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A parent's survival guide to cruising with kids under 5

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After learning my husband’s family reunion would be a five-day cruise this summer, I searched for a brown paper bag to calm my panic attack.

Nothing spells relaxation like being in a small room on a ship in the middle of the ocean with two small dictators disguised as children, right?

Traveling with children on planes, trains and automobiles is always an adventure. A ship, however, is an entirely different ordeal and one I’d never experienced before this July.  Suffice it to say, I not only survived the experience but enjoyed it thanks to these helpful practices and tips.

Invest in a set of packing cubes (or two)

This might be one of the greatest modern-day creations for travelers, second to the rolling suitcase. With packing cubes, I was able to compress almost all of my clothes, accessories, shoes and girly hair bows for those dress-up nights into one large suitcase. Conserving space in your cruise cabin is of the utmost importance, because unless you’re splurging on a suite, chances are you will be living in tight quarters for several days. Generally speaking, there will be very little room to store multiple pieces of luggage and strollers so try not to pack more than two large suitcases. Amazon sells a variety of packing cubes that range from $20 to $30.

Travel-sized bottle racks are a must

If you have a baby, then you probably have a grassy drying rack in your kitchen where you house bottles and their accessories. But did you know they make a travel-sized version complete with brushes? The Boon TRIP Travel Drying Rack runs around $15 and can be purchased at any baby store and Target. The rack is small so it’s probably best not to pack more than four bottles.

*Helpful tip for formula feeders — try carrying around the formula in sandwich bags that you’ve pre-portioned out instead of making bottles for the day. Making each bottle on demand is much easier because you won’t have much time or access to bottle-heating on the ship. If you bring a portable bottle warmer, then it’s important to know there’s generally one, maybe, two plug outlets in your cabin. Also, bottled water is usually supplied to your room so you don’t need to bring baby water with you on the ship.

If you are pumping, then ask the ship’s guest relations manager about their storage options to keep your milk cool.

Pack medicine and first-aid items

Yes, this is obvious but also easily forgotten in the laundry list of items parents are juggling heading into cruise preparations. Don’t forget to pack your amoxicillin, Tylenol, Motrin, thermometer, bulb suction, sunscreen, steroid cream for kids with eczema (the sun and chlorine water will definitely irritate their skin) and whatever else is necessary. Also, it’s a good idea to pack Neosporin and band-aids for those minor cuts or accidents that can happen while kids are running around being kids. But if you do forget any of this, don’t fret. You also can go to the ship’s first-aid center for whatever you need.

Room service is your friend

Congratulations. You. Don’t. Have. To. Cook. There isn’t enough confetti on the North American continent to celebrate this situation. Many cruise lines offer free room-service menu items with certain premium items at a small cost. Instead of waking up in the morning, fighting with the stroller, roaming the ship to get to the breakfast buffet line and then scavenging for a table big enough to house all of your things, why not order room service? You can even write your breakfast order on a slip of paper and hang it on your door the night before and breakfast magically comes to your room. Room service is available 24 hours a day on most ships. Bless it.

Enroll your child(ren) in day camp

If your kids are at least 2 years old, then you can enroll them for camp on the ship. These camps can be a wonderful respite for parents in need of a small break. Always do your research, however, on the ship’s policies concerning the camp, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the instructors and their credentials, just as you would if you were enrolling your child in school or daycare.

Communicate your concerns to management early

When I got to my cabin, there was so much dust in the room that my 4-year-old thought she saw snowflakes as we coughed and sneezed. We spoke with the guest relations desk and raised our concerns early on about the cleanliness of the room, and the cruise line went above and beyond to correct the situation. A short while after our complaint, the room was given a deep cleaning, and the housekeeping manager, Mayshel, even brought stuffed animals for our kids.

Book a spa day

You’re facing a long week on a boat with kids so a little self-pampering is necessary. Oftentimes, you can get a discount on spa services if you book an appointment for the first day.

By Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel
Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
For more cruise news and articles go to https://www.cruisecrazies.com

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I didn't start cruising until after my kids were grown, so I never experienced shipboard life with my little ones. These are all excellent tips to ensure fun for the kids and sanity for the parents.?

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Great tips, Jason!  My daughter was 13 when we took her on her first cruise...she absolutely loved it!  We went to Disney World after the cruise...what a great family vacation that was!

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