When one of your family’s most favorite hobbies is to travel, and you find yourself packing your bags every month or two for the next adventure, you get pretty good at shopping for (and/or stockpiling) supplies. One of my most popular travel posts of all time is this list of Dollar Store Must-Buy Items for a Disney World vacation. Ever since I published that post, it had been on my to-do list to write a Disney CRUISE specific shopping list. And here it is!
As I gather supplies for an upcoming trip, I usually make a mega packing list in my life planner. If necessary, I place an order for supplies with Amazon and then I usually stop at ALDI for food/snacks and ALWAYS make a trip to the Dollar Tree for random particulars. The dollar store tends to be overlooked by some for vacation necessities, but I am here to tell you: DON’T OVERLOOK THE DOLLAR STORE. Whether you’re heading to a beach, a theme park, going by plane or by car or in this case, BY SHIP, the dollar store is a traveler’s best friend.
Check out the 25 items that I always stock up on at the dollar store before we board a Disney Cruise Ship.
1. Pirate Costume Accessories – If you’re heading on a Disney Cruise in the Caribbean, chances of a Pirate Night on your sailing are pretty good! Before our last cruise (and near Halloween) we found all sorts of pirate accessories (eye patches, bandannas, hooks, etc) at the dollar store.
2. Ponchos – Bad weather can blow in almost without warning when you’re out on the ocean. The same holds true if you’re cruise ship is stopping at a tropical port (Florida included!). We have yet to take a trip to Florida and not get rained out at least one afternoon during our stay. Rain showers and storms blow up over the theme parks frequently. Sometimes they literally build on top of the parks and you have little-to-no-warning to take cover. You can absolutely find ponchos in every theme park gift shop or hotel store. And I guaranteed you that you will absolutely NOT find them for $1. Stock up at the dollar store before you leave town. Get one for every member of your family and also consider picking up extras to throw over strollers, luggage, etc. We gave ponchos to the adults in our Fish Extender group on our last cruise!
3. Dry Erase Board – If you have never cruised before, get ready to find dry erase boards on many cabin doors on the ship! Dry erase boards are a great way to communicate plans and current locations for friends and family on your cruise. Don’t forget – your cell phones won’t work on board and that includes text messaging. Slap a dry erase board on your door and enjoy this antiquated-yet-effective communication method (most cabins on Disney ships are magnetic, minus Concierge level cabins on the Dream and Fantasy).
4. Toothbrushes – Unless you’re a couponer and you work the drugstore and/or coupon deals to get free toothbrushes, you know that buying toothbrushes for the whole family can add up. I tend to replace our travel toothbrushes after most trips because the thought of them rolling around the toiletry bag for months grosses me out. Pick up toothbrushes on the cheap at the dollar store for trips. You won’t feel terrible throwing them out at the end of vacation because they didn’t cost much. Save the costlier toothbrushes for your home bathroom. For a week or so away most of us can settle for a simplistic model.
5. Glow Sticks – Glow sticks are so much fun for pirate night on the ship! Stock up for less at the dollar store and let the kids load up on glowing jewelry before you head to the Pirate Deck Party! We gave glow sticks to the tweens/teens in our Fish Extenders group!
6. Cups, Tumblers, Water Bottles – All of your drinks (minus alcohol) on a Disney Cruise are INCLUDED in your cruise fare. Disposable cups are offered at most beverage stations, but they tend to be small and don’t keep your hot drinks warm for too long. Throw a cup or two in your luggage – I love the water bottles and plastic tumblers for the kids and Bob and I always bring a travel mug for coffee!
7. Snack Containers and Plastic Snack Bags – These are great for tossing random snacks in for the kids to eat during shows, down time in your cabin, whenever. Toss some dry cereal or baked goods in snack containers or bags while you’re at the buffet – you never know when you might need a snack to throw at the kids.
I also use plastic bags throughout my packing routine. I use gallon sized bags for packing individual outfits, toiletries that I am worried might leak, etc. I ALWAYS pack an extra gallon bag into the diaper bag for holding dirty diapers, clothes that diapers have leaked on, wet clothes and bathing suits, emergency barf bags, you get the idea. Bumps and bruises can be soothed with instant ice packs – just put ice from the beverage station or your cabin steward into a sandwich bag. I pack individual road trip activities in different sized bags as well – this would come in handy if you’re driving or flying to your port.
I recommend buying a box or two in sandwich, quart and gallon sizes.
8. Popcorn Containers – Oh! One of my favorite items from the dollar store that I totally just grabbed on a whim before our last cruise. I LOVE (like, in an obsessive way) fresh popped popcorn. I can’t seem to turn it down! On a Disney Cruise, you can buy a big souvenir popcorn tub and then enjoy really cheap refills throughout your trip. I bought my souvenir tub on the first day on the ship. Before each show, we got the tub refilled, then dumped that refill into these cute popcorn containers – one for each kid and another for Bob. Then I went and got a second refill well, just for me. I told you – I LOVE POPCORN!!
9. Trash Bags – It’s always a great idea to pick up a box or two of trash bags. They are so helpful for collecting that unavoidable mountain of dirty wash throughout your trip. Disney Cruise Ships all have coin operated laundry facilities on various decks. Trash bags make great laundry bags in a pinch.
10. Plates and Napkins – Room service is FREE on Disney Cruises and is available pretty much around the clock. We found it super handy to have some extra plates and napkins in our cabin so that we could divvy up the food to the kids!
11. Tissues, Hand Sanitizer, and Wet Wipes – Boogers, snot, phlegm, poop, pee. Add dirt, blood, excess suntan lotion and more to that list. You can never have enough tissues, wipes or sanitizer!! Stock up at the dollar store.
For tissues, I like to get a couple big packs of the smaller travel packs. I stick the smaller packs EVERYWHERE – one in the diaper bag, purse, car, different luggage pieces, etc.
Soap and water are always going to be your best line of defense against germs, including the dreaded norovirus that likes to fly around ships. In a pinch, hand sanitizer will do the job.
12. Mesh Laundry Bags – While I tend to use trash bags to gather my dirty laundry on vacation, mesh laundry bags work wonderfully too. ALSO – if you are going on a BEACH trip… grab a mesh bag or two. Use it to toss the sandy toys in at the end of the day. Much of the sand will fall off the toys and out of the bag BEFORE you get back on the ship, keeping the majority of the sand OUT of your cabin.
13. Batteries – You probably make sure that you have packed your eleventy billion charging cords for everything from phones to tablets to Kindle Readers. But don’t forget to throw some extra batteries in your bag for any random electronics that you might want to run and not be near an outlet.
14. Bubbles – Love ’em or hate ’em (and most kids LOVEEEEE them), bubbles make great boredom busters with minimal mess. They are also lots of fun for Pirate Night Party and your Sail Away Party!
15. Over-The-Door-Hooks – These hooks are sanity savers! They help give our towels, bathing suits, backpacks, camera bags, WHATEVER, a spot OFF of the floor. Pick up a few and toss them on the bathroom doors!
16. Travel Bottles – Always a good idea to grab some of these for trips, even if you’re not flying (and thus bound by airline restrictions). These bottles make it easy to portion out shampoo, etc in smaller increments. Most, if not all, Disney Cruise ship cabins have two bathrooms so this is an easy way to split up your toiletries.
17. Earplugs – Earplugs come in handy for fireworks, loud shows, or even when you end up in a cabin with a very loud SNORER. At just $1 for a multi-pack it’s smart to grab a pack just in case they are needed.
18. Sponges and Washcloths – Half of my family prefers bar soap and washcloths… the other half prefers sponges and body wash. Pick up a couple of each and toss ’em out at the end of the trip. At just $1 each they will work great during your trip, but they are totally disposable and there’s no lugging anything wet home in your luggage.
19. Nightlights and Flashlights – Maybe you have a kid who is afraid of the dark, maybe you don’t. If you do, pick up a little nightlight before you head out on vacation so you’re not scrambling at bedtime in your cabin. If you DON’T have a kid who is afraid of the dark, consider picking up a small flashlight. These are nice to leave on the nightstand in the event that your kid wakes up and needs to get to the bathroom, etc. in the middle of the night. Unfamiliar surroundings and furniture can lead to bumps and stubbed toes!
20. First Aid This and That – Extra thermometer, bandages, triple antibiotic cream… all are good ideas to toss in your toiletry bag. Pick up many of these standard items at the dollar store at a super low price.
21. Chapstick – Keep those lips moisturized! I hate how dry my lips tend to get when we stay in hotels or cruise cabins thanks to the dry air. I always take a least one chapstick or lip balm with me!
22. Reusable Bags – Bags are great for pool and beach bags to carry on and souvenir bags. I found a bunch of Disney branded bags at the Dollar Tree that would be perfect for your cruise.
23. Playing Cards – Hopefully you are able to carve out some time to relax while you’re on board… I know this can actually be tricky at times because there is SO MUCH to do on a Disney Cruise! Take along a pack or two of cards – always fun to grab a table in the lounge and watch the ocean as you play some card games!
24. Pill Organizer – Great for vitamins and other medications, but think beyond that! These little boxes are wonderful for things like safety pins, travel sewing kit pieces, etc. They also come in handy for kids’ crafts you might be packing for boredom busters. Rainbow loom bands, beads, Shopkins and other little novelties will fit in these compartments.
25. Souvenirs – It’s so easy to fall prey to pricey Disney gift shops. Souvenir prices run steep so I like to bring souvenirs with us that I have gathered at clearance sales, consignment sales, etc in the months leading up to our trip! Saves at TON of money and the kids are every bit as excited. I found little figurines at Dollar Tree, along with a bunch of other character-laden merch.
Copy this list and take it with you to the dollar store!
1. Pirate Costume Accessories
3. Dry Erase Board
5. Glow Sticks
6. Cups, Tumblers, Water Bottles
7. Snack containers and plastic snack bags
8. Popcorn containers
9. Trash bags
10. Plates and napkins
11. Tissues, hand sanitzier, wet wipes
12. Mesh laundry bags
15. Over-the-Door Hooks
16. Travel bottles
18. Sponges and Washcloths
19. Nightlights and flashlights
20. First Aid Supplies
22. Reusable bags
23. Playing cards
24. Pill organizer