As far as family vacations go, cruising with kids is by far my favorite. We’ve cruised with kids ranging anywhere from 3 years old to 16 years old. I love being able to see different places and ports, but only unpacking once. The thought of moving from hotel to hotel, hauling suitcases in and out, unpacking and repacking with 5 kids is overwhelming for me. It’s not something I would enjoy during this season of life. Cruising with kids allows me to settle in our rooms once and be done.
Port days can be fast paced and exciting or laid back and relaxing. Well as relaxing as is possible with kids, that is. Cruise lines offer their own list of excursions and planned activities. We have yet to book through a cruise line because our youngest child does not meet the minimum age required for most activities. Instead I research ahead of our cruise and plan our itinerary myself. Sometimes we walk off the ship and wing it, but the last time we did that, it didn’t turn out well. It went hilariously wrong, actually.
We rented a truck and drove to Baby Beach in Aruba. We’ve walked off the ship, hit the beach, and snorkeled both times we’ve visited Grand Turk. In Bonaire, we took a bus to the beach then shopped the local open air market and grabbed lunch. Puerto Rico brought one of our favorite days of exploring the forts and browsing through Old San Juan.
Before we cover what should go in your port day bag, let’s discuss the actual bag. Justin and I both carry a backpack off the ship. In his backpack, you’ll find all of the “wet” things- snorkel masks, puddle jumper, towels, sand buckets, etc. Basically all of the things that will get wet and/or sandy go in his backpack. My backpack is the “dry” backpack. It holds our IDs, ship cards, my camera, first aid kit, phones, cash, etc. Anything we need to stay dry goes in my backpack. This system works well for our family.
Justin carries the Venture Pal Lightweight Travel Daypack/ Backpack. I purchased one before our first adventure cruising with kids. Based on the super affordable price, I didn’t expect much. Not only did the Venture Pal Backpack meet my somewhat low expectations, it blew them out of the water. We have traveled with this backpack a lot. It’s been soaked and sandy and put through the ringer. It’s withstood our travels so well that I purchased two more for our teens. Not only is it durable, but it’s extremely light weight, comfortable, and holds a ton. We are able to strap towels to the outside of the backpack and snap on Brynlee’s puddle jumper. As you can see from the above photo, the Venture Pal also folds into a neat little pouch when not in use. I love this because it’s so much easier than having backpacks hanging everywhere.
I carry the JuJuBe Be Right Back Backpack in the limited edition Rosy Posy print. Not only is it gorgeous, but it is a workhorse. Created as a diaper bag, the JuJuBe BRB Backpack features tons of storage and compartments. The outside front pocket is magnetic so it’s perfect for those things you use often like your phone or a small camera. Inside the front zippered pocket is where I kept our IDs, Sign & Sail cards, cash, portable charger, and sunglasses. The main zippered compartment is big enough to hold clothes, towels, and my Canon 60D. There is a mesh zipper inside that compartment which is where I keep sunscreen, bug repellent, baby powder, and our first-aid kit. Insulated bottle pockets are located on both sides of the BRB. Those pockets will hold bottled water and will also accommodate our 20oz YETI Tumblers. The back panel and shoulder straps come equipped with padded breathable mesh for ultimate comfort.
Packing for Port Days While Cruising with Kids
So now that we’ve covered the bags and how we organize them, here is what’s inside them. Keep in mind that if you have no plans to hit the beach or swim, you can leave the wet backpack behind.
In my dry bag:
travel size first aid kit
baby powder (to remove sand from skin)
bottles of water
snacks (you can bring prepackaged snacks like cereal boxes from breakfast)
camera (I carry the super affordable 50mm & a 17-50mm lenses)
court travel order (required for our foster children)
cash and/or credit cards
In the wet bag:
We’ve never cruised with a child younger than 3, but these are things I would add to our list for a baby or toddler.
sun protection swim hat
bottles or sippy cups
I hope this post helps ease your mind while you are packing for port days while cruising with kids. I know it can be daunting as a first timer, but your trip will be worth the stress of packing for a family cruise! If you think I’ve missed something or have a recommendation, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.