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Planning a family vacation? At first blush, it might sound too daunting to take your kids on a luxury cruise — but as it happens, luxury cruises can be an ideal way to entertain the entire family with customizable options and plenty to keep you all busy. Whether you’ve got your tickets booked or you’re just testing out the idea of a family cruise, here are some tips to keep in mind for taking a luxury liner with your little ones in tow.
1. Choose a Family-Friendly Itinerary
One of the key decisions you make when booking a luxury cruise for your family is settling on the length and destination for your trip. If your children are under ten or it is your first time taking a cruise as a family, it is recommended that you stick to a shorter duration — perhaps 5-7 days — and ports that will be somewhat child-friendly. A private beach, for instance, is better than a large city at the height of tourist season. High-end cruise lines offer a multitude of destinations and itineraries so you are bound to find something that suits your whole family, whether you are looking to get off the grid a little in Alaska, take in some sun in the Mediterranean, or explore the gems of Western Europe.
2. Review Your Dining Options
How do you handle picky eaters on trips? Do you have dietary restrictions of your own that you’re navigating? A luxury cruise line can help you accommodate everybody’s preferences.
When you plan a cruise you’ll likely have a chance to review the menus ahead of time. If you’re working with a cruise planning company, your travel expert will often be able to make dining arrangements for you — including reservations, detailing excursion dining options, and submitting any special dietary requests so that everyone in your crew is nourished and happy.
While the fine-dining options and long dinners are often a draw for adults on cruises, opt for a cruise line that can provide a kids’ menu so that everyone has something they can enjoy. Of course, it can’t help to bring some favorite non-perishable snacks like granola bars and crackers for those in-between meal times or for when the munchies strike during flights.
3. Know What to Pack
If it’s your first post-pandemic vacation, chances are you might be a little rusty packing for your whole crew! Your packing list will need to be tailored to your destination, but with kids, it is even more important to be prepared for the unexpected. Be sure to bring any medications your children take regularly. It can also be handy to bring anti-nausea medication if anyone in your family gets motion sickness, along with travel-sized children’s pain relievers should any illnesses come up on your journey. Luxury cruise ships will have a doctor on board who can handle any issues, but for things like scrapes and minor illnesses, it can be helpful to have your own stash of band-aids and first-aid basics in your suitcase.
Bathing suits for heated pools and covered swimming areas on board your ship will help you enjoy the onboard time, no matter the weather at your destination — but you can skip the pool toys as your ship will have plenty of those on hand if the liner offers children’s swimming areas. You’ll also want to pack lots of layers, even if you are headed someplace warm. Long-sleeved tees, raincoats, and a pair of closed-toe shoes for port explorations are likely to come in handy. If you’re headed to a tropical locale, you probably want to pack sunscreen, hats, and mosquito repellent so that you will all be comfortable — nothing cuts down on relaxation time like tending to bug bites and sunburn.
4. Book Kids’ Entertainment in Advance
Luxury liners have plenty of options for keeping kids busy. When (if!) they tire of the pool during their on-ship days, there are still lots of ways to keep them stimulated and having fun. Depending on the liner you choose, kids will enjoy game rooms, climbing walls, craft projects, and arcades. Many luxury cruise lines offer babysitting services as well, should you want to enjoy a spa visit or a few hours of fun time on your own. On-board childcare options can vary from liner to liner, from in-cabin babysitters to nurseries staffed with childcare experts, and many of them do need to be booked in advance, so be sure to add that to your pre-cruise to-do list.
5. Plan Your Excursions Carefully
Helping your kids fall in love with travel will build resilience and make them more open-minded and adaptable. But how do you plan the right on-shore excursions to stoke curiosity, while also staving off meltdowns? Some on-shore excursions will have age restrictions, so make sure you research those in advance before booking. When it comes to taking a cruise with kids, less is definitely more. A few well-chosen excursions will serve you better than trying to pack the schedule with tons of sightseeing, no matter how compelling the options may be. While the adults may be interested in long hikes, historical sites, and museums, your little ones likely have different ideas about all that. Seek out compromises as you can: switch off between adult-oriented stops with visits to local parks and playgrounds so that you all get to enjoy a slice of daily life in between the major attractions.
6. Don’t Try To Do Too Much
Lastly, it is essential to remember that you need to build in some downtime on any vacation — especially a trip you’re taking with your children. Like adults, kids get tired, jetlagged, overstimulated, or overwhelmed when traveling and it is important to allow for time to rest and recover from your adventures. Luckily, a luxury cruise liner is a perfect place to bask in your surroundings and get some R&R. Make sure you have lots of reading material, games, and other sources of low-key entertainment that will help your little ones unwind a bit. You’ll all still be able to enjoy downtime in a beautiful setting — perhaps poolside? — while you rest up for your next big adventure.