Packing for a Disney Cruise

After enduring the longest year ever, our family will soon be enjoying a two-night stay at Walt Disney World followed by a seven-night cruise aboard the Disney Magic.

We are frequent Disney visitors (not as much now that we don't live in Florida anymore, bummer) and often plan trips to coincide with reuniting with Hubby following a Navy-induced separation. In 2014 we spent nearly eight months apart, so we are definitely due for some Mickey time.

The last time we cruised with Disney was December 2012 on the Fantasy, and This Happened, so we are all thinking healthy thoughts as the big day approaches.

This will be our third Disney cruise overall (we also sailed on the Magic in 2011). I have learned a few things about packing for a cruise vacation in general (and a Disney cruise vacation in particular) and am sharing them today.

I previously wrote about Packing for Walt Disney World, and several suggestions will overlap, but planning for a cruise is different in many ways as well. I should also add that we are a family of two adults and three kids ages 8, 6, and 4, so obviously I'm writing this list from that perspective. One major change from my last list is no references to diapers, pull ups, baby wipes, or strollers. I gotta admit; I find this incredibly freeing.

Paperwork, IDs, and luggage tags. You can check in online pretty far in advance and print all the paperwork you will need to have when you get to the cruise terminal. Print it, sign it, and have it ready to go to save time later. All members of your party (even infants) will need proof of citizenship (passport, birth certificate, etc.). Check the specific requirements and put the necessary items in your carry-on. If you are flying and using Disney Cruise Line transportation (either directly from the airport or from a WDW resort), they will also send you luggage tags to facilitate moving your gear to your stateroom.

Medicines. Obviously anything you use daily you will want to have in your carry-on. Even though Agent J no longer takes asthma meds each day, we still travel with her nebulizer (because you just never know). We also bring along a small case with Motrin, children's Tylenol, extra band-aids, and a few other First Aid odds and ends just in case.

Lovies. We limit the Agents to one stuffed animal each, although Agent A always manages to talk us into two. Luckily they are all pretty small and typically end up in my carry-on so they can hold them on the plane. It's not like they're super attached and can't live without them, but more of a traveling habit to take particular "critters" with us. Agent E has one Bear in particular who has been on four continents. (We totally should have been taking pictures along the way like that traveling gnome.)

Clothes. And here is why we end up breaking our two suitcase max rule that we follow for all other vacations. Doing laundry on board is an option, and we usually just plan on it. So, for our trip, we will be gone for ten days but have five complete outfits per person (one we are wearing plus four in the suitcase) plus one pair of pajamas. We know we will be washing clothes at least once (and by "we" I mean Hubby while I'm keeping the kids entertained elsewhere).

But . . . Not only do you need clothes for everyday use, you may also be dealing with wild temperature changes. It will likely be under 20 F the morning we leave home, but then near 80 F during some of our port visits, and of course when you are on the ship itself it always feels a bit cooler than what you'd think (pack a light sweater). Add in formal night (some folks go all out, tuxes and ball gowns, others not so much, but we usually do something quasi-fancy that now means we've added a garment bag to our luggage). Don't forget that dressing up will likely necessitate another pair of shoes.

Then there is pirate night, which is another event that some will really get into (costumes) and others will just throw on an eye patch and the pirate bandana they provide (it will be in your room before dinner) and call it a day. Agent A still fits in his pirate costume from Halloween 2013 (it was huge at the time) so he will be more festive than any of us, although I am packing eye patches and scarves to use as sashes. The Senior Agents still fit in their princess dresses, and by golly we're bringing those, too, so they can do the princess meet and greet in them.

Of course, everyone will also need swimsuits, and you'll probably want to throw in flip flops for getting from the room down to the pool. (Towels are provided.) See how packing clothes can get out of control?

Toiletries. Bring only what you need (toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant, basics you use every day). There will be soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion in the staterooms . . . nice stuff, not the cheap-o hotel kind. And you can always ask for more. Pack sunblock, you'll need it. I purchased a new small tube (under the 3-ish ounces currently allowed by the airlines) to put in my carry-on so we have it during the first day, since you can't be sure exactly when your luggage will arrive. I also pack hand sanitizer for when we are out and about off the ship. Bring a nightlight for the bathroom.

Electronics and chargers. Your cell phone will not work on board, but they will provide special phones (two per room) that work on the ship as well as on Castaway Cay (Disney's private island). You will still want to have your cell with you, however, if you use it for pictures and/or want to download the Disney app to check times/locations of ship events. (You can connect to the ship wifi for free only to use this app; any other Internet usage on board you will be paying big bucks for.) If you bring a Kindle, make sure you have whatever you need downloaded to the device (not just in the cloud) beforehand. If you bring a camera (other than the one on your phone) make sure the memory card is clear and don't forget the charger.

Small bag or purse and a simplified wallet. If you think you might need to carry more than you have pockets for, bring a small purse or tote. On our last trip, I was still carrying around a backpack because I had one Agent in diapers. This time I am putting a very small purse (with a shoulder strap) in our luggage just in case I need a place to put my phone, ID, tissues, chapstick, sunblock, whatever while we are out.

Don't take your wallet, especially if you are someone who carries a lot in there. One credit card, a little cash, your license or other ID, and you're set. Be sure to check your specific destination to see if you will need to exchange currency. Most major credit cards should be fine just about anywhere, and probably easier, but don't forget they will hit you with a  "transaction" fee. You may want small bills if you plan on tipping bus drivers or tour guides, but tipping on board can be taken care of all at once and charged to your room.

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