Cruising is a popular choice for families, with good reason. Cruise lines deliver low-stress, high-energy fun, with a nice balance of family togetherness, kids-only time, and grown-up downtime. Here are 9 tried-and-tested tips from the readers of WeJustGotBack.com for making sure your family encounters nothing but smooth sailing.
Tip #1: I've been taking cruises for more than a decade. Here's my best tip for first-timers: Realize that, since everyone boards the ship en masse, it usually takes a while for the crew to get everyone's luggage delivered. So your bags may not arrive in your stateroom for hours after you arrive. If you want to start enjoying the ship immediately, you need to pack what you need for the day -- bathing suits, shorts, camera, and so on --in your carry-on. -Janice from San Diego, CA
Tip #2: Even if your cruise departs late in the afternoon, make sure you get into your port city the night before. I am a travel agent and have heard countless sad tales of folks who have literally missed the boat because their flight was delayed. -Maeve from Charleston, SC
Tip #3: I have taken seven cruises in all, and four of them have included my kids. I have some good advice that I learned the hard way. Your cruise line will offer you airport transfers, which can be $40 per person or more. A much more economical (and very often speedier) way to get to and from the ship is by local taxi. In my experience, a one-way cab fare is often in the $20 ballpark, and the cab will take up to four people. That works out to $10 per person round-trip, or a savings of $30 per person. -Camille from Baltimore, MD
Tip #4: I've discovered that a six-foot extension cord can be very useful on a cruise. Quite often, there's only one pair of outlets in your cabin and they're usually not positioned in a handy spot. -Lynn from Peoria, IL
Tip #5: I've found that blue, low-tack painter's tape is a handy take-along. This can be used to (a) child-proof electrical sockets, (b) hang up kid's artwork in your stateroom, and (c) prevent a camera lens from opening while you travel (just place tape over the closed shutter). -Beverly from San Diego, CA
Tip #6: My son just loves doing word search puzzles. Before we go on a family vacation, I make up customized word search puzzles for him to do on the plane or the ship, using words about our trip and destination. DiscoverySchool.com's Puzzlemaker makes this simple and fast. You just type in words that you want included, and the program generates a word search puzzle that can be printed out. Easy and fun! -Kirsten from Eau Claire, WI
Tip #7: I learned the hard way that it's not easy to book a cruise on your own because the options are so numerous. Choosing the right cruise line, the right ship, and the right cabin at a good price is fairly complicated. For example, some ships have cabins that can sleep five, others have adjoining cabins. Some cruise lines give discounts if you book a second, smaller cabin for teens. I would never have been able to sift through all of that without my wonderful agent. -Candace from Princeton, NJ
Tip #8: Inflatable toys are easy to pack and so inexpensive that you don't mind leaving them behind after your vacation. I especially love Oriental Trading Company for its huge assortment of cheap blow-up beach toys, from squirting toys to beach balls. -Lila from Tempe, AZ
Tip #9: If your kids are 12 and up, you should consider booking two staterooms -- one outside or balcony and one inside cabin -- that are near each other on the same deck. Most cruise lines charge much less for the inside stateroom, which is where older kids would be happy to stay. I calculated the additional cost for the inside room to only be about $400 more for a 7-night cruise on Carnival. I don't know any parent would not pay $400 ($57/night) to have a private stateroom without the kids sharing a 185-square-foot cabin. -Scott from Plainview, NY
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