Top 10 Things to Buy for your FAMILY CRUISE

Our family just finished our first cruise, and I was super-worried about keeping my family of 5 organized in a tight space. I did a lot of research before packing for our trip, and I made sure to purchase the items that people recommended. Today, I am sharing my favourite 10 items that you should definitely buy before you cruise (and MORE useful items to remember to pack). You may be able to find some things locally, but I have also included some Amazon links in case you want to just order everything online. (The links are affiliate links, so if you use them, you I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you... thank you!)

1) Clear Shoe Rack - I think the best thing I bought before my cruise was a clear shoe rack. The staterooms are small, and a clear shoe rack is a great way to keep organized. I filled ours with the items we needed to have easily accessible: sunblock, medications, towel clips, Ziploc bags, sunglasses, charging codes, earphones, water bottles, bathing suits, etc... Here is a link to the one I purchased.

2) Magnetic Hooks - All the walls and doors in the staterooms are magnetic, so it only makes sense to make use of this space for storage. We used our hooks to hang hats, bags of jewellery, lanyards, schedules, etc... Here is the link the hooks I ordered... and they worked perfectly.

3) Lanyards - Your sea pass card is something you are always going to want to have with you on your cruise. It holds your dinner show reservation, and excursion information, it allows you to charge things to your room, and it's your ID for getting on and off the ship. A lanyard is a convenient way to carry it with you and make sure you don't lose it. You can get your sea pass "hole-punched" at guest services, or you can get a lanyard with a plastic sleeve. (I've heard some people recommend the plastic sleeve because sunscreen can cause the ink on the seapass to smear.) I purchased mine at the dollar store, but I love the cruise-themed ones you can find here.

4) Rubber Ducks - I know this might be a strange one, but if you have kids (and even if you don't), hiding rubber "cruising" ducks is a fun activity. You can read all about it here.

5) Backpack or bag for excursions - Backpacks are perfect for excursions, and for packing items that you may need on the days you are getting on and off the ship (when you may be a few hours without your luggage). You can fill a backpack with everything you need (e.g. a bathing suit, sunscreen, change of clothes, snacks, ID, phone, etc..). I love the lightweight version here because it would be easy to stuff in a suitcase.

6) Ziploc bags - Ziploc bags are fantastic for many things. We use them for packing wet and dirty items and for packing items in suitcases that could possibly leak (like shampoo, sunscreen, etc...) They are also great for packing food for excursions. We always packed snacks like bread, peanut butter, and pastries when we left the ship.

7) Towel clips - Cruise ships and beaches can be windy, so towel clips are great for securing towels to chairs. You can also use the clips to keep the curtains closed in the stateroom (and the light out). You can purchase towel clips online here.

8) Water bottle - Insulated water bottles are great for on and off the ship. There are places on the ship to refill water bottles for free on the ships, and keeping hydrated while at sea is very important.

9) Travel size containers - Saving space in luggage and in the tiny stateroom bathrooms is a great idea. Leaving full size bottles at home is easy if you use travel size size containers. 

10) Hanging clothes dryer - The bathrooms in the staterooms are small, so clothes dryers can be really helpful... especially when you are travelling with a family. We used ours to hang bathing suits to dry and for drying items that we washed out in the sink.

These are my top 10 items to buy for a family cruise, but here are some MORE items you might want to purchase and pack before you get on a cruise ship: 

  • folder for important paperwork (e-ticket for the way there, boarding passes for the cruise, cruise documents that mom sent, itinerary for the cruise, e-ticket for the way home, travel insurance info, copies of birth certificates and passports)
  • small container of laundry detergent (for washing out small items in the sink) and a Tide stick
  • night light or small flashlight to put by your bed... because the staterooms can get pretty dark
  • sea bands (if you are worried about motion sickness)
  • power bar / surge protector (for extra plugs for hair dryers, curling irons, and charging devices)
  • sunscreen... because it is very expensive on the boat
  • first aid kit (containing tylenol, benedryl, band aids, etc...) - These items are very expensive on the ship, and it might not be convenient to get them when you need them, so be prepared.
  • poo-pourri spray... helpful when sharing the close quarters of the stateroom bathrooms
  • sticky notes...helpful for leaving notes for other passengers in your room. Small magnetic white boards work well too.
  • highlighters... to highlight the items on the ship's daily schedule that you want to take advantage of
  • cash in small bills for tipping
  • game for passing time in airports... we like Skipbo because it is easy and fun to play, and it is portable
  • reusable straws... which are great for people that aren't fans of the paper straws used by the cruise ship
  • hats for excursions
Have you taken a cruise with your family? Is there one item you found really helpful? Did it make my list?

I really did find these items invaluable on our family cruise. I hope you find my list of 10 things to buy for your family cruise list helpful!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

How to Host a BOOK-THEMED Movie Night

I always enjoy hosting movie nights... and I really love booked-themed movie nights. I adore the idea of encouraging my boys to read by rewarding them with a book-themed movie night after they have finished a novel. My boys have read all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, so the film versions are perfect for movie nights with their friends. Today, I'm sharing the fun DIY details of our "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" movie night.

Every party needs an invitation, so make up something simple using your computer. I made this one using

Then, you'll have to pick a movie (based on a book). Some great family movies based on books are:

1) Diary of a Wimpy Kid
2) Harry Potter
3) The Lorax
4) Dolphin Tale
5) Alice in Wonderland
6) Percy Jackson
7) Chronicles of Narnia
8) How to Train Your Dragon
9) The Wizard of Oz
10) Anne of Green Gables

We love an outdoor movie. We have a basic home projector. We hook it up to a laptop and speakers, and we project it onto a white sheet. It's a bit of an investment, but we use it all the time, and it's one of our favourite activities.

You'll also need to serve some food. It's fun to pick a few foods that go with the theme of the book... but as long as you have popcorn and candy, you'll be fine.

For our Diary of a Wimpy Kid screening, we had "cheesies" because a "cheese touch" is referred to in the movie.

And we served a lot of colourful candy in little condiment containers. The kids loved the individual portions of candy.

We also used books as decor, and let the kids play a "guess how many pieces of gum are in the jar" game. It's always fun to have a fun activity (or two) to occupy the kids before the movie starts.

A photo booth is another easy and inexpensive way to entertain kids while they are waiting for the movie the start. I made some simple photo props using a sharpie, cardstock, and popsicle sticks. 

And, finally, every party needs a party favor, and popcorn is perfect for a movie night. Add a little "Thanks for POPPING by!" note to a package for microwave popcorn for an easy and inexpensive party favor.

If you pick a colour scheme that fits the movie, display the books from the movie, and invest a little time in a few DIY details... your guests are sure to be impressed.

Isn't a booked-themed movie night a wonderful way to host friends and encourage kids to read? I hope my Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie night inspires you to throw a book-themed movie night of your own.

Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)

A Birthday Letter to my Middle Son on his 12th Birthday

Every year, on my boys' birthdays, I write them letters letting them know how special they are to me. I think of the letters as written "snapshots" of the previous year. I hope I am able to capture a little bit of their personalities on paper. Today, I am sharing a birthday letter for my middle son on his 12th birthday.

My Darling Middle Son,

You are a bright light with a big heart and eyes that sparkle. You add a fun and positive energy to our family, and I am blessed to be able to be your mother. Here are some of things that make you special:

  • You make friends easily, and you are kind to everyone you meet. You draw people in with your easy going personality.
  • You suffered the loss of a very special friend this year. Your heart was broken, but you are bravely moving forward. I am so proud of you, and I know your memories will remain with you for the rest of your life and make you a better person.
  • You love to be on the move. Hockey is your favourite sport, but you are pretty much a fan of anything with a ball or puck.
  • We went on a family cruise this year, and you had a great time. You are always up for a new adventure... especially when you are with your brothers and cousins.
  • You love listening to music, and you know the words to an incredible number of songs. You also have an excellent memory when it comes to the plots of Avenger movies.
  • You are great at figuring out how things work, and you really enjoy building with LEGO.
  • You have no sense of urgency. You take your time with everything, and you love to say, "Just a few more minutes."
  • You love to cuddle, and have no problem hugging me in front of your friends. I don't know how long it will last, but I'll take it while I can get it!
You are strong-willed, and you sometimes drive me crazy, but I wouldn't change a thing. Your big heart and sparkling personality will take you far, and I'll always be your biggest cheerleader.



If your kids have ever said "I'm Bored"... I've got the perfect summer boredom buster ideas for you!

When I was a kid... we weren't allowed to swear, and we weren't allowed to say, "I'm Bored". Now that I am a mother, I totally understand why these rules existed. When my children are looking for something to do, I usually just kick them outside and tell them to find their own adventure... but on occasion (especially on rainy days when I am trying to limit screen use), I like to have a few suggestions up my sleeve. Today, I am sharing a simple idea that is guaranteed to help... an "I'm Bored Jar". I'm sharing the free printable jar label too!

Basically, I picked up an inexpensive jar from the dollar store, added a label, and filled the jar with slips of paper containing ideas for simple activities. Cute, right?

The ideas in the jar should be inexpensive and simple. For example:

  • Have a picnic
  • Read a book outside
  • Have a water fight
  • Go for a walk
  • Watch a movie
  • Build a fort
  • Get ice cream
  • Play something with a ball
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Bake something
  • Make a craft
  • Do a science experiment
  • Play a board game
  • Try a new food
  • Build a puzzle
  • Have a dance party
  • Go on a scavenger hunt
  • Play tag
  • Write a letter

You can make your own label for the jar or you can use mine. 

To download the label I designed: click on the picture below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.

Don't you love when a simple idea works well and makes your life easier?

This is a wonderful idea any time of year, but it's especially great for summer. What activities will you put in your jar?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

A Birthday Letter to my Youngest Son... on his 10th birthday

Every year, I take some time to write my boys letters on their birthdays. The annual letters are my way of remembering exactly what they are like at each stage of their lives. I hope someday they look back at their letters and see how special they were and how much I loved every year I got to spend with them. Today, my youngest son turns 10... and here is his letter.

My dearest "baby" boy,

I can't believe you are in double digits. It seems like only yesterday we dropped your older brothers off at school and spent our days having adventures together. I loved the hours we spent reading stories and playing with your farm when you were little, but I am having a lot of fun with you now too. Here are some of the reasons I love you to the moon and back:

  • You were a boy who started elementary full of shyness and anxiety, and this coming September you are headed to Junior High School with a new found confidence. I am so proud of how far you have come.
  • You have lots of friends, but your brothers and cousins have a special place in your heart.
  • I'm still in awe of your unique way of quietly observing the world. You always ask the best questions.
  • You are super-funny. We especially love when you put on your housecoat, hang your medals around your neck, and rap.
  • You love all things sports... especially hockey, softball, basketball, and golf. You also love to ride your bike.
  • Your favourite food is multi grain wheat thin crackers. I buy you one box a week, and you usually eat them in one sitting.
  • Green is your favourite colour, you love when I read you stories (in a soft voice) at bedtime, and you look forward to our Friday night family movie nights.
  • You love sleep. You often ask to go to bed when you are tired... which is good because you get pretty cranky when you are overtired.
  • You give the best cuddles (and I have my fingers crossed that you let me tuck you in and read you stories for many years to come).
Even though you are in double digits now, you will always be my baby boy. Happy 10th birthday, sweet boy!



An Easy Way to Brighten Up the Interior of Your Home... without spending a lot money

I am all about decorating on a budget, and I love when I can update a space without spending much money. Recently, my husband and I decided to paint the interior of our front door a light blue colour, and it really transformed the space. Today, I am sharing the details of our little DIY decor project... along with the before and after pictures. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Originally, the interior of our front door was white, so on a sunny (not too hot) afternoon, my husband removed the hardware from our front door, I hit the paint store, and we got to work.

The keys to painting a door like this are: 

  • use a quality paint
  • use a combination of a brush (for the inset parts of the door) a foam roller (for a smooth finish)

Here is how the door turned out. We added an inexpensive navy mat from Walmart (that cost $20.97), and homemade twine monogram. What do you think?

I love paint projects because you can take chances with colour (knowing that it can easily be changed). I'm loving how much it brightens up the space, don't you?

The door looks great on it's own, but I'm enjoying the addition of the monogram I made. You can find the full tutorial here.

Have you painted any interior doors in your home? This was my first one... but I'm pretty sure it isn't going to be my last!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

You can find more easy and inexpensive home decor inspiration here.

Deck Dice DIY... using dollar store supplies

Keeping kids entertained (and away from screens) can be a challenge. My boys are pretty active, but there are still times I struggle to get them outside on summer days. Recently, I was at the dollar store, and I found some inexpensive oversized foam dice... and DECK DICE was born.

I purchased five foam dice and a large bucket (to hold them) at the dollar store, and I designed a label for the front of the bucket.

To download the label I designed: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.

Then, I created some 8x10 sheets, and I laminated them so that they can be used multiple times with dry erase markers. Pretty clever, right?

To download the score sheets I designed: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8x10 photo.

I'm looking forward to playing this game on the deck with my boys this summer. It might make a few trips to the beach or park too!

Do you like playing games with your kids outside during their summer break from school? I recommend a trip to the dollar store to pick up some of these foam dice. It's easy and inexpensive to put this game together, and it's lots of fun!

Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)

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