Packing Tips

Packing List: Alaskan Cruise
January 31, 2019

You’ve booked your Alaskan cruise, you’re ready to see the calving glaciers, and now you have no earthly clue what to pack. The number one thing to keep in mind with a cruise-or any kind of trip- to Alaska is layers. The Alaskan cruise season runs from May to September, with sometimes drastic variations in temperature and precipitation. If you’re traveling after Labor Day, it will no doubt be cooler and wetter than if you were to travel in June or July, but the season can still be unpredictably warm or cool.

What do we mean by “think in layers”?

You essentially want three layers for every occasion: a protective layer, a warm layer, and a comfort layer. Think of these layers in terms of time spent on deck (which might mean fancier dress, depending on the ship and your onboard activities), time spent in port cities, and any adventure activities. Water activities would require a wetsuit, which should be provided, so you don’t need to worry about that.  You want moisture wicking layers, soft, comfortable clothes, and a good, warm, light weight coat. Prepare for rain. It rains in Alaska. It snows in Alaska. I can’t say it enough- Alaska is wet. Make sure you have waterproof options to wear outside. Ponchos are good, lightweight options to pack away in a bag.  When you “think in layers” also think about it being WARM.  The weather can still be up to 80 degrees in the fall. Make sure you pack a wide enough variety of clothing that if its warm you aren’t suffering, either.

Take a multi-functional boot

The last thing you want to do is lug ten pairs of shoes around when you’re on a trip. Find a boot that is both fashionable and comfortable. Water proof is best;  Alaska has a LOT of snow and a LOT of water! Find a boot that will look good under a nice pair of jeans for dinner (or over, if you’re wearing skinny jeans) but that will also pair with your athletic clothes for a hike or on shore excursion.

Pack a hat and gloves

Depending on the time of year you may not need these items, but they’re small enough to stow away without noticing, and you’ll thank yourself later if you do end up needing them. Better safe than sorry, or, warm than cold!

Take Evening Clothes

What folks wear to dress occasions on a cruise ship run the gamut from linen shorts and Hawaiian shirts to tuxedos and gowns. It is your vacation and you should wear what makes you most comfortable and relaxed. Most folks wind up in cocktail attire; a nice dress, but not a gown, and a sport coat instead of a tuxedo. But if the tux and gown are your thing, rock it out and look fabulous doing it.


Don’t forget to accessorize for the best vacation yet! Remember a camera, a lightweight, comfortable cross-body bag (for ease in movement and carrying for long periods of time), and a pair of binoculars for spotting wildlife off the deck of the ship. With the cold weather you’ll want to remember your chapstick and lotion for keeping your hands, face, and lips moisturized and protected from cracking. Pro Tip: Most of  the walls in your cabins will be magnetic in some area. Bring magnets (or lightweight, magnetic chip clips) to hang your itinerary, notes, and even your coats and bags if they’re sturdy enough.

Other things you’ll want to consider are:

  • USB charger with multiple ports for charging on the go
  • Ziplock bags (you’ll find a use for them, trust me)
  • An insulated, reusable water bottle or mug. That way you’ll always have water or a beverage with you AND you’re reducing waste!
  • Earplugs and a portable alarm clock. They’ll both help you sleep better.
  • Bandaids. You’ll be doing a lot of walking. Be prepared for blisters!
  • A rugged and protective phone case. Preferably a waterproof case.
  • Sun screen. Just because it’s cold does not mean you cannot get a sun burn.
  • Comfortable, slip-on shoes. After twelve hours in port exploring, you’re going to want something comfortable to wear on the ship.