A Disney Cruise is the epitome of a magical family vacation, but what to pack and what to leave behind to make for an even smoother sailing? This is where a TravelingMom Disney Cruise Family Packing List comes in handy. Whether you are new to cruising or have cruised with other cruise lines, a Disney Cruise is an altogether different experience and there are Disney-specific items you will need to pack beyond what is needed on a typical voyage. So much is already included and can be purchased on board too. Here is a family-friendly Disney Cruise Packing List and general tips and lessons learned for packing for a Disney Cruise vacation.
Prepping & Packing for a Disney Cruise
Yay! You’re going on a Disney Cruise! But what to pack? Where to start? What to buy?
That was basically me in the weeks leading up to our bon voyage on the Disney Dream for a 3-night sailing to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island Castaway Cay.
Although we had cruised many times before, this was the first time our twin toddlers were sailing too and it was the first time all of us were on Disney Cruise Line. Prior to our sail, I had researched all that I could online and asked the advice of friends. In the end I was prepared, but I overpacked and overstressed for nothing. I had failed to realize that Disney would have my back. The same care, focus on families and attention to detail that I love at Disney Parks carries seamlessly over to their ships too. Merrily things rowed along.
First of all, if you are NOT flying … go ahead and go overboard. Well, not literally of course. Since we were driving, I filled our larger suitcase and one smaller one. I even packed my full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner. While our bag was heavy, at least we didn’t have to lift it except for in and out of our trunk. We simply pulled up to the loading area in Port Canaveral, unloaded our bags, tipped the man and parked our car. The bags were then delivered to our room within two hours.
The Ultimate Disney Cruise Family Packing List
Disney T-Shirts & Clothes – Head to DisneyStore.com, the parks, WalMart, Target, wherever and pick up some Disney character tees. It will make your photos that more magical. Or if you’re crafty, make your own.
Since there is always that first gangway photo before you board the ship, that was the day I chose to dress my boys (and us!) in our Disney gear.
I purchased iron-on transfers from eBay that read “I Can’t Keep Calm I’m Going on a Disney Cruise” and applied them to tees for my boys. They received a lot of compliments and attention from cast members for their shirts. Lots of families had personalized Mickey shirts on that first day and I spotted families with personalized Mickey mugs and bags throughout our journey too.
Sea-bands and Dramamine for nausea – Since it was our boys first time on a big ship out in the ocean, I wasn’t sure how they would do and I thought I’d rather be prepared than wing it. Just in case, I packed Dramamine for kids chewable grape tablets and child size Sea-Bands, which are a knitted elastic wrist bands that apply pressure on the Nei Kuan acupressure point on each wrist by means of a plastic stud to relieve nausea and motion sickness without drugs. Fortunately, we didn’t need them as the waters were quite calm, but it also made me calm knowing that we had these just in case it got rocky.
OTC medicines – Bring over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen, anti-diarrhoeal and any stomach meds with you. If you go to the ship doctor and they think that you may be sick, they will quarantine you. This happened to my husband for 24 hours on a previous cruise and he missed our stop in Costa Rica entirely when a simple pill would have done the trick.
A lanyard for your room key – MagicBands aren’t on DCL ships yet – well, except for kids in the kids club. A lanyard with a case to hold your room/charge key is helpful, especially for kids who are old enough to carry their own key. This way, there is no need to worry about carrying a bag or deal with the fact that your bathing suit doesn’t have pockets. The front desk can hole punch the card for you. They sell some really cute lanyards in the gift shops aboard too. Go ahead and throw a few pins on it too for some pin trading with cast members.
Pirate Gear – Every cruise has a Pirate Night, which is one of the big party nights on the ship. Disney will leave maroon pirate bandannas in your room for you, but if you want additional swag, you can buy some on the boat. Or be prepared and hit up the dollar store prior to boarding so you can take your own. Girls and boys both dress up for this night. We packed blow-up swords and eye patches, neither of which took up much room in our bags. I had also adorned black tees with an EZ Peasy skull patch for my boys to don. Although my duo didn’t make it to 10:30 at night for the fireworks at the end of the Pirate party, they fit in with all the other kids and enjoyed dressing up too.
Door Magnets and Decorations – Cabin doors aboard Disney cruise lines are a work of art. Guests decorate their doors with photos and decorations of all kinds, including magnets with their names and favorite characters on them. Make your own flair or order custom-made door magnets on Etsy like I did, so you can add some pop to your cabin door too.
To personalize our door we ordered this cute door magnet with each of our first names listed and I also added a shameless plug to my blog URL too, lol. Another great thing about decorating your door is that it makes it easy for kids to find the right door. My three-year-old boys would run ahead down the hallway and then know just where to stop thanks to our magnets. Heck, it helped me distinguish our door easily too.
Beach Tote – You’ll need this for going up to the pool and for Castaway Cay. Something that can get wet and fold away easily works best. Also pack plastic bags for wet bathing suits for going home. We also used the tote to store swim clothes and essentials for when we boarded the ship since we knew we would be without our bags for a while. Remember, you won’t have access to your rooms right away. We had to wait until after 1:30 p.m., so it was great having everything we needed to hit the pool and grab lunch.
Bring small sand toys to use at the beach – Of course, they sell supplies onboard, but it’s expensive if you have more than one child. I actually packed two little shovels and then left them in our room, but fortunately our boys were none the wiser. You might want to bring a tube that you can inflate too, otherwise it was around $10 to rent one at Castaway Cay, which is what we ended up doing.
Glow sticks – We always pack dollar store or Target dollar area glow sticks for visiting the parks at night. It cuts down costs for kids wanting the glowing spheres that they sell. During the evening deck parties, our boys wanted us to buy glowing light sabers for them, but fortunately they were appeased with the glow sticks, which they then took to their bunk beds to use as night lights.
Your own plush – Along the same lines, you may want to bring your own Disney plush to tuck kids in each night. Our boys aren’t much into stuffed animals, so we didn’t bother. However, we saw plenty of children posing for pics with theirs.
Refillable water bottles – Disney cruises are one of the only cruises with free unlimited soft drinks, tea and water with several filling stations on deck. This is a huge savings that you’ll want to take advantage of, so bring your own refillable water bottles so you can store larger amounts, add a top or a straw, etc. Better yet, pack a Disney designed one like my Little Mermaid Tervis tumbler for hot or cold beverages. I also brought Cars and Nemo sippy cups for my kids.
Alcohol – If you imbibe and would like to save some money, bring your own, in moderation. Each adult is allowed to bring 2 bottles of wine or champagne and 6 bottles of beer. Since this was only a 3-day cruise, we carried on one bottle of prosecco, another perk of not flying and worrying about ounces. Do make sure that liquor is in your carry-on bag as you go through the cruise terminal for inspection. Do not check it in with your bags, as it will be confiscated and returned at the end of your trip.
Something for Autographs – My boys are too young to know about autographs and it’s not personally my thing, but we saw many children collecting characters’ signatures as a keepsake. Better yet, my friend Anjali packed a blank picture frame that she gave to her steward to have the characters sign without having to track down each one during her stay. Then you can put a photo from your travels inside it. Check out ideas like an autograph book and more from Kids on a Plane.
Normally, when we go on a cruise, I pack Walkie Talkies for communicating without using cellular service. However, they are not needed on Disney Cruise Line ships. Why? Because Disney provides two Wave phones per stateroom, which you can carry around and call like a cell phone. The wave phones like walkie talkies are great for keeping connected with older kids as they run around the ship. My husband and I used them primarily to coordinate meeting up after different activities. Also, it was a relief knowing the kids club could reach us on the Wave phones if there were any problems. It’s a free and wonderful convenience offered by DCL. They worked off ship on Castaway Cay too, but not in Nassau or other port cities. In those cases the Cobra CXT 1035 floating radios would come in handy, especially when out of the country to prevent racking up roaming charges.
Power Strip – There are no power outlets in the bathrooms, only two by the vanity area. The Wave Phones take up one, so my husband and I had to negotiate the use of the other plug to charge our phones and cameras. Thus, you may want to bring a small power strip or power outlet for extra plugs. The hair dryer has its own unique plug, so no need to worry there. UPDATE: Power strips are banned from the ship, but you still might want to pack a travel outlet and only use while in the room.