It is never too early to start planning your next family vacation. Why not look into an all inclusive cruise? A cruise is a great way to spend some quality time together as a family and explore some new and exciting places. If you are travelling with extended family, friends or even grandparents – a cruise is actually a great idea.
Not all cruises are created equal (especially when it comes to kids). We have been on three family cruises with my boys, as such I wanted to share some tips for helping you to choose the right cruise and cabin for your family.
Super Tips for Planning a Cruise
Tip 1: Decide your vacation budget.
A cruise can be either be very cost effective or expensive depending on the duration and destination. If the cruise leaves from your hometown, you will save a lot of money on additional airfare and hotel stays. If not, this will also need to be factored into your overall vacation cost. Prior to booking know have a budget for the total cost of the holiday (airfare, transport, hotel, cruise cost, excursions, etc.) in mind to avoid disappointment after finding the perfect cruise and exceeding the budget.
Tip 2: Choose a cruise that has child friendly ports.
Your will need to do is decide where you want to go and for how long. Depending on the age of your kids, some ports may or may not be child-friendly. For example, most kids (especially the young ones) will not be thrilled to go to a major city and site see all day, versus a beach destination, outdoor adventure or amusement park. Find a cruise that has ports that are suitable for your family needs before booking.
Tip 3: Choose a cruise ship that is child friendly.
Your top priority for a cruise should be keeping the kids happy & busy. The last thing you want is cranky kids in the middle of the ocean. Research the cruise ship that you will be sailing on and make sure that there are plenty of child focused activities and shows. Find out the size of the pool(s) and if the ship has a waterslide. Find out what other activities they have ice-skating rink, movie theater, arcade, character visits, special events, etc. Find out the variety of activities and read the reviews by other parents.
Tip 4: Research the Kid’s Club & babysitter option.
Most cruises do have a Kid’s Clubs, but do not be fooled into thinking they are all the same. The bigger cruise lines have amazing kids clubs full of activities, whereas some of the smaller ones have a tiny room that does simple arts & crafts activities. Find out the hours of operation and additional charges (if any) for dropping your kids off.
Even if the ship has an amazing Kid’s Club, you might still need a babysitter if you have young kids that sleep early. If you plan on participating in some of the nighttime adult activities on the ship, you need to plan ahead and find out if a babysitter is available to watch the kids in your cabin.
Tip 5: Book your cruise well in advance of the sail date.
Book early to get the best deals and the best rooms on the ship. My recommendation is to book a minimum of 6 months in advance, however many of the popular cruises (like Disney) you should book closer to a year in advance.
Tip 6: Book a family sized room and/or a room with a balcony.
The rooms on a cruise ship are quite small. Whether you are 2, 3 or 4, the size of the room is usually the same. The price per person in a shared room goes down, however the size of the room does not really change.The only difference is that they will open up the sofa bed or take down the wall bunk beds for your kids to sleep on. The family sized rooms and suites are very limited and sell-out fast (so make sure you plan early).
A balcony room will allow you to have a little extra space if you need it. It enables the kids to sit on the balcony to watch as you pull into each port (early in the morning) or just sit outside and read a book and watch the waves go by. When the kids are asleep (early), you can sit outside rather then in silence.
Super Note: Since you have kids, the likelihood is that you will spend a decent amount of time in the room. Unlike adults, kids actually do like hanging out in the room. My boys like to come back to the room for some downtime to chill out, take naps or just sit around with the iPad.
Tip 7: Book a room close to the elevators.
Look at the layout of the ship before choosing your cabin room. Getting a room close to the elevator and stairways is key. The closer you are to all of the action (main buffet dining room, kids club, pool, etc.) is better, as you will be going back and forth a lot.
Tip 8: Plan your excursions and in-port activities before you leave home.
Once you have decided on your perfect cruise, make sure you research each port before you get on the ship so that you know what you will be doing at each port. Wifi will be limited and it will be hard to research and make plans once you have boarded.
Many cruise ships do offer in port excursions. These are an easy way to explore the ports without having to plan anything yourself and are a lot of fun. However this can be very costly since you are paying per person, especially if you are travelling a large group. You might be able to plan the same excursion at a fraction of the cost if you book before leaving home.
Tip 9: Plan on arriving early on sail day.
Plan on arriving early on the day of departure. If your cruise is departing from a different country / location from where you reside, I recommend coming at least one day before and staying in a hotel. This may require you to take an extra day off work (so plan accordingly before booking the cruise).
On the day of departure, you will be given a time to board the ship based on your cabin room number. Arrive early or at least on time, as you will need to first drop off your luggage and then stand in line to go through the check-in procedure (and immigration).
Now that you have planned your perfect family cruise, it’s time to get packing! I will be posting an article soon on “Super Tips for What to Pack on a Cruise Holiday with Kids.”
If you have any additional tips for choosing the perfect child-friendly cruise for the SuperMommy readers, please feel free to add it down below in the comments section. 🙂