It’s vacation time! My family’s favorite and most relaxing way to vacation is cruising. Recently, we returned from our second Disney Cruise (Star Wars Day at Sea); and the service, activities, food, etc., were excellent. We traveled with friends; and our group included four adults and three children (one child, one pre-teen and one teenager). Even though we cruised with older kids, my advice on how to cruise with children is the same for infants to late teens, and my goal is for everyone traveling to enjoy this amazing adventure!
Here are my 8 Tips for Cruising with Kids:
Knowledge is Power
It’s important to research yourself or find a travel agent who can explain the kid-friendly options on each cruise line. This will help determine what cruise line is best for all your family’s needs (budget, cabin space, activities). I knew we were traveling on the Disney Fantasy, and my travel agent spent an hour on the phone with me explaining every aspect of our vacation including the children’s activities, clubs, character greetings, pools, food, excursions and special offerings exclusive from Disney
On travel day, either your carry on or theirs should include snacks, water and activities (iPad w/ headphones, coloring books/markers or crayons and books). But most essentials need to be determined once your itinerary is planned. We have only cruised the Caribbean, so I packed summer wear (and swim suits) which also included water shoes (needed for most shore excursions), goggles, hats, SUNSCREEN, bug spray, medicine (sea sickness… Dramamine), etc. Also, I pack only travel size toiletries. These do not return home with us and leave more luggage space for packing souvenirs.
The cruise ship will leave without you — it is important to arrive one day early. This relives stress and ensures that your family boards safely and on time. For each cruise, we arrived in Orlando on Friday and traveled to Port Canaveral the next day. We easily made our scheduled boarding time; and checked-in and boarded without any issues. In case there’s a wait while at port, make sure to pack snacks/water for your kids and keep activities on hand.
Each cruise line will have a mandatory safety drill. It’s very important for your children to pay careful attention during this time. In case of emergency, they will need to know where to find their lifejackets and the meeting location on the ship for evacuation. Also, Disney cruises offer an app and cell phones for older children to keep in touch with adults always.
Say ‘Yes’ to Clubs!
Sign up your children for the kid’s clubs. Each day there will be scheduled activities and play time. This gives your children and teens a chance to enjoy some independence and meet other kids their age (the clubs will feed your children meals). Disney has a club for infants and toddlers too! Parents, this is your chance to relax, unwind and enjoy the adult activities or the adult pool on board.
Pick Age-Appropriate Excursions
Each excursion will have a minimum age requirement…. trust it! Enjoy the sightseeing or beaching, but make it as stress-free as possible for you and your child. And ONLY sign up for a ship-sponsored shore excursion. Per Disney, their ships will wait for your group incase an excursion runs late back to
Have a Daily Plan
Each evening you will receive the next day’s itinerary. Create a daily plan (but be flexible) for your family and individuals. It’s fun for kids to make decisions on which activities or clubs they will enjoy. Teenagers can check themselves in and out of clubs, but if you know their schedule, it’s another way to keep in touch with them.
Enjoy and play with your children. Eat family breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Play at the pool or participate in scheduled games/trivia/art activities that the whole family can enjoy. Plus, enjoy family-friendly entertainment such as on-board movies and Broadway-style stage shows.
If you’re planning a cruise, I hope these tips help make your trip simple and stress-free.
Ainslie Gordon is a St. Louis, Missouri native and graduate of the University of Missouri’s Journalism School. Her career has focused on advertising, public relations and event planning. In 2011, Ainslie and her family moved to Cincinnati; and she became a stay-at-mom and founder of the blog, Modhousewife.
Additionally, she was a fashion/trends contributor on Fox 19 and Fox 2. Currently, Ainslie is the Marketing Director for Game On! Fitness. She is also a Girl Scout leader and enjoys volunteering throughout the community.