Every so often I get a question from a reader regarding what I pack in my carry-on bag for the day that I board the ship. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the luggage procedures, you won’t carry all of your luggage onto the ship with you. Most people will drop their luggage off with a porter at the curb when you arrive at the cruise terminal, and then won’t see it again until it magically arrives at your stateroom door a few hours later (don’t forget to attach your DCL luggage tags and tip your porter!). The only exceptions to this are those people flying in the morning of the cruise, and those people staying at the Hyatt MCO the night before the cruise who are taking the DCL transfers to the port and opt to have their luggage sent directly from the airport to the ship. For these people, their luggage (if the DCL tags are on them!) will be taken directly from the airport to their stateroom on the ship. Everyone else will drop their luggage off at the curb. However, there is stuff that you will need to keep with you in a carry-on bag either for necessity or convenience.
Before we get to that, let’s talk about what type of carry-on bag I use. For a long time I used a rolling carry-on size suitcase that zips on the top and thus is easy to get things in and out of. The bag in the front of this photo is the exact one I used:
There were several advantages to this bag. First, it fit underneath an airplane seat so it doubled as my carry-on for the plane rides. Second, unlike most carry-on sized luggage, it zipped on the top so I could quickly pull things in and out of it either on the plane, in the cruise terminal or onboard the ship. Third, it was on wheels which was a huge advantage for the time in-between boarding the ship and the time staterooms are ready, which could be a couple of hours. Keep in mind that whatever you choose to carry on the ship with you, you will have to lug around the ship until you can access your stateroom at 1:30. For this reason, my husband and kids always carry on a backpack. But, a backpack is just not big enough for all of my stuff. The bag above can no longer be purchased as the manufacturer is no longer in business, but here are a couple of similar ones:
Aerolite Carry On Under Seat Wheeled Trolley Luggage Bag (click here for details, comes in 4 colors)
However, a wheel on my rolling bag finally broke off after many years of wear and tear and I have yet to replace it. So, on our last couple of cruises I have used my KYSS lockable bag as my carry-on. While it’s not on wheels and I have to carry it around, it has the advantage of being lockable so that I can secure our valuables (cash, passports, camera, etc) if we choose to swim at the pools before our room is ready at 1:30. Instead of taking turns guarding our bag, we can all swim at the same time without worrying about our valuables. Even if I wasn’t using it as a carry-on bag, I would still bring my KYSS bag (packed in my suitcase) for beach excursions.
Now, let’s talk about what I put inside my carry-on bag:
This includes the cruise documents that come in the mail before your cruise (pictured below), a signed copy of the cruise contract from online check-in, and any confirmation emails for hotel stays or excursions.
We always travel with passports, but sometimes a birth certificate will do. Check the DCL website for official rules to figure out what documentation you will need for your cruise. You can also read my post about passports and get the details about my passport holder here.
This is something I invented years ago to ensure that I have enough cash when I go on a vacation. I don’t want to ever stress about about not having enough cash for something, so before the trip, I write down everything I can think of that I will need cash for and make an envelope for each one. I even make sure that I have the right size bills for each situation, especially things like tipping where you cannot/don’t want to ask for change. These are the envelopes I created before our Universal Studios/Disney Dream trip last year:
I also make an envelope labeled “extra” that I put some extra cash in for unexpected expenses. I transfer the leftover cash from the other envelopes (if there is any) to the “extra” envelope once I’m done with them. This way, I always know how much extra cash we have on hand for unexpected expenses (usually souvenirs) without accidentally spending cash that we will need in the coming days for something else. I realize that this may seem a tad OCD to some people, but I thrive on organization and preparedness, so using this method helps me relax and enjoy the vacation more.
Prepackaged Snacks and Water
Even though my kids are getting older, I still always feel the need to have a few snacks on me. The snacks need to be pre-packaged to bring on the ship. You can read the rules regarding bringing food on the ship here. They can come in handy if you have to wait in the terminal for a while before you can board. The same goes for water – I always feel the need to have a bottle of water with me when I travel. I typically buy a bottle or two of water at the airport (if flying) or stop at a store on the way to the cruise terminal (if driving). Once onboard, I save the empty bottles and then refill them and take them with us when we leave the ship for excursions. I will never leave the ship for an excursion without plenty of water!
I always travel with a basic supply of OTC medications as well as a couple of prescriptions. I keep them in a large ziplock in my carry-on because of this:
It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen every now and then. This particular photo was taken as we disembarked from one of our cruises. Thankfully this was at the end of the cruise, but I have also heard of it happening at the beginning, and I have a medication that I MUST take daily. For this reason, I always pack medications (as well as electronics) in my carry-on bag.
If you want to swim before your luggage arrives at your stateroom (anytime between 1:30-5:00), then you will need to carry your swimsuits onboard with you (or wear them under your clothes). There are several public restrooms near the pools that you can use to change.
Some people like to carry on a case of bottled water or a specific soda that is not available onboard. DCL requires that all beverages be in carry-on luggage, not checked luggage. DCL also allows adults to carry on a specified amount of beer and wine (you can read my post with details about the alcohol policy here). Obviously beer and wine would need to be in your carry on luggage because, well:
There’s a few more items I have in my bag that require no explanation:
wallet (with photo ID, which will be needed for re-boarding the ship in ports)
camera (you can read about my favorite underwater camera here)
phone & charger
lanyard (sometimes I use the Castaway Club lanyard I receive at check in, and sometimes I bring my own)
Finally, any carry-on bag that you bring must fit through a standard X-ray machine just like the ones at airports. Everyone is required to do the x-ray/metal detector routine when arriving at the cruise terminal, so keep that it mind.
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