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Best Cruise tips/hacks/ideas for elementary aged kids

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Husband and I will be sailing on Carnival Sunshine with our kiddos (age 6 and 8) in August.  While this will be my 13th cruise, it will be my first cruise with kids in tow.  Please share all of your best cruise hacks that were helpful for you when sailing with your little ones.  And if you know of any reviewers with children that have some stellar reviews with kid friendly hacks, please point me in that direction as well.

Heck, I may just start doing reviews again myself after this adventure!

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a tablet for dinner time if you are planning to have the kids with you in MDR and they cannot sit through a 1.5-2 hour dinner.

DS, who is 7 now, has been cruising since he was 3, and his tablet with cartoons and games has been a life saver (especially on cruises like Princess which have nothing in terms of family activities). On cruises with plenty of fun activities the tablet was only used during dinner in MDR (with headphones, of course).

DS doesn't do kid's club, so he is with us 24/7. 

If DH and kids are not into shows, then he can watch the kids in the evening when you go alone (that's is, if the kids don't do kid's club).

Other than that - just relax and enjoy  - it's a vacation! We don't adhere to the daily routine times we have at home, but DS crashes by 10 pm in the evening on cruises, because he has so much fun. WE don't really have hacks (besides the tablet for dinner) because during cruises we are just going with the flow. Check the daily activities - pick stuff you like - do it. Done!

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We have 2 boys - 5 year old will be on his 10th cruise in Jan and 21 mo old will be on his 3rd in Jan.

Our biggest "hack"? Sail with the grandparents! LOL! We find that it helps to have the adult to kid ratio higher.

We always take a bag with small toys, coloring supplies & story books for playing in the cabin. Usually take a coloring page and a couple markers to dining room for the 5 year old. DH usually takes the little one for a walk after viewing the menu while waiting for the food to arrive. We take one of those over the door shoe organizers with clear pockets - can be used for anything from hair products/toiletries to socks/shoes or toys, sunglasses, etc - really helps with storage space because the cabin seems to shrink with more people in it. Don't forget the hats & sunscreen!

Cruising with kids is different than without and you may have to take turns doing things in the evenings while one adult stays back at the cabin to put the kiddos to bed. But it can be a great family vacation. It's all what you make it!

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We love the Sunshine! With kids I’ve noticed that things that may be boring at home get more interesting on a ship. Bring walkie-talkies, tubes of kool aid that can be added to water (and straws to stir it with bc they’ll get bored with the lemonade in the dining room) stuff to decorate your cabin door, pirate gear (the kids clubs will do a pirate theme at some point, but even if they don’t do the club you can do your own, makes great pictures),  bring bubbles, keep your eye on the events because there will be a scavenger hunt or two for families that are entertaining for that age. Bring squirt guns/water toys for beach days. Bring their favorite snacks if they’re picky eaters, bring stuff to make thank you cards for the staff. I bring juice for the room, in addition to familiar snacks this is good esp at bedtime. Watch for character photo ops and bring “cat in the hat hats” to wear in the pictures, register early for the Green Eggs and Ham breakfast because it will sell out at certain times. There’s an arcade on the sunshine but it’s not great.

If they do the clubs you’ll likely not need much because the kids literally have to be dragged out of there a lot of the times! They also serve kids lunches and dinners on port days and have late night NightOwls programs that run until 2am so you’ll not have to worry about swapping kid-sitting with your spouse in the evenings if they like the club.They’ll be in different age groups/clubs though....

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On 12/29/2018 at 2:44 PM, mds0424 said:

We have 2 boys - 5 year old will be on his 10th cruise in Jan and 21 mo old will be on his 3rd in Jan.

Our biggest "hack"? Sail with the grandparents! LOL! We find that it helps to have the adult to kid ratio higher.

We always take a bag with small toys, coloring supplies & story books for playing in the cabin. Usually take a coloring page and a couple markers to dining room for the 5 year old. DH usually takes the little one for a walk after viewing the menu while waiting for the food to arrive. We take one of those over the door shoe organizers with clear pockets - can be used for anything from hair products/toiletries to socks/shoes or toys, sunglasses, etc - really helps with storage space because the cabin seems to shrink with more people in it. Don't forget the hats & sunscreen!

Cruising with kids is different than without and you may have to take turns doing things in the evenings while one adult stays back at the cabin to put the kiddos to bed. But it can be a great family vacation. It's all what you make it!

I love your idea "take grand-parents", lol. We are sailing with DD, S-I-L, 3y/o grand son and 14 m/o grand daughter. We have connecting minis, and hubby and I are giving my DD and her hubby 4 date nights (14 night cruise). We didn't sail with our kids until they were about 8, so this will be a new experience for us. I love your ideas, and we are bringing everything you said. 🙂

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not sure if you have boys,  but you can get kid size tuxedos online fairly cheep if you shop around.  They are awesome on formal nights and for pictures.

 

We find that the buffet is really hard with the kids,   trying to juggle food, etc.  Use the MDR as much as possible.  A lot of ships are moving to anytime dining,  but if you can make reservations so you have he same wait staff every night, they can make a huge difference.  

 

Make sure you hit the kids club the first day.  There is paperwork you need to fill out if you plan to use the club.  Our kids are hit or miss on the clubs,  sometimes they love it and sometimes they hate it....we never know which....

 

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, mdjohn5 said:

not sure if you have boys,  but you can get kid size tuxedos online fairly cheep if you shop around.  They are awesome on formal nights and for pictures.

 

We find that the buffet is really hard with the kids,   trying to juggle food, etc.  Use the MDR as much as possible.  A lot of ships are moving to anytime dining,  but if you can make reservations so you have he same wait staff every night, they can make a huge difference.  

 

Make sure you hit the kids club the first day.  There is paperwork you need to fill out if you plan to use the club.  Our kids are hit or miss on the clubs,  sometimes they love it and sometimes they hate it....we never know which....

 

 

 

 

I HATED the buffets with younger kids.  It was too much work for this vacationing mom.   My kids were accustomed to restaurant eating, so the MDR was the way to go.  I would take some of those Color Wonders coloring books & markers to keep them busy, if needed, but most of the time it wasn’t necessary.  And they loved the waiter performances in the MDR.

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We're on the Sunshine in August with our 8 year old, too!  Which sailing will you be on?  It will be his 5th cruise and his favorite mode of vacation!  All good tips above. 

 

I would also suggest bring inflatable pool toys (for beach breaks only) from home.  We have two inflatable pool rings that we bring.  They are great because they deflate and don't take up much room in luggage, but our son enjoys them when in the water.  

 

We usually pack some portable snacks (peanut butter crackers, nutrigrain bars) to take along in port.  We also grab boxes of cereal from the breakfast buffet to take off the ship as well.  

 

Get lanyards for your kiddos and deactivate charging privileges!

 

Use the Kids club schedule to help determine when your kiddo will go.  Our son loves the kids' club, but wants to know whats going on.  9 times out of 10 he'll go for the thing he wants then will want to end up staying longer.  

 

Bring a tablet or portable DVD player with movies.  In room entertainment is limited.  

 

Eat in the MDR as much as you can.  We usually do room service for breakfast/coffee every day because we are not get up and go people.  On sea days we'll go to breakfast in MDR, the buffet is just too much with the kiddo.  Lunch we just rotate/take turn.  We get kiddo grilled cheese or pizza, then we take turns getting ourselves something.

 

Check out the game room.  Kiddo loves to play games and there are usually plenty in there to check out.  Kiddo also loves the Red Frog Pub games!

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First night of kids club is key if the kids want to use kids club -- it is when they are most likely to meet new friends -- there are a lot of games that encourage kids to meet and since everyone is new there is not the awkwardness.  

 

Some familiar snacks and pack a few "comfort" things.  Keep an eye out for potential melt-down moments and retreat to somewhere with a familiar snack 

 

A budget for extras - souvenirs, treats, game tokens, etc.

 

Most kids programs will have a pajama night (in addition to those mentioned elsewhere) so some "cool" PJs are generally a good idea.

 

I always brought a bag of cheapo toys and stickers and stuff, for impromptu entertainment / surprises.  

 

I'd work out a daily scavenger hunt -- 10-12 items from the mundane -- like an umbrella or a NY Giant's tshirt or an orange purse; and then things that we should be "on the lookout for" because of the location we were in (a statue of a lion in Venice, or the French flag or whatever)  It keeps the kids more involved in their surroundings.  a separate list of 5-6 for each kid  and then 5-6 that are "joint"

 

Dress for your activities -- nothing is more miserable than having a kid who is too cold or who keeps stubbing a toe because they can't keep their flip-flops on.

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I've got two girls, now ages 12 and 10, and this will be their third cruise. We go with a bigger group, 13-16 family members, so there's always cousins and Grandma around -- which seems super fun on the cruise even though they see Grandma and their cousins at least one day a week! We take a book and an iPad each for the car ride to the port and occasional in-room entertainment. I pack a little bag of the same things I'd pick up for a plane ride - snacks we wouldn't normally indulge in, silly putty or Aaron's thinking putty, new gel pens and a small spiral-bound sketch pad, things to keep them occupied on the 3.5-hour ride to the port. They also LOVE a trip to Five Below to pick out one thing for the ride. $10 at most, and I know they'll like it.

 

We always eat dinner in the MDR and Sea Day Brunch is a family favorite. We grab whatever for lunch, but none of us are big buffet fans. We make sure to take advantage of things the ship offers like basketball on the highest deck, and mini golf. We do shows and games and whatnot. We try to sit in places that won't disturb others if we chose to walk out of the shows (bad/boring/too loud) or if the "family friendly" early comedy show isn't at all family friendly (Actually, that time, I WANTED everyone to know we were leaving!).

 

Keep clothes comfortable. Take an easy zip up hoodie for evenings. Cabin organization is key to preventing parental meltdowns.

 

My kids and their cousins LOVED the game room. They say that's their favorite part -- playing games they have at home with cousins they see all the time! 😉 😄

 

 

 

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On 1/8/2019 at 12:01 AM, Onessa said:

First night of kids club is key if the kids want to use kids club -- it is when they are most likely to meet new friends -- there are a lot of games that encourage kids to meet and since everyone is new there is not the awkwardness.  

 

 

Carnival Camp Ocean is not open the first night.  They have a family open house for registration and tours, but it doesn't open for drop off until the next day!

Edited by mom2oneXY
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I have two boys 9 and 6. They have both been cruising since they were about 9 months old. Piece of advice #1 - Get them to the kids club as soon as it opens on the ship. They will make new friends that they will play with the rest of the trip. #2 - spend part of the trip doing things they want to do and they will be patient to do the things you want to do! Good luck!

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