1Barbie Sisters' Cruise Ship
The coolest cruise playset we could find features -- who else? -- Barbie. The blonde and her pals might have a small cabin with bunkbeds, but the pink-and-white cruise ship has a pool with double waterslide, a cozy dining area with porthole windows, and porch swings and comfy loungers on the lido deck. Dolls are sold separately, but you can find many Barbie dolls for sale in beach-ready attire. It's a perfect gift for pretend play before or after your first cruise. Plus, parents worried about plastic loungers and tiny cakes being scattered around their living rooms will be pleased to know that all the accessories fold up into the cruise ship for neat storage.
Photo courtesy Mattel.com
2Beach Tote With Sand Toys
$13 - $20, Amazon
If you're planning a Caribbean, Mexican or Pacific Island cruise with the kids, you're going to want to pack some sand toys for beach fun. To conserve luggage space, look for pails and shovels that come packed in travel cases. We love this collection from Stephen Joseph, which includes a fun beach bag in a variety of sea-themed shapes, two shovels and three sand molds. You can fill it up with more toys or use it as your child's airplane carry-on. For more toys but a less attractive bag, try this set of 15 beach toys, including a castle-shaped pail and a watering can.
Photo courtesy Amazon.com
3Trunki Rolling Kids Luggage
$39.99, Melissa & Doug
Traveling with kids makes you realize just how much stuff a little person needs. Give up your Sherpa role and consolidate travel gear with a rolling, ride-on Trunki suitcase. These lightweight, hard-sided, kid-sized bags from Melissa & Doug come in multiple colors and animal themes. They've got a long strap that lets you carry the bag over your shoulder (less ideal), pull your child as he rides on the bag (more ideal) or lets your kid wheel the bag herself (perfect!). Your little one will always have a place to sit, making airport waits and cruise terminal queues more manageable. If you like to accessorize, you can buy a soft travel duffle that fits inside, a saddle bag with a soft seat and extra pockets and decals to add decoration to the suitcase itself.
Photo courtesy MelissaAndDoug.com
4Pullback Toy Cruise Ship
It makes noise. It has wheels. And when you pull it back, it shoots across a hard floor. There is no better cruise toy for a vehicle-obsessed youngster than a pullback cruise ship. You can buy a few online, but we've found them in onboard souvenir shops, branded with cruise line logos and colors. Pick one (or a few) up on your next cruise for a great stocking stuffer or small gift for the junior cruiser in your life. Just be warned: If you live with the little guy, you may soon tire of the incessant ship's horn sound this toy makes. We recommend gifting the ship without a set of spare batteries.
Photo courtesy Amazon.com
5Sunday Afternoons Kids Play Hat
$25, Sunday Afternoons
A good sun hat is a must for your child's next cruise -- or any outdoor playtime at all. We're big fans of the kids play hat from Sunday Afternoons. It comes in four sizes, fitting children from birth to nine years. You can choose from more than 10 color options, from neutral sand and hot pink camo to several plain but bright shades of blue, pink, purple and green. This hat has a wide brim and extra neck protection. They're rated at SPF 50+, water repellent and stain resistant, and they pack easily for travel. Best of all, compared to other sun-protection hats on the market, these are among the least dorky we've seen -- meaning your kid might just keep his hat on after all. (Sunday Afternoons also sells other sunhat styles and sun and swim shirts -- perfect if you're gearing up for your cruise vacation.)
Photo courtesy SundayAfternoons.com