On my first family cruise with a seven-month-old, I took a medium-sized suitcase just for him.
I blindly packed for every eventuality. After all, they do not have babies in Europe, do they?!
I quickly realised I had overpacked, but some items were a necessity. Here is my list of the top six essentials you should remember to pack for your baby when you are getting ready to go on a cruise.
1. Nappies, nappies, and more nappies
It might seem a bit of an obvious one, but it is very easy to forget or miscalculate how many you will need. I took an allowance of eight nappies per day. On a 12 night cruise, this is around 100 nappies. I came back with 20 spares.
If you are using reusable nappies, you might find it easier to use disposable nappies for the duration of your cruise. Look for ships with self-service laundry facilities should you wish to continue to use reusable nappies.
- Pack more than you think you will need to allow for an upset stomach or unforeseen accidents.
- Some ships have very limited stocks of nappies in very limited sizes but at extortionate prices. Some lines allow you to pre-book “nappy packages” to save on precious baggage space although these do work out more expensive than buying in bulk from a supermarket.
- Babies can be found right across the world which means you can usually find a stockist of nappies in many ports of call. If you run out, head to a supermarket or pharmacy in your next destination.
2. Tubs of baby milk formula
Next, remember the food. My son had just started weaning which meant for breakfast and dinner he was on real food. He had a bottle for lunch, during the afternoon, and just before bed. I worked out how long each tub of infant formula should last and packed two tubs for the cruise.
I was advised by Royal Caribbean to take sealed boxes of formula onboard although at no point did anyone check.
- If your child requires infant formula, calculate how long each box lasts and then work out how many you need for your holiday. Remember to allow a little extra in case of spillages, an extra hungry child, etc. My son became more thirsty during the holiday so ended up on bigger bottles for the duration.
- If you are feeding your baby infant milk, you will need to sterilise the bottles to kill the bacteria. I took sterilising tablets and a small container in which to use them. I quickly got into the habit of sterilising the bottles overnight ready for the morning. Leave the electric steriliser at home.
- If you are breast feeding or expressing milk, you might want to take a breast pump with you, in case you need to express at any time during the holiday.
3. An inflatable baby bath
Unless you are either wealthy enough to afford a suite or lucky enough to be sailing in a cabin equipped with a bath, you will most likely have a shower in the en-suite bathroom in your cabin. When it comes to washing your delicate baby, this might be problematic. Cruise ship showers are often high-pressured, and temperatures tend not to stay stable for long.
Instead, take a small inflatable baby bath or infant paddling pool with you. You can then use the shower head to fill this with water creating a small but perfectly functional bath. It is basic and rudimentary, but it works.
- Head over to eBay and search for an inflatable baby pool. You should be able to pick one up for less than £5 delivered. It needs to be small to be able to fit into the shower cubicle. My pool measured 61cm (24 inches) in diameter and 15cm (6 inches) in height. As it is inflatable, it takes hardly any room in your suitcase.
- Alternatively, if you can find a cabin with a bath then this is not an issue!
4. A collapsible buggy or stroller
I intended to take the pushchair element of my baby travel system with me. The problem was that this filled my car boot leaving no room for my suitcases. Instead, I bought a cheap umbrella buggy pretty similar to those found on Amazon. When deciding which one to go for, I looked at weight, how well it compressed and price.
I am so glad I took a compact, lightweight umbrella buggy and not the more bulky travel system. Firstly it fit comfortably through every X-ray scanner at every port. There was not much clearance in these machines, and more cumbersome pushchairs were susceptible to damage by heavy-handed security staff.
Another plus point was that the buggy compressed to fit underneath the bed, saving valuable floor space in the cabin.
- If, like me, you own an all-singing-all-dancing travel system, head over to Amazon and buy yourself an umbrella buggy. It is a small but worthwhile investment. They collapse well, are lightweight, and are more likely to fit through X-ray scanners.
- If your child is older but can still fit in a buggy, take one with you just-in-case. Even if your child does not use it much now, they may become hot, tired, and cranky in the Caribbean or Mediterranean heat. A happy child equals happy parents. If in doubt, pack it just-in-case.
5. All the medication you might need
Life at sea is great, but being in an unfamiliar environment presents its challenges. Your baby might be more susceptible to picking up a tummy bug, for example.
My suitcase had resembled a small branch of Boots by the time I had finished packing. I prepared for every eventuality. I took advice from the NHS and included elements from a basic first aid kit – plasters, bandages, a thermometer, dehydration sachets suitable for infants, antiseptic cream, sterile wipes, etc. I also took enough of my son’s medication to last beyond the duration of the cruise.
- Pack any medication your baby requires, plus a basic first aid kit just in case.
- Pack (and use) suntan lotion for your baby and bring along after-sun lotion too. Your baby can tolerate the sun far less than you can. I put factor 50 suntan lotion on my son every morning and topped it up at lunch time. I also used a sun shade on his buggy too.
- Many ports of call have pharmacies should you run out of medications, although the strength of these and the medical advice may differ from British standards.
- Many of the larger cruise ships have medical facilities onboard but these come with a hefty price tag. They are designed to treat basic ailments for all types of passengers so may not be geared up for paediatric care. Nevertheless, it is reassuring to have medically trained staff onboard although hopefully, you will never have to see them.
- Remember to pack your own medications too, plus painkillers and seasickness tablets.
Some cruise lines offer play facilities but not all of them can accommodate the younger sailors. For those that do it is a great opportunity to try out some toys you don’t have at home.
However, sometimes it can be really handy to have a couple of small toys from home for when your baby is somewhat cranky. Our lifesaver was the rabbit comforter I bought for our son the first day I visited him in hospital. That helped him to drift off to sleep at night and our Lamaze All Ears Elephant helped keep him happy when he started to get a bit wary.
- Pack a couple of small familiar soft toys in your hand luggage to help provide a distraction if needs be.
- Keep these on hand when out and about – they can assist in all sorts of situations.
- You can buy cuddly toys in most souvenir shops onboard and in ports of call. They can make great additions to any baby’s toy collection but be aware of their condition of manufacture. Check the label for age suggestions and watch out for poorly constructed accessories that could come loose and be swallowed by your child. Remember that toys purchased abroad may not be to the same quality standards as those at home.
Have you travelled with a baby or toddler on holiday? Share your tips on must-pack items in the comments below.