10 Tips For Minimalist Packing Before Taking A Cruise

As the cruise industry rebounds post-pandemic, cruises are proving to be one of the more affordable ways to travel (especially when opting for affordable cruises that don’t break the bank). Packing for a cruise can be challenging, though, because there are so many different experiences to be had as part of the trip.

From daytime excursions to ports (which could be historic European cities with old city walls or Caribbean islands with stunning beaches) to nighttime events on the ship and afternoons spent lounging by the pool, there seem to be countless scenarios to prepare for. But really, taking a minimalist approach to pack for a vacation on a cruise can help travelers be more prepared and enjoy the experience best by getting rid of the excess.

Here are some helpful tips for minimalist packing before taking a cruise.

Related: Cargo Ships, Catamarans, & More: 10 Unique Alternatives To Regular Cruising

10 Create A List Of What To Pack For A Cruise

Blank notebook with pen
Pixabay

Blank notebook with pen

Travelers can start the minimalist packing process by making a cruise ship packing list of everything they think they will need on their adventure.

Following along with this list during the packing process acts as a guide for modern essentials to pack for a cruise and what should be left at home.

  • Why It Helps:
    Identifies the essentials in advance

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Review the list before closing the suitcase and remove anything from the luggage that wasn’t included in the initial roundup of what to pack.

9 Only Bring One Pair Of Shoes (Or Two At Most)

Shades, shoes and clothing in pink suitcase
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

Shades, shoes and clothing in pink suitcase 

Packing too many pairs of shoes is a common problem for travel, especially on cruises where the dress code can vary drastically between daytime port excursions and fancy onboard dinner reservations. The key to minimalist packing for a cruise is to wear one versatile shoe and pack another.

For example, wear comfortable white sneakers that can be worn on excursions or to a casual restaurant. Then, pack a sandal that can be worn to the pool or dressed up for a nice dinner.

  • Why It Helps:
    Lessens the load and reduces unnecessary options during the trip

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Bring at least one versatile sandal that can be worn to the pool and to dinner.

Related: 16 Biggest Cruise Ships In The World As Of 2023

8 Avoid Packing Items That Are Provided In Rooms On Cruise Ships

Packing toiletries for cruise ships
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Packing toiletries for cruise ships

Saving space while packing is difficult, but a great minimalist travel hack is to leave the toiletries at home. The reality is that most cruise ships will offer these amenities on board, specifically soap, shampoo, body lotion, face wash, and even toothpaste.

Don’t pack it if it’s likely to be provided anyway. Cruises tend to be very wasteful, so making decisions that minimize the waste created is a step in the right direction.

  • Why It Helps:
    Saves space in the luggage

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Bring a bar of soap rather than liquid in plastic bottles (or just use what’s available on board)

7 Go Digital Wherever Possible

iPhone social media apps
Photo by Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash

An iPhone displaying icons of popular social media platforms

The idea of lounging by the pool with a book might seem nice for a cruise, but minimalist packing techniques might not leave room for these types of luxuries. Rather than choosing the thinnest paperback book on the shelf and squeezing it into a suitcase, travelers can download a digital version of the book to their Kindle, smartphone, or tablet.

Then, just bring the digital item to act as an e-reader but also a place to store digital copies of travel documents. A great two-in-one space saver!

  • Why It Helps:
    Efficient and environmentally friendly

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Keep important documents in a Dropbox or email them to yourself for reference during the trip

Related: Single & Ready To Mingle? Check Out These Singles Cruises

6 Be Intentional About Packing Clothes For A Cruise Ship Trip

Packing clothes of a matching color scheme
Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Packing clothes of a matching color scheme

Minimalism requires putting careful thought into each item travelers own and bring with them on a trip. As Marie Kondo shared in her famous Netflix series, the key to being intentional with minimalism is only holding onto things that “spark joy”.

Travelers should focus on only packing clothing for a cruise ship that they really love and can genuinely see themselves wearing for a specific activity or excursion. If it’s only in the suitcase because one “might need it”, take it out and leave it at home.

  • Why It Helps:
    Less overall luggage and more exciting wardrobe options

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Only pack items that will definitely be worn at least once

5 Consider The Cruise Ship Dress Code

A person packing a suitcase
Via: Pexels

A person packing a suitcase

Narrowing down what clothes to pack for a cruise is tough, but knowing the dress code on board can help with making these decisions. For example, if many of the restaurants on board have a collared shirt or dress/skirt dinner policy, be sure to select at least one outfit that meets this criterion.

If the cruise is going to Alaska and the group is disembarking for a wildlife expedition, pack a suitably warm and durable outfit for that occasion.

  • Why It Helps:
    Provides a clear outline for what one outfit should look like

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Bring one nice outfit that is modifiable (like a black dress to pair with a different scarf, shoes, and jewelry)

Related: Island Adventures For Less: Discover 10 Affordable Cruises To The Bahamas

4 Leave The Snacks At Home

Granola bar
Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Unsplash

Granola bar

It can be tempting to pack some granola bars and other snacks for the road, especially for travelers who get “hangry” when they don’t eat frequently. But to practice minimalism when packing for a cruise, consider how accessible food will be on board the boat at all times (most of the best and top-rated cruise lines in the US will always have food available at the numerous onboard restaurants, cafés, snack bars, and stores, for instance).

Leave food items at home and save them for a later date instead, especially if the ship offers plenty of food available at all hours.

  • Why It Helps:
    Saves space in the suitcase

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Research the restaurants on the ship ahead of time to know where snacks will be available on board

3 Pack Like You’re Only Taking A Carry On (Even If You’re Not)

Passenger with carry on bag at the airport
Shutterstock

Passenger with carry on bag at the airport

Travelers who are going to bring a checked bag are likely to fill it to capacity because they think they have enough space to bring more than they need.

To combat this mentality, they can try packing their attire for the cruise in a carry-on-sized bag first. Then, once complete, transfer the items to the checked bag for a comfortable fit that really is just the necessities. Plus, adopting this approach enables travelers to have space for plenty of souvenirs.

  • Why It Helps:
    Encourages travelers to think smaller

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Optimize space in a carry-on, then transfer the contents to the checked bag after for a comfortable fit (that leaves room for souvenirs!)

2 Bring A Day Pack

Tourist with a backpack at the ruins of ancient city of Perge
Shutterstock

Tourist with a backpack at the ruins of ancient city of Perge

Instead of bringing multiple purses, bags, or fanny packs to prepare for all occasions, keep it simple. Have a suitcase and a day pack for excursions only.

The day pack can double as a personal item on the plane or be flattened and packed in the suitcase only to be taken out when it’s needed.

  • Why It Helps:
    Makes port excursions more comfortable

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Choose a day pack that also acts as a personal item for the flight to the departure port

1 Leave The Non-Essentials At Home

A packed suitcase
Photo by Marissa Grootes on Unsplash

A packed suitcase

The bottom line when trying to pack minimally for a cruise is only to bring items that are necessary for daily living and specific activities that will be done as part of the trip.

If the item isn’t on the original packing list and pertains to none of the activities on the itinerary, the best option is usually to leave it at home. Only bring cruise ship essentials, not “maybes”.

  • Why It Helps:
    Reduces the likelihood of losing something or overpacking

  • Tip For Packing Light:
    Don’t pack something one hasn’t used within 48 hours of the trip (this likely means it’s not really needed)