You’ve been on many cruises before and think you have mastered packing. So did we! But, packing for an Alaskan cruise is altogether different than what you would typically pack for a Caribbean cruise. From toiletries to outfits, and everything in between, we detail what we pack for our trips in this Complete Alaska Cruise Packing Guide to help eliminate your pre-cruise stress. Even if you are a veteran cruiser, you might find a few additional items that will be helpful on your next cruise.
Admittedly, we do tend to be over-packers. So, we were able to cut our original list back a bit for our second Alaskan cruise in 2018. Hopefully, our list will help you figure out your essential items and condense your packing list to reduce extra luggage fees from your airline.
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Alaska Cruise Basics
Alaska is one of the top cruise destinations. However, Alaska is a seasonal cruise port. This means that you will only be able to cruise to Alaska during select months of the year. The Alaskan cruise season generally runs from late April/early May to September. During this timeframe, there will be variations in temperature, precipitation, and abundance of wildlife.
You should consider factors like weather, price, and crowds to determine the Best Time of Year for an Alaskan cruise. Based on the average temperatures, rainfall amounts, hours of daylight, and wildlife sightings, the “best” time of year to go on an Alaskan Cruise is the month of July. However, with this optimal weather comes increased crowds and increased price.
Thus, the time of year you choose to cruise to Alaska will dictate to some degree what items you will need to include on your Alaska cruise packing list. The type of excursions you book should also factor into what you pack. Most importantly, layers and rain gear are essential!
Our Alaska Cruise Packing Guide
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Depending on your travel preferences, you may not wish to bring along as many toiletries as we do. So, feel free to pick and choose from this list as desired. Many cruise lines do provide soaps and shampoos that can save you some space (and weight) in your luggage. However, we still choose to bring our own.
Do be sure to bring all medications, both over the counter and prescribed. Even though you are visiting Alaska, you will still want to pack sunscreen and sunglasses. The sun reflecting off the snow and ice can be quite strong. We also recommend Downy wrinkle release to help keep your clothes as wrinkle-free as possible. Irons and steamers are NOT allowed on cruise ships.
Now more than ever, you will also want to help prevent the spread of germs to avoid getting sick on your vacation. Thus, you can never have enough hand sanitizer. In 2021, you might also want to pack some disinfectant wipes and/or Lysol disinfectant spray to sanitize your cabin and other high traffic touchpoints.
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Our Alaska cruise packing guide outlines all the potential clothing items you will want to pack for your next cruise vacation. Regardless of travel destination, we usually group outfits into daytime use and nighttime use. For a typical 7-day cruise with a pre-cruise hotel stay, we usually plan eight daytime and eight nighttime outfits, choosing items that can be re-purposed for a couple uses.
When packing for Alaska, you want to remember LAYERS! You will want to be prepared for rain and temperature swings of 25 degrees or more in a given day.
For daytime outfits, it wouldn’t hurt to pack a pair of capris or shorts for the unseasonably warm day or for lounging around the ship, but you will want mostly long pants. For shirts, you will want a combination of short sleeve and long sleeve, perhaps some thermal or moisture-wicking. You will also want some combination of sweaters, sweatshirts, vest, or fleece jacket to layer over these shirts if needed.
In terms of outerwear, a packable raincoat to layer over the above mentioned items or a 3-in-1 coat are essential. The odds are that it will rain at least one of the days that your are in port. We only used our gloves and earmuffs/hats for one early morning on our cruise, but we would recommend packing a pair just in case.
For nighttime outfits, you will want to pack business casual type outfits. Think khakis and collared shirts for men and dress pants, dressy jeans, or casual dresses for woman. Alaskan cruises are more casual overall, but many cruise lines do still have “formal” or “evening chic” nights where you can feel fancy if you choose. We like to participate, so we always pack formal dresses with heels and a suit with dress shirt/tie combinations. Women should also pack a cardigan or pashmina as it can be a bit cool at night even on the ship.
Our footwear collection for an Alaskan cruise was a bit more extensive versus a Caribbean cruise. Generally speaking, you will want casual shoes for daytime use and dressier shoes for nighttime use. For daytime use, you will definitely want a pair of sneakers or comfortable walking shoes and waterproof shoes or boots. Some options include Sperry duck boots, Merrell hiking shoes, or Hunter rain boots. I did pack a pair of Ugg boots for our first Alaskan cruise, but they were not really necessary.
Of course, you should consider how you are going to be spending your days ashore when packing for your cruise. If you have shore excursions planned, like sightseeing tours, zip lines, or glacier hikes, you will want to pack outfits to fit those requirements.
Of note, you should still pack a bathing suit for your Alaskan cruise. There are hot tubs and indoor pools onboard the ship, as well as the spa and thermal suites on many cruise lines. You might even get lucky enough with the weather to enjoy the outdoor pools!
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Other Useful Items
Besides the necessary travel docs and passports, we have accumulated a list over the years of “other” items that we find essential for a cruise to any destination. Many of these products can be purchased fairly inexpensively on Amazon or at your local Target or Walmart.
Given that cruise ship cabins are small, you will want to maximize the space. Magnets (We use the 40 lb. ones) come in handy for hanging hats, day bags, and other items in your cruise cabin. Additionally, we use an over the door shoe organizer, not for shoes, but rather to store toiletries and other small items to free up counter space.
A luggage scale will help ensure you are not over your airline’s weight limit on the return trip home. Further, a Yeti water bottle will help to keep a cold drink cold or a hot drink hot for hours. This will definitely be useful to keep your coffee or hot chocolate warm on those early Alaskan mornings.
Cruise luggage tags are great items to protect those paper cruise tags on your suitcases, as lanyards or a cell phone pocket are equally as important to store and carry your room key card. Likewise, ziploc bags are great for spill-proofing or water protection, while trash bags are handy to store dirty laundry over the course of the week.
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Admittedly, we pack much more in this category than most cruisers. So, our suggestion is to pick and choose your essential devices whether they be cellphones, laptops, tablets, or cameras. Once you decide which gadgets you plan to take, you will find one of these cord organizers very helpful to keep all the chargers in one convenient location.
Speaking of all these electronics, a mobile power charger is essential as outlets are very limited in cruise cabins. You might also want to consider a portable power pack to keep your devices charged when going ashore. In Alaska, binoculars are also a great accessory. We just purchased a cheap pair and found them sufficient.
Packing for a vacation shouldn’t be stressful. So, feel free to download a copy of our complete Alaska cruise packing list to use as a check list while packing for your Alaskan Cruise.
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Have you traveled to Alaska? Are there any items on your packing list that we have forgotten? Let us know what items are on the top of your Alaska Cruise Packing Guide.