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Alaska Cruise Packing List: 36 Must-Have Items


Alaska is one of the most stunning places to visit on Earth. The vast pristine wilderness, ever-changing landscapes and opportunity to view wildlife – including bear, moose, Dall sheep, caribou, wolves, and marine mammals such as orcas and humpback whales – are just a few of the reasons it’s one of the most popular cruise destinations.

An Alaska cruise, however, can be difficult to pack for with big swings in temperatures, rainy days in the forecast and even experiencing four seasons in one day ashore. You’ll need a strategic plan to pack for your trip especially if you’re cruising during the colder months of April and October at the tail ends of the Alaska cruising season. U.S. News has compiled a list of essential items and ones you’ll be glad you brought to round out your cruise packing list.

(Note: Any mentioned prices were accurate at the time this article was published; they may fluctuate.)

Portable humidifier

It gets cold in Alaska, especially at nighttime, so you may need to turn on the heat in your stateroom. If you’ve traveled in the winter on a cruise ship, you’ll know that the dry warm air combined with the airtight seal in the cabin can cause several issues, including difficulty sleeping and dry skin. The MOVTIP Portable Mini Humidifier (less than $30 on Amazon) is compact and lightweight at 9.5 ounces, so you can easily pack it into your carry-on or checked luggage. It has two mist modes, acts as a nightlight in your cabin and has an automatic shut-off when the water level is too low.

Magnetic hooks

A fun fact: The walls of a cruise ship are made of metal, so you can use them for extra hanging space when you bring along magnetic hooks for the trip. There are plenty of plain silver magnets on Amazon to choose from, but DIYMAG heavy-duty magnetic hooks are available in bold colors like green, red and purple. That way, each person can have their own color-coded hook. The extra hanging space will come in handy with all the layers you’ll need for your cruise. You’ll also appreciate having the hooks for wet gear after shore excursions.

Motion sickness remedies

(Courtesy of Sea-Bands)

Sea-Bands, which you can find on Amazon for less than $15, are a must-have item if you’re prone to motion sickness. A drug-free alternative to medicines like Dramamine, they use an acupressure point to minimize nausea and vomiting. You never know when you’ll encounter rough seas, especially if you’re on a small vessel. You can even get motion sickness riding in one of the whale watching boats, so it’s best to come prepared. Be sure to start wearing the bands before you get on the ship.

If you need something stronger than the Sea-Bands to quell the nausea, Dramamine has a less drowsy version that’s recommended by pharmacists. Another motion sickness alternative is to wear the prescription scopolamine transdermal patch, which lasts up to three days, behind your ear. Ginger chews are an option for mild cases of upset stomach; you can purchase a pack of them on Amazon for $5.

Eye drops

It’s a good idea to keep moisturizing eye drops in your toiletry bag, backpack or handbag, especially if you’re prone to dry eye. The cabins on the ship can get warm and arid, as mentioned above, particularly when you need to turn on the heat. Systane on-the-go vials are an excellent choice for hydration. Lumify is another option if your eyes have a problem with redness.

Notebook

Rifle Paper Co. Curio Stitched Notebook Set against white background.

(Courtesy of Rifle Paper Co.)

Alaskan cruises are a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many travelers, so you’ll want to record every moment of your adventure. Rifle Paper Co. sells sets of three stitched notebooks with beautiful floral and nature designs. Each book has 64 ruled pages and gold foil accents. There’s even a Bon Voyage-themed set that’s perfect for journaling your cruise travels.

Wrinkle release spray

Travel irons are not permitted on cruise ships, so a travel-size bottle of Downy’s Wrinkle Release Plus spray comes in handy for getting rid of wrinkles. It also acts as an odor eliminator and static remover. To remove wrinkles, it works best if you spritz the garment first and then hang it in the shower so the steam can work its magic, too. For tougher wrinkles in fabrics like linen, you might need to send the garment out for pressing. If you do, be sure to give it at least a 24-hour turnaround time if you’re planning to wear the item on a specific evening.

Travel-size bathroom sprays

There are several companies that make travel-size bathroom sprays, including Poo-Pourri, Fresh Wave and Flushie. They are all available on Amazon. If you prefer aromas beyond the traditional lavender vanilla and citrus scents, Poo-Pourri sells its 2-ounce packable sprays in pumpkin spice, apple, coconut and more.

Over-the-door organizer

It’s best to stay organized when you’re on a cruise, especially if you’re not traveling solo. Storage space is limited in the closet and in the bathroom, so you’ll want to keep your items separate. An over-the-door organizer, such as Bagsmart’s hanging toiletry bag (less than $30 on Amazon), is an excellent choice for securing smaller items, such as jewelry, lip balm and travel-size sunscreen. The clear, zippered pockets are also large enough to accommodate full-size moisturizers and other makeup items.

Electronics organizer

Open Bagsmart Electronics Organizer fills with cords against white background.

(Courtesy of Bagsmart)

Keep your cords, battery chargers and any items for your camera – like SD cards – in one place with this electronics organizer from Bagsmart. It’s easy to pack in your carry-on and even carry in your backpack or daypack if you’ll need access to some of the items during the day. Everything is visible, zipped up and secure so you won’t lose anything either in the room or in transit.

Flip-flops

Flip-flops are great to have to walk around the stateroom, especially if your accommodations don’t come with a plush robe and slippers. It’s nice to shed heavier boots and shoes after exploring outside and have something easy to slip on your feet. Reef makes all types of flip-flops, and you can purchase the basic styles on Amazon for less than $35 a pair.

Disinfecting wipes

If you don’t like the tacky feeling that hand sanitizers can leave on your hands, consider packing antibacterial wipes such as Wet Ones. They kill 99.99% of the germs, so they’re also useful for wiping down surfaces (think tables in the buffet restaurant). These wipes are perfect to pack for an excursion or to use while enjoying the ship if you want a quick refresh.

Sunscreen

It doesn’t have to be sunny outside for you to need protection from the sun. You’ll be outdoors a lot in Alaska and will want to use sunscreen with at least an SPF 15, as recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Reef-safe sunscreen is better for you, the environment and the wildlife as it eliminates the use of certain chemicals and ingredients. Save the Reef’s website has a list of reef-safe and ocean-friendly brands that include: All Good (available in travel-size tubes on Amazon), Mama Kuleana and Badger (also sold on Amazon).

Insect repellent

Badger Bug Spray, Organic Deet Free Mosquito Repellent with Citronella & Lemongrass against white background.

(Courtesy of Badger)

The height of mosquito season runs from the second week of June to the end of July. Pesky bugs are not typically as bad in the places where most tourists visit, but that will depend on the type of cruise you take. DEET-based sprays, like Cutter Backwoods Repellent are the most effective against mosquitoes, but there are alternatives. Badger makes an organic DEET-free repellent with lemongrass and citronella, and it comes in a travel-size.

Hiking poles

Lightweight collapsible hiking poles are important to pack, especially if you’re going on adventurous treks looking for wildlife in the woods. Covacure’s set of two trekking poles costs about $35 on Amazon. They’re made of aircraft-grade 7075 aluminum, so they’re strong, and they fold down to less than 14 inches each. They also have foam handles, three types of rubber tips for the poles and adjustable wrists straps. The set comes with a carry bag.

Dry bag

A dry bag is essential – particularly for water-based shore excursions – if you’re carrying a camera, a cellphone or other items that can’t get wet. HEETA’s 5-liter waterproof dry bag (on Amazon for about $15) comes in a wide selection of colors. There are also larger sizes, depending on your needs. The clear plastic allows you to see what’s inside, and you can carry the bag over the shoulder or as a backpack.

Rain jacket and pants

Man wearing black Men's OutDry Extreme Mesh Hooded Rain Shell Jacket by Columbia against white background.

(Courtesy of Columbia)

The weather can be unpredictable in Alaska, with rain occurring at any time. In the Inside Passage, August and September are typically the rainiest months. In the Southwest part of the state, which includes Katmai National Park, it rains nearly half the month from May to September. If you want to go, travelers during those months especially will want to pack some rain protection for the outdoors; to stay dry, invest in fabric that is water-repellent and not just water-resistant. Columbia has a selection of rain jackets and rain pants with everything from lightweight packable shells to pieces with fleece lining for colder weather.

Silk thermal long underwear

Silk thermals are a great base layer for the weather in Alaska when you need extra warmth. The 100% silk interlock fabric is lightweight, breathable and thin enough to fit under other layers. It also naturally wicks moisture. L.L.Bean’s collection of silk thermals includes tops and bottoms for both men and women.

Mid-layers

Mid-layers are also known as insulating layers, which include fleece and windproof or insulated jackets. These garments should be breathable, quick-drying and able to keep you warm by trapping body heat without making you feel cold or clammy. Helly Hansen makes a lightweight, zippered Polartec Daybreaker Fleece Jacket for women and men that comes in a variety of colors. If you would rather wear a jacket for a mid-layer, the Gore-Tex website has a large selection of windproof and insulated jackets in collaboration with brands like Marmot, Patagonia and Quicksilver.

Waterproof shoes and boots

The Merrell Moab Speed Gore-Tex shoe in light blue against white background.

(Courtesy of Merrell)

Merrell’s comfortable shoes and boots are ideal to pack for your Alaskan adventure. If you want a shoe for walking, the Moab Speed Gore-Tex shoe is lightweight, durable, waterproof and made with FloatPro Foam to cushion your feet. It’s also available in wider sizes. The Moab 3 Mid Waterproof offers more stability as a hiking boot. It also has extra features for better traction on rugged terrain and an air cushion for maximum shock absorption. Waterproof boots from XTRATUF are another option to consider if you’re going to be fishing on small boats on a pre- or post-cruisetour in Alaska.

T-shirts

Bathing suit

While you may not go swimming ashore in Alaska, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to check out the pools or spa while you’re on the ship. In that case, you’ll be glad you brought a swimsuit to fully experience the thermal suites available on lines like Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Viking and Holland America Line.

Warm hat and gloves

Be sure to bring a hat and gloves for the chilly mornings ashore. For a lightweight and packable option, consider Lands End microfleece gloves for men and women, as well as a beanie. Or, if you prefer a natural fiber, a wool beanie and gloves from Smartwool will keep you toasty warm.

Fleece-lined pants

REI Co-op Sahara Lined Pants – Women's in "Stone Blue" against white background.

(Courtesy of REI)

Packable jacket

A packable lightweight travel jacket is another essential item when traveling to Alaska. You can layer clothes underneath in the morning as you head outdoors, then remove the jacket as it gets warmer throughout the day. The Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket is a top pick based on thousands of reviews – and it’s windproof and water-resistant. It also comes in a wide selection of colors.

Casual clothes

You’ll want to bring lightweight layers for daytime excursions off the ship. Columbia has a great selection of nearly wrinkle-free travel pants and bottoms, along with a variety of tops and hoodies. You can mix and match these pieces throughout the week to keep packing at a minimum. In the evenings, you’ll want to dress up a bit more in smart casual attire. It’s best to check with your cruise line to see what’s permitted in the evenings (for example, if men need a jacket to dine in a specialty restaurant), especially if you’re on a luxury cruise ship.

Formal clothes and themed evening attire

Some cruise lines, such as Holland America Line, still have formal evenings. It’s not required to dress up, but many women wear cocktail attire and men don their suits for the evening. You’ll also want to check with your cruise line to see if there are any theme parties on your voyage. If you’re on a family-friendly voyage with Disney Cruise Line, you may have a “Freezing the Night Away” theme party with Anna and Elsa and the other characters from “Frozen.” Look online or check with your cruise company to see what clothes you need to bring to join in the fun on your cruise.

Reusable water bottle

Ello Cooper Stainless Steel Water Bottle in seven colors against white background.

(Courtesy of Ello Products)

Ditch the plastic and pack a reusable water bottle that you can fill up at onboard water stations before heading off the ship. Amazon has plenty of options to choose from, including colorful soft silicone stainless steel bottles from Ello Cooper in three sizes that come with a straw, a handle and a leakproof locking lid.

Lightweight folding daypack

The Zomake folding daypack will become a regular item in your suitcase, no matter where you go. The 30-liter size weighs about 12 ounces and folds up into a compact pouch. The nylon construction is durable and there are plenty of exterior pockets – there’s even an interior pocket with deep storage for items like a wallet or phone. Two mesh side pockets accommodate reusable water bottles. The bag is available in a variety of bold colors for less than $25 on Amazon.

Lightweight mirrorless camera and lens

Today’s smartphones have impressive cameras, but most phone cameras won’t have the same clarity and quality as a regular camera. If you don’t want to carry a heavy DSLR camera and lens around on your Alaskan adventure, there are other options. The Canon EOS R10 is an excellent choice for a lightweight mirrorless camera along with the EF-M 18-150 mm lens. You can also purchase a mount adaptor for the camera that will allow you to use your other EF and EF-S Canon lenses.

Binoculars

While you may have some up-close encounters with wildlife – such as whales coming alongside your boat on a whale watching excursion – most of the wildlife viewing will be at a distance. A good pair of lightweight binoculars is key if you don’t want to miss views like bears fishing for salmon along a river or a moose wading through a faraway lake. Bushnell’s H20 8X42 binoculars are waterproof and fog-free.

Carry-on bag

Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Carry-On Spinner in black against white background.

(Courtesy of Travelpro)

The type of carry-on you use will depend on how you pack. If you’re a minimalist and able to stow everything you need for a week in Alaska in a carry-on, then a larger carry-on, such as the Travelpro Platinum Elite Carry-On Expandable Spinner, is a great choice. If you’re checking a bag and don’t need as much space in a carry-on, consider bringing a smaller option like the 21.5-inch Cargo Hauler XT from Eagle Creek. This water-repellent wheeled duffel bag comes in four colors including charcoal and red.

Garment bag

Delsey makes a checked-size rolling garment bag that will keep your hanging clothes organized and wrinkle-free. It has seven pockets (one exterior and six interior) for storing folded clothes and other items. There are also two compartments that will fit smaller pairs of shoes. You can hang the bag in the stateroom with the door hook if you prefer to leave the items in the bag. Another trick to ensuring wrinkle-free items is to cover your clothes on the hanger with plastic bags like those you’d get at the dry cleaner.

Packing cubes

Packing cubes keep clothes neat and organized and mostly wrinkle-free. Luggage brands like Ricardo Beverly Hills and Eagle Creek make well-rated packing cubes and organizers. You can also purchase sets of packing cubes on Amazon, such as the Veken Set 8-piece set, a U.S. News top packing cube pick.

Travel pillow and quilted wrap

Trtl Travel Pillow in gray against neutral background.

(Courtesy of Trtl)

You’ll want a travel pillow to take a nap on your flight en route to your Alaskan cruise. The unique design of the Trtl Travel Pillow supports your head so you don’t wake up with neck pain, and the fabric is super soft. It comes in a travel pouch with a hook so you can attach it to your carry-on bag. If you get chilly on flights, Trtl also makes a new packable quilted mini wrap that weighs less than 13 ounces. It comes in a pouch and even has pockets to keep your hands warm or to stash your valuables (such as a passport, wallet or phone) while you nod off.

Medications

Keep your medications with you in a carry-on bag or personal item (such as a handbag) just in case your checked bag is lost or delayed. Request smaller bottles for prescriptions from your pharmacist, so they’re easier to pack, and make sure they’re clearly labeled should you be questioned by TSA. You’ll also want to bring any over-the-counter items you may need, such as antacids or antibiotic ointments. It’s possible to buy these items on the ship, but they are expensive.

Collapsible duffel

If you’re a shopper and plan to bring home souvenirs to friends and family, you might want an extra bag to pack up the items for the return trip home. Look for a collapsible duffel bag that will fit into your suitcase. There are many options on Amazon, including the Gonex Foldable Duffel. At the end of the cruise, you can offload your dirty clothes to the duffel bag so you’ll have space in your suitcase for T-shirts, moose stuffed animals, Alaskan specialties like Captain Jim’s Alaska smoked salmon and other memorabilia from your adventure.

What not to pack for your cruise

Small appliances

Travel irons and steamers are not permitted on cruise ships due to the fire hazard. As mentioned above, there are several other ways to prevent wrinkles in your clothes. You’re also not allowed to bring coffee makers and other small electrical items. In addition, don’t bring a hair dryer as they are usually provided in your stateroom.

Alcohol and spirits

Some cruise lines permit guests to bring one or two bottles of wine or Champagne on board the ship, but hard alcohol is almost always not allowed. If you have a beverage package or are sailing on an all-inclusive line, alcoholic beverages will be covered. Check with your cruise line before you sail to see what you can bring on board the ship.

CBD and marijuana

Cannabis is illegal in the U.S., and many cruise ships do not allow any form of CBD, including gummies, oils and lotions. It’s best to play it safe and leave these items at home. You don’t want to risk having the items thrown away or, in the worst case, not being allowed to board the ship.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi has been an avid cruiser since her early 20s. She has cruised to Alaska and traveled through the state in every season on several land tours. She used her personal experience and extensive research to compile this list of what to pack to cruise to The Great Land.

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