As I prepare for my second cruise with a baby, I realize just how important it is to be fully prepared. I should be a pro at this, as I have traveled numerous times with my children when they were little, but it is always nice to have a refresher to ensure ultra preparedness. From what to pack, what to do, and figuring out naps, there is a lot that goes into bringing a baby along for anything, let alone a week long cruise vacation.
A lot of people look down at the thought of traveling with a baby, specifically cruising. “They’re not going to remember it”, they say. “It’s too much work, you won’t enjoy it. Leave them home with grandma.”
But don’t worry. It can be done. First off, let’s be real. Sure, they most likely wont remember it, but I will. The cameras will, and the memories will. And that’s what it’s all about. He may not remember it, but in the moment, he is going to enjoy it, and have a blast, and grow into a cultured, humble being. There’s a time and a place for adult vacations, but a yearly family vacation is an absolute must for my family. Life is meant to enjoy, and there’s nothing we enjoy more than traveling and seeing more of our beautiful world.
Please enjoy my ultimate guide to cruising with a baby. After several trips with little ones, I feel confident my experience, as well as tips and hints from other mommy travelers, can help others.
Ultimate Guide to Cruising with a Baby
Section 1: Basics
In this section, we will go over some basic questions you may have when it comes to taking your baby on a cruise.
First of all, how old exactly does an infant need to be to go on a cruise? Most cruise lines require babies to be 6 months old on the day of sailing. For trans-atlantic and trans-pacific, Hawaii, and some South American cruises, the required age is 12 months old. My son will be 16 months old at the time of cruising, and my first son was 9 months old when we first cruised with a baby.
Secondly, does my baby needs a passport? The simple answer is yes, the complicated answer is no. We get a passport. We don’t like playing any games, feel safe with a passport, plus you never know when and if you’re going to have to leave the country. However, I do understand many people cannot get a passport in time for many different reasons, so the good news is that United States citizens can travel with a birth certificate in leui of a passport. However, check your cruise lines specific regulations, because other forms of identification may be needed, included notarized letters from parents not traveling or if the last name differs.
Section 2: Packing
This cruise vacation list will be based off a 7 day trip. Please adjust the number of items to fit the length of your cruise and families habits. I also tend to slightly over pack, as I never know exactly what I’ll be in the mood to wear, but I have gotten a lot better with this. I also live close to the port, so I don’t have to worry about weight restrictions with my luggage. With a baby, there is a lot of “just in case” stuff that needs to be packed. Still, I try to fit everything into 1 suitcase per person, smaller suitcases for the little’s, of course.
Here is a detailed list of what I will be bringing for my 16 month old on our cruise.
Baby Cruise Packing List
- Jogging Stroller: Many people prefer to bring an umbrella stroller for the obvious convenience of it, however the benefits outweigh the cons for me when it comes to bringing my jogging stroller. As much of a hassle as it will be to transport the thing through the hallways and door frames, the ability to keep my little one in the stroller for naps so I can continue with what I am doing and not having to be confined to the room for naps was the driving force for my decision. Other conveniences include: moving around on port days, as an umbrella stroller may not handle well on the beach and/or rocky roadways, having a place to store our belongings while hanging out on the pool deck or moving about the ship, as well as having a place to put our drinks, made it worth it for me.
- Baby Carrier: I will be bringing my ergo, which I will use while walking around and exploring the ship with my family, and in cases where the jogging stroller is impractical. Also, if my 5 year old gets tired, I can wear my little guy so he can take a rest in the stroller.
- Baby Harness: I understand the controversy around these things, but in my book its a no brainier, especially when traveling on bigger ships that are more crowded. My child’s safety and his ability to run off at anytime, is much more of a priority for me than funny looks from strangers.
- (2) Formal outfits: Even though I plan on using the children’s center on formal nights, I still want to get photographs of us all decked out and spend time with my little one before dinner. The first night will be a cute mini captain outfit, and the second night I will dress him in a collared button down shirt and baby slacks.
- (10) one pieces: I pack one for each day and a few extra just in case. We also got cute cruise themed ones, thanks to grandma.
- (2-3) dress shirts: I will pack 2 polo shirts and 1 extra collared button down
- (5) t-shirts
- (2) pants
- (5) shorts
- (1) sweater
- Pool wear:
- 1 rash guard
- 2 swimsuits
- 2 swim diapers
- 3 hats
- 1 swim shoe
- 1 sunglasses
- 1 formal shoe
- 1 flip flop
- 2 baby shoes
- 3 pairs of socks
- 3 pairs of pajamas
*These numbers are give or take 1 or 2, I may take a little more or little less depending on the day of packing. Keep in mind, my little one is a mover and an eater and gets into everything, so he dirties clothing quite frequently. If your baby is a little less mobil or neater, you may decrease the numbers. I also bring extra in case we loose anything or it gets soiled and we need to throw it away.
**If you are traveling by plane and need to keep your luggage under a specific weight, my advice would be to pack half of what I have listed and do a load of laundry mid ship. Much cheaper than hauling extra weight or an extra suitcase.
- Baby shampoo & bodywash
- Baby lotion
- Baby powder
- Baby comb
- Baby q-tips and swabs
- Baby nail clippers
- Changing gear
- Diapers: I calculate 6 per day, plus another 10 or so. So for my 7 day cruise I will bring at least 50 diapers.
- Big pack of wipes
- Changing pad
- Diaper rash cream
- infant tylenol/advil
- infant cough medicine
- syringe for medicine
- TOYS AND ENTERTAINMENT
- Feeding Gear
- 3 bottles
- 2 sippy cups
- 2-3 washable bibs
- tip: use the cloth napkins in the dining areas as a bib. Loosely tie around babies neck and viola, easy to toss and protects very well.
- baby food and/or formula if needed
- baby bottle sponge and small bottle of dish soap for cleaning bottles
- Small bag of toys
Baby Activities Onboard
Most cruiselines have a very sophisticated and fun filled children’s center, however it is free of charge only after your child reaches a certain age, which is age 2 on Carnival and age 3 on Royal Caribbean. This can make parents of babies feel a little disappointed, but need not be. While it is amazing to have a place for your child to play every now and then at no extra charge, you absolutely can utilize the kids center with an underage tot.
Here, I will break the logistics down by the cruise lines Royal Caribbean and Carnival, as these are the only lines I have personal experience with.
- Royal Babies & Tots Nursery: Guests ages 6-36 months are cared for by trained professionals while enjoying special programs designed just for baby. Daytime and evening drop off is available at the low price of $6 per hour during the day, and just $8 an hour in the evening. (Nursery drop off not available on: Empress, Majesty, Jewel, Adventure, Explorer or Voyager of the Seas. *TIP: Make reservations for childcare on embarkation day, as space is limited.
- Babies & Tots Programs: Check your cruise planner for specific times when parent and baby can enjoy the royal tots nursery for playgroup sessions, which offer activities that incorporate playtime and learning.
- In-Room Babysitting: If your ship does not offer a nursery, or your child does not want to go there, you have the option of in- room babysitting. It is more costly ($19 per hour), but it allows your child to stay in the room while being supervised by a Royal Caribbean employee. The key to this is you have to speak to guest services before hand, as it is not a regularly offered service. If a crew member is available to assist, they will, that is why it is key to give them as much notice as possible.
- Baby Splash Zone: On select ships, Royal Caribbean offers an infant pool known as the baby splash zone, where babies in swim diapers can enjoy the water.
- Family Events & Activities: There are several opportunities to get together as a family; including festivals, pool side activities, theme nights and more. There are also several family friendly shows that you can enjoy together. Certain ships also have a carousal for your young ones to enjoy.
- The DreamWorks Experience: On board the ships, you can enjoy many opportunities to meet your kids favorite DreamWorks characters. Check your cruise compass for more details.
- Babies 2 Go: If you are traveling via air, you will find the Babies 2 Go program very useful. You can pre-order diapers, wipes, cream and baby food to take the stress off of having to take up precious space in your already limited suitcase.
Managing your stateroom with a little one may seem taunting at first, but it can be done. Here are some tips to make your stateroom organized and enjoyable for baby.
- Cruise lines provide a pack n play free of charge. We generally take advantage of this, and is definitely a must with younger babies. However this year, since my little one is a little more stable and strong, we may skip the pack n play in order to free up space and have him sleep right in the bed with us.
- Bring magnetic hooks and a curtain for naps. You can arrange them to shield your baby from light so he or she can get a better sleep.
- Stroller storage can be a challenge, depending on the size. Umbrella or compact strollers will easily fit in the closet. Jogging strollers may be more of a challenge based on the size of your room. If you have a balcony, you can store it outside. Or, if it doesn’t fit in the closet, you can store it between the side of the couch and the all folded up. You could even store it under the bed if its collapsed with the wheels removed.
- Decorate your stateroom door: the new and fun trend for families is decorating your stateroom door, and I love it. While we haven’t done it in the past, I am excited to create this memory for our family, as well as being able to easily ocate our stateroom. See my post here for more information on decorating your door.
There are *plenty* of options for food for your little one, especially if they are feeding themselves. From cereal to fresh fruit and spaghetti to chicken fingers, you’ll have everything from snacks to full course meals for your baby. And this is such a fun time for food, as smaller babies will generally eat (or at least try) anything. Watch your baby enjoy and try numerous different types of foods and snacks on your cruise.
- High chairs are offered for your little one in the dining areas.
- Milk is available 24/7 on the cruise. Just stock up on cartons, and store them in the in room fridge.
- You can bring snacks back to your room for your little to snack on throughout the day. Some of my favorite snack ideas are: whole fruit, yogurt, boxed cereal, bread and various danishes.
- Wash bottles in your stateroom using the sponge and dish soap you packed with you.