Cruising Clever: 35+ Dollar Store Finds for Smooth Sailing

By Harpreet K January 21, 2024

This article was originally published on morehackz

Ready to set sail and prep for your cruise adventure? Well, the Dollar Store might just be your secret treasure trove for all those nifty essentials you need to snag before you board! Whether it’s crafting a utility bag packed with emergency must-haves like shampoo, toothpaste, and the whole shebang or finding clever ways to downsize your essentials for easy packing, these Dollar Store finds have your back.

In fact, we’ve got the lowdown on the top Dollar Store gems that’ll make your cruise a breeze! From savvy tips on using these finds, especially for the little ones, consider this your ultimate guide to sailing smooth. So, ahoy there! Let’s dive straight into the fun hacks and gear up for smooth sailing on the high seas!

1. Small beauty containers

Small beauty jars or containers from places like Dollar Tree are fantastic for storing small quantities of your favorite skincare products, especially when you’re preparing for a cruise or any travel where space and weight are crucial factors. Choose containers that are a suitable size for the amount of product.

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Gently fill these tiny containers with your face moisturizer, serum, sunscreen, or any other skincare product. Make sure not to overfill them and prevent spills by using a small spoon or spatula. Make sure the containers are dry and clean before adding products to avoid contaminating your skincare line.

2. Travel-size sunscreen

These small tubes are perfect for short trips or extended weekends, like a three-day cruise. They are light and compact, so they fit neatly in your travel bag or pocket. Even if you prefer purchasing larger sunscreen bottles, have these travel-size tubes as backups or for quick reapplications during the day.

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As you rightly pointed out, for longer cruises, the small size of these tubes might not be sufficient to last the entire trip, especially if multiple applications are needed throughout the day. Many tropical destinations, including Caribbean islands, now advocate for reef-friendly sunscreen to protect marine ecosystems.

3. Aloe vera (travel size)

Aloe vera gel is a lifesaver for soothing sunburns and providing relief from sun-exposed skin, making it a crucial addition to your cruise essentials. The availability of travel-size bottles of aloe vera gel at local dollar stores can be a real game-changer for post-sun care.

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Aloe vera is widely recognized for its inherent ability to heal and soothe. It aids in sunburn relief, hydrates the skin, and has a cooling effect, all of which aid in the skin’s healing process. They won’t take up much space and can be conveniently brought along on shore excursions.

4. Travel bottles

When it comes to traveling, especially with liquid products like shampoo, conditioner, and other toiletries, these small travel bottle sets available at dollar stores are absolute gems. These little containers are perfect for storing and transporting your favorite hair care products without lugging around full-sized bottles.

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However, a common concern with these travel bottles is the possibility of leaks. Nobody wants to open their luggage and find their clothes drenched in shampoo or conditioner. That’s where a simple yet effective trick comes in handy: using plastic wrap.

5. Lip balm

Lip balm with SPF is a cruise essential, especially in sunny and windy conditions that can easily lead to chapped or sunburned lips. Your lips are susceptible to sunburn, just like the rest of your body. As a barrier against UV rays, lip balms with SPF reduce the chance of sunburn and long-term damage.

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The combination of wind, sun, and saltwater during a cruise can quickly dry out your lips, leading to chapping and discomfort. Lip balm with SPF helps retain moisture and keeps your lips hydrated. Travel-size lip balms are easy to carry and can be conveniently kept in your cruise carry-on bag.

6. Magnet clips

Cruise cabins often have limited space, making it crucial to optimize available surfaces. Magnet hooks and clips allow you to make use of the metal walls to hang various items, keeping the cabin tidy and items easily accessible. You can hang bags, hats, or lightweight items, freeing up floor space and keeping belongings easily accessible.

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For heavier items like backpacks or larger objects, opting for heavy-duty magnet hooks from Amazon or similar retailers is advisable. These hooks are sturdier and designed to hold more weight without slipping. While cruise cabin walls are metal, be mindful of potential damage to the walls or the painted surface.

7. A mini manicure set

Having a mini manicure set onboard means you’re prepared for nail emergencies or routine nail care while traveling. It doesn’t take up much room in your suitcase and is lightweight and simple to pack. Make sure all of the tools are sharp, clean, and in good shape before the cruise.  

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Replace any dull or damaged tools to ensure effective use during your trip. If the set doesn’t come with a case, consider using a small pouch or a resealable plastic bag to keep the tools together and prevent them from getting lost in your luggage.

8. Earplugs

Earplugs are indeed a small yet significant item to consider bringing along on a cruise, especially if you prefer a quiet environment for sleeping or during specific activities. Cruise ships can sometimes have various noises, such as engine hums, neighboring cabins, or late-night activities.

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Earplugs can help block out these noises, ensuring you get uninterrupted and restful sleep. Whether it’s noisy shipboard activities, loud gatherings, or even during excursions, earplugs can offer relief by reducing surrounding noise levels. These are soft and moldable, providing a snug fit to block out external sounds effectively.

9. Toothbrush sets

As recommended by dentists, changing your toothbrush every few months is essential for oral hygiene. Getting a new set for each cruise trip ensures you have fresh brushes, maintaining oral health throughout your travels. Having a compact case keeps your toothbrush clean and separate from other items in your luggage.

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With a toothbrush, a case for hygienic storage, and a mini toothpaste, they cover the essentials for oral care during your trip. If you’re traveling with family members, the availability of different colors or designs allows easy identification of each person’s toothbrush, preventing mix-ups and ensuring everyone has their own designated set.

10. Mini first aid kit

Mini first aid kits are compact and portable, making them easy to carry in your bag or luggage without taking up much space. Dollar store mini first aid kits offer essential items like various sizes of Band-Aids and alcohol swabs at an affordable price, making it a budget-friendly investment for your cruise.

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They provide basic supplies to address minor injuries such as cuts, scrapes, or small burns, ensuring you have immediate care available without relying solely on onboard or shore medical facilities. Keep the kit in a waterproof or sealable bag to protect the contents from moisture or potential spills.

11. Mesh laundry bag

Mesh bags are excellent for separating dirty laundry from clean clothes in your luggage or cabin, keeping your items organized throughout the trip. The mesh material allows airflow, preventing odors or mildew from developing on damp or used clothing stored inside, especially in humid environments.

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Keep beach toys or accessories in mesh bags for easy transport to and from the beach. The sand can easily sift through the mesh, keeping the toys tidy. After a day at the beach or pool, use the mesh bag to carry back wet towels to the ship.

12. Whiteboard

A whiteboard serves as a convenient way to leave messages for cabin mates or yourself. It’s especially handy if you have different schedules or need to relay important information. A weekly planner-style whiteboard helps plan activities, jot down reminders, or keep track of daily plans while onboard the cruise.

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The whiteboard is reusable and portable, allowing you to erase and update information as needed. Its magnetic feature allows easy attachment to the cabin wall, which is typically metal on most cruise ships. Leave notes about planned activities, meal schedules, or any changes in plans for your cabin mates.

13. Hair elastics, scrunchies & hair clips

You should also carry a hair rubber band or scrunchies for your next cruise trip. The dollar store has a variety of hair clips and scrunchies at an affordable price. The items are branded and are available in various colors. You can buy them right away with an easy checkout process. 

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From thin, transparent rubber bands to thicker hair ties, you can find it all. You can make ponytails with these scrunchies to save them from the wind on the cruise. It is totally your choice to have them in multiple colors and textures. You can buy velvet or silk scrunchies or classic bobby pins.

14. Toothbrush covers

Whether you’re on a vacation or a business trip or need a protective cover for your toothbrush in your gym bag, these cases are compact and convenient. They prevent the bristles from getting squashed or exposed to unclean surfaces, maintaining the toothbrush’s cleanliness.

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Despite their low cost, these cases are often sturdy and reusable. They’re built to withstand travel wear and tear, offering a decent level of protection for your toothbrush over multiple uses. Purchasing these cases from Dollar Tree is a cost-effective way to ensure every family member has a designated toothbrush cover.

15. Mini sewing kit

There are chances that your clothes might tear while traveling, and that is when the sewing kit can be a lifesaver for you. Everything you need to patch your garments, including thread colors, needles, tiny scissors, buttons, and more, is included in a smaller sewing kit. 

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You can easily carry it on a journey because of its tiny size. When on a cruise, you can carry it in your pocket or purse. Keeping some safety pins in the case can help you beyond clothing repairs as well.

16. Refillable water bottles

If you are someone who needs to carry more water, then these refillable water bottles can save the day for you. The dollar store has an extensive range of these fancy refillable bottles for you. You can get your family members one extra bottle.

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They come in a range of shapes, hues, and patterns. Pick the choice that best satisfies your requirements and your preferences. Purchasing an additional refillable water bottle is a wise decision as it ensures that you never run out of water and prevents dehydration.

17. Battery LED votive candles

These candles are a good option when you have a power cut, as compared to traditional candles. The reason is that you can stay safe, and nothing will burn on the cruise. These LED candles have many advantages, such as being the best option for children.

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You can also use them in areas where real fire is prohibited. The dollar store has them in different sizes, and additional batteries do come with them. You can use them to create an extraordinary ambiance. They provide a warm and peaceful environment.

18. Travel size toiletries

Dollar stores have great travel-sized toiletries for you to carry shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. You can get them at affordable prices and in small sizes. These smaller-sized toiletries comply with travel regulations, making them perfect for carry-on luggage or for conserving space in checked bags.

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You may get numerous bottles at once from the dollar store, and they are convenient to transport. It’s an easy and affordable approach to enjoying your cruise holiday with personal care, routine maintenance and staying organized. The dollar store can become your go-to place because of these products.

19. Shower caps

Shower caps are one of the most paramount accessories to pack for your hair care. It is reasonably priced at the dollar shop and can be used for a variety of purposes. Use them to shield your garments from the filthy soles of your shoes, or use them to cover your shoes.

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It serves as a barrier by keeping your garments and shoes away from each other. You can reuse them often, and they are waterproof. Shower caps come at cheaper prices, and you can just store them for your next trip.

20. Over the counter medication

Well, at the dollar store, they have a bunch of different medicines that you can buy without needing a prescription from a doctor. It’s like when you go to the store and get things without needing permission from anyone special.

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The cool thing is, these smaller versions they have are perfect for taking on trips. They’re just the right size to fit in your bag without taking up too much space. And since they’re at the dollar store, they’re usually not too expensive, which is awesome.

21. Antibiotic ointment

Antibiotic ointment is like a special cream that you can put on those small hurts to help them feel better and heal faster. It’s like a superhero for your cuts and blisters. When you’re getting ready for a trip, it’s also a really good idea to pack antibiotic ointment.

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This ointment helps protect your cuts and blisters from getting infected by germs. It’s like putting a shield on them to keep the bad stuff away so they can heal properly. It also soothes the area, making it feel less sore.

22. Beach tote bags

To begin with, beach tote bags are large. Really, really big! They resemble magical sacks that can store an abundance of items, such as water bottles, snacks, sunscreen, towels, and books, along with everything you need for an enjoyable day in the sun.

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The fact that these tote bags are useful outside of the beach is really awesome. Nope, they’re more like all-around friends! These are useful for excursions, traveling to new locations, and even just lounging by the pool on a cruise ship.

23. Flip flops

Bringing along some affordable flip-flops for those poolside or beach outings is a smart move. Especially during the sunny summer months, you can find a great range of beach essentials at the dollar store. It’s a budget-friendly way to get all set for your vacation by the water!

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Flip-flops are among the many beach necessities that you may get at the dollar store in the summer. They’re affordable, comfortable, and useful. These shops typically carry a combination of styles and colors, so it’s simple to choose the ones you like best for your trip.

24. Crossword & sudoku books

Having crossword and Sudoku books handy is a fantastic way to pass the time, whether you’re traveling or just relaxing at home. These puzzle books offer a great mental workout and entertainment, perfect for challenging your mind and having some fun. They’re convenient to carry around.

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These puzzle books appeal to a variety of interests by providing a wide range of difficulties, such as word games and number puzzles. These novels offer a fun and interesting way to pass the time when you’re traveling, lounging at home, or waiting for an appointment. 

25. Pencil cases (as Travel Cases)

Nothing is better than using a pencil case as a travel case. They are perfect for kids to organize their mini first aid kits. Pencil cases have compartments to store bandages, wipes, painkillers, and other medical essentials. You can also label the pencil case. 

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Some pencil cases can also help you organize documents. You can keep travel docs, boarding passes, passports, etc in them. They are handy and easy to carry around on the trip. You can also keep in chargers, earphones, power banks, etc.

26. Coloring books

Get some coloring or activity books if you’re taking a family on a cruise so they can pass the time on the plane or your days at sea. While you’re traveling, it’s a terrific method to keep kids occupied and entertained.

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These gems will keep the little ones entertained during the flight or on those leisurely sea days while you’re on your cruise. It’s a fun and creative way to keep them busy and happy throughout the journey! The dollar store has a variety of them in various sizes.

27. Sand toys

Don’t leave without packing some sand toys or other fun items for beach play! It’s a must-have for those sunny days by the shore. Pro tip: Snatch up these goodies around summertime when they’re readily available. That way, you’ll be all set for some fantastic beach adventures with the little ones!

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It’s a blast for the little ones to build sandcastles or get creative in the sand! Pro tip: Stock up on these items around summer—they’re often available in abundance, and you can snag some fantastic options to make your beach days extra exciting.

28. Sunglasses

Never go on a trip without sunglasses, especially on a cruise trip, because the sun can be harsh. In the dollar store, you will find tons and tons of sunglasses. They keep them in various colors, designs and sizes. Let’s go shopping before you step on the cruise.

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They take up less space and are lightweight. You can purchase them at an inexpensive price for men and women. Take your family, for instance, and go sunglasses shopping this evening and plan in advance for your trip. Plus, having an extra pair never hurts, especially during those sunny days!

29. Pill organizer

A pill organizer isn’t just for pills! It can be super handy on your cruise. You can use its compartments to keep your jewelry, like earrings, rings, and bracelets, organized. Just be careful with necklaces to avoid tangling. A small jewelry bag or threading them through a straw can help prevent knots. 

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It’s a smart way to keep your accessories sorted while you sail! You can also keep your vitamins and medicines in one place while traveling. Be cautious with necklaces; to avoid tangles, consider using a small jewelry bag or threading them through a straw.

30. Extra reading glasses

There is a chance that your glasses might break during the trip, and that is when you need an extra pair of glasses. Having a spare set of reading glasses can be super helpful! Consider picking up an extra pair from the dollar store. 

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Toss them into your carry-on bag as a backup in case you misplace or accidentally break your main pair. It’s a wise decision to guarantee that you can always read without interruption! In this manner, you can enjoy yourself without worrying about constantly caring for your glasses.

31. Kleenex travel packs

Carrying small packs of napkins, say Kleenex, are a good idea for a cruise trip. They’re small enough to slip into your pocket, purse, or travel bag without taking up much space. Dollar stores often sell these travel packs at a very reasonable price.

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Carrying tissues is not only useful for personal hygiene but also for general cleanliness. You can use them for quick cleanups or to avoid direct contact with surfaces when necessary. Choose your preferred type from the dollar store and get a soft pack for yourself.

32. Hand sanitizer

Following the coronavirus, everyone takes extra precautions to always carry hand sanitizer. And you ought to be doing the same thing. Get a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer from the nearest dollar store. They have it in the smallest packing that makes it easy for you to carry it.

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Dollar Store packing has a clip attached to it so that you can attach it to your handbag and use it when needed. It makes it easily accessible, and you can also attach it to your trolley bags or totes. This way, your children can also use it easily.

33. Ziplock plastic baggies

You can always have leftovers, and it becomes difficult to carry food boxes around with you. They can be heavy and big and take up more space. That is why buying ziplock bags from the dollar store is a must for you. 

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They are small, and the adhesive quality is excellent. You will have no spilled food, and it will take up minimum space in your bag. It can carry liquid food and dry food with the same quality. You can also keep your wet clothes in large zip locks. 

34. Scented kitchen bags

They help prevent the smell from your laundry or older clothes from mixing in with the rest of your packed stuff. You can find these interesting bags in various sizes, from small ones to really big ones. They work great with any kind of clothing and keep things smelling fresh for a long time.

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They go well with any type of apparel and are long-lasting. You can clean your laundry even after finishing your entire trip. The clothes won’t get spoiled in these bags. These bags do not take up much space and are compact. You can have a couple of them with you on your cruise trip.

35. Waterproof phone cases on lanyards

The primary purpose of waterproof phone cases is to safeguard your smartphone from water damage. Whether you’re lounging by the pool, enjoying water-based excursions, or encountering unexpected rain, these cases ensure your phone remains dry and functional. Waterproof phone cases on lanyards aren’t just for water-related activities.

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They’re practical for any situation where you want to keep your phone easily accessible yet protected, such as hiking, sightseeing, or navigating crowded areas. It’s particularly valuable for capturing memories through photos or staying connected while on your cruise. Besides water resistance, these cases often offer additional protection against dust and sand.

36. Highlighters

A little color-coding goes a long way when you have a ton of events and activities scheduled for your trip. It can assist you in rapidly determining what is occurring and when. You can get different color highlighters from dollar stores and use them for visual representation. 

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You can use them on paper or visual boards to jot down whatever information is important to you. Having a paper planner, color-coded with highlighters, ensures you always have your schedule at hand without worrying about tech-related problems like a power cut or computer breakdown.

37. Folding storage box

The cabins of cruise ships usually have less space, and when you are traveling with kids, it is important to manage stuff. This is when a folding storage box can help you to store shoes and flip-flops. You can place these storage boxes at the bottom of the closet.

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It’s easy to assemble when needed and can be tucked flat for storage when not in use. Its lightweight design makes it hassle-free to transport and store. Leaving it on the ship at the end of the cruise avoids the hassle of bringing it back home.

38. Dental repair kit

A dental repair kit can be a lifesaver in situations where minor dental issues arise, such as a loose crown, a chipped tooth, or a lost filling. It provides a brief solution until you can seek professional help onshore. Having a dental repair kit onboard means you’re prepared for unforeseen dental emergencies. 

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Dental repair kits often contain items like temporary filling material, dental cement, dental picks, and tools to reattach loose crowns or fillings. They provide step-by-step instructions for using the materials, allowing you to address minor dental problems with ease. It’s surprising but true that dollar stores like Dollar Tree sometimes carry these kits.

39. Rain poncho

Surprising weather can put a dampener on your vacation plans. Rainy days, particularly unexpected downpours can happen even in the most magical places like Disney or during a serene cruise. Having ponchos on hand ensures you’re prepared for sudden weather changes. 

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Ponchos are quite convenient to carry in your luggage or backpack because they are lightweight and fold up into small, compact sizes. Because of their portability, you may always have them with you without taking up much room—perfect for when the weather turns bad.

40. Disinfectant wipes

You never know when you might become ill from something you touch. Because of this, having a pack of disinfecting wipes with you might help prevent illness, particularly if you are traveling for an extended period of time. The dollar store has them in travel sizes to make it easy for you to carry them.

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They are available in many flavors and sizes, which is why you can keep them in compact places. You can store them in your cabin or a small backpack or your purse. They are also helpful while going to a party because they can help you fix the makeup.

41. Crew thank you cards

The crew on a cruise works tirelessly to guarantee passengers have a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Taking a moment to acknowledge their dedication and service through a handwritten note can mean a lot. It shows that their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

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Packs of thank-you cards available at dollar stores offer an affordable and convenient solution to pay respect to the crew members. You get multiple cards for a minimal cost, making it easy to express gratitude to multiple crew members without breaking the bank.

42. Magnet hooks

Magnet hooks offer a fantastic solution to maximize that limited space by providing a vertical storage option. You can hang various items like hats, lanyards, jackets, towels, or bags on metal surfaces, such as cabin walls or doors, freeing up precious floor and countertop space.

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These hooks are generally designed with strong magnets that securely hold onto metal surfaces. They’re sturdy enough to handle light to moderately heavy items without slipping or falling, ensuring your belongings stay in place throughout your cruise. You can place them at your convenience.

43. Reusable luggage tag holders

Luggage tag holders are typically made from sturdy materials like vinyl or plastic, ensuring that your important identification information remains protected throughout your journey. These materials are resistant to tearing, water, and general wear and tear, safeguarding your tags from damage.

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These holders are specifically designed to fit standard luggage tags snugly. They often feature a clear window, allowing easy visibility of your contact details making it convenient for baggage handlers and cruise staff to identify your luggage. This saves you the hassle and cost of purchasing new luggage tags each time you travel.

44. Over the door organizer

Cruise cabins often come with limited storage options. Over-the-door organizers take advantage of vertical space by hanging over the back of doors. They provide numerous pockets and compartments for storing various items without occupying valuable floor space or cluttering countertops.

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These organizers feature multiple pockets and compartments of various sizes, allowing you to store a wide range of items. From toiletries, accessories, and shoes to gadgets, documents, and travel essentials, these organizers offer a dedicated spot for different items, making them easily accessible.

45. Packing cubes

Packing cubes streamline the packing and unpacking process. They act as individual compartments that can be easily placed in drawers, shelves, or closets within the cruise cabin. Unpacking becomes a breeze as you transfer the cubes into designated storage areas.

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Besides aiding in packing for the cruise itself, packing cubes can also serve as storage solutions during your trip. You can use them to keep your cabin tidy by placing them in closets or drawers or use them to separate clean and dirty laundry during the cruise.