Planning a cruise with your family can be a fun, although daunting, process. Regardless of the ages of your kids, a family cruise can be exciting and budget-friendly. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a nautical voyage of a lifetime.

, Top Cruise Tips: How to Have Your Best Family Vacation, Days of a Domestic Dad
In the summer of 2020, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy will sail a series of cruises that include two stops at Castaway Cay, giving guests twice the fun in the sun and more opportunities to enjoy Disney’s award-winning pristine island. Reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests, the 1,000-acre island offers one-of-a-kind areas and activities for every member of the family. (David Roark, photographer)

Do Your Research Before You Set Sail

One of the primary questions you face when booking your cruise is which cabin to choose. Most vessels offer several options, including upper and lower deck and courtyard or ocean views. These choices can become overwhelming, especially if this is your first time on a cruise ship. If you are unsure what option is best for your family, search for video tours online. You’ll be able to get a better picture of what each choice entails and choose the suite that best suits your family.

Pack To Accommodate Smaller Spaces

Regardless of your suite, you’ll need to pack accordingly. Space is limited, so opt for practical items that come in handy onboard and have multiple uses. For example, packing chargers that work for numerous devices reduces the number of cords you’ll need to bring on board. Select outfits that may work for both informal dining and portside excursions. Children often want to bring along several toys, electronics and other extras. Limit these items to just a couple of small items per child. There will be plenty to do on the ship that will keep them entertained.

Arrive With Time to Spare

If you live far away from the port from which you are setting sail, you should arrive a day early. Many cruise ships set sail early in the morning, and unexpected traffic and travel delays may cause you to miss your departure time. Your best bet is to arrive near your port the day before and book a hotel room close to your ship. This way, you have time to relax and perhaps even see the city you’re departing from before you embark on your cruise.

Immerse Yourself in the Onboard Entertainment

You and your family can enjoy many onboard activities that will keep your kids busy throughout your trip. From zip lines to rock climbing lessons and musicals, you’ll find something for everyone. If it’s your first family cruise, check whether your ship provides day camp or childcare options. This way, your kids can participate in activities geared toward them while you and your partner enjoy more adult-oriented activities during your voyage.

Choose Your Shore Excursions Wisely

While you can skip a shore excursion to explore a port of call, sometimes it is advisable when traveling to places where it may be challenging to navigate as a foreigner. Before you book your excursion, read the reviews and don’t gloss over the fine print. If the tour requires a fair deal of physical activity, ensure your children are ready beforehand. You don’t want to spend money on an experience that some members of your group may not enjoy or be able to handle physically.

Safety First

Taking advantage of the cruise’s childcare option is a great way to make sure they have supervision. Plan regular scheduled meet-up times and check-in’s with teens. Remember to always practice caution and supervise all children around pools. Do not consume excessive amounts of alcohol while on your cruise. While cruises are generally safe, common hazards such as slippery surfaces, improperly maintained facilities, lack of lifeguards or security and misconduct by staff or other guests may pose a risk to you and your family. Take precautions and know what steps to take if someone in your party is injured while on the ship.

Taking your family on a cruise is one of the best ways to explore new destinations while making memories that will last a lifetime. With a bit of patience, research and preparation, you can make your family cruise an exciting and stress-free experience that everyone will love.

, Top Cruise Tips: How to Have Your Best Family Vacation, Days of a Domestic Dad