Taking Your Kids On a Cruise? Our Top 6 Tips

I recently took my two daughters, ages five and seven, on a cruise by myself. It was amazing! We had a great time with minimal hiccups. I hope the memories we made don’t fade as fast as our tans. Since this was their first cruise and my first cruise in recent years, I did a lot of research on taking your kids on a cruise–and I learned a lot.

I am going to share my tips for anyone thinking about taking a cruise with kids.

1. Research! 

Any time I take a trip, I do a lot of research. I am a planner by nature (former teacher here!) and I like to know what we are doing each day. Sometimes this drives my travel partners crazy, but I feel like it helps us maximize our vacation.

I researched several cruise lines, itineraries, excursions, modes of transportation to and from port, and everything in between. This allowed for us to have a seamless cruising experience with very little stress. I showed the kids lots of pictures of the ship and YouTube videos so they would get excited about our vacation.

2. Prepare your kids.

Things that are done on a cruise are very different from most vacation destinations. For example, I didn’t want my daughters to panic when they heard about the Muster Drill we had to do upon embarkation. I walked them through the whole thing before we even left for vacation. It can be scary and overwhelming for kids because it truly is organized chaos, and our cruise line handled it perfectly.

If you have a child who has sensory issues and is sensitive to loud noises, maybe pack noise canceling headphones because the sirens are loud! 

3. Wear comfy shoes.

This seems like a no-brainer but I was shocked by how much walking we did on the ship. We walked about five to six miles a day! I also carried blister band aids for little toes that kept getting injured. I always carry band aids with me when I travel because I have an accident prone child, but blister band aids or moleskin bandages are great for trips when you are doing a lot of walking. 

4. Don’t overpack.

Per usual, I overpacked for this trip. I really thought we would be changing clothes multiple times a day. This was not the case. One outfit during the day and a change of clothes for dinner and a lot of bathing suits. Check your sailing itinerary to see if there are any formal nights or theme nights during your sailing.  

5. Don’t over-plan.

It is my nature to want to jam pack every minute of my vacation with activities. This is very easy to do with a cruise. There is something going on all the time and you could keep yourself really busy if you wanted to.

My advice is this: don’t feel compelled to jam pack every minute. Take time to enjoy the amenities that your ship has to offer. If you signed up for something and everyone seems tired, skip it. If your kiddos would rather hit the breakfast buffet than a sit down meal, go for it. The great thing about cruising is that it is a vacation that is truly designed by you. 

6. Don’t forget about the passports.

If you are cruising to most Caribbean islands, a passport might not be necessary. But, it makes embarking and disembarking and going through customs much easier. Keep in mind that passports are costly and they take several weeks to receive so if your cruise is coming up, you might not have time to get a passport.

Children’s passports are only good for five years and adult passports are good for 10. If you think you will be traveling outside of the country in the near future, it might not be a bad idea to invest in one. 

Sample Packing List For Your Cruise

Here are a few things you’ll want to make sure to pack for your cruise!

  • Portable charger: While you might not have cell reception at sea, your cruise line most likely uses an app to help you navigate your vacation
  • Sanitizer: Hand sanitizer, spray, and wipes are all essential to have on a cruise to ensure you don’t pick up something nasty like norovirus or other viruses that can run rampant on cruise ships.
  • First aid kit: Bring a small first aid kit with bandages, basic medication, and other necessities in case you or your family need it.
  • Motion sickness medication: Pills, patches, or wristbands are all great things to pack in case your family experiences motion sickness. 
  • Cash/singles: Most of your cruise staff relies on gratuities from guests aboard ship, so make sure you pack some cash for your Head Server, Assistant Server, Maitre’D, and Room Attendant. Some cruise lines offer the ability to pre-pay gratuities but sometimes it is nice to be able to give them a little extra if their service was above and beyond. Also, singles are great to have if you enjoy ordering room service to tip your server. Typically a dollar or two per item is appropriate. 

All in all we thoroughly enjoyed cruising. We can’t wait until our next adventure. For our next cruise, we are thinking Alaska!

Heading up north this summer? Prima-Marie shares the do’s and don’ts of Mackinac Island!


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