Vacation Survival Guide – Let’s Cruise!

Vacation season is fast approaching and I love to travel. Then again, who doesn’t? I am a firm believer in taking time away from home and office to recharge the soul. And I have a confession to make. I am addicted to cruising. Yes, I am one of those crazy ladies who just can’t stop talking about or booking them. I believe cruises are not only one of the most fabulous getaways, but they force you to take the time needed to really unplug from everyday life. At least that’s what they have done for me.

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If you can refrain from purchasing an expensive internet package, you can take a 3, 5, or 7 day cruise and be forced to spend time with yourself, your surroundings, and your travel companions. I always recommend seven. A full week gives you ample time to truly hit the refresh button before you come back to the grind of daily life. Cruises for me are the key to staying sane.

Another confession. I am also an obsessive planner and I admit that I think way too much about what to bring with me on any vacation, cruising or otherwise. Given that I’ve been on 4 cruises in the past 2 years, I have had a chance to hone my packing list and perfect my must-have and tips/tricks that I use for every cruise I take. I suppose these aren’t bad lists for any vacation, so even if you don’t cruise, you may still glean some new ideas for your own vacation planning. So here it goes. My top 10 for cruise planning/packing.

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  1. Bring your own refillable water bottle/tumbler/travel mug. The cups they have on a cruise are ridiculously small (seriously, they can’t be more than 6 oz.) and the water stations are only in the dining areas. By the time you fill up your tiny cup and walk ten steps, it’s time to refill. Plus, when you go on shore at any ports, you can take your water bottle with you. Hydration is one of the keys to recharging the soul, you know. I recommend a bottle that can be closed completely and is leak-proof. You can toss it into your day bag and not worry about spillage.
  1. There is only one outlet, equipped with two plug receptacles, in most staterooms. If you have multiple electronics or batteries you need to re-charge during your vacation, bring a travel power strip or multi-plug box. Most cruise lines specify what type these must be to avoid fire hazards, so make sure to review their specific guidelines. For example, Carnival & Royal Caribbean do not allow power strips with surge protection.
  1. Take magnetic chip clips along. What? Yes, I said chip clips. No, you won’t use them for chips. It may have never occurred to you, so I’ll let you in on a little secret. A ship is made of metal. The whole ship, including the walls. So magnetic chip clips come in super handy. I use them for leaving notes for my sleeping companions, to keep the shower curtain in the bathroom pulled taught as it likes to flutter inward and stick to your legs as you bathe, and to hold up wet bathing suits or towels while they dry.
  1. Packing cubes are one of my favorite inventions. I especially like to use them to pack my undies and socks each in their own cube, then throw the whole cube in a drawer, so everything stays together without being loose in the drawer. I also use them to organize my clothing by type to make unpacking quick and easy. As a bonus they make for a very tidy suitcase, which makes the obsessive tendencies in me very happy.
  1. Take a nightlight or a small flashlight to keep by your bed. It’s REALLY dark in a stateroom in the middle of the ocean, especially if you’re in an inside cabin. Getting up in the middle of the night to dash to the bathroom can be a dangerous mission, unless you have a little light.
  1. A valuables case (or two) is very handy to keep things together when you’re moving important things in and out of your stateroom safe. I keep one for any cash we bring for ports as well as our passports and other travel documents. When it’s time to leave the ship on port days, I just grab the case and throw it into my day bag knowing everything I need is safely tucked inside. I keep a separate one for my jewelry and another for our wallets and phones that we won’t need while we’re on the ship.
  1. For our most recent cruise, I invested in a locking tote bag and I don’t regret it. One of these handy bags will keep all of your belongings safe while you’re on a beach (or other) excursion and you don’t want to constantly keep an eye on your things while you play in the surf or saddle up to the bar for another rum punch. The bag itself locks closed and comes with a tether for you to secure the bag to anything handy nearby, like a lounge chair, table, or railing.
  1. If you’ve been on a cruise before, you know that your travel documents come with paper luggage tags you are required to attach to your bags. These tags direct the embarkation staff to which deck and stateroom you are in so they can deliver your luggage appropriately. You are instructed to staple them onto your luggage handles and on our first cruise I worried they would fall off before my luggage reached me. For our second cruise, I invested in re-usable, clear luggage tags made specifically for cruises. You just print your tags, slide them into the clear tag holder, and then attach. While they certainly aren’t necessary, they do give peace of mind. As an added bonus, you can attach them before you leave the house and not worry about them coming off in transit to the ship. If you decide not to go this route, you should be aware that they don’t have staplers at the port. Either bring your own, or staple them on before you leave. I’ve also seen some people staple them, then reinforce with clear packing tape to secure.
  1. Take at least one jacket, hoodie, or sweater, even if your cruise is in the dead of summer. The outdoor decks might be nice and warm, but they keep the ship’s common areas mighty chilly. While this is most refreshing after basking in the sun, it can get a little goose pimply in the evening.
  1. Most cruise lines allow you to bring one bottle of wine per person over 21 with you on board. You must carry on these bottles through security when you embark and cannot pack them in your checked luggage. To make it easy, I use a handy wine tote. Then I use the same, now empty, tote to pack smaller souvenirs I have purchased on our vacation on the way back.

And here are a few things you do NOT need to take:

  1. Towels – Don’t waste precious space in your luggage for towels. There are always plenty of fresh, clean bath and beach towels available on every ship.
  2. Hairdryer – check your ship’s particulars, but most staterooms, just like most hotels, include a hair dryer for your convenience.
  3. Water – most cruise lines will deliver bottled water packages to your stateroom for a nominal fee. I recently paid $3.99 for 12 pack of 16.9 oz. bottles. SO worth not dragging them onto the ship with you.

Bonus fun tip. We have a countdown whiteboard that we update daily to build up to our cruise. I created my own on www.zazzle.com that we use religiously the moment a new cruise is booked – even if it is over 6 months out. It’s a fun reminder of what we have to look forward to and we enjoy changing the number of days until our cruise every evening.

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Whether you’re a cruiser like me, or just planning your next vacation on land, I encourage you to put down the cell phone and leave the computer at home. Unplug yourself and recharge your soul. It is an investment in your sanity and your colleagues will thank you when you’re back in the office with renewed energy.

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One response to “Vacation Survival Guide – Let’s Cruise!”

  1. Very cool read Wanza! We are going to plan a cruz very soon and this will be handy information for first time cruisers for sure.

    Thanx,
    Neil

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