Perhaps you've cruised before as a couple and are planning your first voyage with a family in tow? Or maybe you've taken your little one for a hotel stay but never on a ship? Whatever your situation, if you're taking a cruise holiday with a baby or toddler, it pays to plan ahead.
Packing for babies can be a mammoth job even for a short trip. So to save you some time, we've produced this handy list of things you need might need during your cruise getaway.
This is a must. Even if your toddler prefers to walk, most cruise ships are pretty big, so they’ll probably get tired of walking whilst on-board, not to mention during excursions. A comfy pram will also give them somewhere to take a nap if you don’t plan on returning to your stateroom for nap time. Taking a cheap umbrella-folding buggy could be a better choice than your usual bulky pram, as you’ll need to fold it up any time you board a coach, mini-bus, plane or tender boat.
A baby carrier or sling is sometimes preferable to a pram, depending on what you and your baby are used to. If you’re travelling by plane, you’ll have to check in your pram, and may then have some distance to walk through the airport before you get it back at the other side – a baby carrier can come in very handy at this point.
Why would you need a car seat on a ship? Well you won’t, bit if you’re travelling by coach or taxi during your journey from home to the ship, or on excursions, you’ll probably feel safer to use it than to sit your baby on your lap. You aren’t limited by luggage restrictions on the ship, and most airlines let you take a car seat for free in addition to your luggage allowance.
Inflatable baby bath
This is necessary for two reasons. Firstly, most staterooms have showers rather than baths - and giving a baby a shower in a cramped bathroom is likely to be unpleasant for both of you. Secondly, you can take it poolside to create a private paddling pool for your tot. Children in swimming nappies aren’t allowed in cruise ship pools for hygiene reasons, so their own paddling pool is vital if they like to splash around.
Baby food and formula
Some cruise lines will puree food for babies, but it’s generally easier to take your own. Make sure that you take enough baby milk for the trip. Check that your stateroom has a kettle if you'll need to boil water - you can also get boiled water in most bars and restaurants. A few of the ready-made bottles are sure to come in handy for during excursions as well.
Bottles and steriliser
Take as many bottles as your baby uses in 24 hours. That way you’ll only have to do the washing up once per day. If you usually sterilise at home, you’ll probably want to continue this while you’re away. Sterilising tablets are recommended for this job, as they don’t take up much room and can be used with any large container.
Washing up equipment
You’ll want to wash your child’s bottles and sippy cups each day in your stateroom, so remember to pack sponges, brushes and washing-up liquid. You probably won’t be able to buy these on-board.
Imagine the scene – you’ve dressed your toddler up in a cute yellow dress for formal night, and then you head to the buffet where she demands spaghetti bolognese. You’ll definitely be needing a bib for that – a tucked-in napkin just won’t cut it. The best kind of bibs are probably the plastic ones which you can wipe clean with a baby wipe at the end of each meal. Some even roll up to save space. Although some people find that disposable paper bibs are preferred as you can throw them away after dessert.
Plates, bowls, cups and cutlery
Whilst most cruise lines will have some plastic plates and bowls on hand – it’s better to be prepared – especially if your little one is a ‘thrower’. Carrying your own can save you from asking every time you visit the buffet or snack bar.
Nappies, wipes and nappy bags
Most cruise ships don’t sell nappies and wipes on-board, so it’s important to bring your own. Check the cruise line’s policy on swimming nappies. They’re generally not allowed in the main pools, but may be allowed in certain splash pools in the kids’ area.
Portable changing mat
You’ll find plenty of baby-changing facilities on-board your ship. However, whilst on land, the same facilities may not be available, depending on the country and places you’re visiting. If you’re forced to change your baby on a toilet floor, beach or coach, you’ll be glad of a changing mat! So take a small, fold up one for emergencies.
Even if your child is rarely ill, packing some Calpol, nappy rash cream, teething gel and a thermometer is a good idea as you may struggle to get these items on-board.
Sun cream, hats and sunglasses are all a must for little ones in warm destinations, and much cheaper to buy before you board. Babies should avoid direct sunlight altogether, so a clip-on umbrella or sun-shade for the pram can also be handy.
Yes, there’s lots to do on-board, but much of this is geared at the over 3s. There’ll be plenty of times when you’ll want your child to be kept busy so that you can enjoy a meal or a drink in peace. You’ll also want to keep them entertained during your journey from home to the port – so take a new toy which they haven’t seen before.
Parents these days will wonder how people coped before iPads were invented. From calming a screaming toddler in a restaurant, to entertaining them with an hour or two of ‘Peppa Pig’ during a flight, many mums and dads choose to abandon their rules on limiting screen time whilst on holiday. Come 10pm when you want a cocktail, letting your little one watch ‘In The Night Garden’ in the pram can be preferable to pacing up and down the ship trying to lull them to sleep.
Do you have any more ideas for what to pack for your cruise holiday with young children? Let us know in the comments below.
Here at Cruise118, we have experts on hand to help you plan the perfect cruise for your family. For advice about any specific cruise, or prices on the most suitable family staterooms for your needs, please don't hesitate to give us a call on 0207 980 2847.