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Dollar Store Essentials for Your Cruise Vacation
The dollar store is the BEST place for trip prep! Check out our Dollar Store Essentials for Your Cruise Vacation and stock up on supplies on the cheap!
If you have followed me for any length of time you probably know two things about me by now: my family loves to travel and I always swing by the dollar store before we leave on a trip. I am continually surprised at how many of our vacation supplies we can round up at the dollar store. Whether it’s grabbing a pack of toothbrushes that we can use while we are away and discard afterwards or a pack of plastic bags to use as outfit organizers, wet bags, etc. The dollar store is a bastion of vacation supplies on the super cheap.
Today I want to focus specifically on cruise travel. If you have ever taken a cruise vacation before, you know that your time spent on board is typically fairly relaxing and full of food (and drinks) LOL. If you are flying to your cruise ship port, you will be limited in the amount of luggage that you can take with you, depending on the airline that you’re flying. If you are lucky enough to be within driving distance of your departure port, you are typically limited only by how much luggage your car can hold. Trust me – this can be good and bad. Sometimes that leads us to over-pack, but more often than not, it means that we arrive at our ship feeling pretty confident that we have everything we will need during our voyage.
Best Cruise Vacation Tips
I have written many cruise-related travel posts over the years! Our most recent cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas last month was my 10th cruise, so I definitely have some experience under my belt. Check out some of my other cruise posts:
Cruise Carry-On Bag Packing List (And What You Don’t Need)
Best Cruise Ship Freebies You Won’t Want to Miss
10 Total Must-Dos on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas
3 EASY Ways to Save THOUSANDS of Dollars on a Disney Cruise
Carnival Pride Cruise Review: Baltimore to Florida and Bahamas
Disney Halloween Cruise Review – Magic 7-Night Bahamas from NYC
Anthem of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise Review (8 Night Bayonne, NJ to Bahamas)
The Ultimate Guide to a Halloween Disney Cruise
25 Dollar Store MUST-BUY Items for a Disney Cruise
Carnival Glory Cruise Review – Miami to Western Caribbean
8 Cool Things to Do on Your Disney Cruise
Disney Cruise Lines Review – Magic 3-Night Bahamas from Port Canaveral (with a Kid and a Baby!)
Back to Dollar Store Vacation Prep
I say it all the time: do not overlook the dollar store when it comes to vacation prep. We have a Dollar Tree just a couple of miles from our house and I can round up all sorts of toiletries, name brand medication, and other useful items before we leave on a cruise.
Let me preface this list with: I’m sure there are more things at the dollar store that would come in handy on a cruise. These are my usual go-to items when I am prepping for a trip, so use it as a starting point for your own cruise prep!
Dollar Store Cruise Must Buy Items
1. 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. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Cups, Tumblers, Water Bottles – All cruise lines include at least some beverages for free in your cruise fare. Standard free drinks include coffee, tea, juice, water and milk. Some cruise lines charge a premium for soda and all charge for alcohol (unless you book your trip during an alcohol-included promo and not all cruise lines offer this). 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!
5. 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.
6. 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!!
7. 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. Many ships have coin operated laundry facilities on various decks. Trash bags make great laundry bags in a pinch.
8. Plates and Napkins – Room service is offered on most cruise ships. Some include this service for free (for example, Disney). Other cruise lines charge for room service. On Royal Caribbean, you can order a standard continental breakfast fare for free each day, but anything on the rest of the room service menu costs $7.95 plus 18% gratuity (as of Feb 2019). 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!
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, beach bag, 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.
10. 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.
11. Clothespins – Bathrooms on some cruise ships have retractable laundry lines across the showers. Bring some clothespins so you an easily hang up wet bathing suits, etc.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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!
16. 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.
17. 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!
18. Reusable Bags – Bags are great for pool and beach bags to carry on and souvenir bags. I found a bunch of reusable bags at the Dollar Tree that would be perfect for your cruise.
19. 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 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!
20. Pill Organizer – Great for vitamins and other medications, but think beyond that! These little boxes are wonderful for things like safety pins, earrings, 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.
21. Bottled Water – Bottled water can be purchased on board, but at a premium. MOST cruise lines will allow passengers to carry a reasonable amount of bottle water on board. Check with your cruise line to see how much water you are permitted to bring with you and stock up at the dollar store.
22. Dish Brush/Sponges – Pick some up for your trip, then toss before heading home so you don’t have to bring wet sponges with you. These are especially handy if you are cruising with babies/toddlers who use bottles and/or sippy cups.
23. Dish Soap – This goes along with the sponge and dish brush idea above! Have dish soap on hand to clean cups, bottles, etc.
24. Hair Ties – Always a good idea to have plenty of hair ties if you’re cruising with anyone who has long hair.
Copy this shopping list and take it with you to the dollar store!
Dry Erase Board
Cups, Tumblers, Water Bottles
Mesh Laundry Bags
First Aid Supplies