Must-Have Dollar Store Essentials to Take on Your Cruise

by Amanda Harding

Packing for any vacation can be stressful, but packing for a cruise might be the worst of all. Since you’ll be spending most of your time at sea, it’ll probably be impossible to find a Walmart to cheaply purchase the things you forget to bring. That means you’re stuck paying a premium for any essentials you’re missing — or worse, you won’t be able to get them at all.

Before you leave for your cruise, head to the dollar store and stock up on cheap, convenient vacation essentials so you’re never stuck missing out on what you need again.

1. Pill box

Daily pill box with medications

Leave the big bottles at home. | Robynmac/Getty Images

If you take pills on the daily, these clever storage containers are real space savers. Instead of packing all your giant pill bottles and digging through your bag every morning to make sure you remember to take them all, plan out your daily medication regimen ahead of time using these handy boxes.

2. Magnets

magnet fruit

Hang up important papers. | Instamatic/Getty Images

Usually, the staterooms on cruise ships are made of metal, so bringing along magnets is a smart idea. You can use them to hang up your itinerary, notes, or other important documents so they’ll never get lost or soiled if you spill a drink.

3. Resealable plastic bags

plastic bag with lock

You’ll always find use for a baggie. | Snyferok/Getty Images

There are so many uses for resealable plastic bags. Use them for packing up jewelry or other small items that you don’t want loose in your suitcase. You could even use them for keeping your cell phone protected from sand and water if you’re traveling to any beach destinations.

4. Dry erase board

Black Marker Pen and Eraser

Go old school with a whiteboard. | Design56/Getty Images

It’s like college dorm living all over again! Since your cell phone won’t work on your cruise, dry erase boards are a great way to communicate where you’ll be or leave quick messages for friends and family members who might be traveling with you. Many doors are magnetic, but you can also use a suction cup hook to keep it on your cabin door.

5. Laundry bag

Laundry Stuffed In Laundry Bag

Keep dirty clothes seperate.| WendellandCarolyn/Getty Images

The dollar store is a treasure trove of useful finds. If you look in the laundry aisle, you’re likely to find giant laundry bags or pop-up hampers where you can stash all your dirty clothes. Using one is a lot tidier than just piling everything in the corner.

6. Poncho

young woman in raincoat outdoors

Just in case it rains. | Michaeljung/Getty Images

Hopefully it doesn’t rain during your cruise, but it very well might. Bring along a dollar store poncho just in case you get caught in a passing shower.

7. Travel-sized bottles

Essential travel toiletries

Mini bottles are cute and practical. | PhillDanze/Getty Images

Unless you plan on cruising for several months (wouldn’t that be nice?), you probably don’t need your full-sized bottle of shampoo. Head to your local dollar store to stock up on TSA-friendly travel bottles of your favorite products so you can maximize space in your bag. If they don’t have the stuff you use, just buy empty bottles and fill them yourself.

8. Earplugs

Foam ear plugs

You never know what noises you’ll need to block out. | JoyTasa/Getty Images

Unfamiliar sounds — and snoring — can make for an unpleasant night’s sleep. Pick up a couple of cheap earplugs and enjoy the shuteye you need and deserve.

9. Night light

A new generic LED night light that turns on automatically

A nightlight can be comforting. | BWFolsom/Getty Images

You never know how dark your room will be at night, and since you’ll be in an unfamiliar place, that could pose a tripping hazard. Grab a cheap night light so you don’t have to worry about it.

10. Over-the-counter medication

Aspirin bottle with tablets

Be prepared for headaches. | Source: iStock

The dollar store often sells small, travel-sized containers of common medications such as aspirin, allergy meds, antacids, and more. Stock up on these so you always have them on hand without wasting suitcase space on full-sized bottles.

11. Reusable beverage containers

Aluminum bottle water isolated white background

Tote around drinks without spilling. | Matheesaengkaew/Getty Images

Sometimes the cruise ship cups are tiny, so if you want to keep a lot of juice or water handy all day, a water bottle or big cup might be a good item to have on hand. Bring your sport bottle, straw cup, or travel mug, and skip those dinky little 8 ounce cups.

12. Clothes hangers

Three beige and one black clothes hangers

You can never have too many hangers. |

Your room may come equipped with a few hangers, but there may not be enough for all the clothes you need to hang up. It’s always a good idea to keep a few spares to ensure you’ll have plenty.

13. Power strip

power bar with switch

Keep everything charged. | Kingjon/Getty Images

Chances are you have tons of electronics to charge, but your room might not have enough outlets to support all of them. Pick up a power strip at the dollar store so you’ll definitely have all the juice you need to keep your e-reader fully charged at all times.

14. Suction hooks

Suction cup on white background with clipping path

Hang up whatever you want. | Lemon_tm/Getty Images

You’ll find tons of uses for dollar store suction cups. Use them to hang your loofah in the shower, as a place to hang your jacket or sweatshirt, or for hanging up long necklaces you don’t want to get tangled. Best of all, if you accidentally leave them behind, it’s no big deal since you spent so little on them in the first place.

15. Straws

Colorful drinking straws background.

Keep necklaces from getting tangled. | Monrudee/Getty Images

No, not for drinking. One travel hack that really works is to thread your necklaces through regular plastic straws before you travel to keep them from getting all tangled. Genius!

16. Toothbrushes


Buy cheap ones and toss them when you’re done. | Nik_Merkulov/Getty Images

Cruise time is a great time to stock up on travel toothbrushes, and inexpensive dollar store finds work just as well. At the end of vacation, just toss them in the trash.

17. Glow sticks

Multi color glow sticks

Nighttime fun, anyone? | DuncanL/Getty Images

These are just fun to have on hand for nighttime activities, whether you have kids or not. And for $1, why not stock up?

18. Snack containers

storage plastic containers

Bring leftovers back to your room. |

Get a few cheap plastic containers so you can stock up on snacks at the buffet and keep them in your room for whenever you get a little hungry. There’s no shame in being prepared!

19. Travel tissues

Mini pack of tissue paper

You can always use a tissue (or two). | Design56/Getty Images

You always need tissues on hand, and the dollar store is just the place to get them cheaply. Stash a few packs in your bag, in your nightstand, and just about anywhere else you can think of.

20. Batteries

close up of batteries

Batteries are always good to have on hand. |

If you’re bringing anything that requires batteries, it’s a good idea to have backups just in case. Stock up on cheap replacements at the dollar store.

21. Chapstick

lip balm

Keep chapped lips at bay. | Koosen/Getty Images

The sun and the salty sea air may lead to chapped lips quicker than you’d expect. Keep a few cheap lip balms on hand to quickly remedy the situation. Plus, when you inevitably misplace a tube or two, you won’t even feel bad since you spent so little on them.

22. First aid basics




Three colorful bandages

Pack a mini first aid kit. | CCaetano/Getty Images

It’s a good idea to have a stock of basic first aid items, like adhesive bandages, hydrogen peroxide, and gauze, no matter where you travel. And that’s especially true on a cruise when you can’t just run over to a local drugstore to grab what you need. Head to the dollar store to get all the things you need cheaply.

23. Reusable bags

colorful cotton shopping bag

You can never have too many bags. | Aopsan/Getty Images

Reusable shopping bags are ideal for so many purposes. Instead of lugging around your bulky straw beach bag, tuck pool items like towels and sunscreen into a shopping bag instead.

24. Playing cards

Deck of playing card spread out on a table

Don’t be bored — play cards. | Photology1971/Getty Images

Despite the plethora of things to do on a cruise ship, you may find yourself bored hanging out in your room one night, and having a deck of cards on hand can be a real lifesaver.

25. Pocket organizer

Burgundy travel bag organizer with pockets

Hang it up to keep everything handy. | Shedu/Getty Images

Keep all your toiletries organized and accessible with a clear or mesh pocket organizer. You can hang it up on the back of the bathroom door with a couple of dollar store suction cup hooks that you also stocked up on.

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