These Easy, Expert-approved Packing Tips Will Make Your Next Cruise Vacation Even Better

T+L’s ultimate guide to packing smart for your next cruise.

Luggage besides a docked cruised ship
Most ships offer more than you’ll ever need, but bringing along a few extras can take a trip from good to great. Photo:


Some say the best thing about traveling by ship is that you only have to unpack once. But what’s inside your suitcase can make the difference between a smooth sail and a frustrating time at sea. We tapped leading experts in cruise travel for their advice on the must-haves for your next departure.

Strong Magnetic Hooks

“Most cruise ship walls are metal,” says Eric Goldring of Goldring Travel, a cruise specialist and member of T+L’s A-List of travel advisors. “Small hooks are great for hanging hats, bags, and the like — things that aren’t suited for drawers — and they’re particularly useful on the back of the bathroom door.”

A Packable Backpack

A man on a bridge in London wearing a backpack

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“I’m not much of a ‘gear’ gal,” says Mary Curry of Adventure Life, another A-List member. “But a super-compact backpack, one that you can throw in your suitcase on the way there, is perfect for bringing souvenirs home.”

A Sleep Kit

A woman sleeping with a sleep mask on in a bright room

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“I also always bring an eye mask,” Curry says. “Cruises in polar areas often have a lot more light than you expect!”

Mobile Protection

Phone in a waterproof case beside a pool

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“Whether you’re going to a beach, jumping in a Zodiac, or dodging a rain shower, it’s a good idea to have a waterproof bag or case for your phone,” says Rob Clabbers, a member of T+L’s Travel Advisory Board and president of Q Cruise & Travel.

Your Favorite Travel Mug

A red metal coffee tumbler

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“Small luxury cruises now provide almost everything you’d need — suites on Scenic are even equipped with Dyson hair dryers plus all the attachments,” says Mary Ann Ramsey, an A-List advisor with Betty Maclean Travel. “But I always pack a no-spill Yeti tumbler so I can bring my coffee on early morning excursions.”

An International Data Plan

“Most carriers offer monthly data plans that make overseas travel that much easier,” says Ashton Palmer, an A-List expert and president of Expedition Trips.

A Magnifying Mirror

“Many clients tell me that a makeup mirror is a welcome addition to a cabin bathroom,” Palmer says. “Not all ships have them.”

A version of this story first appeared in the February 2023 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "All in the Details."

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