• I've been going on cruises my whole life, and it's best to pack strategically.
  • I recommend leaving bulky toiletries, hair dryers, and towels at home to save space.
  • Bring books and board games for personalized entertainment options throughout the trip.

Packing for a cruise can be tricky — there are often multiple climates to consider and limited storage options. Plus, unlike a normal vacation, you can't just run to a convenience store whenever needed.

But nearly 30 cruises later, I've learned how to pack efficiently and comfortably (even at the last minute).

Here are the items I think everyone should bring and the things you can leave out of your suitcase.

Board games are perfect for cloudy days

Card and board games are a great activity for a cold or rainy day.

If you don't want to compete with other passengers for your favorite in the ship's game room, consider bringing your own.

Choose clothing according to the cruise's schedule

When it comes to packing your wardrobe for a cruise, anything goes — except when you're eating in the dining room.

Members of my family have been sent away in the past for trying to enter an "evening chic" night in flip-flops and shorts.

Check the cruise itinerary and schedule beforehand to see how many formal outfits you'll need to bring.

Remember to check for themed parties ahead of time, too

In addition to your regular wardrobe, check the itinerary to find out about any themed parties, such as a decade night or a white party.

If the vacation falls on a holiday, chances are there'll be a corresponding themed event. Dressing up isn't mandatory, but it's always fun.

Bring a casual bag to use at the pool

It's helpful to bring an extra bag to use at the pool on the ship or the beaches at port stops.

I like to bring one that I wouldn't mind leaving unattended for a bit or getting sand in.

Chair towel clips are a savior on windy days

Nothing disrupts relaxation time quite like battling the wind to keep your towel in place.

Chair clips are small and easy things to pack that make a huge difference in enhancing your comfort on the pool deck.

Stock up on a few pharmacy items

In addition to any necessary prescriptions, I recommend stocking up on sunscreen, over-the-counter medications, and first-aid supplies in case you feel ill during your journey.

You could potentially make these purchases as needed on board or during stops, but it's a lot cheaper and more convenient to come prepared.

Bring a reusable bottle to avoid dehydration

If you don't spring for a beverage package, water bottles usually cost extra.

Rather than continuously getting up from my pool seat to grab a small, free cup of water, I like to bring a larger reusable bottle.

It saves me from waiting in lines, and I'm always thankful to have an insulated bottle keeping my water cold and refreshing.

Cash comes in handy for tipping

On most ships, room keys doubles as a credit card. But I like to pack cash so I can tip employees at the end of the trip.

Cash is usually available on board at guest services, but the line is typically long.

Even if your cruise says it has a library, bring your own reading material

Even if your ship's layout plan has a library, don't assume that means you'll have book options on board. Many of them are just for show — or a quiet place to read personal books.

If you opt for an e-book, be sure to download it before sailing away. Even if you purchase Wi-Fi, it can sometimes be weak.

Odds are you'll want a jacket at some point

I pack for different climates even if we're heading to an island that's 90 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny.

The pool deck can feel cold on windy or cloudy days, and sometimes, wrapping yourself in towels isn't enough.

Plus, temperatures tend to skew lower inside the dining room. I like to pack a nice jacket or sweater to wear to dinner.

Ditch the lanyard and get a sticky wallet or cardholder

A lot of cruise blogs say to bring a lanyard or key wallet, and when I was young, that was my favorite accessory. But as I've gotten older, I no longer want to wear it.

My room-key holder of choice is a sticky wallet for the back of my phone. That way I have my key, credit card, camera, and itinerary all in one place.

Depending on your cruise status, some rooms also come with a complimentary room-key wallet.

Ditch appliances that will get confiscated anyway

Steamers and irons will be left on the "table of shame" if you try to bring them on board.

Instead, there are a lot of travel-size wrinkle-release sprays that are perfect for carrying on the go. But remember to use it as soon as you unpack because the clothes can take a few hours to dry.

Don't waste space by bringing a blow dryer

Every room I've stayed in has come with a mini blow dryer.

Don't waste space in your suitcase by bringing a full-sized one from home unless you absolutely need some kind of fancy styling wand.

Leave your bulky towels behind

Ships usually provide towels at the pool and before any beach stops, so I don't waste the space in my suitcase.

On colder itineraries, like an Alaskan cruise, I've also had access to throw blankets at the pool.

Don't bring your entire toiletry bag

I like to maximize suitcase space by leaving behind commonly provided toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, and soap.

Instead, I focus on personal essentials like deodorant, razors, hairbrushes, shower caps, and stain removers.

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