Today we’re sharing our Disney Cruise Packing List, to make sure you know what to bring on your DCL trip! We’re so grateful to those of you who have found us through this post and stuck around to read more… so we’ve made sure it stays up-to-date. Read on below for things you won’t want to forget when packing for your Disney Cruise – including things that are totally unique to Disney Cruise Line vacations. Don’t forget to download the printable packing list to make your packing even easier!
Disclosure: Some of the links below may lead to affiliate programs, such as Amazon Associates. Thanks in advance if you choose to purchase anything you’ve found here! 🙂
If you’re like me, you may have packing down to a science. Regardless of what trip we’re taking, I have a routine: make a list (that probably looks like some absurd form of shorthand to anyone else), lay everything out, roll it up and go. I know what outfits we’re wearing when and stick to the list, which has fixed my high school habit of packing 634 shirts for a week long trip, “just in case I can’t decide what to wear.” That’s a totally different post though, isn’t it? The benefits of packing light are numerous, but just start with this advice for your Disney cruise: Don’t take beach towels or lifejackets. They are abundant everywhere you may possibly need them (including ports of call), and would take up a ton of precious luggage space.
If you are in the same boat (no pun intended), the printable below is ready for you right now. If you aren’t quite there (or have no idea where to start!) then you’re going to want to start with a more complete packing list, and double check this one when you’re just about done.
Here are a few lists that may be helpful, depending on your packing style:
Packing for a Disney Cruise from Disboards.com: Includes a breakdown for your carryon bag and suggestions for a variety of itineraries (i.e. packing for Alaska vs the caribbean)
TouringPlans.com’s Disney Cruise Packing List: Just add clothes (and anything else on this list of potentially overlooked items)
Cruising Ultimate Packing List from the Mouse for Less: This is more like how I used to pack, with everything you could possibly need. You probably won’t need 75% of it, but hey – you’ll have it if you do! Extra cool: choose from the in-browser checkboxes or multiple printable versions. Also includes a list of things to remember before you leave home
How to Plan a Travel Capsule Wardrobe from Lady Light Travel: This is on the opposite end of the spectrum, with useful tips on how to keep your packing light and efficient – even if you’re historically an over-packer.
Family Packing List from Family Vacation Critic: This site, though not cruise specific, has a unique option to select just what you want from an extensive list and print your customized list.
Or one of a variety of family-friendly lists from Travel Mamas. Choose one that suits your needs, or combine a few of them.
All that said, cruising is unique – and Disney cruising has a few a additional distinctions to keep in mind. Our family of five that usually travels with about one large suitcase (two, tops) for a week-long vacation has been known to take five on a 7-night cruise. Don’t worry, you don’t have to take that many – we don’t most of the time. That’s just to say it’s a different beast than, say, a beach vacation where we tend to bring three swimsuits and about two real outfits.
We’ve come up with a list that won’t cover your entire packing process, but is full of things we think you should consider that likely add enough value for the space they occupy.
Important side note: If you’re leaving for your cruise soon or have too much on your plate already, none of these things are necessary to have a great trip. Close this window, and go enjoy yourself. Most of these are simply things that may add enjoyment or convenience. Your experience will be no less magical without most of them!
Disney Cruise Packing Essentials
- DCL-supplied luggage tags. Don’t worry, it’s not a problem if you arrive at the port without them. (Don’t ask me how I know this, or how often I’ve had to test the theory…) The porters are willing and able to create tags for you on the spot, and the bags will arrive in your room as planned; having the bags ready upon arrival simply allows you to throw them out of the car and begin your vacation a bit quicker.
- Cash. You won’t need much (just about everything is charged to your “Key to the World card” (stateroom key), but bring some. Some shopping off of the ship will require cash, as will room service gratuities. Trust me, you’re going to want to order Mickey bars to the room at least once (or warm chocolate chip cookies for a bedtime snack, if that’s more your speed.)
- Signature forms. If you’ve checked in online, you’ll print these off before you leave home; if you haven’t, they should come in your cruise documentation booklet. Everyone in your stateroom is required to have a signature on file regarding DCL policies, as well as additional signatures to release minors off the ship with family members, where applicable. You can fill these out in the terminal if necessary, but it’s a much smoother process for everyone if you bring them along, filled out in advance.
- Lanyards. If you’re a repeat DCL cruiser (aka “Castaway Club” member) you will receive lanyards when you check into the terminal on embarkation day. If you have never cruised before, you’ll probably want to buy one in which to keep your Key to the World cards while onboard (check out all of these Disney-themed lanyards!) You won’t really need cash or credit cards throughout the ship, so most of the time you won’t have wallets or purses
- Portable USB charger(s). (This one is, hands down, our favorite of the way-too-many we own – but they’re available at all price points.) We actually very intentionally do not purchase internet access while cruising, and leave our phones on airplane mode on the off-chance they find internet on their own. Cruises are made for unplugging, my friends.That said, it’s 2016; a lot of valuable information is available on the DCL Navigator app, including messaging between your party, ship activities, an interactive map, restaurant menus, and more. (Btw – you should go download said app. In addition to being useful, it has a super cute countdown while you wait for your trip to arrive.) Add to that the likelihood that you’ll use your device for some photos or video, and your battery may drain.If you’re bringing a camera and plan to use the wave phones that are provided in each stateroom, this may not apply. Just don’t do as I have done, and assume that because you “aren’t using your phone” that you won’t use your phone.
- A highlighter (or highlighters, plural). I have mentioned around here a handful of times that I simply cannot get on board with using paper planners – or really most analog “systems”, anymore. On a cruise though, paper just seems to fit. My husband uses the aforementioned app for everything, but there is something extra special to me about looking at the vast array of activities spread across the Personal Navigators, and planning the next day. Sometimes even in color-coordinated fashion (one color per family member).
- Sticky notes. We’ve never needed to do this, but I know of a family that leaves small post-its on the stateroom mirror if they have a request for the stateroom attendant. I love the idea of having them available, even if just for a thank you or a pick-me-up throughout the trip. My daughters actually left notes for the housekeeping staff at Aulani this summer – just fun drawings and the like – but I’m not sure the cast members always saw them.
- Magnetic stateroom decorations. I’m not sure if this is a thing on other cruise lines, but on your Disney Cruise you will see lots of decorated stateroom doors. Whether you go all out and cover your door with themed decorations or do something far less extensive, grab a few cute Disney magnets from the dollar store (or Amazon) or use your Cricut/Silhouette or old-fashioned paper and magnet tape to make something for your party.
Decorations always bring a smile when you return to your stateroom, and it helps kids (and adults!) see just how far down to go (and when to stop!) as they run ahead of you in the endlessly long hallways.
- Magnetic dry-erase board. Especially if you have a group that spans more than one stateroom (or older kids that go off on their own for part of your trip), dry-erase boards on the outside of your stateroom are useful. Write a note about where someone is headed and when to meet up, or just leave a fun message when you drop by for a visit. My kids also use them from time to time as a blank canvas to add to our stateroom door decorations!
- Empty (depleted) gift card or store loyalty card. The stateroom light switch is triggered by the insertion of a Key to the World card (or card of a similar size). The stateroom attendant may take the card out if you leave the lights on when you leave the room (some do, others don’t). This is fine from a “conservation of energy” standpoint, of course. Still, it’s really nice to have something aside from your KTTW cards operating the switch. You can leave this card in one particular spot without fear of losing it, rather than adding one more way to lose one of your room keys – which are crucial for getting on and off the ship, among other things.
- Clothespins or suction hooks. Like most hotel rooms, the DCL showers do have a pull-out line for your laundry. If you have half a dozen swimsuits though, it’s nice to not have to figure out a way to strategically keep them all from falling off, or to have to move them all around when people are trying to shower.
- Purex 3-in-1 sheets (or similarly simple laundry detergent). I know, I know. You’re on vacation. But on a trip that can often require a lot of extra laundry, you can save on space by reusing clothes. Also, have you ever come home to a suitcase (or five) full of clean clothes instead of dirty ones? It softens the blow of the return to reality, I can assure you.(I realize this is probably most applicable for families that will return to the stateroom for naps or downtime. While I regularly do our laundry at least once before any trip is over, I never take time out of our memory-making to do so.)
- Pop-up hamper or laundry bag. We don’t actually use this one – but we know plenty of people who can’t imagine traveling without. We always utilize an empty suitcase as a hamper on vacations, and though we have to pull them out from under the bed on Disney cruises (the best place to store suitcases, by the way!), we usually need the extra closet space for clean clothes. Having a home for dirty clothing inside the closet is super convenient though, if you have the space and prefer the convenience.
- Sweaters. Even if you’re in the Caribbean in the middle of summer, you’ll probably want to throw a sweater or lightweight jacket in your suitcase. The dining rooms and theaters are usually freezing.
- Formalwear. Technically, you absolutely don’t have to have any formal attire. Disney Cruise Line is much more flexible on dining room dress codes than many other brands (for better or worse – please still consider that many fellow guests value the dining locations as more upscale experiences than those found on the pool decks and other parts of the ship), and dinner in the buffet is always an option in place of visiting the main dining rooms if you’d rather stay in shorts and tee shirts. However, if you like dressing up at all, the formal, semi-formal, or dress-up nights can be really special on cruises – take advantage of the opportunity. (Also, note that many little girls will dress up in their princess dresses for dinner!)
- Special attire for Pirate Night, Star Wars Day at Sea, Halloween on the High Seas, etc. Select cruise itineraries provide even more fun opportunities to get dressed up and enjoy unique atmospheres, activities, and entertainment. Dressing up is never required, but if your sailing has any of these events, know that many guests will have prepared for them – and you may wish you had as well. At the very least, don’t overlook the option to see if it would be something your family would enjoy!
- Deck shoes / water shoes / flip flops. Regardless of what you plan to do on your shore days and whether or not you plan to swim, you’ll want a pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off, and comfortable to wear around the ship. The floors on the pool decks in particular can get very hot (and slick!), so choose accordingly.
- Sunscreen, sunscreen, and more sunscreen. You probably already have this on your list, or are planning on packing it even if you aren’t a list maker. But please, bring far more than you think you’ll need. Not only is it expensive to purchase on the ship (as with most gift shops and beach destinations), but the shops are closed when ships are docked. It’s hard enough to pay extra for each bottle of sunscreen, but it could make for a very bad day (or week!) if you literally can’t get any.
- Extra hair ties and/or hats. Even if you don’t usually have a ponytail or a hat, the wind on the upper decks can absolutely wreak havoc on your hair. If you’re planning on playing on the sports deck (mini golf, anyone?), watching the sunrise or set, or just walking around, you may find yourself almost literally blown over, depending on the day. (On the same note, maybe pack some detangler, too.)
- Packable rain jackets. It’s probably going to be beautiful on your entire trip, but we’ve been caught in the rain on more than 50% of our cruises. They were usually warm downpours, but downpours nonetheless. For our last trip, we invested in jackets like these for everyone. They don’t take up a lot of space and don’t leave you sweltering on a sunny island, but keep you from being utterly soaked when you return to the ship. Besides, since we purchased them, it has yet to rain even once on our trips!
- Waterproof camera (or a waterproof case for your existing phone or camera). This one is pretty self-explanatory, but not a good one to forget or ignore. When we know our equipment is safe, we’ve had the best time on excursions, at the pool, and on Castaway Cay. In addition to protecting your device from water, most cases will also protect them from sand – which can be equally brutal on most photo gear.
- Small soft-sided cooler. On one of our recent trips, they offered an adorable DCL cooler stocked with ice and water for just $20. It was a wonderful purchase, but we don’t always see it offered – and it was just as we prepared to leave for a DCL-schedule excursion – so I wouldn’t count on it definitely being available. If you think you’d like a cooler for excursions, you may want to bring one from home that you like.
- Sand-off Mitt (or baby powder). On our last several beach vacations, we have found it super helpful to get
alla lot of the extra sand off of our arms and legs with this trick.
- Jellyfish After-sting relief. Though we’ve never been stung on a cruise vacation, my daughter’s recent run-in with a jellyfish earlier this summer has provoked us to add this to our list. She was a trooper (having received the largest sting of anyone in our group, on a trip where jellyfish were out in droves and stinging at will), but the first-hand reviews I’ve heard about this stuff – and its convenience – landed it a spot on our list.
- Bubble Bum booster seat. You guys. I just discovered this seat, and I’m kind of obsessed with the idea. Though I wouldn’t consider it the best option for use 100% of the time (it is safety-rated for such use), it is a great choice for rental cars, taxis, and even airplanes. We often book our own, non-DCL excursions in ports of call; that usually means we are finding public transportation to another part of the island, and would prefer to have a booster seat for our youngest.
- Candy for nighttime shows and movies. The reality is, you almost certainly will not want to look at any more food when you go to a show – especially if you are in the main dining session (and go to the theater after). Your kids however, if they’re anything like mine, will find just enough extra room in their stomachs when they see the popcorn and snacks outside of the Walt Disney and Buena Vista theaters. Incidentally, these locations are some of very few food options onboard that are not included in the price of your cruise. The prices are reasonable, but we usually just prefer to stick a few “movie candy” boxes from the Target dollar spot in our luggage.Our other favorite snack option for the shows is a soft-serve ice cream (or a coke float!) from Deck 11, but obviously those won’t last through quite as much of the performance. Ours are usually gone by the time we get to the entrance of the theater.
- Alcoholic beverages. If it interests you, Disney Cruise Line has some of the only (the only?) ships on which you can bring your own alcohol, though the policy did become a bit more restrictive in 2015. Read the details here. Also, don’t forget a travel corkscrew if you’ll need one. Disney charges a hefty corking fee if you take a bottle of wine into the dining rooms.
- Reusable cups/water bottles. Unlike at the Disney resorts, soft drink refills are unlimited and available 24-hours. However, the refill stations (only on Deck 11) may be very far from your stateroom, and the small cups provided have lids that are notoriously easy for kids to pop-off with a little squeeze, thereby spilling sticky soda (or whatever) everywhere.We love bringing our Disney tervis tumblers, or the Disney Store almost always has adorable options with your favorite characters. In addition to having the option for larger, more spill-proof containers, you can fill everyone’s cup with water before bedtime to address middle-of-the-night thirst, medication needs, etc. It beats going up to the pool deck at 2am or sticking your face under the bathroom faucet!
- Noise-cancelling headphones. For the Pirates in the Caribbean fireworks display or the (super fun) deck parties, you may want to pack noise-cancelling headphones for anyone in your party that is sensitive to loud volumes. These were trip savers for us in the past, though my kids outgrew the need for them before our first cruise. If you can help it, you don’t want to miss – at the very least – the sail away party!
- A “fish extender” (and gifts for your “FE exchange”). This one may have you saying, “A what now?!”. If so, let me just say that fish extenders provide enough material for an entire blog series. Or perhaps an entire blog. Read a little about them here; if you already know about them and are signed up for an exchange, I figure you won’t want to forget this one.
- Disney Pins for trading. Just like at the Disney theme parks, there are plenty of opportunities for pin trading onboard the Disney ships. There is even a special “Officer Pin Trading” event on most itineraries, that’s a lot of fun for veteran and novice pin-traders alike.
Other quick tips
- Plan to bring a carryon bag (see our favorites here!) that has swimsuits, sunscreen, necessary medications, and anything else you may need before dinner on your first cruise day – and hang onto it after handing over the rest of your luggage.Luggage is delivered to the stateroom in the afternoon, but you’ll want to start playing (or relaxing!) right away. (Many people also choose to wear swimsuits underneath their clothes on embarkation day. In our experience, the aquaduck/aquadunk lines will likely never be shorter than when you first board the ship!)
- On this note, keep your documents and anything you need to board the ship in your carryon. You will be separated from your luggage long before you enter the terminal.
- You can bring your own gear for snorkeling, even on Castaway Cay. Of course it can take up a lot of space, so you’ll have to determine whether it makes sense for your family.
- While once of our favorite DCL traditions, “Mickey Mail” (the term eventually used to describe dropping off a souvenir to Guest Services in the beginning of your cruise only to have it appear in your stateroom later on your trip signed by Mickey and all his pals) is no longer allowed.Mickey Mail began as a very quiet practice and eventually grew too large to be reasonable for the cast and crew to manage. (In 2006 you had to bring your own marker(s) and who signed (your pillowcase, which is all that was reported initially) was a total surprise. It had become so popular since it began that more recently guests were given pre-made forms to fill out and stateroom limits were put in place. It seemed nearly everyone took advantage of the unannounced service (and some truly took advantage, as is always the case.)The word from DCL is that characters in the regular meet and greet lines will still sign reasonable, brand-appropriate merchandise (like pillowcases or photo mats) but they may refuse to do so when deemed necessary. Keep in mind also (lest you have to fight back tears because you’re a grownup and it’s just a pillowcase…), you may want to bring fabric-safe markers like these that will not wash the signatures away over time.
- Button extenders are a thing. I had never even heard of these until recently (or I would have owned some instead of MacGyvering my non-maternity pants to fit when I was pregnant!), but it was too fun not to mention. After all, clothes do tend to shrink when in close proximity to cruise buffets. It’s just science.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Clothes do tend to shrink when in close proximity to cruise buffets. It’s just science.” quote=”Clothes do tend to shrink when in close proximity to cruise buffets. It’s just science.”]
- You may find in your research some outdated packing advice (especially on less active blogs or forums). Over-the-door shoe racks (used for organizing toiletries more often than for shoes), extensions cords, and tape (for door decorations) are commonly recommended – but all three are no longer allowed.Note that shoe racks and shelves that hang on the wardrobe bar or the provided hooks are fine, and you can bring multi-USB chargers in place of power strips. If you absolutely require an extension cord, pick one up from Guest Services for free (deposit required) and return it at the end of your trip.
- Take special note of the other prohibited items on the Disney Cruise Line website. Some of the items are no-brainers, but other things (such as realistic replicas of weapons) may slip your mind, especially if you are bringing costumes for special events.