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What to Pack? And How Do I Make it all Fit?

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Packing for any vacation can be challenging, especially if you're flying and trying not to check multiple bags. But add a cruise to your vacation itinerary and the task becomes plain daunting. You need clothes for swimming, casual activities, dress-up dinners, pirate night (on the Disney cruise), and OH YEAH your cabin has very little storage space to hold it all. What to do? Two starting points for your consideration:

First, you will not need nearly as many clothes as you think you will

Second, there are washer/dryer facilities on your cruise ship if you really get stuck (or have a diaper blow-out).

When I start packing for our cruise, I first consider what activities may be occurring for which I would need special outfits or equipment. For example, will we be swimming, snorkeling, hiking, getting dressed up for dinner, etc. I set clothes for those activities aside first: swim suits, water shoes, sneakers, etc. On the Disney cruise, "cruise casual" attire is recommended for most meals, but some will be formal or semi-formal. Even for kids, "cruise casual" means long pants (no shorts), capris, or skirts. Note that jeans are acceptable. Typically on a seven night cruise you will have only one formal night, two semi-formal, one pirate night, and the rest will be cruise casual. You will generally only be in your dinner clothes for a couple hours and so I do plan for family members to wear an evening/dinner outfit more than once or select outfits that can be mixed and matched. I also try to keep outfits in one color family so that only one pair of dress shoes will be needed per person. You really don't need anything special for pirate night. You will receive a Mickey Pirate bandanna at dinner that you can wear if you desire. Use eyeliner to create a pirate beard or scar, a big hoop earring and you're all set! Some people do really get dressed up for pirate night, but this is totally optional. Note that you will also see a wide variety of attire on "formal night." If you want to get super dressed up, you can, but you will also see people in clothing closer to cruise casual.

Once I've laid out clothes for special events, activities, and dining, I pack the basics: pajamas, underwear, shorts, and shirts. While initially I lay out clothing for every day of the cruise, I then cut back significantly. The reality is that, especially on sea days, you will be changing clothes regularly and not staying in one outfit for any significant period of time. As an example, you get up and get dressed for breakfast in shorts and a t-shirt. Then, you decide to work-out and change into workout clothing. Afterwards, you change into your swimsuit and go swimming, throw on a cover-up to eat lunch, then swim after lunch. Maybe in the middle of the afternoon you change back into shorts and a shirt, or you may get showered and ready for dinner. Generally, that shirt and/or shorts you had on at breakfast can be worn another time. Again, I try to pack outfits that can be mixed and matched so it's not so obvious that clothing is being re-worn. I do recommend packing more than one bathing suit per person if you are taking a Caribbean cruise. You will get use out of those bathing suits! I find that I don't use cover-ups a lot, but just wear shorts and t-shirts over swimsuits instead. As for workout clothes, I try to be realistic. As much as I would like to work out each day, it generally doesn't happen. If I'm lucky, I get to the gym 2 times and I pack accordingly. I also encourage my kids to limit their clothing -- they really don't need two pairs of flip flops or sandals. One will do. Shoes in particular are very heavy, so I try to limit those as much as possible. I also roll up all clothing so that I have more space in the suitcases for packing. You can find videos on You Tube showing how to pack.

So what do I pack for a 7-night Caribbean cruise? Here goes.

For the men/boys:

1 pair of pjs

7 pairs of underwear

2 bathing suits

1 pair of water shoes/flip flops/sandals (depending on activities scheduled)

1 pair of dress shoes

1 pair of sneakers

4 pairs of shorts

4 t-shirts

4 dress shirts (usually polo style or button down)

1 pair of jeans

1 pair of khaki or dress pants

1 long sleeve oxford shirt and tie (jacket for the husband)

3 pair of socks

For the ladies:

1 pair of pajamas

7 pairs of underwear

2 swim suits

1 pair of flip flops/water shoes

1 pair of sandals that can also be worn at dinner

1 pair of sneakers

1 pair of heels/dress shoes

4 pairs of shorts

4 casual shirts

1 dressy dress that packs easily

2 skirts

1 pair of jeans

1 pair of capris

4-5 dressier tops that can mix and match with the skirts, jeans, capris

Work out clothes (if desired)

If you are going on an Alaskan cruise, you will want some rain gear (it frequently rains during the summer months) as well as gloves, hats, and coats to keep you warm. Bringing clothes that can be layered is key.

Happy packing!!

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