Cruise excursions can be the highlight of your vacation. Exploring a port or taking off for an adventure gives you the chance to spend a day doing something completely different from your normal routine…and tomorrow, you’ll get to do it again! And the next day…
Whether you choose to languish at a local beach or drive a dune buggy around an island, you’ll need to provide for your own safety and well-being when you’re away from the ship. Here’s a list of items to pack in your day bag to make sure you’ve got everything you need before setting out.
The Ultimate Cruise Excursion Day Bag
Cruise ship ID card: You won’t be able to get off–or back on–the ship without the ID you were issued when you checked in. That’s how the ship keeps track of all passengers. Make sure it’s stowed in a safe place.
- Passport: Many ports require proof of citizenship, so you could be asked to show your passport when you enter or leave the port, even if you’re getting off to shop at a local market. Check with your cruise company for details. Another essential item to keep in a secure place.
- Ship’s daily schedule: Please don’t think you’ll remember when to be back on the ship. Take the schedule! It has important information about the port and the hope-you-never-need phone numbers for the ship and harbor master.
- Watch or phone with local time: I can’t emphasize this enough! Never assume that all ports are in the same time zone. Your phone probably switches time zones automatically, but check to be sure! You do not want to miss the departure time, just because you thought you had another hour.
- Portable external charger: Using your phone to take photos? Searching for the best local restaurant? Following Google maps? Great! But give yourself peace-of-mind by packing an external charger in case the phone battery runs down. You can’t afford to be without reliable means of communication.
- Full water bottle: The ship will likely distribute bottled water on your way out. If you don’t carry your own reusable bottle (and of course, you do…) be sure to take one. Hydration is key, and you’ll want to be sure of the water source. If the ship doesn’t advise you about the drinking water at a port, be sure to ask.
- Hand sanitizer: Don’t count on access to soap–this is true wherever you go. You already know how and when to use it. I suggest doing it even more often during cruise excursions.
- Sun protection: Sure, you applied sunscreen before you left for the day. But you’ll need to do it every few hours while you’re out. The sun is especially intense in the tropics. If you’re in the water or perspiring, apply it more frequently. Read SPF guidelines here.
- Insect repellant: Another essential, for both comfort and your health. From annoying no-see-ums to scary Zika-carrying mosquitos, apply before you go and during the day. Check the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
- Medications: Even if you plan to be gone just a few hours, bring the day’s medications in a small watertight container. You might change your mind and stay out longer.
The Wow-Am-I-Smart Stuff
- Credit cards and cash: You’ll need both. When you’re shopping, you’ll get a better exchange rate if you use a credit card. Always use the local currency, not U.S. dollars. Some small shops may not accept credit cards, so cash is necessary. The ship will tell you if dollars are accepted at a port.
- Cash in small bills: Don’t expect vendors or street food carts to make change for big bills. If your ports accept U.S. dollars, bring a stack of singles and fives. Some coins are a good idea, too. Your ship may be able to break large bills of other currencies, but not do currency-exchange functions. Ask before you go.
- Basic first aid items: Nothing huge, just a few band-aids in case of blisters or small cuts. A tiny tube of antibiotic ointment might be good, too.
- Snacks: Depending on your excursion, you may want to bring along some energy bars, a piece of fruit from breakfast, or a bag of trail mix.
- An extra layer of clothing: You may start out in a sundress, then decide to eat lunch in an ultra-air-conditioned restaurant. Or maybe you’ve had enough sun and want to put on a shirt to protect your shoulders. Depending on the destination, there could be a drop in temperature, too. I also include hats in this category.
- Weather-appropriate gear: If your cruise excursions take place during rainy season, be prepared for sudden showers. Toss a poncho in your day bag. The same goes for trips in the spring or fall: a jacket, light hat, and pair of light stretchy gloves can make all the difference in your comfort and enjoyment.
- Maps and guidebooks, if desired: I think you should always learn about where you’re going. The history, culture, food, and landmarks are what define a place. Instead of wandering aimlessly, take time to read about your destinations and plan your time wisely. I rely on Lonely Planet books. Choose what you like to get the most from your cruise expeditions.
I know this seems like a long list, but it’s not a bulky one. You’ll have a better experience with just a little planning and preparation. Have fun!
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