Cruising is one of my favorite ways to travel. Large ships – small ships – there’s one for almost every destination and every type of traveler. I’ve cruised for over 35 years on a variety of ocean and river cruises- and one of my favorite things about cruising is you only have to unpack once.

A question I receive often from travelers is how to choose the right luggage for a cruise – with the biggest concern getting to and from the ship – and that’s where packing smart and wise luggage choices can make a big difference.

Here are some of my top luggage and packing tips for cruises:


While most cruise lines don’t have specific baggage allowances, be sure to consider how you’re getting to the ship.  If you’re driving – luggage size and weight is generally not a problem. If you’re flying, check in advance with your airline to know what you are permitted without incurring additional costs. And, if you’re traveling before and after your cruise independently, make sure you can manage your luggage easily.

For shorter 3-5 day cruises most travelers find a carry-on bag – like the Travelpro Platinum Elite hardside carryon is a great choice. It has a built-in TSA lock and 2” expandability – and includes tech charging capability – so you’re always powered up.  Most importantly, a small bag like this makes it easy to navigate long cruise ship docks and handle getting on and off most gangways without assistance.  


Travel delays happen, so it’s always a good idea to fly a day prior to your actual cruise date. This not only allows you time to adjust in case of a time change but – in the unlikely event your checked luggage is delayed – an extra day for it to catch up with you.


For boarding ease, add a personal bag – like Baggallini’s Overnight Tote – to keep valuables like medications and electronics close at hand.  The pass through sleeve secures this tote to your carry-on and zipped top pocket allows easy access to travel documents needed to be shown during the boarding process.


For longer cruises most travelers prefer a larger bag – like a 25” checked-through bag – which is a good size for a 2 week cruise and fully packed is usually under 50 lbs.  Let’s be honest – it’s nice to have a few more things than just what can fit in a carry-on bag – and you know you’re going to do at least a little shopping.  The largest bag I recommend is a 29” however it’s easy to pack it over 50 pounds – where excess baggage fees will most probably be charged.

The 25” Travelpro Platinum hardside spinner bag is the perfect solution – it has a nearly unbreakable polycarbonate exterior to help protect items inside and a TSA approved lock in case security needs to open your bag and you’re not with it.  Plus it opens in half, so it can easily slide under most cruise ship beds providing a little more organizational space.  Another great feature? The easy to spot aluminum corner armor protects high impact areas in style and helps you identify your bag on a dock full of luggage when leaving the ship.           


Since larger checked-through bags are generally collected on the pier and delivered to your stateroom for you, an additional small rolling bag to keep with you is ideal, like a carryon spinner. 

In this carryon be sure to pack everything you’d need for the first one to two days of your cruise – including medications and valuables – and a change of clothes – just in case your checked bag gets delayed with the airlines prior to arrival. And- pack your swimsuit in this bag – so you can be relaxing poolside instead of waiting for your big bag to be delivered to your cabin.

This smaller carryon bag does double-duty at the end of your cruise as well – in the event crew collects your luggage the night before you leave the ship – you can use it to easily carry your change of clothes and personal items ashore.

Packing For A Cruise At Your AAA Travel Store

Travelpro Platinum Elite Expandable Hardside Carry on Spinner
Available in Navy, Black & Grey  

AAA Member Price


Travelpro Platinum Elite Expandable Hardside 25” Spinner  
Available in Navy, Black & Grey

AAA Member Price


Baggllinni Overnight Expandable Laptop Tote w/RFID Phone Wristlet
Available in Dark Cherry, Navy, Sterling Shimmer & Black

AAA Member Price


Travel with Anne!

Paris & Seine River Cruise

Join me on my next cruise! I’m excited to be hosting a AAA AmaWaterways River Cruise – round trip Paris on the Seine – including Normandy – this October. Contact your AAA Travel Agent or click here for more information.

2023 Traveler Showcase Events

AAA Travel and Packing expert Anne McAlpin will be sharing her tips and advice for Packing for Cruises and well as Solo Travel Tips at our upcoming AAA Traveler Showcase. Click here for more information and to RSVP