My bucket list is officially a little bit shorter! Our family recently took a 10 day Land and Sea Alaskan cruise. It was amazing! But, something I struggled with before the trip was what to pack for an Alaskan cruise?! I consulted with some traveling experts and searched the internet for my answers to piece it together. BUT, I’m creating a list to save you time!
We traveled with my sister and her family. Our schedules have all been a bit hectic the past 6 months, so we procrastinated making the official travel plans. Various options were considered, including the Northeast (United States), Hawaii, Iceland, Grand Canyon – frankly the list goes on.
Ultimately, we decided on Alaska and are so glad we did! I’m pretty sure all of us agree, Alaska is a vacation of a lifetime. At some point soon, I’ll get into all of the details of the ports we visited and share that with you. The views were perfection!
It probably helped us enjoy it even more knowing the weather was in the 50’s to 70’s each day in Alaska while it was around 100 degrees in Missouri. For this reason (and several others), I believe July is a great month to plan your Alaskan cruise.
Most do not procrastinate as much as we managed to, so booking it early is a great way to give you something to look forward to! That is one of the best things about a vacation.
Let’s dive into the things you should considering packing for your Alaskan cruise!
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What to pack for an Alaskan Cruise:
Remember, we cruised in July. This list would likely vary to some extent depending on your month of travel. June, July, or August are your likely options. I haven’t checked, but I can’t imagine there would be cruises in months other than that due to the extreme cold potential.
I’ll include things you might need for the ship in addition to items for excursions you might want to take at the various ports.
1. Small bills for tipping.
I realize this is somewhat controversial. When you take a cruise, tips are automatically added to your fees every day. BUT, I felt as though there were occasions the staff really deserved a little extra for going out of their way to make us comfortable.
Our specific cruise line, Holland America, added $13.50 per person each day for tips to divide among staff. Initially, this sounded like plenty since we were traveling with our family of four.
However, after reading Our Voyage Log indicating there were 742 officers and crew members, a little extra tipping seemed appropriate!
2. Lanyard for your room key card
On a cruise, the room key card is vital! You obviously need this each time you open your cabin door, but the card is also crucial when you leave the ship at each port. You MUST have it to get off and of course, get back on again.
My kids wore their lanyards constantly, which gave then a lot more freedom to go have fun with their cousin without us being with them every second. Jason kept his room card in his wallet as he carries this out of habit. I used my passport holder to hold my room card.
This specific lanyard can also be used to store your phone for excursions that might get you a bit wet. We took a rafting trip on glacier melt and this would definitely be great for this purpose, too.
But, no matter what, you’ll need some way to keep your card on you at all times when outside of your room.
You can see the kids’ lanyards in the below picture when we were viewing Glacier Bay. As you can see, it was pretty chilly on the deck of the ship. Layers are the best way to dress appropriately.
As I mentioned above, I let my passport holder double as a small purse / lanyard. When flying, I could keep our passports secure with me the entire time (I’m a bit paranoid!).
While I was on the ship, I put all of our passports in the room’s safe. The passport holder was perfect to store my room card, some lip gloss, and any other small item of choice without lugging a purse everywhere.
4. Packable jacket
I don’t have a link to my light weight jacket, but I highly recommend a packable jacket. I linked to a reasonably priced women’s jacket on Amazon that appeared to have good ratings. The small one was perfect to throw in a backpack on days we went hiking.
I also brought a heavier packable coat for days on the ship deck. This is another coat I have that would have worked great.
As I mentioned above, the temperature day-time highs were 50-70’s during our trip. So, being prepared for anything is necessary. Due to this, you can’t pack as lightly as you might for a warm weather cruise. This is why packable coats are so helpful.
Saving space in your luggage is super helpful.
5. Digital Luggage Scale
I don’t know how crucial this is, but my sister brought along a digital luggage scale. As I mentioned above, it’s easy to pack lots of items and this was a great way to ensure our checked bags didn’t exceed 50 lbs, which is the limit with most airlines.
Somehow, our bags were A LOT heavier when coming home. We had to reallocate our things several times to ensure our two checked bags wouldn’t exceed the limit.
So, it did come in pretty handy. It saved us some embarrassment and stress at the airport. I can only image the glares we’d get when we held up the line trying to pull out heavier items.
She said it took up very little space, so consider it.
The views on an Alaskan cruise are out of this world. We got inexpensive sets of binoculars for the entire family. However, we could have easily gotten away with sharing two pair for the four of us.
You will (hopefully!) be doing a lot of hiking. A comfortable backpack for each family member is needed. It’s a great place to store binoculars as wearing them around your neck the entire day is exhausting.
We also kept our jackets, wallets, phones, and extra water in them.
8. Plastic Poncho or Rain Jacket
It can be pretty rainy in Alaska. Fortunately for us, we only endured the rain for portions of a few days. But, plastic ponchos were great to throw on to keep us dry during hikes without having to deal with an umbrella.
Jason just used a rain jacket he purchased in Denali as a souvenir. He wore this jacket most of the trip.
By the way, most of the ports will have fleece and rain jackets at a fairly reasonable price. His was $25 and he’ll definitely get lots more use out of it. I noticed this was a very popular purchase for travelers at each of the ports. I got one, too;-)
9. Hiking shoes or comfortable tennis shoes
I read mixed reviews regarding the need for hiking boots prior to my trip. But, in my experience, a comfortable pair of tennis shoes worked just fine.
It would be optimal to have two pairs of tennis shoes (or hiking shoes if that’s your preference) in case one gets wet or damp when hiking.
I alternated between two pairs of lightweight tennis shoes and would choose that option for me again. Anything to save space in my bag!
But, as I’m writing this, I realize I forgot I also brought a pair of snow boots! I could have done without these, but I did wear them on cold days on the ship deck. We spent as much time as possible on the deck. It was just too beautiful to stay inside.
10. Bug spray
We read that mosquitos were insane in Alaska. We did see a lot on our hikes (specifically at the Bird Sanctuary in Fairbanks!), but none of us really had any bites to speak of. Pack a small container of bug spray just in case, and use it on your hikes. No need to make this magical vacation miserable with mosquito bites.
Most of your days will likely have some sun, some clouds. Protect your skin with sunscreen!
You’ll definitely use these! I wore my sunglasses every day, on and off the ship. On the ship there is a lot of reflection off of the water, so you’ll even need them while on board.
13. Hat or visor
My brother-in-law said packing a hat was crucial for him. He switched between a stocking cap and ball cap depending on the weather.
14. Gloves and other cold weather accessories
We probably anticipated the weather to be a little colder than it actually was. Most of the time we found ourselves peeling off layers pretty quickly during hiking. Most excursion we took involved physical movement, which kept us pretty warm.
But, if you tend to get chilled pretty easily, plan / pack for it!
On several travel blogs, I noticed heavy duty magnets were suggested to put on the wall within your cabin on the cruise. I brought several and I did think they were nice to have.
Space is pretty tight in the rooms and I used ours to hang up maps of the city we were visiting that day (or the next) as well as the cruise itinerary.
We all liked keeping up with all of the cruise activities. Our family participated in Trivia Night nearly, if not every day. Trivia is certainly not my area of expertise, but it was fun watching our family come together to figure out the answers. We won one night! We came in second two of the other nights!
16. Jeans / Athletic Pants / Leggings / Shorts
Don’t overthink what pants you will wear. Jeans and leggings were my go-to pant options. The kids tended to wear jeans and athletic pants most of the time. My daughter wears leggings ALWAYS, and this trip was no exception.
One thing we wished we would have had more of (we each only had one pair) was shorts. It reached the upper 60’s to 70’s in Fairbanks, Denali, Juneau, Ketchikan, and while sailing the Inside Passage. If you’re moving around a lot, this is toasty!
On the hazier days, it tended to be a bit chillier. But, when the sun came out, it felt like a warm spring day back home in the Midwest.
17. Packing Cubes
I snagged some packing cubes on Amazon before the trip and I loved them. It kept my stuff so much more organized. If you’ve ever done a cruise, you know how staying organized is crucial to your sanity in such a small space.
18. Alarm Clock
If you don’t have an alarm clock app on your phone, pack an alarm clock. You’ll need some way to ensure you wake at the appropriate time each morning.
We have a 3 hour time difference and our internal clocks were ALL messed up! Plus, the 24 hours of sunlight will really throw you off!
19. Plug extender / extra USB ports
If you and/or the group you are traveling with have lots of devices, you’ll want to be prepared to keep everything charged. We all used our phones for our cameras, so keeping a good charge was needed.
There was little to no service for the majority of the trip. I must say, this was a refreshing bonus for me personally!
20. Power bank for phones and other electronic devices
Throw an inexpensive power bank in your backpack for long days. You don’t want to run out of charge and not have the power in your phone to capture an amazing photo or video.
OK…I said 20 items you’ll need for an Alaskan Cruise, but I have several more for you to consider!
21. Thin, wicking socks
22. Disinfectant wipes
I used these to tidy up our room on the ship. Did I mention I can be a bit paranoid?
23. Over the door shoe organizer
We did not bring this, but many do and love them. If you have lots of toiletries or just want extra space to organize your things, consider this.
24. Ziplock Bags
I brought various sizes. There are endless ways you can use these!
25. Portable Speaker
We used my portable speaker (OontZ Angle 3) to jam out every day. It’s small, but mighty.
26. Candy / Gum
We are not complete sugar monsters, but we definitely enjoyed our small stash of treats.
27. Small package of Kleenex
Don’t buy your Kleenex through this link, as they are way too pricy. But, I just wanted to show you the size I’m referring to. Get yours at Target or Wal-Mart as they are much more reasonable.
28. Headache Medicine and Dramamine
With the time difference and the endless sunlight (Fairbanks and Denali especially), I struggled a bit with a headache. Be prepared and bring medication. I used Aleve and it worked great.
My daughter, sister, and I all used Non-Drowsy Dramamine on the first couple days of the cruise. After that, no issues with seasickness!
29. Downloaded Books, Magazines and/or Audiobooks
Before the trip, we all downloaded several things from our library through Overdrive. If you are not using your local library, you’re missing out! My Kindle was loaded with lots of great reading material.
I used my iPhone for several audiobooks and magazines through RB Digital. These came in very hand on the long bus trips during the land portion of our Alaskan adventure.
A Few More Tips While On Your Alaskan Cruise:
Gala Night / Dinner on the Cruise
We were a bit stressed with what to wear for our Gala night. It ended up being no big deal. The girls just wore skirts and blouses. You will not be going outside, so wear summer attire if you wish. I think our family was all over the board with level of warmth and it worked perfectly fine.
The guys wore khaki pants with collared shirts. There were plenty of people dressed up a lot more, and there were those that were dressed down more than us. Don’t stress and enjoy trying food you might not normally try.
My nephew and I both tried the escargot. We loved it!
Keep Your Booking Number in a Safe Place
I wrote my cruise booking number several times on luggage tags. If you aren’t doing land in addition to the sea portion with your cruise, this probably isn’t nearly as important. But if you do, ensure you have your booking number where you can conveniently find it.
I kept a picture in my phone of all of my important documents just in case.
Check out my good friend and fellow blogger’s site:
My friend Jill gave me so much amazing advice prior to my trip. Check out Finding Jillian, her travel blog for much more advice on Alaskan cruises as well as any type of vacation questions you might have.
I know many of you come to Love Our Real Life, looking for a good DIY? I’ve got you covered!
- How to paint an old basket with gray wood stain
- String Art DIY (maybe I’ll make a moose in honor of Alaska!)
- How to paint an ugly stone fireplace
Have you been to Alaska? If you have any more tips, please share in the comments below!