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Planning And Packing For Your Cruise – Things To Do In Advance!

Many people overpack when they go on a cruise, and end up bringing clean clothes back home with them. I prefer to pack light wherever I can.

I have been known to take a two-week cruise with only a carry–on cabin-sized suitcase – all because I didn’t want to pay the airline for additional hold luggage.

Be as organised as you can and book things well in advance. It will save you lots of money.

Car Parking and Hotel Stays Pre-Cruise

Car parking

Don’t just accept the parking companies the cruise lines suggest. There are plenty of other cheaper options out there.

  • A favourite option of mine is to pay to park on someone’s drive.
    • It is so easy to do this via an App. Recently I paid £25.50 for a week parking on someone’s drive in Southampton. To park at the cruise terminal car park would have been £99. That’s a 76% saving!
    • The Cruise terminal parking is of course closer, we had maybe a ten-minute walk to the terminal building. Walking is easy for us to do, as we do pack light.
    • You can choose the parking space you want via an App.
    • If you cruise regularly that is a lot of money that you can save on parking.
AB Parking taken from my car
Southampton Cruise Car Park

Search for discount codes and cashback online

Before you book parking, hotels, or transport, I would always recommend doing a quick search online for discount codes, or use a cashback website to get money back on your booking.

Find out more about getting cashback on any of your purchases here:

Save Money When Booking Your Cruise – Using Discount Codes, Cashback Sites and More…


Stay and Park Hotel Deals

If you are planning a hotel stay near the port the night before your cruise, look for “Stay and Park” deals.

This combines a hotel stay and parking whilst you are away, and can work out cheaper.

This is very convenient because you don’t have to worry about moving your car again on the day of the cruise.

taxi gatwick airport to southampton cruise port

Some hotels you can easily walk to the port from, and others will include a taxi to the port as part of the deal.

  • Book other transportation well in advance.
    • If you need transport ahead of your cruise, book well in advance. Train tickets in the UK are cheaper in advance. If I am travelling down to Southampton, it can cost as little as £5 one month in advance, but the same journey may be £39 on the day!
  • Book well in advance if you need to book house or pet sitters.
    • The later you leave it, the less choice there is and the more it will cost.
  • Book Airport parking if you need it.
    • This is always cheaper in advance, and particularly important if you are travelling in peak season or school holidays.
  • Download cruise line apps.
    • Some have proper Apps you can use, while others have web pages that you can only get to once onboard.
  • Other Apps to consider downloading:
    • Google Maps – you are able to download offline maps for the destinations you are visiting. You won’t then need the internet.
    • Google Translate – Handy if you just want to translate a sign or a menu.
    • Walking Tour Apps – Very useful if you can find one for your destination. It is a great way to explore, and you will be sure you have seen all the best sights in each port.

Let the Cruise Line Know About Your Dietary Requirements

Cruise lines are very good at marking their daily menus as gluten-free, vegan, etc – probably much better than many restaurants on land.

  • Inform them of any dietary requirements or allergies in advance!
    • They may ask you to pre-order your meals, so they can plan accordingly.
    • They will customise their menus to suit your requirements.
Buffet food assortment

What to Pack – and What NOT to Pack – Hints and Tips To Make packing Easier

  • Use Packing Cubes.
    • These are basically fabric, zip-up bags. I use one for T-shirts, one for shorts etc etc.
    • Once onboard I put them straight into the wardrobe without having to sort things out further.
    • When I am coming home, I put all of my clean clothes that I haven’t worn in a packing cube – it saves me from washing clean stuff unnecessarily!
    • ​Get yours here​ (affiliate link).
Find out which are the best packing cubes to buy in this video
  • Pack a minimum of one outfit per day.
    • Sometimes I pack an extra dress for the evening. I often wear evening wear/dresses more than once – you only have them on for a couple of hours after all!
  • Pack something smart for Formal nights.
    • Dress codes are mostly just enforced in the main dining room, and you can eat elsewhere if you don’t want to dress up.
    • Better still, if you don’t like dressing up, book an informal cruise line where you will never have to do it.
  • Comfortable shoes
    • This is probably more important than anything else you will pack. You will probably do a lot of walking!
    • Tempting as it might be for me to pack a range of sparkly sandals, in reality, I will probably only wear one pair.
  • Medicines to treat everything!
    • This is one thing I don’t skimp on, I like to have medications to treat all common ailments.
    • You can probably buy painkillers or indigestion tablets in the onboard shop, but they will probably cost you 3 or 4 times as much as when you buy them on land.
  • Travel wash
    • I like to pack a small bottle of travel wash, so I can wash things in the sink if I want to. Usually, it is just the odd t-shirt or a pair of leggings, and they can be dried on the washing line in the shower cubicle.
    • Cruise lines will offer a laundry service at an extra cost, but I rarely use it.
  • Pack things that can be paired with multiple outfits.
    • I tend to pack things in plain colours and pair them with nude-coloured sandals – they go with everything!

Leave Some Travel Essentials in Your Suitcase!

There are some things I leave permanently in my suitcase:

  • Travel adapters – I know I won’t need them when I am at home.
  • Travel sickness pills – I do get seasick, so I always take medication with me when I am cruising. I never need them at home of course!
  • Sunrise Alarm clock. I always take my sunrise alarm clock if I have booked an inside cabin. Otherwise, I never know if it is day or night, and I sleep for hours! If I am lucky enough to have a balcony, I remove the clock and leave it at home. ​Sunrise Alarm Clock​

Get Your Case Out a Week or Two Before Your Cruise

  • As things you regularly wear come out of the wash, put them straight in the case.
  • That way you only pack things that you regularly wear and know are comfortable.
Packing with Hudson
Avoid Packing “Just in Case” items!

Avoid Packing “Just in Case” items!

  • Remove “just in case items”
  • Be aware of what you can buy on board. You are not likely to need that extra workout t-shirt or more socks, but you can buy most things on board or in port if you are pushed.
  • Don’t overthink it! It’s very easy to pack far more than you will actually need.
  • If you pack light, it is far easier to take your suitcase on trains and buses, or if you have a wheeled suitcase, just roll it from one place to another.

Wheeled Suitcases available from the Emma Cruises shop:

Emma Cruises Shop

Before You Go

Make sure you keep your onboard spend down to a minimum by planning ahead. There is nothing more depressing on disembarkation day than to find you have run up a huge bill!

Cutting Onboard Expenses, BEFORE You Cruise, And Avoiding Unnecessary Costs (Drinks, Speciality Meals, Excursions and More) Once Onboard.

Check that you have all the essential paperwork and passports before you cruise. If you are worried you have forgotten something, read this article next.

Cruise Paperwork! Make Sure You Don’t Forget Essential Paperwork, or You Won’t Be Sailing Anywhere…

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.