Updated January 15, 2020
Traveling light is an ideal for many. We're drawn to the ease of navigating with only a carry-on and the allure of a stress-free travel experience, but not packing enough shirts, a toothbrush or an umbrella (especially when it starts pouring during an excursion) can be downright annoying. Cruise ships offer limited supplies, and you won't want to spend your time on shore sorting through retail racks.
Use these telltale flags as signs that you went a step too far and didn't pack enough for your cruise.
1. You have to do laundry every day.
It's one thing to plan to do laundry mid-cruise re-wear outfits the second half of your cruise. It's another to be washingtimates every single day while on vacation. No one needs daily chores on vacation, so choose a realistic number of days' worth of attire to bring. Think through the details of each outfit and make sure you have enough clothing to last for several days. Bring items you can wear a few times before washing if you want to pack light without having to do multiple loads of laundry.
If you plan to do laundry, pack soap from home. You'll save the dollars you'd otherwise have to spend on detergent onboard, and you can take the brand you prefer. Travel-size pouches are very small and won't hurt your plan to pack light.
Related: Cruise Line Laundry Services
2. Your suitcase is full of casual clothes.
While your cruise goal may be to relax, don't rely on shorts and T-shirts for everything without thinking through your schedule. You may want to add a bit of glamor and dress up for formal night, especially if you'd like to get pictures taken. You'll want workout gear if you plan on hitting the gym or going for a hike port. A visit to a religious site or high-altitude destination might require you to bring clothes that cover your arms and legs.
Also look at weather forecasts and averages for the places you'll be visiting. You might need a jacket, hat or gloves for an excursion to a glacier, or a raincoat and pants for an outdoor trek dicey weather.
Related: Pictures of What to Wear on a Cruise
3. Your toiletry bag has extra room.
If you're a rush, it can be easy to overlook essentials. Missing your usual contact solution or favorite shaving cream brand can lead to extra stress onboard. Cruise ships offer limited free toiletries (mainly shampoo, soap and body lotion), and many sell only the basics onboard and at marked-up prices.
Start packing early to think through what you'll want the morning and evening for skin care and other toiletry items. If you're taking small bottles of shampoo or other liquids, make sure you have enough; you don't want to run out of hair gel or makeup remover halfway through your trip.
4. Your medicine cabinet didn't get a glance.
Leaving without prescription meds to last the duration of your trip is a big no-no. If you have medicine you need to take at certain times and can't miss, put it your carry-on. You'll be able to access it even if there are travel delays or your luggage doesn't arrive on time.
In addition, make sure you grab over-the-counter aids that could help you soothe a headache or send motion sickness symptoms away. As with toiletries, your options to buy these onboard will be limited and overpriced; looking for the equivalent of Pepto-Bismol a foreign port might not be your idea of a fun day ashore.
5. You're taking one pair of shoes.
Shoes tend to take up a lot of space, so it makes sense to keep footwear to a minimum. However, on a cruise, one pair is hardly ever enough. While you will want a comfortable pair for travel, evaluate what you might need on excursions, at the pool and the evenings.
Look at the outfits you plan on packing and make sure the shoes match your selections. You don't want to head to dinner on formal night flip-flops because your evening footwear is at home. Nor do you want to take a hike or go kayaking a cute pair of flats. To bring just enough shoes, consider color coordinating your clothing, so you don't need the brown and the black shoes or setting aside the heels for comfortable flats that can and night.
6. Your laptop is cordless.
Or you don't take a charging cord for your tablet, or your phone is by itself … you get our point. Forgetting to take along chargers and power cords will make your electronics useful for a mere span of hours on the trip. In addition to chargers, check if you'll need to pack transformers. While the U.S. uses 110-volt outlets, many countries and cruise ships use 220-volt outlets, so you might need a converter for any electronics on the trip. Also, most ships do not have USB outlets, so be sure to bring the wall charger, so you can use a regular wall outlet.
7. There's no reading material your carry-on.
Cruises are full of downtime, and having a book or magazine on hand is a great way to pass the time on the flight to your cruise, while waiting to board your ship or even waiting for an event to begin. Leisurely reading material will also come handy when you're sunbathing by the pool or at a beach port. To cut down on weight, load books onto an e-reader. If you're notto books, consider another nonelectronic hobby, like adult coloring books or crocheting, to bring along so you can unplug and recharge your spirit at sea.
Related: Best Cruise Books
8. When the unexpected happens, you're stuck.
While cruising tends to be a safe way to take a vacation, it's still smart packing to add a few items that will help you feel prepared case the unexpected occurs. An extra phone charger, sweatshirt or umbrella might be the thing you end up being most thankful to have along. Also pack a travel first-aid kit to have a few basics on hand case someone your group needs a or antibacterial ointment.
Related: What Not to Forget on a Cruise
9. You're hungry between meals.
It might seem odd to pack food when cruises are known for offering 24/7 dining. Keep mind that for some stretches of time, especially the afternoon, the only available food choices might be soft serve and . With several lines now charging for room service, you don't want to depend on-room delivery when the afternoon munchies hit.
If you're taking little ones or want to focus on healthy eating onboard, bring your own preferred snacks on your vacation. Other times BYO food can come handy: unexpected airline delays, tours that run through lunch with no snack stop and excursions that go longer than planned.