Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Cruise Vacation Planning - Packing

If you want details of our actual trip, feel free to skip this post - this is more informational for other parents needing tips on cruising with their young children.


Okay, so full disclosure up front - I always over-pack. Always. I hate not being prepared or having to struggle to get what we need, especially with an upset child to deal with. Even worse, I hate having to (over)pay to buy something on vacation that I already have at home.

This was a difficult trip to pack for - we'd need summer clothes for Vancouver, as well as warm clothes for Alaska, including rain gear and hats and mittens especially for our glacier trip.

Baby Gear
We decided to take a car seat and a booster and forgo the stroller, but bring our Beco Gemini baby carrier instead. The theory was that safety in the vehicles was more important than convenience of a stroller, and with limited space in our stateroom, we wouldn't have enough space to store all this gear.

I looked at buying a travel cart for the stroller, but the options were just too pricey for an occasional use item - the GoGoBabyz Travelmate is basically $100, as is the one by Britax. Looking at the stock images for the Britax, I realized it looked pretty much like any normal cart that you can use for your luggage...

So we bought the Conair Travelsmart cart, as it was on sale at Target for $17. My basic requirement was checking that it could support the weight of my kids. This had an upper limit of 34kg (DD1 is 14kg, so this could theoretically take both our kids' weight!)

We already had a Cosco Scenera convertible car seat that we had purchased for a previous trip (from Walmart on Black Friday sale) and kept as a spare for visitors, and DD2 would sit in this seat. Using the LATCH belt, it was simple to attach the car seat to the bottom bar of the cart. I took the top tether and pulled it up and over the handle before securing that to the bottom bar as well. The cart came with a bungee cord, so I used that to further secure the seat to the back of the cart. [PS: Westjet actually lost the bungee cord (it just didn't come back with the cart when we arrived in Vancouver), so for our return trip I bought a luggage strap to use instead.]


20140928_232918_Android  20140928_232902_Android 

For DD1, we did not want to schlep another convertible car seat, so although she is not yet the requisite 18kg for a booster seat, we bought the Graco backless turbobooster on sale ($20 on tax-free day at Real Canadian Superstore) to use on our trip. I had planned to pack it into a suitcase and pad it with diapers, but then decided to just take it onboard as carry-on, since I figured an early morning airport commute was not conducive to hurriedly stuffing a booster seat in to a suitcase before check-in at the airport. For the plane, I bought a CARES harness for her to use.

Some of the other things I packed, based on tips from MouseSavers, cruise forums and reviews:
  • Ear muffs for our helicopter excursion - I was not sure the helicopter company would have small enough headphones for our tiny kids. We already had the Baby Banz and Peltor ones, as we'd use them when we went to  the CNE and Air Show.
  • Binoculars - we had to buy these, as I wanted something small and lightweight.
  • Laundry detergent, mesh laundry carry bag and pegs (clothespins) - in an effort to pack just a little less clothing, I figured I might do some laundry on the cruise (yes, I'm one of those people who actually don't mind doing laundry). Pegs were for the retractable drying line that runs over the bathtub [We used it to dry swimsuits].
  • Small/ dollar-store Disney toys for gifts - an attempt to avoid paying the high prices in the ship's gift store [No, it didn't work... we still bought a bunch of things!]
  • Formal outfits for dinner - suit for DH, cocktail dress for me, 'flouncy' dresses for the girls.
  • Multi-port USB wall charger - to charge our plethora of devices all at once, as I had read that there likely would not be enough electrical points. [In reality, we didn't really need it, our devices managed to last quite long and charging wasn't an issue.]
I had also packed some pirate dress-up clothes and accessories (pirate hat, foam sword, eye patch). Then I found out that the Alaskan cruises do not have a pirate party, but a Pixar Pals party instead, so that got nixed. I was *not* going to source a Pixar character costume - the pirate costumes were simpler and we already had most of it.

PS Next time I will pack my own hairdryer. The one onboard was not very good, and got very hot to hold at one point. This is one of the few things on the Disney Wonder that showed it's 'age' - it's one of those old-style dryers mounted to the wall, with an accordian-type pipe and nozzle that looks like a vacuum cleaner! It's mounted on the inside wall of the toilet section of the bathrooms, so we didn't take a picture of it, though someone else did:

Next - researching, choosing and booking shore excursions.

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