“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” John Muir
What in the world do you pack for an Alaskan cruise? We’ve taken lots of cruises to the Caribbean and Mediterranean and packing has never been an issue. A swimsuit, some shorts, a few cute dresses, sandals – you get the idea. But figuring out what to pack for an Alaskan cruise was more difficult. Would my Alaskan cruise packing list include my heavy winter coat and snow boots?
Once upon a time, we took massive suitcases filled with too many outfits, formal dresses, tuxes, you name it. But as the airlines began to charge for checked luggage, cruises became more casual, and we realized that we preferred traveling with less we pared down our packing lists. Now, each member of my family travels with carry-on luggage only.
Cruises also bringing about extra packing challenges if you want to dress up for dinner. As I mentioned before, we used to take formal nights on cruises seriously and dressed to the nines. But as cruise lines moved towards more casual wear being allowed in restaurants, we now just pack some smart casual options and wear them a couple of times.
Alaskan Cruise Packing Strategies
Packing everything I need in a 21” or 22” suitcase for a week-long trip requires some strategic planning. Two of my usual packing hacks include wearing my bulkiest shoes and wearing my coat. But we were cruising to Alaska in May which meant 80+ degrees at home and in Seattle where we departing from. So that strategy went out the window. My walking shoes and my new jacket took up mucho space in my bag. But I wasn’t wearing them and I had to bring them. I used all three of these items to pack everything I would need for a weeklong cruise to Alaska
I create a capsule wardrobe for a trip to ensure I don’t take too many pieces of clothing. My packing strategy is that every piece of clothing I take must pair with at least two other items. Same thing with shoes. I avoid taking any item that can’t be worn with multiple items. It helps to stick with a color palette as well. For this trip, my palette was black, red, and white.
Layers were also an important part of deciding my packing list for Alaska. I could throw a cardigan over the dresses and tees and the tees under sweatshirts if I needed. I could easily make 20+ outfits out of the items I brought. And could have brought less but wanted to have layers in case it was cold as well as different options for day and night looks.
Here’s a complete list of clothing I packed for our cruise to Alaska. I also brought undergarments, PJs, a swimsuit for the hot tub, and workout clothes.
Alaska Cruise Packing List
- Jacket (pictured) – The one I bought is waterproof with a nice fleece lining for warmth.
- 2 Dresses (pictured) – 1 sleeveless black dress from Old Navy and a sleeveless denim dress from Target. Both could be worn to dinner with one of the cardigans and a pair of flats.
- 2 Pairs of Jeans
- 3 Cardigan Sweaters – 1 red from Old Navy, 1 black from Loft and a lightweight white cardigan from Loft that I wear all the time.
- Black Leggings – My fave pair from Athleta.
- Plaid Shirt (similar pictured) – One I picked up at Old Navy a while back and could wear with jeans or leggings.
- Black Sweatshirt – A plain black sweatshirt to wear with jeans.
- White Sweatshirt (pictured) – A fancy sweatshirt with a lace hem from J Crew.
- Black Pants (pictured) – These Skyline Pants from Athleta are quickly becoming one of my favorite travel items. Comfy enough to wear on the plane but versatile enough to be worn to dinner with a tee and some flats.
- Black and White Striped Tee – Perfect to wear under any of the sweaters I brought.
- Green Tee – Just to mix things up a bit.
- Black & White Jumpsuit – A last-minute addition because I wanted something slightly dressier for dinner a couple of nights.
- Warm Hat – Just a cheapie I picked up at Old Navy.
- Gloves – Gotta keep my hands warm!
- Wool Socks – I recently discovered wool socks and brought a couple of pair to sleep in and in case any of our days were going to be especially cool.
- Tennis shoes (pictured) – I brought a pair of cream/gold New Balance sneakers. They are cute enough that I can wear them with jeans to go hiking but practical enough to hike and workout in.
- Black Sneakers (pictured) – I call these fancy sneakers because they look nice with jeans, shorts, and even casual dresses. They are also comfortable enough to wear for a day of walking around checking out the sights.
- Black flats – A plain pair of black leather flats to wear to dinner.
- Red Camo Flats (pictured) – These are from Rothy’s. They weigh nothing and take up very little space in my suitcase, yet are stylish and amp up any outfit.
We lucked out with the weather and didn’t have any rain! Our first two days in Alaska were warmish but I still found I needed my jacket. Sea days were cool and windy so even if the air temperature was in the 50s it was chilly on the decks.
I wore everything that I packed except for the bathing suit! It was just too cold on deck to get into a pool or hot tub. The number of items I brought seemed about right but I could have easily left behind one of the dresses and a sweater.
Overall, people seemed to dress much more casually on an Alaskan cruise. I saw lots of jeans and sweatshirts being worn in the dining rooms. Given the unpredictability of the weather in Alaska, I suggest bringing layers that allow you to add or remove items as needed.
I had wanted to buy a pair of waterproof shoes or boots for the trip but couldn’t justify the cost for something I probably wouldn’t wear again. And that was the right call. I didn’t need them and my sneakers were fine for the activities we did. One item I wish I had brought was a baseball cap to help keep my hair under control when it was windy.
Deciding what to pack for Alaska and what to wear on an Alaskan cruise was a challenge but one that I felt I did pretty well with. In summary my recommendations:
- Check the weather and plan accordingly.
- Prepare for rain with a waterproof jacket, hat, and umbrella.
- Pack items that can be worn in layers.
- Leave the dressy items at home.
Alaska was stunningly beautiful and a cruise was a great way to see it. I hope my Alaskan cruise packing list helps you plan for your Alaskan cruise!
Want More Alaska?
To see what we did in Alaska, click on the links below!