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10 Things You Need to Pack to Save Money on a Cruise

Cruise gift shops might be nice, but their essentials are mighty overpriced.

There’s a lot that’s included for free on a cruise. At the same time, some things will cost extra and if you forget an essential, having to buy it on board (or in port) is usually not the most economical outcome. Thankfully, there are many things you can bring on board that will save you money during your cruise. This list is equal parts “don’t forget to bring” and “oh, I never thought about bringing that.” In both cases, you will save money on your cruise if you have these 10 essentials with you.

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Pack Sunscreen and After-Sun Lotions

Cruises and time spent in the sun are synonymous, meaning you will need to put on and reapply sunscreen early and often. Packing your own sunscreen and bringing it on board with you will not only ensure you have the brand and SPF strength that suits your skin, but it’ll also keep you out of the sundries shop, saving you from overpriced sunscreen. The same goes for after-sun lotion. Bring it on board and save money during your cruise.

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Pack a Hat

It might seem silly, but bringing a hat on board will save you money during your cruise. Will you be tempted to buy a cruise branded hat on a sunny day if you didn’t bring yours from home? Yes, probably, but if you remember to pack your favorite hat and bring it on board with you during your cruise, you won’t spend those extra dollars on a new hat you’ll likely not wear again.

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Skip the Shops By Packing Your Own Accessories

Yes, the rose gold Michael Kors sunglasses in the deck 4 boutique are beautiful, but they’re also $100. You can save a lot of money on your cruise if you remember to bring your own sunglasses, cover-ups, water shoes, and other accessories. Similarly, on cold weather cruises, packing and bringing your gloves and a scarf will keep the cost of your cruise vacation low by keeping you out of the shops on the ship and in port.

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Pack Over-the Counter Medicines You'll Need

You may need Tums to settle your stomach because the dessert bar proved too tempting or you may need Tylenol because the kids are having a great (and very loud) time during their cruise. Perhaps, your family needs motion sickness pills because, well, you’re on a vacation at sea after all. Planning ahead and bringing medications onboard will save you significant money during your cruise.

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Bring a First Aid Kit

Cruise ship doctors are independent contractors who charge an hourly fee to see and treat passengers while onboard. If medications and tests are required, you can expect additional and hefty costs to appear on your cruise spending account. Seeing the onboard doctor isn’t cheap, but having a first aid kit with you will help you stay out of the infirmary for minor cuts, scraps, and wounds. And of course, packing your medications is a must.

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Bring Your Own Water Bottles

Thanks to a reverse-osmosis system for filtering and/or a desalination process, the water and ice onboard cruise ships are delicious and safe to drink. That said, you may opt for bottled water during your cruise. Each cruise line has its own policy and limits (if any) on the water you bring onboard, both during embarkation and at ports of call during your sailing. Check with your cruise line to discover how many bottles/ounces of water you can bring on board, and save money during your cruise.

INSIDER TIPAny bottles of water you do decide to pack must be in your carry-on luggage.

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Save Big By Bringing Your Own Wine and Soda

Most cruise lines allow you to bring one or two bottles of wine or champagne on board with you. You can drink these bottles for free in your room or on your balcony, but know that you will be charged a corkage fee if you bring your own bottle to a restaurant or bar. Check in advance for your cruise line’s specific policy regarding this. Additionally, a limited number of sodas or other non-alcoholic beverages may be able to be brought on with you in your carry-on luggage. Double-check your cruise line’s current policy in advance and then stock up on drinks to save money during your cruise.

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Don't Forget Cash

You may wish to give an extra cash tip to your cabin steward, favorite bartender, or butler (if you’re on a fancy ship). Because using the onboard ATM will likely come with service fees, bring some tens and twenties in cash on board with you to save money during your cruise.

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Pack Snorkeling Gear

Every warm-weather port of call that’s near water will mean a slew of snorkeling excursion options, but those may cost as much as $100 per person. Accessing the beaches and waters of these destinations won’t cost you a penny, usually, and if you bring your own snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel, and flippers), you can swim with tropical fish for free.

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Bring Your Own Laundry Supplies

If your cruise ship has self-service washers and dryers, and you want to pack light and do a few loads of laundry during your vacation at sea, you can save money by packing a few laundry sheets, pods, or even a small bottle of detergent, along with some fabric softener. Bringing your own laundry supplies on board will mean that you avoid paying the cruise ship prices for these essentials.