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Tsh Oxenreider

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Tsh Oxenreider is the full-time blogger behind Simple Mom and the founder and creative director of Simple Living Media, a blog network dedicated to helping people live intentionally (while throwing perfection out the window). She thinks a library card, a Netflix subscription, and a passport are some of the greatest parenting tools in the universe.

She’s a wife to Kyle, mama to Tate, Reed, and Finn, and is the author of Organized Simplicity and One Bite at a Time: 52 Bites for Making Life Simpler. She is currently working on her next book. Tsh and her nomadic family currently live in Bend, Oregon, but several dots around the globe have also been called home (her 7-year-old has been on 53 airplanes and counting). Together, they love to travel, read books, go camping, and make homemade pizza for Friday Family Movie Night.

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What To Pack For a Cruise (Or: Leave Your Beach Towels at Home)

By Tsh Oxenreider |

As far as a family goes, we’re pretty experienced travelers. We’ve been to quite a few countries, we try to take a road trip every summer, and we make weekend trips every few months. You might say we like to move about the cabin.

But I still learned something new about travel on our recent Norwegian Cruise Line vacation, and I think that’s because cruises are just a bit different than other types of travel. Specifically, I learned a bit about what to pack, what to leave home, and how to spend your money.

1. Pack light.

You really don’t need that many clothes. Sure, I saw quite a few sequined dresses and leopard-print stilettos, but if you’ve got kids, you’re mostly lounging around and enjoying a few nice dinners.

Okay, so maybe that’s mostly us—if we’re given free childcare on a cruise ship, we’d rather chat over a few drinks out on the open sea over getting our groove on at the nightclub. You could do that, too, if that’s your thing.

But really… two summer dresses are plenty for the sort of cruise to the Bahamas we enjoyed. You can re-wear them, change them up with lightweight cardigans or different jewelry, or heck, simply go to a different restaurant the next night. Really—nobody cares what you’re wearing.

I packed a few pairs of shorts, one pair of jeans (which I only wore on the flight to and from the cruise!), a couple tanks and t-shirts, a few cardigans, two lightweight dresses, and a skirt. And that was plenty.

2. …But it is nice to have more than one swimsuit.

I “accidentally” bought two new swimsuits for this cruise. Well okay, it wasn’t an accident—I ordered one online at Land’s End and it didn’t come in time, so the day before our flight, I bought another one at Target. Then our flight was delayed until the evening, so we returned home to check the mail—and lo and behold, my new suit was waiting in a box by our front door.

So I tucked it into my suitcase. Turns out having two swimsuits was mighty handy, because we swam a lot. As in, several times a day. It was nice to let one dry while wearing the other one, especially on the days we were at the beach during the day and back on the cruise ship at night. Hello, sand and salt.

Honestly, this isn’t that big of a deal—I wouldn’t spend tons of money on a second suit just for the heck of it. But it was sort of a happy accident for me.

3. The kids mostly need shorts and t-shirts, too.

I’m sure it’d be a little different if we were on a cruise to Alaska, but really, all the kids needed were shorts and t-shirts. We tossed in a few nicer tops for each of them, just in case, but we really didn’t need them. Norwegian is very gracious with kids.

4. Books! They’ve got books!

The library on the Norwegian Gem, our cruise ship.

We brought way too many books, because we ended up checking out books at the cruise ship’s library. Yes—a library! They didn’t have a ton of children’s books, but they had enough—plenty for bedtime stories. Next time, we’ll only bring two or three for the flight, then check out more books on the boat.

We brought a water bottle for each kid, and we were able to refill them with water anywhere on the boat. That, plus inflatable water gear and swimsuits, was all they needed. Norwegian and nature provided the rest of their entertainment.

5. You don’t need beach towels.

Our kids loved coming back to our room each evening to see what animal waited for them!

Cruise ships provide you with your beach towels. This might seem like an incredible “duh” to you, but it was news to me, and I was happy to have learned it the night before we left. Towels take up a lot of luggage space (especially five of them), so I loved snagging towels at the boat before leaving for the beach, then returning them to their laundry pile before dragging it back to our room. A little treat that went a long way.

I love packing light, and would much rather travel with too little than too much. With cruising, it turns out that old saying is right: after you pack, take out half your clothes and replace it with twice as much money. Soon, I’ll share how much extra money to expect to bring, and how to save some of it.

Do you tend to overpack or underpack when you travel?

A big thanks to Norwegian Cruise Line for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

Read more from Tsh at Simple Mom, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

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About Tsh Oxenreider


Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh Oxenreider is the founder and creative director of Simple Living Media, the editor of Simple Mom, the voice behind The Simple Mom Podcast, and the author of several books. While she's working on her next book, Tsh lives in Oregon with her husband and three kids and enjoys sunshine, running, and good coffee. Read bio and latest posts → Read Tsh's latest posts →

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20 thoughts on “What To Pack For a Cruise (Or: Leave Your Beach Towels at Home)

  1. Natalie says:

    The library looks awesome! And the towel thing is great advice. You can really save a ton of room in your suitcases by using the cruises towels

  2. Amy says:

    My family just returned from a cruise too :)
    You are absolutely right about packing light. My husband could not believe that I packed all my wardrobe into a carry-on…and I’m pretty sure there were two tops I never even used!
    Next time, though, I will probably pack a travel iron. Everything was very wrinkled when I unpacked it and although the ship I was on had a laundry room on each deck, there were always lines to use their irons.

  3. Taylor says:

    OMG! I have NEVER been on a cruise that had a library. That is amazing. I feel like half of my bag is always full of books and magazines to keep me occupied. I know, I know. I should probably invest in a Kindle–but there’s just somehting about holding a hard copy of a book and literally turning the page that makes me happy. Also — don’t forget the sunscreen. I made the mistake of figuring I’d just buy it on the ship–and BOY IS IT EXPENSIVE!! Pack it…learn from my mistake.

  4. Rosie says:

    You’re absolutely right about cruises being super-casual. My first one I brought all kinds of nice dresses, thinking i would be wearing them to dinner… turns out they stayed in the suitcase and I headed to dinner in the comfy sundress I had been wearing all day. Glad that I know now to keep it casual!

  5. Amy says:

    Great tips! My kids would love those towel animals, they’re adorable!

  6. Katy's mom says:

    Nice to see they offer a library…although I can’t imagine having time to read with the little ones in tow. I can dream though! lol

  7. Colleen says:

    You are so on point with this! And multiple swimsuits are a NECESSITY! If you’re doesn’t dry over night, you don’t want to wear it again wet…yuck!

  8. Katy's mom says:

    That’s a pretty awesome towel monkey :)

  9. Harmony says:

    i ALWAYS overpack when i travel! one thing i’d have to add though is some sort of music player! can’t go anywhere without mine :)

  10. Marie says:

    These are great. I’m glad to know about no beach towel, they always take up so much space!

  11. Jodi says:

    I’ve not taken a cruise with kids but have taken 5 cruises with 4 different companies and would say NCL is much more casual among cruise lines. I think it is because of their freestyle cruising and being able to eat anywhere. The “traditional” lines have the dining room for dinner each night and there are dress codes, no shorts or jeans allowed in them for dinner. So glad you had a great time!

  12. Tsh Oxenreider says:

    @Amy, I could see needing an iron if those are the kinds of clothes you like to bring. Everything I brought was jersey/cotton, so nothing was wrinkly. Good point, though!

    @Katy’s Mom, I’d think that, but with childcare, you really DO get time to read. It’s pretty amazing! Plus, the kids’ books are great for bedtime story time, since we still stick to that routine when traveling.

    @Colleen, I was surprised how long it took my Land’s End swimsuit to dry. I guess it’s because they’re so durable! So yeah, I was really glad to not have to lounge around in a pre-wet suit the next day.

    @Harmony, we had our iPhones with us, so we had some music (although wifi was really sporatic, as was cell reception). But we also brought one laptop, so we had iTunes available in our room.

    @Jodi, this is so great to know! I was wondering, since I’ve never been on another cruise. I’ve honestly been really impressed with Norwegian.

  13. Ana Flores says:

    I always, always overpack! I’m gonna follow these tips for sure and just stick to the bare minimums. I always come back with half a suitcase of unworn clothes anyway.

  14. designhermomma says:

    I am such an over-packer. And with 6 people in the family, that means a WHOLE LOT of extra stuff. Love these tips, especially the one about books and stuff for the kids.

  15. A Letter to Jill says:

    Thank you for this; now I don’t need to waste my time coming up with my own list! And Norwegian Cruises have LIBRARIES??…That’s just awesome.

  16. sunny chanel says:

    I seriously wish i had read this last year when I went on a cruise. I completely over packed and totally did not being the right kind of “cruise attire.” We had so many bags and suitcases it looked like we were going on a around the globe cruise when really it was just five days down to Mexico. Next time, I’ll remember these tips, use, rinse and repeat.

  17. ML@My3LittleBirds says:

    Thanks for these tips. We are getting ready for vacation, and even thought it’s not a cruise, you’ve reminded me that less is best. My biggest packing issue post-kiddos is that I convince myself every single time that I need to bring a bunch of toys and books to entertain them. So unnecessary.
    Those towels are cute, btw! Looks like you guys had a great time : )

  18. laurenjimeson says:

    I am always guilty of overpacking. I love that Norwegian has a library. It’s beautiful! I think that it’s so nice to pack light for a cruise, especially when going with kids, because we all know that kids require a lot of “stuff!”

  19. Beth Anne says:

    Agreed – more than one suit is a necessity! I’d have one drying from the morning when I took it off for an after-lunch nap…so I needed a dry one for the afternoon!

  20. Casi says:

    Ah! Tsh, those towel animals are adorable! I always over pack and these are great tips. I also had no idea about the books — and we always pack those. Thanks for the great tips!

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