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H E Y there!
As you may know from my What To Do In Skagway blog post, my husband and I traveled on an exciting Alaska cruise adventure last summer to celebrate my in-laws anniversary!
We had an amazing time from start to finish – to date, it is still one of our most memorable trips.
So today I want to share with you my Alaska cruise travel tips and packing list essentials to make sure you can have the greatest adventure and create memories to last a lifetime!
Take a Peek at Our A D V E N T U R E . . .
Here’s a little video overview of our cruise and some excursions. Check it out to get a sneak peek of what you can expect on your wonderful Alaska cruise!
T I P S To Prepare For Your Alaska Cruise
Here are some important tips to keep in mind to ensure that you enjoy your Alaska cruise to the full!
Book your excursions and reservations in advance.
Often during peak season, many cruise ships will come into port on the same day. This means that you will be competing with your own shipmates and countless others for tour guides, rental cars, buses, and more.
To ensure that you book the best possible excursions for you and your travel partners, don’t procrastinate! Make reservations as soon as you can, not waiting until the last minute, or worse – once you come ashore!
You can save money by booking excursions and transportation in advance; compare rates among travel sites and large wholesale travel companies. We used Costco to book some of our excursions!
You are also encouraged to book onboard services ahead of time, too, like the spa or specialty restaurants. I made the mistake of waiting to book a manicure until we boarded the ship, and they only had one slot open – at ten at night! So, if you want to get a beautiful blow-out for the gala night, make your reservation as soon as you can!
Do good research ahead of time…
… to be prepared for what Alaska is really like. For example, did you know that some areas of Alaska are considered to be a rainforest? I didn’t, but it was helpful to know so I could be prepared for heavy moisture and rain! Investigate the climate for the regions you will visit.
It also is helpful to map out where you want to travel and any landmarks, parks, or towns you may want to visit. That way you can find out how long travel will take and what you can fit in your schedule. After all, you don’t want to miss reboarding the ship!
And, look at reviews of your exact cruise ship. For example, have people mentioned the walls are thin? Perhaps bring some earplugs! Many passengers will leave helpful reviews of what they wished a room included or were glad they had so you know exactly what to bring!
Most cruise ships give a basic itinerary and dress code for dinners and relaxing on the ship. Though they usually aren’t too strict, make sure to double check your outfits adhere to any regulations. You don’t want to walk into dinner with ripped jeans and wet tennis shoes on the gala night!
Generally, lunches and dinners in the main dining room have a dress code of “smart casual.” (I’ve often heard this considered “business casual”.) Typical wear would consist of nicer slacks and collared shirts for the men, and fancy pants, blouses, or dresses for the ladies. Closed flats, nice sandals, or heels are all fine options. Just leave your jeans, tee-shirts, flip-flops, and tennis shoes back in the room, and you should be good to go.
Usually onboard a cruise, one night will be scheduled as the gala night. This is when you can pull out your classiest attire and get ready for a photo-op! Suits with ties or tuxedos work great for the men. Ladies, pull our your fancy pearls, your highest of heels, and that dress you splurged on for that reunion last summer! Dress to the tens, as some would say, and enjoy your evening!
Also, really weigh your options before making any quick decisions regarding on-board add-ons. Count the cost, and see if, in the end, it’s actually worth your money! For example, an all-you-can-drink libations package may sound enticing. However, the cost of some of these packages may amount to 5-10 drinks per day; keep in mind, too, there may be 3, 4, or more days that you won’t even be on the ship from morning until night. For most people, that is just a waste of money!
Pack travel-essential back-ups.
Oh, look – is that a baby bear cub?! Grandpa doing a backflip off the pool deck? And, aw; fancy gala night! Grab the camera – oh, shoot… the battery is dead. Traveling isn’t all about the photos, but you probably want some pictures of the fantastic sights you’ll see and happy memories you’ll enjoy.
For that reason, it’s always a good idea to bring extra batteries and a car- or portable-charger for your cell phone. You can also bring a power strip or adaptor if you have a lot of electronics to charge, as many rooms are quite scarce on outlets!
It’s always a good idea to put your phone and/or camera in a waterproof case/pouch to avoid any pool-side, water-fall, or rain-drop mishaps!
This is the water-proof pouch I have, and it works great! But, on that note…
… don’t depend on your electronics!
I know, I know. We all love our trusty phones. However, when you’re in uncommon territory trying to navigate back to the cruise dock before the ship departs, you cannot rely on your cellular signal to carry you through.
In fact, cell signal doesn’t reach many parts of Alaska, no matter how great your carrier claims! Be safe and bring a road map along, as well as copies of any important documents. You can even print out hardcopy directions or email confirmations (or at least take screenshots prior to travel) just in case they don’t load on your phone.
Traveling with children or teens offers an interesting problem in this high-tech world; unlike normal, you can’t just text your child to find out their location. And, don’t think about What’s App – onboard WiFi can be expensive, and super spotty.
An easy solution to offer the kids some freedom (which means privacy and quiet-time for you) and still keep in touch when need be, is to buy a simple pair of walkie-talkies to carry as you enjoy relaxation and entertainment on board your Alaska cruise – over ‘n out!
Dress in practical layers for excursions.
After all, this is the vacation of a lifetime, not a fashion show. You don’t want to spend the whole trip shivering and wet as the cost of a runway-ready outfit!
Even on deck in the summer, it may be chilly! In fact, I didn’t wear shorts or flip-flops (except to the hot tub) for our entire cruise!
Instead, think in LAYERS! Start with thin, breathable fabrics as the base, and add warmth and waterproofing as you go. Below is an example of what I wore for two of our excursions; both were the perfect outfit and I was so comfortable all day long!
- Base: (1) Comfy, broken-in jeans and a cotton tee-shirt. (2) Workout leggings and a cotton tee-shirt.
- Middle: (1) Adidas Pullover and Underarmour Fleece Vest. (2) Northface Fleece Quarter-Zip
- Outer: (1 & 2) I also carried along with us my Free Country 3-in-1 waterproof jacket, which was great when it was drizzly and chillier towards the end of the tour. They don’t sell my version anymore, but here is a similar option!
I was very glad that I packed in layers, and my pullover/fleece vest combo was so comfortable, without begin too bulky. I felt like I was warm and protected from the drizzle, but not restricted in movement. Bringing along my light, waterproof jacket added the perfect layer of extra protection, and I was glad I had it with me!
On the ship for our Alaska cruise (in September), I would typically wear my base above, and perhaps carry around my hoodie or pull over if I was venturing onto a deck.
Don’t forget your accessories!
Though you might not need all of these accessories at one time on an excursion, you should definitely bring them in a bag or backpack, just in case! At the beginning of our tour, I was too warm with my jacket, but chilly without. The solution: wrapping on a cozy scarf and hat helped me to feel perfectly comfortable!
A nice shawl is versatile, too – wear it later to dinner if you’re sitting near a breeze or air vent!
Think about your feet.
It would be so disappointing to put all your effort into your clothing and accessories, but neglect your most important layer: footwear!
As you may be on your feet during excursions for a good amount of time, choose comfy and waterproof shoes. You will also want to find a good pair of hiking socks, and even bring along a spare pair if you expect extra rain or a lot of vigorous walking. I wore:
- Sperry Rainboots – These are my absolute favorite pair of shoes I own, and I was so glad I brought them on the cruise. They are super comfortable and have great tread, so getting a little adventurous on an excursion was no issue! I love how they keep my feet so warm; the extra height around the ankle really keeps out any raindrops and splashes from a puddle, so I stay nice and dry!
- Hiking Socks
Keep in mind simple health, comfort, and relaxation preferences.
Are you a light sleeper, or do you get a little warm at night? Perhaps consider packing a portable travel fan for some white noise and a breeze. You can even download a white noise song on your phone beforehand, and play it on loop at night; this is the one that I use!
If you or your kids are situated in an inner room, that means you won’t have any natural light peeking in through the windows. A night light would be a great addition to your packing list, especially if your little ones get nervous in the dark!
Don’t forget to pack simple over-the-counter medications, to avoid paying and having to hunt for them on board. Anti-acid tablets, motion-sickness pills, allergy medication, and even pain killers for a random bruise or blisters are much better easily accessible in your nightstand, rather than trudging all the way down to the shop at three in the morning!
Spend some time thinking about how you like to relax and get some rest, and feel free to bring ship-approved items that will assist in that. After all, this is your Alaska cruise vacation, and you want to enjoy it as much as possible!
In preparation for the R&R, buy a new novel, a crossword puzzle, or maybe a sketchbook and some pencils. On our cruise, I enjoyed finishingh the novel “Crazy Rich Asians” in anticipation for the movie debut.
You will have downtime aboard the ship, and there is nothing more relaxing than sipping a nice cup of tea and watching the glaciers pass as you relax with your favorite activity.
What To P A C K For Your Alaska Cruise
Packing for such an exciting trip may seem intimidating, but you don’t have to worry! Just do your research, get organized ahead of time, and make a plan of action!
To help you out in that regard, I’ve compiled a detailed packing list template – all ready for you to print and personalize! I’ve created a space to plan out your outfits, add miscellaneous personal items, and even some helpful cruise packing tips. That way, you’ll pack just what you need – not too much or too little.
Then, you can check off the items as you add them to your luggage! Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t checking items off a list with a pen on paper feel SO satisfying?!
I like to begin packing for a trip a few days prior to leaving, just to get some out of the way and alleviate the stress of having to do it all the night before! A packing list really helps me to stay organized and remember what I’ve already packed and what still needs to go in. A low stress-level to start off the trip of a lifetime is how I like to do it! Plus, Max and I had all the essentials, without packing too much, and were perfectly comfortable and stylish on our Alaska cruise.
Download your free, printable Alaska cruise packing checklist here:
Enjoy your C R U I S E !
If you’re going to be visiting Skagway, be sure to check out my travel guide for more location-specific details, tips, and photos: What To Do In Skagway.
Don’t forget to find me on Instagram so we can keep in touch, and be sure to tag me in any photos you post of your cruise! I love to see your travel photos.
And, enter your email below to receive notification of my next blog post like this one. You don’t want to miss it, and it’s a good way to thank me for that wonderful packing list that’s going to change your life. 😉
Take care guys! Until next time…
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