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  • Writer's pictureLiya Khaimova

How to Pack for a Cruise with Just a Carry-On

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

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How to pack for a cruise with just a carry-on

Are you all about that "cruise life?" Maybe you're like me and the last time you were on a cruise was when you were 5 and you have absolutely no recollection of it (hey, the pictures looked like it was fun!).

Anyway, you're about to embark on a journey across the ocean filled with booze, gambling, and tropical stops (unless you're headed to Alaska, and that's a completely different experience).

Okay, okay. My idea of a cruise excursion might be completely different from the average Joe's because I went on the Rock Legends Cruise, which is 4 nights with a variety of different bands playing in multiple theatres. It was quite the experience. If you're a die-hard rock music fan, this is SERIOUSLY the cruise for you. I happened to go because my boyfriend was playing on the cruise, so I was able to ride along (um, hello all-expenses-paid vacation, apart from the travel to and from Florida!!!).

But this post is to help you figure out how and what to pack as lightly as possible, so you don't have to schlep around a heavy suitcase, and stuff it in a small room and it taking up half the space.

Just bring the essentials!

This is different for everyone, so figure out what your essentials are. For me they are:

  • A comb

  • Contact case and solution

  • Toothbrush + toothpaste

  • Feminine products (well, I use a Diva Cup, so that cuts down on a lot of wasteful product)

  • Basic makeup (if I feel like getting fancy), and makeup remover

  • Shampoo and conditioner in reusable travel-size bottles

  • All my necessary clothes (underwear, bra, etc)

  • Walking shoes (usually one pair that can go with multiple outfits)

  • 2 outfits that I can dress up or down (i.e. adding a jacket over a dress to make it fancier)

  • 1-2 pairs of earrings

  • Medications!

  • Passport and ID

  • Sunglasses

  • Sunscreen (of course, reef-friendly and safe sunscreen such as Beautycounter's Countersun Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 in a travel size)

  • Swimsuit

  • Wallet, Cash, and Cards (but these are usually in my purse that I bring with me always)

cruise ship, Royal Caribbean, Rock Legends Cruise
Look at the size of this ship!

Tips on packing your carry-on

  1. Color-coordinate so that you can wear a garment with multiple outfits. This will save space and headaches.

  2. Figure out if you really need that laptop or not... If you MUST do work while vacationing (what's the point of vacationing?!) then factor that into your carry-on weight. Some airlines do weigh your carry-ons.

  3. Roll your clothes instead of folding them. This may sound silly, but I started rolling my clothes during undergrad when I would travel back and forth during the school breaks and holidays, and it SERIOUSLY SAVES SO MUCH SPACE.

  4. De-clutter your purse/carry-on. Throw out old receipts, extra paper, and junk that shouldn't be in there anyway. KonMari that carry-on!

  5. A light jacket or sweater is useful when going out on the windy deck at night. I'm cold all the time, so I basically have a light jacket with me always.

  6. 2 pairs of pants and 2 pairs of shoes MAX. I really can't stress the importance of this. You can't roll your shoes like you can clothes. Flip-flops are always a good option if you're just wanting to walk around the ship, but proper walking shoes (like Chacos) are a great option for comfortable, open-toed, walking shoes. And they are suuuuper lightweight.

  7. Dramamine if you get motion sickness. I am one of the lucky ones and somehow got away with ever getting motion sickness...

  8. If you like to take high quality photos during your trips and a smartphone just doesn't cut it for you, consider investing in a handheld camera. That's right folks, a good ole fashioned camera is a great addition, especially if small and lightweight like this Mirrorless Canon EOS M50. I recently purchased this camera and it's definitely a point-and-shoot when on the Automatic setting, and wow, the images are great. I'm OBSESSED with this camera! It's great for beginner photographers such as myself.

  9. If you do decide to check a bag, have a day-bag of sorts because it will take a few hours for you checked bag to arrive at your door.

Liya's partner looking out the window of the cruise ship
Hanging out in our room with some bandmates and friends

This photo I took is just the automatic setting in black and white! Not bad for someone with NO photography skills whatsoever, if I don't say so myself.


Well, I hope this has helped you figure out how to pack for a cruise with just a carry-on. I packed only about 4 outfits, and I think I only wore 3 total. I have no shame wearing the same outfit multiple times during the week. It took my about 15 minutes to pack everything up when we had to leave the cruise ship, so I was pretty darn proud of my light packing!

Have the most amazing time on your next cruise! And if you have anything you think I should add to the list, let me know!

With love and sincerity,


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