you get off the boat when you are at a port or about to go on an excursion you will want to take everything you need for the day with you. A cute carry-on will serve the purpose of keeping your essentials together such as your Id/Badge Card, camera, passport/ID wallet, change of clothes (for you and your toddler), swimsuits, etc. Getting a foldable bag (aff) is helpful just in case you need to consolidate the amount of luggage you have with you when flying. If you take medicine keep some in a medicine container always even when you leave the boat, just in case you may need it; especially, if you or your child suffers from allergies.
11. Child-proof the room if you have a very active toddler
Not all kids are outlet curious, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, take a handful of outlet covers, but don’t forget to remove them before you leave.
12. Ask for a crib/ twin/ bump-beds
If your child normally sleeps on his or her own, make sure they will also be sleeping on their own on your vacation, because you probably don’t want to bring new habits home with you. Thankfully twins sleep together in a bed without a problem.
13. Bring a favorite toy
There will be times when you need to occupy your child while you have to wait for something, you can either give him or her a toy to play with or your can sing songs together to occupy your child. For instance, I highly recommend that you go to all meals early; especially dinners. We preferred the dressy dinners and had to arrive early enough to get through the lines quickly without having a long wait.
If you have a special night routine that your child is use to at home, then you should duplicate this while on the cruise. It will help your child feel more comfortable and safe while on your trip. Some kids also have a favorite toy they sleep with or a security blanket. If so, bring one of these items along to help insure a happy child. We cruised 7 days which can be a long time so you want to keep it as normal as possible, even while traveling.
14. Bring or rent an umbrella stroller
Bring your own umbrella stroller if you don’t want to pay for one on the ship. Sometimes kids want to sleep through dinner so a stroller is important if your toddler is young and may not to walk during certain times.
The prices on the ship are reasonable, which equals about $25 per week or $6 per day.
15. Know the Schedule
There is always something going on. Make sure you are aware of the schedule and ready to have fun. Participate in everything that you can without overloading yourself, but make the most of this opportunity!
Moms and dads, I also recommend getting a massage while onboard. This does costs, but enjoying a day at the spa while your kid is in camp is a great way to relax.
Set up alerts on your phone so that you won’t miss important events and time restraints.
16. Bring extra money for tips
Tips are usually added to your bill at the end of each day. The fee typically is $11.50 per day per guest, including your toddler. On the last day of your cruise you will probably accumulate a sizable bill that will go on your credit card, just be aware of this beforehand and factor it into your overall budget.
There are also other people who you may want to tip such as the luggage people when entering the ship, the cap drivers if you use a cab, and other services you may use that are not directly related to the cruise staff.
Always be nice and cordial to the people serving you. Consider leaving a thank you note in your room and a little something extra to let your room attendee know how much you appreciated the service that was provided.
Overall, we really enjoyed our cruise. My kid’s loved it and for weeks asked when they were going on a cruise again. Thinking back, I would have used the camps everyday when they were open to give myself so more “me” time. As a stay-at-home mom, it was a little hard to let go at first, but the more comfortable you are, they more comfortable they will be. Just discuss it with them before you drop them off to prepare them.
Here’s another cruise checklist that you made find helpful.
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