Is tonight formal or semi-formal? What’s the dress code in that dining room? What kind of shoes am I going to need?
Those are just some of the questions that swirled in my mind before I packed my family for our first Disney cruise. Now that I’m on my third one — right in the middle of it, actually, as I write this — I think I’ve learned what to pack that my family will actually use on board. Here are some Disney cruise packing tips:
1. Packing for dinner: There are no formal nights, semi-formal nights, etc. Unless you are planning to dine at one of the adults-only restaurants, Remy or Palo, you will do fine at dinners in sundresses, khakis, even jeans. The only thing truly prohibited in the dining rooms is swimwear. That said, I do enjoy the rhythm of returning to our stateroom in the evenings to relax, shower and dress for dinner, so I typically do wear a dress or slacks, and so does the Theme Park Kid.
2. Formal occasions: My strategy for dining at Remy and/or Palo is to bring my trusty little black dress (which doesn’t wrinkle and just be thrown in my suitcase with my shorts and tees), sandals and some of my beloved sparkly jewelry to dress things up. I haven’t felt the need to bring a truly formal dress on board; perhaps I would on a couples cruise or if I were celebrating a romantic occasion. Just remember that no flip flops are allowed in the dining room, and flip flops are a subjective term these days. If they have a toe bar like a flip flop, even if you consider them a high-heeled sandal, I would avoid them for a Remy or Palo night. I was asked to change my shoes at Disneyland’s Club 33, which has a similar flip flop rule, even though my shoes were truly a much more formal sandal with a heel.
3. Daywear: Consider what you plan to be doing during the day on your cruise. Swimwear is generally the daytime choice, as you will likely either be on the pool deck or on a beach in port. If you are planning to go out on excursions, appropriate clothing will be necessary, but otherwise, swimwear and some casual shorts/capris and tees should suffice.
4. Swimwear: You need two swimsuits, at least. I repeat, you need at least two swimsuits. Your swimsuit likely will not completely dry hanging in your cabin overnight, and there’s nothing worse that putting a wet swimsuit back on. So bring two and keep them in rotation.
5. Swimsuit cover-ups: The most important things I overlooked when packing for my first Disney cruise were comfortable swimsuit cover-ups. My family does most of our swimming at home, where we walk from our rooms to the pool, and we just didn’t invest money in cover-ups we would wear for only a short time on vacation. But on a Disney cruise, you will likely want to disembark on Castaway Cay in just a swimsuit and cover-up. On sea days, you may spend all day on the pool deck, even eating breakfast and lunch there. So, cover-ups you can feel, well, covered up in are important. And again, you may want to bring two.
6. A day bag: You will want a tote, beach bag or other small bag to keep items in when you are on the pool deck or off the ship in ports. It’s easy to overlook this when trying to consolidate into as few bags as possible when packing. Personally, I love the Large Resort Tote by Vera Bradley, which has plenty of room to fit all of a family’s daytime necessities, is light, and wipes clean.
7. Comfortable shoes: Sure, you’re on the same ship most of the time, but it’s a BIG ship, and there’s a surprising amount of walking involved. So be sure you’re comfortable walking in the shoes you pack. And don’t forget closed toe shoes that you may need for excursions.
8. Medicines/first aid kit: It costs a million dollars to get sick on a cruise. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, but the prices at the health service on board might as well be a million dollars to my wallet. I like to get on the ship with painkiller/fever reducer, cough medicine, cold medicine, antihistamine and the like in both adult and kid versions, in case anyone needs anything. Of course in a real medical situation, I will spend the money to go to health services, but if you need to treat a sniffle or a cough, plan ahead so that you can do it yourself – it’s all stuff you will use after the cruise anyway, right?
9. Hats: I have a ton of ball caps. Why? Because it’s the thing I almost always forget to pack and wind up buying in whatever locale I end up. Even on the ship, you will be out in the sun on the pool deck, etc., and you will want a hat. Likewise for port days. So be sure you’ve got one for every member of the family. Unless, of course, you like collecting hats as souvenirs. There are certainly some fun ones for sale on a Disney cruise.
10. Don’t overpack. I repeat, don’t overpack. Packing for a cruise should really be one of the simpler trips anyone ever packs for, but many of us make it complicated. I have read tons of advice on packing water bottles, beach towels, even laundry hampers for a Disney cruise, and I’ve just never felt the need for any of those things. Soft drinks are readily available 24 hours a day. Towels are readily available, as well. And we always just designate one of the suitcases for the dirty laundry. If there’s something important to you, bring it. But otherwise, I would keep it as simple as possible. That’s really my best tip.
I am cruising on the Disney Fantasy as part of a media preview, as an invited guest of Disney Cruise Line.