10 Tips for Packing Light for a Cruise

This post may contain affiliate or compensated links. Click here to read our disclaimer 

When you’re cruising it can be very tempting to overpack, especially if you’re not flying to the port. However, overpacking for a cruise can be a real pain, particularly if you’re in a smaller cabin or if you struggle to carry your own luggage. So, we want to share our best tips for packing light for a cruise! Packing light for a cruise can be done.

Have a read through our guide on how to pack light for a cruise below and give it a go next time you’re packing for a cruise. Once you’ve tried packing light for cruise travel you’ll see how much more pleasant it can be than overpacking.

Benefits of Packing Light for Cruise Travel

  • You can disembark yourself, usually first or at your preferred time
  • More room in your cabin without having to unpack a lot of stuff or work around bulky baggage
  • No charge to check your bag with airlines when you’re flying to your port
  • Zero chance of your luggage going missing between the port and your stateroom (this does happen!)
  • Less laundry to do when you return home

How to Pack Light for a Cruise

Pin this post for later!


10 Tips for Packing Light for a Cruise

Use a carry on suitcase

Cruising with a carry on bag is definitely possible. We’ve done it before! If you’re packing for a 7 night cruise in warm weather you’ll have no trouble getting everything you need into a small wheeled suitcase with room for a few souvenirs. Having a smaller case will stop you feeling tempted to overpack.

Choose a lightweight carry on suitcase like this for packing for a cruise. Suitcase with four spinner wheels are the easiest to manoeuvre.


Use a packing list

Having a packing list and sticking to it will prevent you from overpacking and help you stay organized. Use a printable checklist and mark things off as you set them out to pack. If you don’t use a list, you’ll end up throwing in extra items “just in case” and you really won’t need them.

You can use our cruise carry on packing list here to help you!


Bring clothing that can work with multiple outfits

One of the key ways to keep your packing to a minimum is to pack items of clothing that can be worn several different ways. You won’t feel like you’re repeating outfits all the time. Sticking to a color scheme will help make sure everything you wear will mix and match. Navy and white are good options for your base piece (very nautical!) and you can add in pops of color like red, orange and pink.

For women we suggest:

  • Little black dress – Ideal for dinner on formal and non-formal nights. You can wear it with a cardigan, kimono, wrap and costume jewelry to change to look across multiple evenings.
  • White jeans or capri pants – Wear with a t-shirt during the day or dress up with a nice tunic in the evening
  • Lightweight kimono – Can be used over a dress for dinner, as a bathing suit coverup or over a vest & shorts for excursions
  • Chiffon or cotton tunic – Great over shorts & a vest, over a bathing suit or with jeans for dinner
  • Maxi dress – Wear with flip flops during the day or on excursions over your bathing suit then dress it up at night with a cardigan or wrap, nice sandals and jewelry
  • Sundress – Wear with flip flops in the day or with nice sandals and a cardigan in the evening

For men (it’s always a bit easier for them!) we suggest:

  • Khakis – A nicer pair of pants that can be dressed up with a shirt and tie on formal nights or with a polo shirt for non-formal nights
  • Jeans – A nice pair of jeans are acceptable for non-formal dining nights and travel days
  • Long sleeved button down – Choose one you can use on formal night with a tie and without for casual dining
  • Short sleeved shirts – Short sleeved shirts are ideal over board shorts for beach excursions or dressed with jeans for dinner
  • Polo shirts – Can be used with jeans or khakis for dinner or with shorts in the day


Use packing cubes to organize your cruise clothes

By far one of our best travel tips for packing for a cruise is to use packing cubes. They help you organize your clothes in your suitcase and pack more efficiently. You can simply be lift them out of your luggage and pop them straight onto shelves or in drawers once you arrive in your stateroom. We use a small one for underwear, a medium sized for tops and a large one for bottoms, dresses and outerwear. We also use a medium one for swimwear and nightwear.

You can buy packing cubes here on Amazon. They are a great investment and you’ll use them for every trip!


Roll your clothes

Rolling your clothes instead of folding makes them easier to pack. Whether you choose to use packing cubes or not, you’ll find rolling your clothes allows you to pack them more neatly in your case, allows you to more clearly see what you have and also helps prevent wrinkling.


Only bring three pair of shoes

Shoes take up so much space in luggage so packing just three pairs will really help you pack light.

  • Flip flops or slides for the pool & beach
  • Sneakers for active excursions, working out on board and travel days (as they are the most bulky)
  • Nice sandals like this for women that can be worn both day and night and a loafer/leather shoe for men


Forego the formal wear

This is optional but foregoing (very) formal wear will save you a lot of space in your carry on suitcase. Blazers, dress shoes, high heels and evening gowns take up a lot of space. Instead, pack clothes that can be dressed up for formal night but also used during non-formal dining.

Adding some costume jewelry like thisand a nice wrap like this can make a simple dress elegant enough to wear in the main dining room on formal night. For men, a tie is often all you need to take a dress shirt and khakis to the next level.


Go for mini toiletries

Pack mini versions of your toiletries. This definitely saves a lot of space and weight when packing light for a cruise. Either use your own brands and decant them into travel sized bottles like this or just purchase minis. Remember there will be toiletries on board in your stateroom too, usually it’s limited shampoo and body wash, so you can leave those items off your toiletries list altogether if you prefer. We definitely recommend brining mini travel sized versions of the following toiletries:

Minimizing your make up is also a good idea ladies! You can ask for sample sizes of makeup and skincare items at places like Sephora and Ulta. Decant your bulky items like foundation into small tubs like this.


Pack the most useful items first

While there are lots of things to take on a cruise that we recommend, if you’re packing light you’ll want to focus on getting the cruise essentials in first. While we love packing lots of fun items for cruising like these, if you’re going to be traveling with only a carry on suitcase you’ll need to leave these behind.

There are a lots of items that are nice to have on a cruise but you don’t actually need them to enjoy your trip. Some of the key items to bring aside from clothes are:

Read our guide on cruise essentials & necessities here. Also read our guide on what NOT to pack for a cruise.


Bring laundry supplies

If you’re packing for a 7 night cruise or less you probably won’t need to do laundry but if you’re away on a longer voyage or have a few days in a hotel either side of your trip, you might want to consider doing a bit of laundry. Some cruise ships have onboard laundry rooms you can use or you can just hand wash a few items in your bathroom to re-use. There’s always a retractable clothes line on board. Bring a few sachets of laundry detergent or these little laundry sheets for handwashing. They take up almost no space in your luggage.


Got questions on how to pack light for a cruise?

If you’ve got a question on how to pack light for a cruise leave us a comment below. You can also join our cruise packing tips Facebook group and ask any questions on how to pack for cruise there.


Pin this post for later!

10 Tips for Packing Light for a Cruise

Share this post!
  • 1K

Still need help? Take our FREE email course!

If you still need help deciding what to pack for your upcoming cruise, sign up to take our short email course. You'll learn what to wear on a cruise, what little cruise essentials can really help, how to pack your bag, what the best suitcase to take is and what to leave behind. Sign up now. It's totally FREE!

Cruise Packing Tips

We created Cruise Packing Tips to share our extensive knowledge on how to pack for a cruise. As seasoned cruisers who loves to pack just the right amount for each trip, we will help you get your cruise packing list down to a fine art.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below