Written by Packing & Travel Expert Anne McAlpin


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 making wise luggage choices can make a substantial 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.


Flight delays happen, so it’s always smart to fly a day prior to your actual sail 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 shorter 3-5 day cruises most travelers find a 22” carry-on bag – like the Briggs and Riley 22” spinner – is a great choice.  It has an easy access pocket to hold items for security checkpoints – an extra 2.5” of expandability – and it includes an outside battery pocket, so you’re always powered up. Most importantly, its small size makes it easy to navigate large cruise ship terminals and handle getting on and off most gangways without assistance.


For longer cruises most travelers prefer a larger bag – like a 26” rolling 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 a carry-on bag can fit and it’s likely you’ll pick up a few souvenirs along your travels.

The 26” Briggs and Riley spinner bag is the perfect solution – it has lots of great details including an outside patented handle which makes for a flat easy-to-pack roomier interior.  The exterior has a gusseted outer pocket with space for a jacket and a change of shoes – and an easy-to-grab bottom handle – all designed to keep you and your stuff merrily rolling along.     Tip: A colored suitcase – like the new ocean blue – makes it easy to spot on a dock full of luggage when leaving the ship – also available in black and hunter green.


For boarding ease, add a personal bag– like Briggs and Riley’s Cabin Bag or Cargo Backpack – to keep all valuables like medications and electronics close at hand.

Both options have a pass-through sleeve which secures them to any rolling carry-on bag with a zippered quick access pocket – allowing easy access to travel documents that need to be shown during the boarding process.


Since larger checked through bags are generally collected on the pier and delivered to your stateroom for you, an additional rolling bag to keep with you is ideal, like the 22” spinner.

In this carryon be sure to pack everything you’d need for the first one to two days of your cruise – just in case your checked bag is delayed with the airlines prior to arrival.  And – pack your swimwear in this bag – so you can relax poolside once you’re onboard 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 the 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.


To help protect your luggage contents in transit, use a TSA approved luggage lock. These locks allow TSA to open and relock your checked bag if airport security needs to inspect it and you’re not with it.

Luggage locks also help keep bags safe anytime they’re out of your hands, like checking-in early to hotels and joining and leaving the ship. Choose a brightly colored lock to help identify your bag. Remember… never pack anything valuable in your checked bag – always keep valuables with you in your carryon bag.

Traveling Soon? Join Us At A Packing Event!

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