Written by guest contributor Jaymi Fillier
I adore cruising, and that didn’t change when I had kids. Cruise ships are big floating resorts that stop in a new country every other day, what’s not to love? That being said, a cruise has a few challenges that you wouldn’t face if you were landlocked, but with a little preparation, cruising will quickly become your favorite family friendly way to travel.
Before You Go
While planning your trip, take into consideration your child(ren)’s temperament. Are they easily overstimulated or do they like to explore. Are they laid back or go-go-go? If your child tires easily, you may want to skip itineraries that stop at a new locale every day and instead book one with a few days at sea where you can rest, recover, and explore the ship.
Another consideration, especially with younger kids, is how well they sleep. If you have light sleepers, you may want to pick a room that’s as far away from activities and pools as possible. If they’re deep sleepers, you may want to book a room closer to the action to cut the time it takes to get to everything.
Another consideration you may want to make, is how prone to seasickness your family is. Even the best weather can have swells, and the closer you are to the front or back, the more you’re going to feel it. If you’re worried about being queasy, book a room right in the middle and you won’t feel the movement as much.
Once you’ve picked your cruise and your room, choose your excursions. It’s so much better to have these booked before you go, because you make sure you get what you want before it sells out (it has happened to me) and you can have it all paid for before you go. It also gives you a chance to pack anything you may need for the excursions that you may not have thought of, like a stroller for long walks or snorkeling gear.
Packing for a cruise can be tricky because you won’t have a ton of room in your suite, so you want to pack light, but make sure not to miss the necessities.
If your kids are nervous travellers, it can be very comforting to bring a blanket from home, but if you’re flying, or really short on packing space, a familiar pillow case can be just as comforting.
I always pack small backpacks for my kids to take wherever they go, that way they can be responsible for carrying their own bathing suits, snorkels, sunhats, and of course, their stuffies.
I also like to give my kids a disposable camera each. It’s nice to see how they capture the trip through their eyes.
I always make sure to have a basic first aid kit wherever we go, I bring it with me on shore excursion as well. You’re going to want to make sure you have anti-nausea medicine, as well as an over the counter pain reliever, alcohol wipes and bandages, along with any necessary medication your family needs. Pack it all together in an easy to carry bag, makeup bags are the perfect size.
Clothing wise, you’re going to want comfy casual clothes for the majority of the time, and one or two dressed up outfits depending on your itinerary. I always pack at least 2 swimsuits for each of us so one can dry. For shoes, you’re going to want a good pair of running shoes or walking sandals as well as something a little dressier for dinners.
If there’s anything you’re going to need in the first few hours on the boat (bathing suits, medication, cameras, stuffies) make sure you are carrying them on in a purse, as you will not be bringing your own bags to your room, they will be delivered to you. Don’t worry if you forget something though, you can buy (almost) anything on board.
First Day On The Ship
When you book your cruise, you’ll be given a check-in window. If you have a choice, book one as early as you can, that will give you a window of time where the boat is not as full as it will be. This is a great time to explore. Try not to arrive much before this window or you may be left waiting in a crowd, which nobody will enjoy, trust me.
One of the best ways to get settled at the beginning of a trip and to save a huge amount of time throughout, is to unpack as soon as you board. Taking the 45 minutes to put everything away means that everything has a place. This helps keep the room clean, and when you’re in close quarters on a ship, tidiness is a major sanity saver. Unpacking also helps to assure that you can always find something in a pinch.
After you’re all unpacked, take some time to familiarize yourself with the ship. Find the elevators, the buffet, the kids club, so you at least have a general idea of where everything is.
Most cruises have a lot of choices for dining. With kids, the main dining room and buffet are going to be your best friend. Dining in the dining room will be a little more formal so on port days, the buffet may be a better option to get kids fed and happy.
If it’s offered, and if you’re comfortable with it, see if you can take advantage of the kids club and escape for a dinner or two just you and your spouse. That way the two of you can have a little escape and enjoy some fine dining.
We always raid the buffet for fruit like bananas and oranges and a few staples like cereal to take back to our room for snacks. This has saved us on a few occasions when dinner is still an hour away, but the kids need to be fed ASAP.
Most cruises will have a broadway style show every night and they are a highlight of our trip every time. If your kids are small, consider bringing a stroller in case they fall asleep, but bigger kids will love the music and dancing. These shows tend to run quite late though, so maybe plan to catch one on a night that you don’t have early plans.
With a little planning and prep, a cruise vacation will be one of your family’s favourite memories.