Cruise Tips: The Ultimate Packing and Spending Guide

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Are you getting ready to set sail? Here are our top cruise tips to help you have the best time at sea. 

There's nothing like setting sail on the open water for the first time. For first time cruise-goers, finally leaving the dock and gliding into the horizon is one of the most exciting moments of the trip! However, if you haven't done your research on cruise life, your next few days may be less than exciting. Sure, being on a cruise for a few days sounds easy. But if you don't do some preparation before you go, your relaxing getaway out at sea may turn into a stressful vacay in very tight quarters. Luckily, we've gathered some of the best cruise tips the help make this trip the best of your life. 

While it can be fun to spontaneously book a ticket and go, we always suggest doing some research on your trip. And usually are happy that they did. From packing tips to advice on how to save money, these are cruise tips you'll be glad to know. 

What To Expect When You're Expecting (To Go On A Cruise)

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The first group activity you'll all enjoy together is watching the boat pull away from the harbor. And after that, most people are ready to unpack. But all rooms and cabins are cleaned and prepared on embarkation day. Therefore, your room might not be ready right away for you to settle in. If it isn't, wait until the cruise director makes an announcement over the PA system to notify you when you can access your room. 

Because rooms are not always ready the moment you get on board, we suggest packing a light carry on. The essentials you will need in your bag include a bathing suit, and necessary medications, and valuables you do not feel comfortable checking. Additionally, make sure to board the ship with sunglasses and sunscreen. 

Before you get on board, you will give your luggage to cruise employees at the pier. And the luggage is delivered to the cabins within a few hours of boarder. In most cases, you will receive your luggage before dinner time. But in some cases, luggage can be delayed. Therefore, you may want to pack another pair of clothes for dinner in your carry on bag, as well. 

What Activities Will Be Available The First Day? 

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It can be a little frustrating to not be able to go to your room right away. And this can be especially frustrating to first time cruise goers! But once you go on your second or third cruise, you'll know the drill. And luckily, pretty much every other part of the ship is available to you the moment you step on board. 

In most cases, travelers will receive a newsletter with a list of embarkation day activities and restaurants. This will help you figure out what you're going to do when you get on board! You can keep things easy and grab lunch, get a drink, or take a dip in the pool. But you can also go exploring. We suggest all travelers walk around to get a ship for the feel at some point. 

You can make reservations for any shore excursions you want to take on the first day. And of course, the evening of activities will end with the welcome show in the main theater.

What Business Should I Take Care Of Once I'm On Board?

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Taking a cruise is one of the easiest, more planned out vacations you can embark on. However, there is some business to attend to to ensure your cruise will go swimmingly. Take note as these cruise tips will prove to be very helpful later on. As we mentioned earlier, the reservations desk will be in full swing on embarkation day. If you are considering getting a massage or dining in a specialty restaurant on board, you'll want to make your reservations early. The best times for these events fill up quickly. 

Here's where to go to get your bookings in: spa/salon services can be reserved at the spa, dinner reservations are made at your desired restaurants, shore tours are made at the excursions desk, and beverage packages are purchased at the front desk. Additionally, you can purchase passes for adults-only sun deck areas at the reception desk. 

But that's not all! If you are traveling with children, then we suggest signing them up for activities at the kids club. Also, if you have any special requests for your room, then get in touch with your cabin steward. 

It's My First Cruise! What The Heck Should I Pack?

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Packing can be one of the most stressful parts of traveling. Whether you're going on a road trip or boarding a cruise ship, no one likes to pack. And that's surprising. You are about to be vacationing in the middle of the ocean while making sporadic stops are a variety of locations. That isn't an easy trip to pack for! So keep in mind these cruise tips as you get ready to pack your bags and set sail. 

1. Carry On Bag

Like we said, once you hand your luggage over on embarkation day, you won't see it again until dinner. Therefore you will definitely want to pack a carry on bag to have with you that first day. Keep the bag small so it's not a nuisance to carry. But don't make it too small so you can't fit your carry on necessities (sunblock, bathing suit, wallet, etc.) 

2. Extra Clothes Hangers

This is one of the cruise tips you'll be most grateful for. It should come as no surprise that quarters are tight on the cruise ship. Therefore your closet will be much, much smaller than your used to on vacation. And you will find there aren't many hangers to help you get organized. Therefore we suggest bringing a few extra to hang up your clothes. 

Trust us, the tidier and more organized your room or cabin is, the more relaxed you will stay on your cruise. 

3. Bathroom Door Organizer

Again, the space is going to be tight! So another one of our best cruise tips when it comes to packing is bringing a bathroom door organizer. Even if you're not a neat freak like some of us, staying organized will help you eliminate any unnecessary stress and anxiety on your cruise. Plus, it will make your room more comfortable to lounge in when you need a break from it all. And a bathroom door organizer will help make the room as comfortable, clean, and spacious as possible. 

4. Power Strip

In addition to having a tiny living space, your room probably won't have many outlets. Therefore you will probably want to bring along a non-surge power strip. This will come in handy especially if there is more than one person staying in the room or cabin. And let's be real – it's not like you're just going to have your phone to plug in. Chance are you are also bringing along cameras, hair dryers, gaming consoles... Take note of our cruise tips and pack that power strip. You won't regret it. 

5. Earplugs 

If you are a light sleeper, this is one of the best cruise tips for you. Cruise ships squeeze on as many passengers as they possibly can. So don't be surprised if you are kept awake at night by someone snoring down the all. And if your room is near the ship's nightclub or engine room, there will be even more noise to combat. Luckily, earplugs can help you out with that. 

6. Jacket

We don't care what the weather channel says. Even if you're going on a Caribbean cruise in July, you will get chilly at night. It also gets windy. So at least bring a sweater or a windbreaker on your cruise. It's better to have too much than not enough. 

7. Mobile Jewelry Case

There is nothing more frustrating than having your necklaces in a tangle. And like we said, staying organized in your room is one of the best cruise tips you can follow. Therefore find yourself a mobile jewelry case. Get one that separates chains easily to avoid any tangling than can occur. 

8. Bring A Pen

This one isn't on your typical list of cruise tips. But you will find on embarkation day that there are tons of forms for you to sign. Get through this process as efficiently as possible by bringing your own pen. That way you won't have to fight for a pen from the hundreds of other guests on board. 

9. Dramamine 

If you're a first time cruise goer, the shakiness of the ship can be overwhelming. To avoid getting sea sick during your trip, we advise packing some dramamine. As always, it's better to be safe than sorry. And if you're looking for a more natural option, ginger tea is great for settling the stomach. 

Packing Hacks You'll Be Grateful For On Board

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The above list of cruise tips was for a few miscellaneous items you didn't know you needed. Now, we will help you pack efficiently to stay organized and stress free. 

1. Roll Your Clothes

This is not specific to cruise tips. Rolling your clothes is a great way to pack for any kind of travel. Rolling your clothes helps to save space in your bag. If you roll them tightly enough, it can even help to avoid wrinkles. And let's be real – your room isn't going to be big enough for you to pack that travel steamer of yours. 

2. Take A Photo Of Your Luggage

Like we said, there are going to be tons of passengers on board. And you will all be hanging your luggage over at the same time. Therefore, it can be easy to lose track of bits of your luggage. One of the best cruise tips we have to avoid any lost luggage confusion is to take photos of your bags. This will help provide visual evidence to the cruise staff as they search for any luggage that may be lost. And plus, it's never a bad idea to have documentation of your belongings. 

3. Don't Let That Shampoo Spill!

We're all been there. That moment when you pull your favorite blouse of your suitcase just to find your travel sized bottle of shampoo has spilled all over it. Luckily, there are lots of travel and cruise tips out there to help avoid this. The best tip we have for that is to wrap your shampoo, conditions, body wash, etc. in saran wrap and tightly seal it in a ziploc bag. You might think the plastic baggie is enough, but it won't be. Trust us. We have had shampoo leak through a ziploc bag one too many times in our lives. 

4. Turn Your Jacket Inside Out

It's easy for your jacket (which you WILL be packing) to get dirty in your bag. But you can avoid this by simply turning the jacket inside out. By doing this, dirty shoes and smelly, worn clothes won't be able to stain it. Turning it inside out can also help to avoid creases in your jacket. 

5. Business Card In The Luggage Tag

This is one of the best travel and cruise tips we can provide. The cruise line will typically staple a piece of paper with your name on it to your luggage. How else would they know which room to take it to? And though we have a ton of faith in the cruise employees, it's easy for a paper tag to fall off. So to help make sure your luggage doesn't get lost and gets to where it needs to be, put your name on a business card. Then put it in the luggage tag. 

The last thing you want on embarkation day is for your luggage to be lost. So avoid unnecessary stress with this packing hack!

6. Mark Your Bags As Fragile

Again, those cruise guys are throwing around a lot of bags every day. If you have belonging you don't want to see broken or crushed, then clearly label that your bag is fragile. This will help ensure your bag will be treated a little more carefully. And it will help put your mind at ease while you're exploring the ship. 

But if you have items in your bag that are truly valuable, we suggest putting those in your carry on. Or better yet, don't pack them at all. What good is your wedding china going to do for you on a cruise ship? 

7. Dryer Sheets In The Suitcase

Whether you spend all day laying out at the pool or are out exploring the shore, you're going to sweat. A lot. And sweaty clothes means smelly clothes. To help avoid making your room smell like a dirty old sock, pack some dryer sheets in your bags. This will help keep your clothes smelling fresh. It will also prevent you from being too disgusted by the smell of sweaty clothing to step foot in your room or cabin. It's a win-win situation. 

8. Keep Copies Of You I.D.

This is one of our travel and cruise tips you do not want to ignore. Keep both a physical and a digital copy of all photo I.D's. That includes your license, passport, and any other I.D's you find necessary to bring along. Chances are you will not need to use the photo copies. But if you don't pack them, you probably will. That's just the way life (and luck) works. Plus, having these copies will help you have some peace of mind.

Again, we're providing these cruise tips to help ensure you will have the most relaxing and care-free trip of your life. So do us a favor and make those copies. You won't regret it if you do. You will if you don't. 

Dang, Cruising Is Expensive! How Can I Save A Little Money?

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Traveling isn't cheap. And going on a cruise isn't, either. But if you're smart about it and doing some planning in advance, you can save a good chunk of money on your trip. Listen up to these cruise tips if you want to avoid breaking the bank while you're sailing the ocean blue. 

1. Don't Purchase A Beverage Package On The First Day

We know we said that you should make all necessary reservations on embarkation day. But that rule doesn't apply to beverage packages. You can reserve a beverage package at any time during your cruise. And we advise no doing in on Day One. 

Here's why: When you purchase a beverage package, you have to purchase the package for the remaining days of your cruise. So if you are buying a beverage package for embarkation day, you are paying for the package for seven whole days. So instead, consider buying drinks a la cart for the first day or two. This will allow you to compare prices and get a feel for how much you actually plan on drinking during the cruise. 

However, if you really want to get boozy on board, but you don't want to buy a beverage package, you can always...

2. Pack Your Own Wine

Yup, that's right. Most - if not all - cruise lines allow you to bring wine and beer on board. So if you want to hold off on buying a beverage package until the second or third day, packing your own wine is a great idea. This way you can go through the beverages you already packed before moving on to buying a pricey beverage package. 

But wait, there's more cruise tips to help save money and get a buzz going! When you are at ports, feel free to buy a beer or a bottle of wine at a local shop. Because this way you will save money and get a taste for local beverages. 

That being said, it's wise to look up how much wine your cruise line allows your to pack. In most cases, they only allow a bottle of two. Still, bottles on board typically cost $20 at the minimum. So you'll still be saving a lot of money buy packing a few bottles of your own. And please, never try to sneak on more alcohol than you're allowed to bring. Just don't. 

3. Book The Inside Cabin

AKA the cheapest cabin you can get. While some cruisers like to hang out in their rooms and watch TV, the adventurers at Trekbible would rather be out on the deck. I mean, you can watch TV at home every day. But you can't sunbathe in the middle of the ocean any day of the week. 

Booking the inside cabin on the ship is one of our cruise tips we highly recommend following. Not only will this help you save money, but it will also encourage you to get out of your room as much as possible. 

4. Look For Shore Excursions Outside Of The Cruise Line

It is great to have the convenience of booking shore excursions on embarkation day. But you can also book these activities directly through the booking company. And guess what? It will be cheaper than if you did it through the cruise line! But this is one of those cruise tips that requires some planning. Before you leave, take a look at what days you will be making stops. And of course, take note of where you'll be. Then you can look for shore excursions that interest you, whether the cruise line offers them or not. 

Most cruise lines guarantee they will not leave the port without you. But if you choose to schedule your own shore excursions, please be courteous to other passengers. Don't plan your shore excursion one hour before the boat is scheduled to leave. Save money, but do it in a respectful way. 

5. Eat The Food On Board Even When You're At The Port

Unless there is a dish local to the port that you are dying to try, eating every meal on board will help you save money. Because you've already purchased meals for the entire cruise any ways, you might as well eat what you bought. But that being said, don't be afraid to treat yourself a little bit. Hopefully you are going to be exploring brand new places along the cruise. So it might be fun to try a dish you've never had before. 

This is one of our cruise tips that we tend to be more lax with. Because while it's important to save money, it's alway important to experience new cultures. So if you follow the other money-saving cruise tips closely, then you might not need to utilize this one quite as much. 

6. Shop For Toiletries At The Port

If you get on board and realize you forgot to pack something, don't panic. And definitely don't purchase anything at the shops on board. Something as simple and inexpensive as a tooth brush will be ridiculously expensive. 

So if you can, wait it out until you dock at a port. Then, go pick up your missing toiletry at a shop on land. This is a great way to save a few extra bucks. And let's be real, saving a few dollars here and there is how you end up saving tons of money when you travel. 

7. Don't Purchase The Internet Package

Internet packages are ridiculously expensive. And what do you really need them for, anyways? We already told you to get an inside cabin. And those rooms aren't a place to hang out in for hours at a time. Besides, what's the point of having your nose in your computer all day when you're out at sea? 

This is one of the cruise tips we really advise our readers to follow. And it's for more reasons that saving money. Live in the moment while you're on your cruise! Trust us, you can live without Instagram for a week. It will still be there when you get back. 

Cruising is a great experience. Make the most of your trip by keeping these cruise tips in mind. 

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Regardless of whether you follow these cruise tips or not, you are sure to have a great time. How can you not? You're about to be out at sea! For the next few days you have nothing to worry about but relaxing and having fun. But if you want to save extra money and avoid any unnecessary hassles, these packing and cruise tips can help you do just that. 

Have you been on a cruise before? Are there are cruise tips you wish you knew before setting sail? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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Maura is a writer and comedian from Richmond, Va. While Maura will always consider Virginia home, she's happiest when she's hopping around the globe. Her favorite way to learn about a new culture is through its people and food (seriously, she could eat all day.) Find her on Instagram with travel suggestions on where she should eat next!

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