Cruising is one of our favorite family vacations. Many cruise ships are like floating resorts with endless options for activities to keep the whole family entertained. You get to visit multiple destinations without unpacking more than once because you always have your ship as your home base.

It’s a great way for families to see the world in a convenient way. Here are my 10 essential tips for cruising with kids to ensure that your family has smooth sailing.

1. Do Your Research!

Really research the heck out of your options before you book. Look into kids club offerings, family activities available, meal options (the more the better), stateroom options and layout, and compare prices. Choose an itinerary based on ports of call that you think your family would enjoy.

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When my kids were small I was deathly afraid of getting a balcony. I had these crazy thoughts about them going overboard! Now we love balcony rooms and get one every time if it fits our budget.

Also, if you have a window in your stateroom, pack window clings. They will provide hours of entertainment.

2. Explore cruise message boards!

Cruise Critic is a great one. You can find a wealth of information here that you won’t find on the cruise websites themselves. You will find actual real-life people who give suggestions and feedback based on their experiences.

3. Try to arrive the day BEFORE you sail!

This tip definitely holds true if you are traveling in the winter from a place where it snows. I can tell you from experience that it is no fun missing the first 2 days of your cruise because of a snowstorm.

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4. Avoid motion sickness and stomach viruses!

Most cruise ships are so massive these days that you really feel very little motion in general. You will feel less motion in the middle of the ship so try to book a room there if your family is prone to seasickness.

If you think you might get seasick, it is better to be proactive about it and treat with Bonine® before you get sick. These medications work best if taken before you are puking your guts up. As a pharmacist, I recommend Bonine® because it is less-drowsy than other options on the market.

You also want to avoid stomach bugs when cruising by good hand washing and washing often. Also, use antibacterial hand sanitizer often. You can usually find them scattered all over most cruise ships for your convenience.

5. Put some thought into your carry-on!

Once you arrive and board your ship, it’s usually several hours until you can have access to your room. Because of this I usually pack sunscreen and bathing suits in my carry-on bag so the kids can take a swim in the pool while we wait.

After all, the pool is the most important part of the trip to the kids anyways and they will think you are a rock star for letting them go swimming so soon in the vacation. Be prepared to hear a lot of “momma, watch this!” for the rest of the trip.

6. Important things to remember to pack!

If you are traveling with kids that are still in diapers or drinking formula or eating baby food, be sure to pack everything you will need for the trip. Most cruise ships will have limited items like this if any at all and they will probably be outrageously priced anyways.

Look up the attire requirements for the restaurants before you go so you can pack accordingly. Most cruises will at least have 1 formal night that you will need something somewhat fancy so plan ahead.

Don’t forget multiple charging cords for all your devices (phones, ipads, etc.) I also recommend a nightlight if your kids use them. If you are in an inside cabin it is pretty dark.

We pack a white-noise type of sound machine also. It helps everyone sleep better and drowns out daddy’s snoring!

And don’t forget your kids “lovies” that they sleep with. Please, please pack those in your carry-on. If they are packed in your luggage and it happens to get lost then you might as well go home now because you are gonna have 1 miserable trip.

7. Send your kids to the kids club!

Now I am not telling you to send them there for the entire trip. But do have them participate in the kids club some of the time and enjoy some adult time together with your significant other. Don’t let your mommy guilt get in the way! If your kids are anything like my kids they won’t ever want to leave there because let’s face it, the kids club is way more fun than you are. They do so many fun activities like games, crafts, and even talent shows.

8. Take advantage of all the endless activities!

There are so many family activities that are included in your cruise that you might not even be able to partake in all of them during your cruise.

There are activities like miniature golf.

And rock climbing.

And even family disco night!

Whatever your thing is, they probably have it. One cruise we were on even had an aerial ropes course. The options really are endless.

9. Check your daily “cruise compass” every day!

Every night, your cabin steward will leave a “cruise compass” in your stateroom for the next day. Some cruise lines even have a special one just for kids. It tells you every single activity that will be happening on the ship. I really go through it with a fine-toothed comb because I don’t want to miss any awesome activities.

10. Pre-pay as much as possible!

One of the biggest draws to cruising for me is that mostly everything is included with some exceptions. I love that I don’t have to carry around money the whole vacation or figure out a tip at dinner.

You can prepay your tips, shore excursions, even buy an alcohol package in advance if that’s your thing. Once you are onboard, you don’t have to worry about it! I think it makes for a much more relaxing vacation.

Using these 10 essential tips for cruising with kids will ensure a wonderful family cruise vacation where you will create memories that will last a lifetime. Happy Cruising!!