Updated October 10, 2019
Packing for a vacation with your baby can make you wonder how someone so small can require so much stuff. Packing for a cruise comes with an additional wrinkle -- when you're at sea, you can't run out to Target or Walmart to pick up whatever baby supplies you've run out of or forgotten. As veterans of the baby cruise game, we strongly recommend that you bring more travel diapers, wipes, baby puff snacks and changes of clothes than you think you need.
What else is necessary for a successful cruise with your under-2? Here, we list 12 of the most essential travel baby supplies you'll need on your next vacation at sea.
1. Compact Stroller
A lightweight, foldable, compact stroller is a must when traveling with a baby or toddler. Your little one can hang out in there as you walk around a port or nap in it while you lounge by the pool. And when you're finished adventuring, you can fold it up and stow it in your cabin's closet. We like the Summer Infant 3D Lite Convenience Stroller for its four-position recline, five-point harness, sun shade canopy, large storage basket and carry strap.
2. Baby Carrier
A sturdy but breathable carrier will free up your hands while you travel and let baby snuggle on the go. The Ergobaby 360 Mesh Baby Carrier can hold kids from 12 to 33 pounds, positioned on your front, back or hip. The mesh material is soft and allows for air flow to keep you and your little one cool. The hood provides UPF 50 protection and tucks away when you're not using it. After your cruise, you can throw it in the washing machine to clean it off.
3. Travel Crib
Cruise ships will provide a travel crib for your child, usually a Pack 'n Play style foldable crib. If you need to bring your own for a pre-cruise stay, try the KidCo Peapod Plus Infant Travel Bed (suitable for kids ages 1 to 5). We like it because it doubles as a travel playpen or baby beach tent (with UV protection and anchor straps) -- useful on beachy sailings -- and folds up into a 3.5-pound disc that fits easily in your luggage.
4. Inflatable Bathtub
Note to parents: Most standard cruise ship cabins are shower-only (no tub), and diapered rugrats are not allowed in onboard pools. Solve both problems by bringing your own inflatable tub for bathing and cooling off on hot days. A perennial favorite is the Munchkin White Hot Inflatable Duck Tub, which has a cute ducky design and fits in cruise ship bathrooms. (You might also want to bring a tool to help you inflate it so you don't have to do it by mouth.)
5. Travel Baby Bottles
Whether you breastfeed or use formula, you'll likely want some baby bottles for travel, especially if you plan to leave your kid at the nursery while you get some grownup time alone. The PopYum baby bottle is great for cruising because it only has five parts (easy to clean in your cabin sink) and a clever formula-storing design so you can make a bottle with one hand. It's also super lightweight.
6. Sippy Cups
If your toddler has graduated from bottles to sippy cups, you know how easy it is to lose them on the go. Don't bring your favorite sippy cup on your cruise vacation; instead, invest in some Take n Toss cups. They come in sippy and straw varieties and can be washed and reused. Plus, if your toddler tosses one out of his stroller somewhere between the kids club and the buffet, there won't be tears. Just grab another from the stack.
7. Travel Blanket
All parents know that babies and toddlers love a good park or beach playdate. Set up shop with waterproof blanket that folds up for easy transport; you can use it on the ship, too, for quiet play time in empty lounges. We like the Skip Hop Central Park Waterproof Convertible Outdoor Blanket. It has straps and zippers to turn from ground cover into travel bag with no extra pieces to lose. Plus, it comes with a detachable cooler bag for storing baby's bottle or snacks.
Keep your family safe from sunburn onboard and in port with a baby-safe sunscreen. Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen is SPF 50+, mineral-based with no harsh chemicals and approved by the EWG and Whole Foods. You'll probably want to pack a large bottle in your checked luggage, but for a short cruise, you can find a 3-ounce carry-on-friendly size.
9. Baby Wash
We're not sure Elemis toiletries are baby friendly, so it's best to bring your own rather than rely on ship-supplied shampoo and body wash for your sensitive tyke. Throw a travel-sized bottle of Burt's Bees Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash into your toiletry kit when traveling with the family. The mild shampoo comes in a 1.8-ounce bottle (larger sizes available), is pediatrician tested and contains no phthalates or parabens.
10. Sun Hat
No toddler wants to keep a hat on, but they'll need one for pool deck play and excursions in port. Sunday Afternoons Play Hats come in baby and kid sizes, have a front brim and neck veil in the back to prevent against sunburn, and the material is UPF 50+. Even better, they're water resistant, pack easily for travel and come in a variety of fun colors.
11. Baby Travel Toys
Parents should always pack a sack of toys to keep babies and toddlers entertained, whether that be sensory-play stuffies, toy cars, stacking toys, inflatable balls or soft or crinkly books. One great versatile travel toy is Bright Starts Lots of Links. Your child will enjoy manipulating the colorful plastic links, and you'll enjoy using the links to hang toys from strollers and high chairs so baby can't throw them.
12. First Aid Kit
Little kids are germ magnets and get sick at the most inconvenient times -- like in the middle of the Caribbean in the middle of your vacation. Don't expect to find baby meds at the cruise ship's boutique, and you might not want to risk picking some up at that farmacia in Cozumel. Just in case, make up your own first aid kit with infant or children's Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Dramamine and powdered Pedialyte, plus Band-Aids, Neosporin and a thermometer.
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