How to Plan Your First Time Cruising, Ways to Save, Port of Call Review

July 4, 2024

Are you ready for fun and adventure as a family? A family cruise vacation will check off all the boxes on the kind of experience the whole family will enjoy. From toddlers to teens, everyone in your party will find things to do that they will love. 

Cruises used to be trips that mostly newlyweds and seniors would take, but now cruise lines go out of their way to make the entire experience family-friendly and fun. So when you take a cruise or cruising with kids, you’re going to make memories that will last a lifetime. Let’s look into cruise planning tips that will help you plan the ideal family trip.

A large cruise ship at sea, looking at the prow as the ship appears to sail toward us.

How to Plan Your First Time Cruising With Children

Even though it’s a lot of fun to take a cruise with children, there are some rules to consider. Keep in mind that most cruise lines don’t allow babies under six months old. Also, with trans-ocean trips that have more than three days at sea, these types of cruises don’t allow children under 12 months old. Otherwise, if you have young children, tweens, or teens, you should be good to sail just about anywhere.

Tips for Saving on Cruise Tickets or Activities

There are some easy ways to save money when booking a family cruise trip. Cruise planning takes some time and research, and with these tips, you should find some ways to stretch your budget.

Tip #1: Book Early or Last Minute

There are two main ways to save money on your family cruise planning tickets. First, you can book early. It’s recommended to book at least six months to a year in advance. Booking early will give you the best options in cabin types, better itineraries, and promotional saving rates.

Or on the flip side, you can look for last-minute deals to book at discounted rates. Cruise lines, if they aren’t full near the sailing date, will drastically reduce prices. You can sign up for email alerts with certain travel companies that book cruises to send you blasts about last-minute deals. A website like Tripadvisor will show you all types of last-minute deals that you can instantly book for family cruises.

Tip #2: Be Flexible On Trip Dates

When you are looking to book your cruise, it’s helpful to be flexible on dates. If you are looking at some peak times, it might be better to expand your search for dates that aren’t as popular. Trying to book during spring break might work better with your children’s schedule, but if you can be flexible with dates, you will get a better deal. The rates change quite a bit from one week to the next. So check around for different dates, if you can be flexible with the time of your family vacation.

Tip #3: Spring and Fall Are Less Expensive

In general, spring and fall are less expensive for taking a family cruise. The weeks right after Thanksgiving, but well before Christmas, are cheaper dates to travel. They call spring and fall “shoulder-season” months because it isn’t the peak sailing time of the summer or winter months, when people try to get to sunnier locations from the snowy locations where they live. If you can travel in the shoulder or off-season, you’ll save quite a bit of money.

Tip #4: Choose an Inside Cabin

An inside cabin is always the least expensive cabin on a cruise. You still have access to all the amenities on the ship, without a balcony. Plus, these rooms tend to be darker, so you may have an easier time getting the little ones to sleep at night or for naps. And with so much to do on a cruise ship, you really won’t be in the room that much anyway. This is also a great choice if you need a couple of connecting rooms for your family.

Tip #5: Look For Deals

Cruise lines run sales and deals all the time. So if you book far enough in advance, you can wait until you catch just the right deal when cruise planning. Some of the promotions that cruise lines offer may give you a big discount on tickets, while others might offer free drinks, food, or Wi-Fi, which is always helpful to have, especially when traveling with teenagers who can’t live without their social media or TikTok.

Tip #6: Use a Credit Card for Perks

Some credit card companies will offer you extra points, perks, or miles when booking a cruise with a card. For example, American Express has a program called the Cruise Privileges Program (CPP) that offers onboard credits and perks that are specific to certain cruise lines.


Saving Money On Board

Some cruise lines offer first-day discounts on activities. This can include things like the spa that would be good to book for a mother/daughter manicure or pedicure. Tweens and teens will find this a nice relaxing first activity. This is especially true if you have to fly with your kids to get to the port where the cruise sets sail.

If you book cruise excursions and activities in advance of the trip for your family, there may be discounts available. It may be more expensive if you wait to book these activities while you are on your trip, so pay attention to how early you can book things.

Best Cruise Destinations for a Family

You can go practically anywhere in the world on a cruise. Some cruise destinations are better for families than others. Here are four of the top choices for cruise destinations that most people with children pick for a first time cruise adventure.



If your children are a little older and would enjoy some cultural cruise excursions, a cruise to Mexico may be the way to go. For example, in Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico there are ancient Mayan ruins to explore through jungle settings. Or if your family likes to snorkel among crystal clear waters, the Great Maya Reef is located there. This is the second-biggest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. In other parts of Mexico, like Cozumel, your family can swim with dolphins or splash on the shores of gorgeous beaches.


The Bahamas is another popular cruise option for families. At CocoCay, the private island that is owned by Royal Caribbean, there are tons of cool activities for families on this specific cruise line and destination. They have a white sand beach with bungalows that you can book, a family water park, and the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean. Or on Grand Bahama Island, there is a waterfall excursion called Garden of the Groves, shopping at Freeport’s International Bazaar for souvenirs, and an underwater cave adventure at Lucayan National Park. 


Hawaii is just one of those magical places that you have to see at least once in your lifetime. Taking the kids there is a ton of fun because there is shopping, water activities, and history to explore. For older kids, you can visit Oahu where Pearl Harbor and that historic ship is located. In Kauai, you can hike the gorgeous scenery of the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. You can also rent kayaks or catamarans to explore the pristine coastline. Don’t forget to try some yummy Hawaiian ice while you’re there in a variety of flavors, like coconut cream, that the whole family will love.


If you are looking for more of a cooler weather cruise, and not so tropical, it’s a great idea to explore everything Alaska has to offer. You would take an airplane to Seattle and cruise along to Inside Passage, Alaska. From there, you can explore cities like Skagway, Juneau, and Victoria. There is whale watching, which is a popular activity for families, snow-capped mountains, and lots of nature. You may see sea lions, puffins, and even eagles. So, for animal and nature-loving families, an Alaskan cruise is an unforgettable adventure.

Family-Friendly Cruise Lines

Some cruise lines are better for families than others. The most family-friendly ones to take are the following top five cruise lines.

Disney Cruise Lines

Disney Cruise Lines has a variety of cruise ships to choose from, like the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, or Disney Wish. They all go to a variety of different locations, but they are truly a family-friendly adventure. With amazing kids’ clubs, whimsical decorations, and character meet and greets, for the family who loves everything Disney, this is a magical cruise line to consider.

Royal Caribbean

For families who want a lot of onboard activities, the Royal Caribbean ships feature some of the best. Kids will enjoy activities like ice skating rinks, roller coasters, arcades, bumper cars, and water slides. There is fun to be had around every corner. All the ships also offer educational and craft programs for kids and teens.

Norwegian Cruise Lines

These colorful cruise ships from Norwegian Cruise Lines have some cool activities for kids. They have supervised programs that teach kids all kinds of things, like juggling, art, and different themed parties. Plus, all the restaurants on board have great kids’ menus. Racetracks and aqua parks are on most of their ships as well.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines has long been known as a family-friendly ship. They have basketball courts, rope courses, and unique water park slides. For a family, this cruise line tends to be more budget-friendly than some of the others.

MSC Cruises

A more luxurious cruise line that also caters to families is MSC Cruises. They have Lego parties, sporting events, and even dance lessons for kids. Other cool activities are bowling, movie theaters, and globally-inspired food options for those little ones and teens who aren’t afraid to try new foods.

Best Times to Cruise to Certain Destinations

There are some best times to go to certain destinations. For example, for an Alaskan cruise, the best time to go is mid-May to early June or late August to early September for the best prices. If you are interested in seeing whales, the best time to go is August, when they are the most active.

For a cruise to Mexico, it’s better weather to go from September through January, since the summer months are too hot and uncomfortable. The same is true for a cruise to the Bahamas or the Caribbean.

Winter is the prime time to go to the Caribbean to places like the Bahamas. That way you avoid hurricane season, which is June through November. January, May, and September are the perfect months for a sunny cruise to the Bahamas.

If you want to cruise to Hawaii, it’s important to avoid the rainy season, which is from November through March. So try to cruise Hawaii between April through October for the best weather. The prices for a cruise to Hawaii are pretty stable year-round, so it’s easy to book tickets that are a good price, even during this peak time.

Details About The Parking Spot

Most of the cruises you’ll take as a family will require your family to fly to a port city. Those could be in places like Miami, Tampa, Seattle, New York City, Galveston, or San Francisco. You’ll have to explore airport parking. One of the best companies to use is The Parking Spot. We are the best option for parking your car at the airport, while taking a family cruise. 

All you have to do is go to our website, book in advance, and show up at the airport parking location with your car. We have easy-to-find parking, shuttles to the terminal, and assistance with your luggage. Parking with The Parking Spot will get the start of your journey off on the right foot. This is the first part of getting to the good stuff, the actual family cruise vacation.

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