The Best Printable Cruise Packing List for the Over 50 Woman

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The Best Printable Cruise Packing List for the Over 50 Woman

So you’re going on a cruise?  Congratulations!  You’ve earned it!  Whether it’s your first cruise, fifth, or fiftieth, you’ll need the perfect packing list.  I’ve got your back.  As a seasoned cruiser, I’ve packed all the wrong things and all the right, so let me help you prep for your trip!  And believe me, the list is very different for the mature woman traveling solo or with a partner than those packing the family for a family vacation!  It feels great to have earned this status, doesn’t it!?

Before we get to the list, here are some reminders about packing for those who haven’t cruised before or it’s been a while.

Cruse Rules are Different Than Airline Rules

Airplane luggage rules are different than cruise luggage rules.  If you are flying, be sure to know the rules for flying with your luggage.  Good news if you are lucky enough to drive to your cruise port!  The cruise doesn’t limit your luggage’s weight or determine what items make their way into each bag.  The cruise line has no weight restrictions, and you can gleefully spread your batteries among your bags!  I love this since I pack many high-tech items like cameras, iPads, and rechargeable batteries!  You can even bring full-sized shampoo or shower gel bottles in your bag, unlike on the airplane, where liquid quantities are limited.

Before you get too carried away packing everything in sight, remember that you will need to get your bags from your vehicle to your ship, and your room will have limited space, so it’s still in your best interest to pack as lightly as possible.

Suitcase Vs. Carry-On

Once you arrive at the cruise terminal, a bag handler will whisk your bags away, and you’ll board the ship with only what you carry.  Your bags will arrive on your doorstep sometime later in the day, maybe even evening, so you’ll want a few items in your carry-on that will stay with you until you can get to your cabin and your big bags arrive.

I always keep my swimsuit, sunscreen, lip balm, boarding documents, and valuables in my carry-on.  If you come from a cold climate, you may want to include a pair of shorts or a change of clothing in that bag so you can find a restroom and change into something comfy!

A man with a white cap leans over 4 suitcases in an outdoor setting
When you reach the cruise terminal, a luggage steward will take your bags and get them onto the ship for you.

Basic Items

Of course, your clothing is the most important item to consider when packing.  What kind of outfits do I bring?  How many of each?  What about formal nights or themed nights?  All of these are great questions.  Let’s go through them all!

First of all, comfort is so important on vacation.  You want to look good, but comfort is ultimately the most important thing!  I have looked at many people on board those ships, and let me tell you, no one looks perfect at all times, so go for what makes you feel great rather than trying to make a perfect appearance.

Clothing

  • Shirts.  Pack at least one shirt per day.  You can always re-wear a shirt if you need to, but having something clean for each day feels great.
  • Shorts.  Pack at least one pair of shorts for every two days.  If your cruise is seven nights, then pack 3-4 pairs.  Remember that you will wear your swimsuit for a portion of your trip, so shorts can work for more than a day each.
  • Long pants.  I opt for a pair of semi-dressy pants (or slacks) for evenings on the ship.  The main dining room will have at least one night with a dress code when shorts are not allowed.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood for a dress, so a comfy, dressy pair of pants is a great go-to item.
  • Formal Night outfit.  Most cruise itineraries include at least one night that is considered a formal night or a theme night.  Although today’s ships don’t require tuxedos and sequins, it can be fun to dress for one of these nights.  Remember that ship photographers will be happy to capture a formal photo of you while you’re there, so make the most of the opportunity!  When do you have a chance at home to get a formal portrait taken?  If you’re not into heavy sequins, consider a day dress glammed up for the occasion.  You’ll see all manner of clothing on your ship.
  • Light jacket, sweater, or shawl.  Evenings on the ship can be breezy and maybe even chilly, especially after a busy day in the sun, so it’s a good idea to pack something comfortable for layering. 
  • Undies.  Of course, you’ll want fresh underwear each day, so pack accordingly.
  • Socks.  I don’t know about you, but I am not crazy about walking around a hotel room (or cruise stateroom, for that matter) in my bare feet.  I always pack at least a couple of pairs of socks for use in my room.  If you wear tennis shoes throughout the week, pack one pair of socks for each day.  I tend to wear sandals, so a couple of pairs are sufficient for me, but with some planning, you’ll know exactly how many you need.
  • Pajamas.  Of course, you’ll be sleeping on board, so pack your comfiest PJs, keeping in mind that you’ll have some control over the temp in your room, but if you’re in an inside stateroom, you won’t have much air circulation.  If you’re in your menopausal years like me, bamboo pajamas work wonderfully to keep you cool yet offer comfy full coverage. 
  • Swimsuit.  Pack two swimsuits.  You’ll want a spare, so you have a dry suit when your favorite is wet.  And we all know you have a favorite suit.  We are nothing if not truthful here at the Hip Grandma!
  • Swimsuit coverup.  A swim coverup is a must.  You will be making your way from one end of the ship to the other in a swimsuit, so unless you’re comfortable sashaying in and out of elevators and the buffet in your bikini, you’ll want something easy to throw over your suit.  I have searched high and low for just the right swim coverup and landed on a very basic cotton dress with pockets.  The material is absorbent, the pockets make life easy, and you can’t beat cotton for comfort!
  • Sun hat.  Remember, you’ll be in the sun quite a bit on your tropical vacation.  A sun hat is an essential item.  If you don’t have one hand or want to purchase one before you leave, you can find one on your ship or in any port.  Consider it a fun souvenir to bring home.  If you’re in the market and want to buy one before you leave, check out this foldable, packable sun hat.  
  • Jewelry. Jewelry is an integral part of every woman’s wardrobe. But don’t go overboard. It can be heavy and easily lost. Try to pick a favorite neutral set of jewelry that will work with all of your clothing for the week. Of course, a little something special that ups your formal game is always a good idea! A small jewelry case can help keep your jewelry in order while traveling.

Clothing Notes

It is worth considering the laundry package onboard your ship.  Most ships will offer a deal for a specific number of items to be laundered while you’re on board.  Laundry service may sound frivolous, but honestly, having laundry service allows you the comfort of knowing you can pack a little lighter to double-wear your favorites.  It also helps pack fewer dirty clothes and go home with less laundry at the end of the week.  Anything that allows a smoother re-entry back home is good, right?

a mural on a wall that says "Welcome Almost Aboard"
You still have a walk from the outside of the terminal into check-in, through security, and onto the ship, so consider what you put in your carry-on.

Shoes

  • Water shoes.   I thought I’d need water shoes for snorkeling, but it turns out I wore flippers in the water and didn’t need them.  However, I found that I loved them for wading into the ocean.  Wearing simple water shoes is a great way to protect your feet from the sea bottom and the sun. 
  • Sneakers.  Please don’t underestimate the importance of a good pair of sneakers (or tennis shoes).  A great, supportive pair of walking shoes can make the difference in being ready for a night on the ship or crashing with your feet up after a day in port.  Trust me when I tell you you will walk A LOT on your trip.  A trip from your room to the next activity or meal will get you moving.  Ports of call often require even more walking.  As a bonus, sneakers are great for air travel if you’re coming from a wintery area.
  • Sandals.  I love DAWGS sandals.  They are comfy, slip on easily and float.  They are perfect boat shoes and excellent for all my summer activities.  And I don’t feel like I will slip when wearing them.  Top it off with how lightweight they are; you can see why these are my go-to summer shoes.  Use this link for 30% off your purchase of DAWGS.
  • Dressy Shoes.  Your ship will likely have at least one formal night.  Don’t worry.  Today’s ships are not rigorous in their requirements for formal attire.  A tux or a formal gown is lovely, but a pretty summer dress and a shirt and tie are equally accepted nowadays.  Either way, you’ll want to plan for the right shoes to wear with your dress.  Again, remember that you’ll be walking the length of a football field or longer to get to dinner, so choose comfy and walkable!
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For the Cabin

Once you get on the ship and into your cabin, you’ll need to consider what you’ll want to add to your cabin to make you more comfortable throughout your stay.

Interior staterooms are pretty small and have very little room to maneuver.  Bathrooms are limited in space no matter what your cabin size.  These items will help make the most of the little space you have.

  • An outlet adapter.  Most cabins, no matter the size, have only one or two outlets at most, and they aren’t always conveniently located.  With today’s technology, you will probably need a few extra outlets to power up your devices.  Cruise ships don’t allow a GFCI (surge protector) power strip, so be sure to bring a couple of basic extension cords and an outlet extender, so you have plenty of options.

    If this seems unnecessary, consider having only two outlets to plug in a phone, an iPad, a battery charger, a c-pap, a curling iron, an alarm clock, and whatever else you may have with you.  If you’re sharing a cabin with another person, double everything!  See why it’s important?  On my last cruise, the outlet was across the room from the bed, so I needed the extension cord to get my C-Pap close enough to use it!
  • A portable fan.  A small fan is especially important if you’re in a stateroom with no windows or door.  The air in these cabins does not circulate.  In addition, depending on the location of your room on the ship, you may hear the sound of the ship’s engines or the noise in the hallway, so a fan will help to block out excessive noise.
  • A nightlight and a pocket flashlight.  Inside staterooms are very dark when the cabin lights are off.  And your bathroom may or may not have an outlet, so a little flashlight may just be what you need for those midnight potty breaks.
  • Toilet Spray.  While discussing the bathroom size and lack of air circulation, let’s talk about sharing a bathroom.  If you’re sharing a room, you don’t want to be sharing your smells, too.  So throw in a tiny Poopouri.  You can thank me later.
  • Clothesline for drying swimsuits. Although the bathroom in my stateroom on my most recent cruise had a retractable laundry line in the shower, it was not very helpful for drying my swimsuit.  It was in an enclosed area with no circulation.  Next time I will take one of these portable lines with me to hang it somewhere more convenient and even use the fan to blow air on it to speed up the drying process.
  • Travel alarm clock or analog watch.  I use my phone for this purpose.  However, take note that different cruise lines handle time zones differently.  I love my Apple Watch, and it is incredibly efficient at changing time zones for me.  So is my phone.  Some ships work on the time zone from the departure port throughout the cruise, despite time zone changes.  Some ships change with the ports of call.  I like to bring an old-fashioned portable alarm clock or an analog watch to know my original time zone and what time it is at home.  Keep an eye on your daily ship’s schedule to know how your ship will handle time zones.
  • A Laundry Bag.  You will want a place to gather the dirties and keep them separate from the cleans on the way back home.
Pink background with "Hip Grandma Merch" available on front

Personal Items

The list of personal items may be the longest and most crucial part of packing.  Being super organized with these items will help you have a smooth transition on and off the ship from the beginning to the end of your cruise. 

Paperwork

  • Boarding documents.  When you book your cruise, you will receive paperwork to complete before boarding, including a general health questionnaire.  Having these pages filled out in advance will smooth your transition onto your ship.
  • Cruise luggage tags.  Your paperwork will include printable luggage tags that help get your bags from the cruise terminal to your room.  Although they will print on 8-1/2 x 11 paper, don’t be tempted to cut them.  Simply fold them in thirds and tape or staple the tag around your luggage handle.  It seems rudimentary, but it works for thousands of cruise passengers daily!
  • Passport.  Don’t forget your passport.  Make a copy of your passport to keep on you while in port.  Keep the original in the room safe.
  • Vaccination card.  Yep.  In the Covid world, we need to keep a vaccination card handy.  I forgot mine on my last cruise, and it wasn’t a problem, but I sure did worry.  Better safe than sorry.  Bring it along.
  • Emergency Contact Numbers.  Okay.  I know.  You have those on your phone.  But if you lose your phone or it dies, you’ll be glad you took the time to write those numbers down.  Tuck a little index card into your passport with the emergency numbers you may need.
  • Cash.  You will want cash.  Keep a pile of ones and small bills handy for tipping bag stewards.  If you are planning an excursion, most tour guides will let you know how much they appreciate tips, so be prepared to drop a dollar or twenty in their hand or collection bucket at the end of your tour.  I have found most tour guides are lovely and deserving of a few of my extra dollars!  And boy, do I feel bad when I don’t have any additional bills.
The author lounges on a chair on the deck of the MSC Divina cruise ship.
Once you are onboard, you can relax with a drink while you wait for your room to be ready and your luggage to be delivered!

Ports of Call & Shore Excursions

  • A Light Backpack or Cross Body Bag.  I usually carry a lightweight backpack into the port with me.  Inside that, I place this small packable nylon bag in case I have any extra goodies to carry back to the ship (hello t-shirts for the grandkids).  This plan is excellent for day trips that don’t involve water.  But if I’m planning snorkeling, kayaking, or beach activities, a drybag backpack is an excellent option.  Tuck all your essential goods in the bag without worrying they’ll get splashed, dunked, or covered in sand.
  • Waterproof Cell Phone Case.  I carry my cell phone everywhere with me.  And when planning to snorkel or swim, I get nervous about leaving it on a beach in an unsecured bag.  So I keep my phone in a waterproof case that hangs on my neck on a lanyard.  I love this magnetic waterproof phone holder because it’s so easy to use.  I have snorkeled, kayaked, and dropped my phone in the sand; it always comes out perfect!  Get a case big enough to hold a couple of credit cards and your cruise card, and you can leave the wallet in your room safe.
  • Sunscreen.  Self-explanatory. You’re on vacation in the sun.
  • Sunglasses.  Of course, you’re on vacation where there should be lots of sun!  If you wear glasses as I do, check out these great, trendy over-the-top sunglasses you can slide right over your specs. 
  • Portable Phone Charger.  You never know when you will need an unexpected boost to your phone’s battery, so be ready with a small external phone charger.

Wellness Items

Sure, there’s a doctor on board, and your ship will have a small shop that carries essential items such as hairspray and headache meds.  Still, you’ll pay a steep price for that convenience, so in addition to your prescription meds, consider packing some of these items just in case!

  • Prescription Meds.  I dole mine out into a convenient pill box (and don’t forget the hormone patches) that lasts a week.  I always pack an extra week in case of delays.  I may be an overly nervous traveler, but I also plan and bring meds for conditions that might pop up for me.  For example, too much sun and vitamin C can sometimes lead to a cold sore, so I pre-emptively have my doctor prescribe me a cold sore med to nip it in the bud.  The message is to think beyond the daily meds and prepare for additional travel needs.
  • Over-the-Counter Meds.  While we’re talking about different needs, plan some basics, like headache meds and stomach meds.  Consider bringing some motion sickness tablets in case of rough seas.  On my last cruise, we spent over an hour on a small tender on the way to snorkeling in Belize, where I watched a mother/daughter duo cling to one another in pale misery due to the rocking of the smaller boat.  They were fine on the big ship, but the small boat did them in and made for a very long day.  I am betting they wished they had packed for the -small boat situation, too.
  • Earplugs.  Throw in a pair of earplugs just in case your room is noisy.  You’ll be glad for them if you have loud neighbors or engine noise.

Toiletries

Most of these items are self-explanatory and pretty basic, but forgetting any of them could leave you seriously inconvenienced.

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Deodorant
  • Q-tips
  • Feminine Products
  • Makeup
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Hair products
  • Hair tools
  • Glasses
  • Contact Lenses and saline
  • Lotion
  • Lip Balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Flushable wipes (although you may not flush them onboard the ship, you will still be glad to have them).
A Stateroom with a balcony in shades of red and deep brown
When you make it to your room, you’ll notice that your space is limited, so you’ll be glad you packed carefully!

Extra Items for Bonus Points!

I don’t consider these cruise necessities, but many would.  So, use your discretion when choosing which of these items to pack.

  • An ID Lanyard.   Okay.  I know I said this list is for non-cruise necessities, but honestly, a lanyard with an ID holder is a necessity for me.  You will need to show your cruise card many times per day when on the ship and when getting off and back on board, so it makes sense to keep your ID conveniently located.  I also add my phone to my lanyard with one of these little phone tethers, so its convenient for photos and sharing social media posts.
  • Ziplock bags.  A few Ziploc bags of various sizes can be so handy for so many things.  They don’t take up much room, but I haven’t been on a trip yet where I haven’t found a good use for them for one reason or another.  They are perfect for organizing receipts or small trinkets, collecting seashells, keeping beach sand off essential things, or bringing a wet bathing suit home.  Trust me on this one.
  • Door decorations for your cruise cabin door.   On my last cruise, my travel companion brought these super cute decorations for our door, although we were disappointed that the doors were not magnetic.  Fortunately, we had some tape along.  Next time I’ll pack some of these handy poster hanging strips just in case.  They made it easy to find our doors after a long day, and it felt very homey.  We also got lots of compliments from others on what a fun idea she had!
  • Magnetic hooks.   Many cruisers swear by these.  Most doors in the cruise ship are metal, so these handy little hooks stick to the inside of the bathroom or cabin door and make easy storage for small items or drying swimsuits.
  • Towel clips.  I have not brought these with me before, but after my last cruise, I am adding them to my list.  A fun and funky set of clips will not only help keep your towel from blowing off your lounge chair on deck but also mark your space if you wander away from your chair to use the restroom.  You’ll know where your towel is, and no one will take your area.
  • Door shoe organizer.    If you share a bathroom with a travel companion, I can see the benefit of using one of these pocketed organizers to keep items tidy.  Consider how much space it will take in your bag before deciding if it’s worth packing.
  • First aid kit.  Your ship will have a small convenience shop that carries bandaids and headache meds, and there is a doctor on board for more significant issues, but how much time and money do you want to spend finding those conveniences?
  • Beach Towel.  Cruise ships provide towels in your room each day for lounging at the beach and on deck.  Here are some things to consider.  My last cruise had orange towels, which meant I would have an orange towel in many of my photos.  Ew.  Also, everyone on board has the same towel, so it would be easy to lose your towel or end up with someone else’s.  Finally, if you lose your towel while in port, the cruise line will likely charge you a replacement fee.  For all these reasons, I pack one of these thin, super absorbent towels that looks pretty and stands out with pretty different colors.
  • Disinfecting Wipes.  In the current world of COVID, you may find it comforting to have disinfecting wipes for cleaning up cabin surfaces or beach chairs.

Wrapping it All Up!

The most important thing to pack is your sense of adventure and fun!  And remember the sage words of my mother before you set out on your cruise vacation.  “We’re not going to the middle of nowhere.  Wherever we go, there will be a store if we forget something.”

Click here for your free printable packing list with all these items plus space to add your own!

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PIN image for the Printable Cruise Packing List title page with a woman pulling a suitcase down a walkway.

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