6 Things I'm Buying for My Alaska Cruise with Kids
An Alaska cruise with little kids brings all sorts of interesting dilemmas. Which are the right shore excursions? Should we divide and conquer so we can see everything? Do we need strollers? But one of the more interesting is how to pack appropriately. And my kids aren't just small—they are small Miami residents, which means we only have few of the necessary items for cold weather (and any other weather besides hot and sunny). Even our rain gear is less-than-stellar, because everyone knows that rainstorms in Miami last about 15 minutes and then move on (except for hurricanes, but that's a different story).
So with 3 weeks left until our Alaska cruise, the prepping has begun. And for me, that prepping means a little purchasing, a little borrowing and a little winging it. Here are the 6 things that I'm buying in advance of the inevitable packing scramble that will happen at 1am the day we are leaving for Vancouver.
I've been told that Alaska can experience multiple seasons in a single day, many of them rainy. My New England upbringing tells me that the secret to happy, comfortable kids and parents are layers. Lots of layers. Living in Miami, we have lots of layers of the shorts/t-shirt variety. However, we don't have many cold weather layer items (such as hats, gloves, parkas and snow boots), so I'm buying some of them now. While we won't really need these items for the vast majority of the trip, some activities (like cruising through the glaciers, whale watching and standing on the decks) are supposed to be quite cold.
The verdict: waterproof jacket, fleece, hat and pants for all. Amazon and Zulily are great options for acquiring fall and winter gear when it's 100 degrees outisde or you live in a place with year-round warm weather.
I bought really inexpensive puffer jackets for both boys - they are squishable, which makes them easy to pack. I also bought rain jackets (also easily packable) from Mountain Warehouse to layer on top.
2. Rain Gear
In addition to the chill and wind, there is often rain in Alaska. Waterproof layering is covered above, but my kids don't have anything for their feet—so we are getting some rain boots as well. After spending a few years in London, I'm partial to Wellies, but any boot will do. Especially since they won't fit by the time we get back (#kids).
I bought these shiny red ones, since both boys are obsessed with red (probably the only way I will get them on their feet).
3. Kid Travel Kits
In addition to making us ill-prepared for cold weather, living in Miami also means that we are REALLY far from Alaska–so far that there is no way for us to get there in a single flight. My very strict "I will not fly anywhere with kids if it requires a connection" policy is being completely thrown out the window on this one. In addition to tons of patience, we will be equipped with plenty of kid-friendly travel provisions so we (and all of the lovely people around us) have good flights. For starters, there will definitely be an iPad for some educational—and not-so-educational—distraction. Each boy will have a backpack complete with cool travel headphones (these childrens headphones were a huge hit on our last trip), new books (my 6 year old is absolutely loving the Magic Tree House and "Who Is/Was?" series ), snacks (I will use these cool snack boxes and fill them with a mix of things), coloring books (these Melissa & Doug On the Go books are a fun and mess-free option), a few educational things (these are great for practicing letters and numbers), and some cars and dinosaurs (because, boys).
4. Hats and Sunglasses
Despite living in Miami, we don't own many hats and sunglasses—and for any cruise you need both. With the sun currently up all day, every day in Alaska, we need our eyes and faces protected (it might be chilly, but there will be lots of sun). We strongly recommend polarized sunglasses for cruising, since the colors are so much sharper and they offer much better protection on sea days. I personally buy my glasses (sun and regular) at Warby Parker. For the kids, I just use Amazon.
5. Refills for Travel Toiletries & Medical Kit
I always keep travel sized shampoo, bubble bath, lotion and diaper cream around. But 10 days is a bit longer than a normal travel size bottle will last, so this time I am getting new travel bottles so I can just fill them with the boys' normal shampoo and bubble bath. We are super excited because our stateroom on Crystal Serenity has a bath tub. That makes life SO much easier with the little ones (the older one is happy to shower, but the little one screams "no shower!"). I will also make sure I have Neosporin, Aceteminophen, Ibuprofen, anti-itch and bandages galore. The good news is that the ship has a well-stocked store, so I can get extras in a pinch. But I like to keep a stash with me at all times.
6. Packing Cubes
I know I should be bringing multiple smaller suitcases so we can tuck them into nooks and crannies in the stateroom, but I just can't do it. One, because I'm fortunate to be staying in large stateroom that can accommodate my favorite piece of luggage; and two, because we are traveling with two boys, two strollers, one car seat, one booster (I am a bit of a fanatic about car seats, even when traveling), and carry-ons for everyone. I just can't handle another bag, so keeping the one bag I will carry for me and the two kids (my husband carries his own) means I will have to be ultra-organized. Hence the packing cubes.
What I'm Leaving Behind
Here are some things I won't be taking along with us (Crystal Serenity is already stocked on most of these–thank you!):
- Laundry detergent. Thankfully there are self-serve laundry facilites on my deck so I can wash the ice cream off of my kids' shirts.
- Hair dryer. There are two per stateroom!
- DVDs. Each room has a DVD/Blu-Ray player, which we will definitely be using. Nevertheless, the kids' area is stocked with DVDs.
- Books for myself. I'm traveling with 2 small kids, so reading might feel like a stretch. But I've already loaded my Kindle in anticipation of leaving them at the kids' area a few hours per day.