Planning on cruising soon with your toddler? Over the summer my family and I took our first cruise. After our return, I debated whether the trip was worth the struggles and good enough to do in the future. Ultimately, I’ve decided that even though it was eventful, I’d surely do it again. In fact, it’s required by my tribe to be an annual occurrence. So there’s that. I can finally say, after much thought, that it was something I enjoyed and would do again. Let me clue you into a few must-haves so that you have a much more pleasurable experience.
Being the planner that I am, no one would’ve ever been able to convince me that I wasn’t prepared for our first cruise. But I wasn’t and here are my top 5 items I desperately wish I’d had on or used on our vacation .
I can not express to you the importance of packing enough diapers. Double (if not triple) the amount you generally feel you use in any given day. Do the same for wipes. Imagine boarding the ship to only realize that you forgot wipes before you even depart the port. I’ll spare you the experience of paying $9 for 12 wipes from the ship’s gift shop. It was actually $18 because I bought two packs hoping I wouldn’t run out (I didn’t as I became a pro at using 2 wipes no matter the mess). Talk about desperate times call for desperate measures. Next, imagine running out of diapers three days into your cruise. We failed to get them when we ported because we were told they were available at the child watch center onboard. Boy was that person wrong. So here we are in our cabin with the realization that we’re out of diapers. So, what do you do in this situation? You become creative and revert back to clothe diapers courtesy of the ship’s washcloths and your other toddler’s Pull-Ups. So yes, this is a situation where more is better for sure.
Everyone knows the benefits of sunscreen. Actually, this is an item I had but failed to use. And in failing to use it I suffered. Sunscreen is lifesaving on a cruise where you’re almost constantly exposed to the sun. Nothing’s worse than carting around a diaper bag, or a toddler for that matter, on sunburned shoulders. I could barely wear clothes. My suggestion would be to apply sunscreen just prior to boarding the ship as most people immediately head to eat or to the pool or to eat by the pool.
To ensure that you have optimal sunscreen buy one with SPF 15 or higher for UVB and UVA protection. Also, make sure it is sweat and water resistant because you’re bound to be doing either at many points on your cruise. For the children, use kid-friendly sunscreens with few ingredients and be sure para-aminobenzoic (PABA) and benzophenones are not present. All in all, research your sunscreen prior to purchase to ensure it provides the best protection for you and your family before the cruise. Here is a great resource for selecting the sunscreen best for you.
I distinctly remember my husband asking if we needed our stroller. I told him no but had the thought of how quite ridiculous it was to even think you’d need a stroller on a cruise ship. Now if you’re a lady, here is where we HATE to admit that men might be on to something. Listen…you need a stroller on the cruise ship. Nothing’s worse than having loose toddlers running around amongst a crowd of people on AND off the ship. It doesn’t need to be big as space is limited in most cabin. I actually saw a few sitting outside the cabins. The are many affordable umbrella stroller options such as this or this. I recommend investing in a good stroller for all your travel needs and accompanying travel bag for storage. I don’t think the cheaper version of umbrella strollers provides enough support to be comfortable in places where cobblestone roads and sand are present or they are napping in the sun because there is no stroller shade. Trust me on this.
If you’re not interested in purchasing a stroller don’t fret. The childcare facility did offer stroller rentals for $10 per day. We took advantage of this. It wasn’t an average umbrella stroller and was actually impressive. It had a basket underneath and was sturdy enough to hold our backpack diaper bag on the stroller when occupied without falling over. The cost for rental the entire time was $40 which is a good value if you’d rather not bring your own. I say either way you can’t go wrong.
4. Motion Sickness Aids
Motion sickness. Whew. Apparently of my party of 5, I was the only one affected by motion sickness. I’d packed those lovely little Sea-Band wrist aids but didn’t wear them until after I was already sick. Apparently, they work best if you put them on 2-3 days prior to boarding the ship. I knew I was prone to motion sickness which is why I was prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for is how FAST it hit me. The first day was great. I didn’t feel a thing. Then BAM day two was awful. I’m just so grateful to have a husband that allowed me to sleep it off. I was absolutely no good to anyone in my party. By day 3, I’d been wearing my wrist aids and felt a little better…when I wasn’t at the front or back of the ship. **Note: If you are prone to motion sickness do NOT book a cabin in the front or back of the ship.** There I felt every sway and it was not good. What I did notice was a lot of my ship companions with the prescriptive dots behind their ear. Clearly they were experienced cruisers.
Make sure you pack motion sickness medication for adults AND children. I decided to purchase dramamine at our first port stop because I refused to let motion sickness ruin my vacation. It cost $10 for a box at the port. It wasn’t until we arrived back out to sea and I went to take it that I realized they did NOT put it in the bag. So, of course, I went to the ship’s gift shop where it cost me an additional $10 for a whopping total of $20 for Dramamine. I could kick myself for not packing it. But it was worth it and I was able to avoid feeling sick the rest of our trip.
5. Fever Remedy Aids
Did you know that most cruise ships have an 8 am return time only to be cleaned and ready for the next itinerary by 3 pm? That leaves roughly 7 hours for an entire ship to be cleaned. I say that to say…take Clorox wipes and wipe down all surfaces in your cabin on arrival to cut down the risk of germs. I did this but on day 3 my 3 year old spiked a fever accompanied by tremors only relieved by around the clock Tylenol. I couldn’t believe that something else was going awry. It was like a bad dream really. I, unfortunately, didn’t have Motrin to rotate but absolutely will have it the next time…just in case. As any mother, I panicked thinking on how as soon as we were back at dock not only would I need a store for diapers but I also would need an urgent care facility. Yikes! Who knows what she had picked up. And of course because she spiked a fever she was no longer able to visit the child watch center. Because my then 1 year old couldn’t go it really was ok. On day 4, my youngest also spiked a fever which now meant two children were sharing a bottle on Tylenol. So my advice would be to not only pack Tylenol but Motrin as well in the event that you should need it for either adults or children.
There you have it. These are just a few things that I find to be necessary when cruising with toddlers from our first cruising experience. Don’t get me wrong, but my list was much longer. These are just the things I needed too. I love traveling with our children but always want to be overly prepared. If you can think of anything else that is a must-have item, drop it in the comments. I’m sure all thoughts would be appreciated.