Hello, my name is Ashley and I'm a huge packing nerd. I'm not afraid to admit it!
One of the things I love about planning a trip is the PACKING! Admittedly, I don't love the physical act of putting things in a suitcase.
However, I do love is the research part... I love learning about and searching for all of those perfect little items items that will make my vacation that much better.
The unique nature of cruising presents a special challenge. The smaller space, the wide variety of activities and the expense of certain items onboard leads many to think carefully about what we can and can't bring. Add in a formal night or two and a small closet and you've got yourself a grade A challenge.
In this post, I'm not going to focus on clothing or personal items. Instead, I'm going to focus on a few items that I consider "must haves." These are the things that I bring with me on every cruise. I may not always need them all, but they've all come in handy a time or two. These are the things that are worth the space and then some.
1,. Cruise Luggage Tags: When you check in online for your cruise, you'll print special luggage tags for your bags. At the cruise port, you'll say goodbye to your bag and it will be waiting for you in your cabin later that afternoon. The special luggage tags allow the curbside porters to load your bag and deliver it to the correct stateroom onboard. Sure, you could print the paper luggage tag and staple it around your suitcase handle, but I love these plastic luggage tag holders for an extra layer of protection. No lost bags here!
2. Eagle Creek Packing Cubes: I have evangelized packing cubes before, but they deserve a second mention. Note that I am specifically recommending Eagle Creek ... I have no incentive to mention them by name, except that I LOVE them. I've owned this set of Original Pack it cubes for over 6 years. These have been in multiple countries all around the world and are now surviving twice monthly trips to New York. I've had the cheaper ones and they rip. Go for the good ones and save your money!
3. Hanging Toiletry Bag: Once you get in the cabin, you'll need a way to keep your toiletries organized. In a small cruise bathroom, I recommend a hanging bag that will keep everything organized and off the counter. I like and own this Travelon bag. It's a little big for weekend trips, but it's my go-to for anything 7 days or longer.
4. Heavy Duty Suction Hooks: While most bathrooms do have a hook for hanging items, sometimes you want a few more. These heavy duty suction cup hooks hold up to 22lbs each. They are so strong, I used them for hanging my laptop bag in my NYC apartment!
5. GoToob Travel Bottles: These are the best travel bottles because you can squeeze them and get every last drop out Trust me.
6. GoTubb travel containers: From the same manufacturer, these little tubs snap tight and hold a number of things. I use them for jewelry, bobby pins, cotton balls, q-tips, etc. They are also great for pills, small items like coins and lots of other uses. Go nuts!
7. Poopourri Spray: While we're in the tiny bathroom, grab a bottle of this. No explanation needed, except that IT WORKS.
8. Backpack: I highly recommend a good backpack for your carry on. When you embark on the ship, it may be a few hours before you get your checked bag. If you bring a backpack, you can have all of your essential items with you, yet still be comfortable as you explore the ship. Remember to pack your swim gear and a change of clothes for the evening in your backpack as you may not get your big bag before dinner.
9. Dry Bag: If you plan on hanging by the pool or taking a camera ashore for excursions, you may want to consider a dry bag. A dry bag is a sealable plastic bag that can keep important items dry when you're out and about. Some dry bags allow you to keep your phone or camera inside and take photos through the clear plastic. These are worth checking out!
10. Emergency Flashlight/Flare/Whistle Combo: Ok, this may be bordering on paranoia, but I like throwing one of these in my backpack. I have this exact model and it has traveled with me for years. it's a flashlight, an emergency flasher, a whistle and more.
There you have it! Those are my must pack cruise items.
Did I forget anything ? What would you add?
Also, don't forget to check out our Friends & Family cruise! When it comes to cruises, planning ahead is the best way to save money. The earlier you book, the more you save!
10 Things You Should Know Before Going on a Cruise
If it seems like we are cruise crazy lately, that is probably a little bit true. I am just so excited about this group cruise on Carnival Freedom!
When I first became a travel agent, I knew I would eventually dedicate part of my business to group travel. While I love solo trips and family vacations, I cannot help but educate people about how group trips really rake in the benefits! When you book into a group trip, you save cash and gain perks that "regular" vacations just can't access. In this case, there is truly strength in numbers!
In honor of this awesome deal, I dub the month of June Alpaca Your Bags Travel "Cruise Month!" While I will eventually get back to discussing other types of travel, I do want to give cruising its due.
For anyone who is CRUISE CURIOUS, it's important that you know the ins and outs of this type of vacation.
If this post leaves you pining for more, join our FREE webinar on Sunday. In that live session, I'll review these top 10 tips, as well as answer your questions about cruises and our group event. Go sign up! I'll wait.
Without further ado, here are the 10 most frequently asked questions about cruises!
1. Do I need to have a passport? This one is tricky to answer. For a closed loop cruise (one that begins and ends in a United States port), you technically are not legally required to have a passport. In that case, a photo ID and a birth certificate will suffice. HOWEVER, most travel professionals (including this one!) highly recommend that you use a passport anyway.
Here's why: When you travel out of the country, it is critical to have valid, foolproof evidence that you are a United States citizen. A passport is the most surefire way to check this box. If you leave the ship for an excursion and accidentally miss the ship, being stranded without a passport is not a good situation to be in. A valid passport is also useful for medical evacuations and other unknown emergencies that can pop up. It's always better to be safe than sorry. At Alpaca Your Bags Travel, we strongly encourage our clients to have a passport for cruises, even if its a closed loop cruise.
2. Do I need vaccinations? It depends on the cruise itinerary and your destinations, but usually the answer to this is no. While I am not a doctor, I do keep up with the CDC's recommendations on travel health. If you are ever curious about the health requirements and vaccination policy for a country on your itinerary, you can always check the CDC website for their latest information.
3. Which cruise line is right for me or my family? What about this ship vs. that ship? A travel agent with cruise experience has received hundreds of training hours to help answer this question. Family friendly or luxury? Quiet and relaxing or loud and lively? Formal or casual? Scheduled gourmet meals or "freestyle" any time dining?
Within each cruise line, there are also differences in the actual ships! For example, we chose our first group cruise onboard the Carnival Freedom because it is very family friendly, yet offers a lot of adult entertainment as well.
4. What type of stateroom is best for me? As with so many questions, the answer is "it depends!" A good travel agent can ask questions that can help guide you towards the right choice:
5. Will I get seasick? Today's cruise ships are equipped with stabilizers that minimize movement onboard. I personally get extremely carsick, yet cruises do not bother me. While every individual is unique, there are some precautions you can take: Traveling with motion sickness medication or wristbands, choosing a midship cabin close to the waterline and eating green apples frequently are all said to help with potential illness from motion. However, most people have no problems at all!
6. Will I need cash onboard? Do I need a credit card? Cruising is one of the most budget-friendly methods of travel because SO much is included! While it varies by cruise line, most cruise fares include your accommodations, your meals (except for speciality or upgraded dining options), basic non-alcoholic beverages like water, iced tea, coffee and lemonade and finally, your onboard entertainment.
When you board the cruise, you'll get a plastic card, like a hotel key card on steroids. This card is linked to your onboard account and is how you do almost everything on board. You'll use it to unlock your room, order drinks, check in for your dining reservations, program your safe (on some ships) and use it for any shopping you do while onboard. The card is connected to your credit card so that charges are paid quickly and seamlessly. Prefer to use cash? Most cruise lines allow guests to deposit cash into the onboard credit account at the beginning of each cruise.
If you're planning to take shore excursions or shop while in port, it's best to bring a combination of cash and credit cards. I also highly recommend bringing a stash of $1 bills for tips. Even if gratuities are included, I find that tipping at the bar leads to better service.
7. What do we pack? I'll cover this in a separate post, but packing lighter is generally easier! While cabin size varies by cruise line and by ship, you can guarantee that you'll have less space than at home. Typically, a hair dryer and basic toiletries (shampoo, body wash, etc) are provided in each cabin. Stay tuned for a future post about the top items Matt and I pack for a cruise!
8. Are cruises safe? What if I'm pregnant? This is a question that requires a common sense answer: Use your head and do what is comfortable for you. NO travel is without some risk, and that includes traveling across down to Walmart. While traveling anywhere, be self aware, don't engage in risky behavior and use the buddy system. I recommend traveling with a small first aid kit (not just because it's smart, but because drugs onboard are pricey!) I also recommend packing copies of your passport and important paperwork and adding them to each suitcase and carry on.
If you are pregnant or planning to be pregnant soon, this is a question for your doctor. While cruise lines are vary, most cruises allow women to travel until the beginning of their third trimester. For example, Carnival accepts passengers until they enter their 24th week of pregnancy.
9. Can we go on a cruise if we are under 21? Again, it depends. Most cruise lines require the primary passenger to be 25 years of age or older. Anyone under 25 needs to travel with their parent or with their spouse, if married. Married passengers under 25 may required to show a marriage certificate. And sorry to burst any bubbles, but the drinking age onboard is generally 21 years old. While some countries outside of the US allow drinking at 18, major cruise lines enforce an Age 21+ policy for alcohol.
10. Will we have an amazing time? YES! Unless you are just a total stick in the mud, I can't imagine anyone not enjoying a cruise. The trick is to find the cruise that is right for YOU. As mentioned above, a good travel agent will ask questions about your likes and dislikes to make sure that they find the perfect fit.
What can you find on our upcoming Carnival Freedom cruise? Sunny shore excursions, multiple pools, hot tubs, 3 kids areas, Broadway-quality shows and entertainment, a piano bar, a sports bar, trivia, a casino, dozens of restaurant and bar options and MORE. There is even a library! The challenge will not be "how do I have fun?" The challenge will be "How can I fit everything in!"
Feeling excited? Then let's get started! Contact us to start the booking process today!
Still have questions about Carnival Freedom? Don't forget to sign up for our LIVE Q&A session. You can join from your very own home! Wear your PJS... we won't tell anyone!
Have you seen our ads about the GROUP CRUISE on Carnival Freedom?
If you have, you already know it's an amazing deal. You might even be ready to book!
With reduced deposits, reduced rates and $75 FREE ONBOARD SPENDING CASH, this deal isn't going to last long.
Some travel agents will hold group cruise events at a restaurant at a bar. Like our name, we like to be a little different. in this crazy busy life, we know everyone is busy! Instead of asking you to come to us, we are going to come to you in the comfort of your very own laptop :)
For anyone who is cruise curious, we're offering a live Q&A Webinar on Sunday, June 5!
Whether you're a cruise veteran or a brand newbie, you'll definitely want to join.
From the comfort of your home, you can watch our LIVE presentation about this can't-miss trip.
In 30 minutes, we will cover:
When is the fun? Next Sunday, June 5 at 2PM!
Wear your pajamas, we won't judge!
CLICK HERE to sign up!
So why should I use a travel agent anyway? That's a common question and I want to address it head on. Here are my top tips for when you should trust your vacation to a professional travel agent:
1. You're Planning a Group Trip: Planning a family reunion? Want a destination wedding? Organizing a church or volunteer trip? When coordinating for several people, it is almost always easier to leave logistics to a professional. You will thank me when dear Aunt Sally wants to change her flight for the third time or when Uncle Billy can't find his passport information. Even better? Agents have access to group rates and excursions that can't be booked by the general public.
2. You Want to Travel Internationally: If you'd like to travel internationally and you've never visited your destination, travel agents can help navigate (pun intended!) the endless options. Where should you go? What is the best time of year? What are the "can't miss" attractions? Travel Agents can also advise on the best Travel Insurance to help you travel safely and protect your precious investment.
3. You Want a Cruise: While they are one of the most popular ways to travel, cruises can be complex to book. What port is best? What type of stateroom should I get? What do you mean, upgraded dining? Am I supposed to tip? Am I a Carnival person or a Royal Caribbean person? What is a river cruise? It can be challenging to understand the cruise industry, especially when each cruise line seems to speak a different language. Agents complete rigorous training and receive special certifications to ensure that you get exactly the type of trip you want.
4. You Want to Get It Right: Are you planning a honeymoon or destination wedding? Do you want to celebrate your retirement with a trip around the world? Don't trust your major milestone travel to faceless online booking site. For moments where the experience matters, talk to a travel agent and explore your many options. A thoughtful agent will listen to your needs, ask questions to help narrow your choices and recommend options that are the best fit for you and your family.
5. You Want Access: Agents have access to packages, amenities and discounts that the general public cannot
book. Examples include onboard credit for cruises, a personal local concierge to help with recommendations, VIP "skip the line" tickets for sightseeing and more. Agents also LOVE to network with other travel agents, comparing notes and asking questions when the need arises. When you want more for your money, talk to a travel agent.
Talk to us: Have you ever used a travel agent? What was your experience?
Answer in the comments below!
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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