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Note from Laurie: I have never been on a cruise, but loved my friend Shannon's tips here! I'd love to know what you think, and what other tips you'd recommend. Happy cruising!
Thinking about a cruise or just booked one?
Here are several helpful hints to know BEFORE you go 🙂
When my daughter graduated high school last year (gasp . . . when did that happen?) we took a cruise with the whole family and it was wonderful! We learned a few things along the way and wanted to share them with YOU!
Decide on a Cruise Line
There are so many cruise lines to choose from! Do your homework and see which cruise lines fit your family and lifestyle best. After we did our research, we opted for a Carnival Cruise under my brother's recommendation and experience.
Check Your Dates and Travel During NON-Peak Times
We cruised one week before peak times started which saved us a bundle. Some summer months for some areas are peak and some are not so it's a good idea to do your research here.
The Less Expensive Cabins Have Some Unique Perks
If you're looking for ways to cut your cruise budget, opt for an inner state room. Having a very small port window in your room wasn't worth the extra expense, especially when water surrounds you on the deck. We found the pitch black inner state room helped us sleep great at night.
Many people said we wouldn't be in our room very much anyway, and I have to agree! Our room was located in the middle of the ship which was awesome because we didn't experience much “rocking” and we had quicker access to each end of the ship.
This was the view on my morning run
Gym or No Gym
Since I love to run, I needed to have a place to exercise, especially if I was going to take advantage of all the yummy food on the cruise. I took advantage of both the track AND the gym. It felt wonderful to be able to keep up with my workout routine while on vacation! If this is important to you, make sure your cruise ship has a gym.
Pack the Right Clothes
While planning your trip, make sure you're aware of any formal nights (ours were called elegant nights). Luckily for me, we only had one formal night (I'm not a big fan of dressing up), but I packed 3 dresses just in case. The other nights I dressed up nicely, but not in dresses (so those 2 extra dresses just took up space). My advice would be to be aware of your scheduled formal nights, and pack lots of bathing suits and coverups for the pool/deck area 🙂
Pick a Dining Time or Not
We had several dining packages to choose from with Carnival, which I really liked. We were able to choose a package that allowed us to eat at any time. This helped when we had excursions and shows we wanted to see. It was so nice to just eat when it suited us that day, and we never had to wait very long so it worked out well for us.
Make sure to eat in the dining room for dinner. The dining room has better food options and some menu items that you may not have access to elsewhere — at least without it getting expensive fast!
Cell Phone Coverage
Double check your cell service plan BEFORE you go ~ this will save you lots of money in extra charges! By putting your phone in airplane mode when you arrive on the ship, you'll save yourself extra data charges during your trip. Most carriers charge extra for using satellite service on the cruise ship.
You can opt to buy a Wi-Fi package on board but it was pretty expensive. I recommend unplugging completely and enjoying time with your family instead. 🙂 This was so nice for us as I usually have a laptop on my lap when we're home.
Wait To Buy Until the Last Night
By the last day of your cruise, most items were marked down a ton. If there's a certain item you want, wait to see if they mark it down on that last night of your cruise. I just loved this tip!!
Oh my, everywhere you turn people were taking pictures. To avoid paying $20 for a cruise line picture, kindly ask someone (anyone) to take your picture for you. We have some great photos that were taken this way and they didn't cost us anything. I love that!
If you're driving to your cruise destination, make sure you research options for parking your car. We disembarked out of Tampa and had to find a place for our car for the week. My husband looked up all the options and chose one with good ratings that saved us almost 40%. WOW!
Excursions or No Excursions
This is where you really can break the bank. On our cruse we had two stops, one in Cozumel and the other in the Grand Cayman. My husband researched all of the excursions and we decided on two. He was sure to check the ratings posted on the cruise site and we ended up booking some of the cheaper options.
We really enjoyed both of our excursions, so I'm glad we picked a few. You can pay for a taxi and save some money by finding excursions on your own, but the plus side of booking with the cruise line is all transportation is taken care of, and they won't leave you behind. 🙂
Bring Your Own Water Bottle
This is my NUMBER ONE tip for saving money while traveling!! It really helped out with our excursions as well. We just filled up before leaving and had nice clean cold water to drink while we were out.
Know Your Budget BEFORE You Go
Goodness, there are all of temptations on the ship. They have necklaces, watches, earrings, purse . . . so much STUFF. Then there are the games and the casino casinonorske.com, the list goes on. We were lucky and not so lucky at bingo, but it was all fine because we purchased prepaid VISA cards at Kroger and put those on our account to use while we were on the cruise. This way we didn't use our debit card AT ALL (I know right? … THANKS Dave Ramsey!) 😉
Spa or No Spa
I'm extremely biased on this one. My 18-year-old won a $100 spa gift card, so I decided to go with her and get a pedicure that cost $75. YIKES! I usually would never pay that price, but I wanted to spend time with my daughter. I used the money I saved for the trip so this was my big splurge. BUT … it was not a great experience because I felt like the pedicure was WAY overpriced so I left pretty upset about that.
To be honest, if you want a pedicure or manicure hop on Groupon and have one before you go 🙂 That will take away any temptation to spend triple the amount you would normally spend. Massages started out at $120 and went up from there. Groupon has them starting at $29. Whew!
Prepay your Gratuities
This was so nice! Rather than being stuck with a huge unexpected bill at the end of your trip, opt to pay in advance. I loved that this was an option and part of our cruise budget BEFORE we left.
Take Advantage of Childcare
To all the worn out moms who need a break, please take advantage of the childcare on board. Spend some time with the hubby and relax a bit too. Vacations can be stressful, especially with the kids, so REALLY take advantage of it. The kids won't even even remember when they get older, and our 8-year-old did some fun art activities and had a great time there!
What other tips do you have for crusing or other vacations? We'd love to hear your thoughts ~ leave leave a comment to share!
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