What to Pack for a Summer Alaskan Cruise: Carry-on Style

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Packing for Alaska can be tough, however, packing for Alaska in a carry-on size bag can be tougher. But alas, that's exactly what my entire family did for our most recent 9-day trip to Alaska, 7 of which were spent on a cruise.

The Inside Passage, a route the majority of cruise ships will take, weaves itself in and out of islands off the Pacific coast of Alaska. Much of the climate is influenced by the Pacific Ocean which regulates temperatures and tends to keep the region from facing any extreme highs or lows. Daytime temps in the summer months typically fall in the low to high 60s with nighttime rarely dipping lower than the 40s. The Tongass National Forest runs along much of the land that the Inside Passage follows. This is the largest U.S. National Forest and the northernmost North American temperate rainforest. That being said, light mists can be expected on land some days and the occasional passing rain shower.

Here's a list of everything I packed in both my carry-on and backpack:

{It's all about the layering.}
Layered and looking over Denali.

Carry-on Bag

My carry on was a hard-shelled Samsonite four-wheeled roller. Personally, I'm team hard shell. I find it fits everything nicer and the fact that it keeps its shape makes sliding it into overhead bins more smooth.

  • 5 pairs of leggings - they're good for everything! Traveling, lounging, hiking.

  • 1 pairs of athletic shorts - for walking around the ship and the single time I used the gym (go me)

  • 1 pair of jeans

  • 3 short sleeve t-shirts

  • 2 long sleeve t-shirts

  • 2 tank tops

  • 2 casual/nicer top - nice to have for dinners on ship or land and night activities

  • 1 flannel - if you're into that; great for layering

  • 1 pair of PJs - wore the same pair every night

  • 2 long-pant rompers - these were easy to dress up for dinners on the ship, but also comfortable enough to lounge around in, go to the bars at night, etc; highly recommend

  • 2 sweat shirts - I also bought a third "Alaska" sweatshirt on the cruise

  • 1 thin quarter-zip

A little mist never hurt no one.

{Keep in mind that you can (and probably will) buy clothing during the trip.}
  • 1 waterproof jacket - this came from a two-layer winter jacket I have, and I simply unzipped the wind/water proof water from the insulated lining; it made it perfect for layering on days we disembarked the ship

  • Undergarments - the more the merrier

  • 2 bathing suits - for the pool and hot tub


  • 1 pair of flip flops - to wear around the ship

  • 1 pair of cute sandals - something that goes with everything

  • 1 pair of sneakers

  • 1 pair of boots - I brought these and wore them tons; highly recommend wearing them on the plane to save room in your bag


  • My laptop - my graduate courses are online so this was a must for me; if you can avoid bringing your computer, do it.

  • A baseball hat - I forgot to bring a winter hat but BRING ONE.

  • Deck of cards

  • A pair of binoculars - you will likely want these for closer views of the shore and ocean wildlife

  • Wallet

  • Medicine

  • A reusable water bottle

  • Notebook and pens

  • A good book

  • Toiletry bag - included travel size shower products, moisturizer, mascara + bronzer, deodorant, dry shampoo, toothbrush and paste

  • Sunglasses

  • Fanny pack - yes, this will be of use

Had I had more room, I definitely would have taken a nice camera along for the ride. The scenes are breathtaking and worth capturing if you have room for a higher-end camera. Otherwise, all of my photos were taken on an iPhone X and came out pretty well (if I do say so myself).

Though some people tended to bring nicer outfits for dressy dinners, it isn't totally necessary. For me, bringing clothes to hike and sight-see in was more important. All in all, laying was key -- especially when it came to heating up while hiking, moving from indoors to outdoors, and being prepared for a little rain. Enjoy the outdoors! Read more on the cruise experience in my full blown recap.

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