Packing Tips for Your Ocean or River Cruise

Cruise Ship Illustration

Packing for a cruise? What’s the best thing about cruising?  You only have to unpack once!  However, you have to get to and from the ship and that’s where packing smart AND your choice of luggage comes in.

Here are some packing tips to make this cruise your best one yet!


Flight/travel delays happen, so it’s always a good idea 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.


While most cruise lines don’t have baggage restrictions, you still have to consider how you’re getting to the ship.  If you’re driving, there’s no problem.  However, airlines do have baggage allowances so check in advance to make sure you won’t experience any surprise charges.  Generally most checked bags can be up to 50 pounds each and up to 62” linear inches (length + width + height) without additional fees.

Tip:  Always travel with a TSA compliant lock.  On most cruises you need to put your bag out in the hall the night prior to your departure.

Tip: Most ships have a scale in the gym/spa area so weigh your bags before you head to the airport in the event you’ve purchased a lot of souvenirs!


For the minimalist: A 21” spinner carry-on bag and personal tote (with pass through sleeve) is a great option.  You can easily handle one bag on and off most gangways and navigate long cruise ship docks without having to leave your bag to be delivered later in the day.

For the cruiser that wants to take a few more things (think 5+ pair of shoes, a different outfit for each night, do major shopping) a 25” rolling checked-through bag is a good choice.  Combine this bag with a rolling tote and personal bag for your carry on.

For the REALLY challenged packer (or two people traveling together) a checked through 25” bag and 21” spinner carry on and a personal bag should be sufficient (I hope!).

When boarding the ship, leave your larger suitcase with the porters to be brought to your cabin for you and board with a carry on you can easily manage – a small rolling tote or 21” spinner.   The wheels make it a breeze to carry important items you don’t want to be separated from like medications, camera, etc.

Tip: Pack your swimsuit in this bag. If you’re able to board early and your cabin isn’t ready you can change on board and be relaxing poolside before the ship sets sail.

Tip: A packable duffle bag is always a good idea for extra items.


New Baggalini Overnight Expandible Laptop Tote w/RFID Phone Wristlet
AAA Member Price: $129.99


NEW! Baggallini Soho Bag
AAA Member Price: $109.99



Travel Pro Platinum Elite Rolling Tote
AAA Member Price: $255.99

Travel Pro Elite Spinner Luggage 21″
AAA Member Price: $269.99


Eagle Creek Packable Duffle Bag
AAA Member Price: $32.99




Travel Pro Elite Spinner Luggage 25″
AAA Member Price: $332.99




Get these items, along with more cruising essentials at your local AAA Travel Store.

For more tips from AAA and Anne McAlpin check out one of our Travel Smart, Pack Right events at your local AAA travel store. For a full list of locations and times visit