It’s easy to think about going to Alaska and mentally saying “Okay, warm clothes”. Well, yes, but what kind of warm clothes? Are they waterproof? What time of year are we going? Do I need a hat? Gloves? And what about inside the boat? And how about dinner attire? And what the heck is this crap about a bathing suit and sunscreen?! Well friends, I can honestly tell you – I had all the same exact questions you did and I can happily report that this vacation was one of the first where I wore every single thing I packed. Believe me, I know, it’s a vacation miracle. Whether you’re planning a cruise for Alaska, contemplating it and curious about packing or are just nosey (like I am) about what people put in their suitcase, I’m excited to be here today sharing what to pack for a cruise to Alaska!
What To Pack For A Cruise To Alaska
First things first – let’s talk about what kind of suitcase you’re going to take. I have morphed into a weird version of my former self that only likes to take carry-on suitcases (read more about that here) and I was nervous about where I was going to put some big ass suitcase in a tiny cruise ship room. So let’s be clear about 2 things right off the bat…1. All my winter clothes and boots didn’t fit in my carry on so I had to check a bag. In fact, both Dane and I had to check bags, so we were super nervous about now fitting TWO HUGE BAGS into a tiny cruise ship room. 2. Those two huge suitcases fit perfectly in our room and went right under the bed. Truth be told we probably could have housed 2 more under there, so if you’re fretting about any of that – poof! Let it go.
Of course you’re going to want your normal toiletries like toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, hair products if necessary, razor, etc. I packed very light makeup and only ended up wearing it at dinners. I love going au natural on vacation when I can and this trip wasn’t really any different. I also brought my curling iron, which plugged in fine since our cruise ship had normal American outlets.
For clothes, let’s start with dinners. I brought 7 dinner outfits that included one fancier Kate Spade dress and one jumpsuit for the gala nights, plus 5 casual dress/pant combinations for the other nights. I only brought one pair of dress shoes (these are my go-to and I have them in multiple colors, but packed my black pair), so I made sure that every outfit matched those. I also packed pajamas to sleep in each night.
For our excursions in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, I wore some sort of combination of insulated cold-weather leggings or jeans, a long sleeved shirt and my two-piece North Face jacket with sneakers. The jacket is crucial because one layer is warmth and the other is a waterproof shell. I could remove one or the other if I was getting hot since the weather patterns seem to change on a dime. The waterproof factor is key here, because although we had sunshine every single day, we’ve been told that is a unicorn week in Alaska. So – be sure to bring waterproof gear!
Other outerwear gear I packed included the North Face Thermoball vest (I’m a vest lover from way back), gloves, a baseball hat, an ear warmer and my waterproof Hunter boots. The vest was perfect as another layering piece for Glacier Bay (that day was really cold!) or as casual wear for daytime on the boat. The boots were a last-minute addition that my mom was so generous to ship to my from Pennsylvania, but I’m really glad I bought them because walking around in Sitka and Ketchikan was muddy as heck, plus they were warm and good for walking with the insoles I use. (link) and thick wool socks.
For daytime on the boat or sea days, I packed 2 pairs of jeans and 2 extra tops that I rotated since I would only wear them for short periods of time. I also packed 5 pairs of gym shorts and 7 workout tops/sports bra combos with socks. Dane and I went to the gym every single day and I knew ahead of time that if I didn’t pack accordingly it would be way too easy for me to be like – oh darn, can’t hit the gym without proper apparel. Whoops!
So let’s talk about swimwear – pack it! There were a ton of hot tubs on out boat (they took this rope off, I promise!), plus an amazing sauna (if you’re into that kind of thing). And what about sunscreen? Pack that, too! The reflection of the sun off the water and glaciers will get ya! Dane and I both got a slight sunburn the first day and every day after that I was sure to put some on my face as well as wear my polarized sunglasses, because dang – it’s bright too.
So if you’re keeping track, I packed:
7 dinner outfits (2 gala evening outfits and 5 additional. I ended up packing leather pants and rotated those with different tops and a couple other more casual dresses.)
4 pairs of leggings
4 long sleeved shirts (these are my favorite and have been for years)
2 short sleeved shirts
2 pairs of jeans (I stopped wearing anything other than these a few months back + now have them in assorted colors, LOL!)
1 two-part winter jacket (one warm layer, one waterproof layer). If you don’t have this, I would recommend a heavy fleece and then a raincoat for on top.
5 pairs of workout shorts
7 sports bra/fitness tanks
7 pairs of fitness socks
3 pairs of thick wool socks (for wearing with boots)
1 strapless bra
1 regular bra (truthfully it was a bralette, because Chairmen of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, right here)
1 baseball hat (the wind was insane so this was great for taming my hair!)
1 pair of gloves
1 ear warmer
1 set of pajamas
toiletries (you can see what I pack in my toiletry bag here)
1 pair of dressy heels for dinners
1 pair of sneakers
1 pair of tall waterproof boots
Okay so let’s discuss a topic where I failed miserably and that’s underwear – pack more than you think you’ll need. I packed two pairs for every day after reading that recommendation from another blog and I’ll be damned, I was out before the end of the trip. I don’t know if it was all the trips to the gym, getting on and off the boat for excursions, showers before dinner or what…but pack lots of underwear! LOL! We always travel with these, so it wasn’t a problem, but I was shocked by my underwear use on this adventure. As a side note: I can never find those packets in the store, but if you have — let me know where!
To note, I also packed an outfit to fly back to Honolulu in which included a linen shirt, my go-to bralette and casual pants that are the best ever for flying, plus a chambray shirt in case I got cold. I wore sandals to fly on the way in, so I wore those to fly home, too.
Miscellaneous items packed that are worth noting include: a refillable water bottle (HydroFlasks forever and ever, amen), a dry bag that Dane used as a carry-on for our flight, a good book, extra Advil, chapstick, a seriously good face and body moisturizer (my skin was screaming by day 3), and an extra SD card for your camera.
And there you have it! I am still kind of shocked by my packing for this trip, especially since it’s something I was a little nervous about while I was planning.
So let’s chat packing – are you a carry-on only type of person? Do you overpack? Not pack enough? And have you ever had a vacation unicorn where you use everything in your suitcase? Tell me everything! To make it easier, I’ve linked many of the exact items I packed below, but don’t hesitate to reach out with questions! If you enjoyed this post, you might also like The Travel Accessories I Never Leave Home Without, How I Survive Long Haul Flights or Secrets For Traveling With Pets.