Our 25 Caribbean Cruise Packing Do’s and Don’ts (PLUS a free packing list!)
We’ve made EVERY mistake in the book when packing for our Caribbean Cruises and we’re sharing ALL of our Caribbean Cruise Packing tips and tricks so you can learn from our mistakes!
- Wrong sunscreen, CHECK!
- Burnt feet at the waterpark, CHECK!
- Shoes we regretted, CHECK!
Been there, made that Caribbean Cruise Packing blunder!
Today, we have a combo of do’s and don’ts AND a Caribbean cruise packing list to have you packing like a Caribbean Cruise PRO for your voyage to the magical Caribbean region. You can shop our handy-dandy cruise store anytime too, for carefully selected cruise essentials we reach for year-after-year.
Oh, and just a heads-up. The links contained in this article are affiliate links. What that means is as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. This does not affect the price you pay in any way. See disclaimer for more information.
While we’re talking mostly about cruise clothing & toiletries in this article, you can find tips and tricks on how to avoid common cruise cabin mistakes here or shop our stateroom essentials store here.
Let’s start with 15 things you SHOULD do when Caribbean Cruise Packing:
- Focus on breathable cotton clothing: Caribbean weather can be HOT, humid and sweat-inducing – especially during the summer months. So, when plotting out your Caribbean cruise packing list, we suggest you pack clothing made of lightweight fabric, including; swimsuit coverups, shorts & t-shirts. Try this: when you’re packing, ask yourself “does this item/fabric make me sweat under normal conditions?”. If the answer is YES, don’t pack it! For some, cotton is a good choice, as synthetic fabric’s don’t tend to “breathe” as well, but others swear by athletic wear and dry weave type fabrics. Wear what feels good to you!
- Pack comfortable shoes, like sandals, flip flops and sneakers: The key here is comfortable. By day, you’ll likely live in flip flops or sandals. By night, a step up for dinners around the ship may include sandals, wedges (for ladies) and dressy sneakers or dress shoes for me. And, don’t forget the athletic shoes! You may need close-toed sneakers for active excursions, like zip lining, on-ship sports like obstacle courses, roller coasters, and more! My husband and son swear by these cozy flip-flops from Reef, and I love these wedge flip flops from Flojos- just be sure to wear them in. Taking ANY type of new shoe on a cruise is a mistake, and could result in blisters.
- Cover your skin: The sun is fierce in the Caribbean, and you’re likely to sunburn fast. Sunscreen isn’t always enough, so consider items that offer UPF protection like rash guards. This is especially important if you’ll be spending lots of time in the water (or sun) or in situations where your sunscreen may wear off. For example, snorkeling, jet skiing, Flowrider. We’ve put together a collection of rash guards, swim wear, cover-ups and a few UPF protective clothing favorites that get good ratings on Amazon. Shop the idea list here.
- Pack your flight essentials: Remember to consider items that will make your flight more comfortable. We like to start with a nice lightweight bag (affiliate link) that slides over our carry on luggage, then pack phone chargers, earbuds, phone & device charging cables, a water bottle, snacks, wrap/shawl, face masks (if needed), a neck pillow (if your flight is long), lip balm or moisturizer, hand wipes, clorox wipes for surfaces. The portable charger will be useful on long port days too!
- Plan on doing laundry: Packing ultra light for your cruise? Plan to do laundry onboard. Chances are, you will get sweaty!
- Pack a waterproof phone case: inexpensive and durable, these bad boys (affiliate link) not only keep your phone dry, but they offer a secret spot to store your credit card and cash if you want to ditch your beach lounger for a swim in the Caribbean blue sea! This is NOT something I’d take on a cruise to Alaska, but warm weather, beachy destinations, you bet!
- Think through your toiletry & first aid list: Toiletries & medications are very personal, but we’ve noted some basic items to consider on the packing list at the top of this article. I like to start with things like ibuprofen, bandaids, baby powder, qtips, and work from there. Small amounts of medications, toiletries and first aid items are perfect. You can always buy more in port.
- Pack a hat: Just as we need to protect our skin, we want to protect our eyes & delicate scalps too! Baseball hats, floppy hats, trucker hats- doesn’t matter. Just protect your noggin!
- Pack a small amount of detergent: This (affiliate link) will come in handy for washing out swimsuits after long days at the beach. Oh, and pack a few clothespins (affiliate link) to hang those wet swimsuits up to dry.
- Invest in a good shore day bag or backpack: A good backpack or carry on bag can double as your embarkation day carry on bag where you keep your boarding documents, travel document holder, and a change of clothes. More on this later, but we like this beachy bag (affiliate link) that comes in tons of prints, this padded bag for flights, (affiliate link) and this lightweight backpack, (affiliate link) for starters!
- Pack a watch: Yep, a good old-fashioned wrist watch where YOU control the time. There may be time changes and you want to ensure you get back to the ship in time. Your smart watch or smart phone may not account for those time changes and we don’t want you to be a pier runner!
- Pack some ziploc style bags: Gone are the days when you need to settle for boring little baggies. These new designs (affiliate link) are fun, and make packing little items like makeup brushes, small toiletries, & batteries just a little more fun. And Caribbean cruise packing should be FUN!
- Pack something to read: A book, kindle, your favorite magazines- you’re on vacation!
- Pack a refillable water bottle: Hydration is KEY on a cruise. We suggest packing a reusable water bottle (affiliate link) and filling it with our secret weapon for hydration, Liquid IV! Get 25% off using our Discount Code: CRUISETIPSTV – the discount it will automatically apply at check out when you use this link (affiliate link).
- Pack insect repellant: IF you’ll be doing activities that require it (jungle type activities, boat tours in marshy areas, etc), add a small amount of insect repellant to your Caribbean cruise packing list! This one (affiliate link) is travel size, and just right!
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Now for 10 things you may want to AVOID when Caribbean Cruise Packing:
- Don’t send all of your luggage away on embarkation: Keep a few necessities in an embarkation day carry on bag, (affiliate link) small rolling suitcase or backpack! Sunglasses, sunscreen, a swimsuit, close toed shoes if you wish to hit sporting activities, medications, toiletries, etc. If you’ve chosen to bring the allowable beverages onboard, use a small rolling suitcase, as the beverages could be heavy.
- Don’t pack a surge protector: Instead, choose a non surge, cruise approved supplemental power device (affiliate link) or a USB charging hub (affiliate link). If you’re coming from outside the US, pack an adapter.
- Don’t pack brand new or uncomfortable shoes: This goes for ANY cruise, but wear your shoes in before the cruise to avoid blisters and pain, and remember, you may be hot & sweaty, so comfort is key!
- Don’t pack big toiletry items if flying: Instead, consider shopping for larger items in your embarkation port. If you’re going carry on only or packing light for a flight, buy your sunscreen, and any other large items once you arrive. This is very easy to do in Florida – convenience and drug stores are everywhere. You can also grab your allowable wine and bevvies while you’re at it. Win win!
- Don’t go barefoot when you shouldn’t!: Some cruisers Neglect to consider water shoes or water socks (affiliate link) if visiting rocky beaches, waterparks with hot surfaces or reef areas. You could cut your feet!
- Don’t pack low quality sunglasses: You don’t have to spend a lot to get some decent sunglasses. This is a personal decision, but we do recommend packing the highest quality glasses you can afford, to protect your eyes!
- Don’t underpack the basics: T-shirts, underwear, shorts. But, if you run into an emergency, and need to do a little laundry in your stateroom sink, sink suds (affiliate link) are a great way to pack a bit of detergent without the bulk.
- Don’t pack low SPF sunscreen: Go with quality, higher SPF (affiliate link) sunscreen, as recommended by your dermatologist. You may want to consider reef-friendly (affiliate link) sunscreen. Also, don’t forget your lips and scalp! They need special sun protection.
- Don’t pack synthetic fabrics for daytime wear: Personally, synthetics like polyester make me feel stinky and GROSS, which is why we recommended cool cotton fabrics earlier. You do you, just sayin’.
- Don’t assume Florida is always HOT!: Pack a cool weather outfit if cruising in winter from ports in Florida. While this may not an issue if you’re coming from somewhere cold (heck, you wore that parka on the plane!), some folks assume they don’t need a jacket or hoodie in winter in Florida, and while that may be true, cold fronts DO come to South Florida! A light jacket wrap, shawl or pashmina are a great option and can also be used on the plane.
MORE CARIBBEAN CRUISE PACKING RESOURCES YOU’LL LOVE!
See more CruiseTipsTV articles here.
Download our cruise packing list here.
Watch our latest Caribbean Cruise Packing Video here. For our visual learners, you get to watch me pack!
How-to create your own Cruise Binder: How We Get Organized For A Cruise
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