If your goal is to have a fun vacation while sticking to a budget, cruising is a smart option to consider. Cruises offer lodging, food, and entertainment for a single price. And since you get to avoid the costs of trains or air travel in between destinations, cruising is one of the most affordable ways to visit multiple cities (and even countries) in a single trip. If you're lucky and can drive to your departure port instead of flying, cruising can even be downright cheap.
There are plenty of ways to save even more on a cruise. For example, booze lovers can buy a drink package or look for cruises that offer drinks for free. Planning your own excursions can also help you save, since day trips are often cheaper when booked off the ship. Having a credit card that earns cruise rewards can be a big money-saver, too, allowing you to earn hundreds of dollars worth of discounts on cruises. (See also: Are Cruise Line Rewards Programs Worth It?)
Then there are things you can bring with you to save money. But what can you bring and what can't you? We reached out to frequent cruisers and travel experts to find out.
1. Laundry detergent
If you're going on a long cruise, you might need more clean clothing than you want to pack. In this case, it can help to bring your own single samples of detergent for hand washing.
"Packing your own detergent helps to save money in two ways — it allows you to do laundry in your cabin bathroom without the need to pay to use onboard laundry services, and it also helps to cut down on the amount of clothing packed, to help save on any baggage fees for those flying to port," says Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic, an online publication featuring advice and member cruise reviews.
Also be sure to throw in some wrinkle release spray, says Lori Sheller, vice president of cruise development at Tourico Holidays, a wholesale travel brokerage company. "Most cruise lines have banned bringing travel irons on board for safety reasons, and on-ship prices for ironing are almost always exorbitant."
Bill Hirsch, founder of the online publication CruiseHabit.com, says one of the best ways to save money is by bringing some of your own drinks – if you're allowed, that is.
"Most cruise lines don't permit you to bring a bunch of liquor on," says Hirsch. That said, most lines do still allow you to bring a little something. For example, Royal Caribbean allows two bottles of wine per stateroom, and Carnival similarly allows you to bring a bottle of wine per guest, says Hirsch.
For those who prefer nonalcoholic beverages, many cruise lines will let you carry on soda, says certified travel agent and consultant Ta-Tanisha Thomas, of travel agency Officially Crowned Travel. For example, Carnival will allow each stateroom guest to carry on one 12-pack of soda cans. If you're sailing on a four-day cruise and have four people in your cabin, the 48 cans you can bring may get you through until you return home. Considering that you'll often pay more than $2 a can on the ship, that works out to about $80 in savings.
3. Your own snorkel gear
If you like to visit beachy destinations and are planning a cruise to warm-weather destinations, it's worth considering buying your own snorkel gear. Travel and lifestyle writer Crystal Henry says she and her husband always bring their own snorkel gear when they cruise. This allows them to avoid paying for snorkel gear rentals on their cruise stops. In fact, having their own gear allows them to skip pricey snorkel excursions altogether and just snorkel on their own from the shore.
4. Waterproof dry bag
Tanner Callais, founder of cruising blog Cruzely says one of his best money-saving tips is to bring along a waterproof bag. These bags only cost about $20 on Amazon. They're made of thick vinyl and can be rolled at the top to make them watertight.
Sure, they won't necessarily save you money on your cruise fare, but they can save you a fortune from ruining valuables due to water. "You can pop your phone and wallet in a bag, carry it with you to the pool or beach, and not have to worry about getting that expensive phone wet," says Callais.
5. Sunscreen, medications, and sundries
Most people know to bring sunscreen when going on a cruise, but you might be surprised by how much you'll actually need if you're in the Caribbean for a week, notes Callais.
"The bottles on the ship or in port can be expensive — sometimes double the price of back home," says Callais. Instead of getting stuck overpaying, head to the local pharmacy before your trip and buy plenty of sunscreen to bring along.
While you're at it, pick up your favorite hair products, especially conditioner. Cruise lines are notorious for not providing hair conditioner in cabins. Stock up on any medications you might need, too, including over-the-counter drugs. Medication for children is particularly scarce and pricey on cruise ships.
Also bring batteries along if you have a camera that requires them. If you have to buy batteries on the ship or at port, you'll wind up paying more than you want.
You'll often find that you can pay for whatever you need at port with a good travel credit card. But sometimes you'll need or want to use cash. Bringing cash for taxis and day trips will help you avoid pricey ATMs on the ship or at shore, says Hirsch. Ideally, you'll be able to estimate how much cash you'll need in different currencies for your cruise, then get it from your own bank with no fees required. (See also: 11 Ways to Avoid Bank Fees While Traveling)
Read your cruise line policy ahead of time
Ultimately, what you can and can't bring on a cruise to save money depends on your cruise line's policies and regulations. The best way to figure out what's allowed is to read through their policies thoroughly ahead of time and pack accordingly.
Remember that anything you can bring along is something you won't have to buy later on. Cruising has long been considered an affordable travel option, but the price can be even sweeter if you plan ahead.
By Holly Johnson, Wise Bread
Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
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