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The Ultimate Lake Vacation Packing List

Two lake chairs sitting on a dock on a lake

Packing for a Lake Vacation

Some of my fondest memories as a child come from the weekends that my family and I would spend a week or weekend at a lake house. We often went camping during the summer, so staying at a lake house was a particularly special treat.

One day I would love to purchase my own property on a lake, but until then I’ve made it a point to rent one at least once in the summer. I can’t wait for the time when I can create these memories with my own family, too!

Though I may not be a lake house expert, I am a self proclaimed list making expert. That is why I decided to make the ultimate packing list for a lake vacation. Though the summer is over (as I’m writing this) I will prepare for next year by visiting this list once the flowers sprout up once more. So grab a pen and paper, and let’s get started!

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Do you like camping too? We’ve made the Ultimate Packing List for a Camping Trip for all you outdoors lovers out there!

Headed to Hawaii on vacation? Lucky duck! We’ve made the Ultimate Packing List for a Hawaiian Vacation too!

Or is a road trip more your style? We’ve got the Ultimate Packing List for a Road Trip too!

If you’re headed to the lake, chances are you’ll need a list for the beach! We’ve got the Ultimate Beach Day Packing List too.

Before you Go…

Packing list laying on a table

Chances are that you’re here because you’re the planner of the group, and kudos to you! There are a few things that you have to ask yourself before you head out on the trip to make things a little bit easier for yourself.

Who are you going with?

The people that you bring to the lake house are greatly going to affect the items that are on your list. Is this a bachelor party? You can probably leave the scrabble at home (or bring it, I don’t know what type of fun you have) Girls weekend? Don’t forget the face masks! Family day? Baby carrots!

The amount of people who are coming with you will also depend on how much you bring! Chances are that everyone can bring a bit of something, or if its all kiddies you’ll have to do all of the packing!

How long are you staying?

Now I am a notorious over-packer, and end up not wearing half the clothes I bring, don’t even open half the books I bring, and let’s face it, I don’t need to absolutely fill the trunk with beer.

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The way that I pack frugally is by first laying out everything that I want to bring, and then pick away the items that are frivolous and I don’t actually need. This is particular delicate when you’re staying for an extended period of time, but remember, we can often get by on less than we think we can.

What will be provided at the lake house?

If you’re renting a lake house on Air Bnb or whatever other website you prefer, chances are that they’re going to be providing a whole lot for you. Don’t be afraid to have a little conversation with the owner to see what kinds of things they have.

This is particularly helpful when it comes to bringing stuff like salt and spices, olive oil and other essential cooking items, and things like towels, shampoo and conditioner and all those other things that just make your day so much more convenient.

The Ultimate Packing List for a Lake Vacation

Beach bag sitting on a sandy lake shore

Now you obviously know better than me what you require to have a good time, so we’ve organized the packing list into different sections according to what applies to you. Now for the perfect lake vacation packing list:

Getting There!

If you’re travelling with your family, sometimes just getting to a location is half of the journey and requires a decent amount of prep! It’s not just kids that need snacks and amusement on a long car ride.

Snacks – snacks! Everybody loves snacks. Bringing your own snacks (healthy or otherwise) is a great way to save money, and it also reduces your time in the car since you don’t have to stop as much along the way!

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Reusable Water Bottle – let’s all just agree that single use water bottles are bad news. Pack your own! I love having a thermos water bottle because water stays super cold, which I find really helps me stay alert on a long drive.

Wipes – I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel a bit grimey on a long car ride. Wipes are great to have to clean your hands or any spills that may have happened in the car along the way too.

Car Adapters – these are probably in your car already, but they are very handy to have on hand!

Soft Cooler – a soft cooler is super helpful to keep your snacks or prepared lunches in. They’re great for water bottles and maybe even formula if you’re carting a tiny one around!

Trash Bag – I always keep a trash bag in my car just so that I can prevent those crazy car messes in control.

Entertainment – there are many ways to make car rides less dull (though I personally love a drive down a country road). You’ve got playlists, audiobooks, iPads for those who require more attention, books, toys, and car games are always fun too!

Two canoers on a beautiful lake at sunset


T-Shirts – chances are that it’s going to be warm on your beach vacation. Tank tops and t-shirts are the way to go, but I usually just end up wearing a bikini the whole day.

Shorts – “she wears short shorts he wears short shorts we wear shorts shorts” or however that one goes.

Sweaters – you never want to be caught in a situation where you have to use a wet towel as something to keep you warm. The end of a beach day can left you feeling a little chilly, so it’s always nice to have a warm layer on hand.

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Cozy Wear – okay I lied earlier, I usually just end up wearing a bikini and a pair of sweatpants. Going on a lake vacation is just that, a vacation! So bring those items that make you feel cozy and comfy.

Swimwear – as much as I wish that every beach were a nude beach, not everybody is into that kinda thing, so try not to forget your trunks!

Cover Ups – man they’ve been making so many cute coverups these days! Ones that match your bathing suit, see through ones, cozy ones. They’ve got it all!

Sun Hats – keep that precious little face skin young and bring your sun hat. Did you know that hair doesn’t actually protect your scalp from UV rays? Nuts!

Water Shoes – I’ve personally never owned a pair of water shoes, but I definitely see the appeal. These are especially handy if you have children running around on the beach, as they will prevent any little cuts and scrapes from rocks and shells.

Footwear – whether they be sandals, flip flops, sneakers, or hiking boots, you’ll need some alternatives for the various activities you’ll be doing.

Rain Gear – sometimes we get unlucky, and some rain can put a bit of a damper (pun intended) on your lake weekend getaway. If you pack some proper rain gear, there are ways to make sure the rain doesn’t bring the mood down too much!

Paddle boards leaning up against a shed for lake day

Sleeping Stuff

This next section is more for the folks who are travelling with children. Part of having a restful vacation comes from everyone having a good sleep, and sometimes kids require a little bit more in order to achieve that.

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Stuffies – this is a major one that should really avoid being forgotten. I once forgot my stuffy and couldn’t sleep on a lake trip. My mother tried to replace the stuffy with a bible (??). Needless today, it wasn’t the same. Terrible sleep.

Swaddles – bringing extra swaddles is always a great idea. New places can bring certain young ones a bit of anxiety, and swaddles tend to help!

Crib – you probably won’t forget this, but it’s still always good to write it out!

Blackout Curtains – sometimes rentals will come with blackout curtains, but sometimes they don’t! If super dark rooms are the only way that you can get some rest, enable that for yourself!

Fishing gear all ready to go for a lake day

Lake Day Gear

Now for the whole reason you rent a lake house in the first place: for a daily lake trip! Sometimes a lake house will have beach waterfront but sometimes you’ll have to take a jaunt. Some locations will come equipped with lake day accessories, but we’ve made the list to include everything you could possibly need.

Beach Umbrella – umbrellas are essential if you want to be able to last a whole day on the lake. It’s important to take breaks from the sun throughout the day to prevent sunburns and things like sun stroke or heat stroke.

Beach Chairs – I don’t always bring a beach chair with me because I’m the tanning queen, but beach chairs are great for folks who may get a little bit uncomfortable squatting or laying.

Beach Toys – beach toys don’t just have to be for the kids! Beach balls are fun for the whole family, volleyball, bocce ball (can you even play that in the sand?), a sand castle kit…

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Beach Towels – okay so I like to bring two different types of beach towels with me. I have one regular towel that is for drying off, and then I have another, larger towel with a finer weave that I use for laying down.

These are amazing because they dry super fast and sand seems to just roll right off of it. They’re also big enough to lay down or play a board game. Game changer!

Floaties – floaties aren’t just for kids either! As a kid I remember using a dingy to float around the lake, but these days they have those cool blow up swans or clam shells. So fun, so chic, so floaty.

Goggles/Snorkels – doing some shallow water snorkelling is such a fun way to spend the afternoon with the family to search for little fishies and lake plants.

Life Jackets – safety first! Pack those life jackets!

Outdoor Activities – have you ever read that review for the giant blow up ball that decimated a beach shore? I suggest you don’t buy it, but definitely read the review.

Also, even if you aren’t super duper into fishing, bringing a fishing pole is fun even if it isn’t your main hobby. Imagine using that fishing pole and catching a fish and feeding the family that night! Amazing!

Large Cooler – a lake day is not complete without snacks and libations. A small, soft cooler will work if you’re just bringing finger food and water, but a larger cooler with wheels is great if you’re planning on bring sandwiches and more.

Wireless Speaker – I will usually only turn on my speaker if I’m the only person that’s on a beach, since not everyone likes the same taste in music and I don’t want to impose. If you happen to have the lake front to yourself, may I suggest a Steely Dan playlist!

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Couple with a dog sitting on a dock by the lake

Personal Items

Sunscreen – it’s always a good idea to bring along some extra sunscreen, as there is always someone forgets, but everyone needs it!

Bug Spray – I don’t know why I never go anywhere without bug spray. I’m one of those people who is cursed with really sweet blood and getting covered in bug bites can really ruin a relaxing weekend.

Body Soap/Shampoo & Conditioner – most places that you stay are going to provide you with these items, so you could always save some room and leave these at home. However, I know some of us are very particular about our products and never go anywhere without our preferred brands!

Tooth Care Items – tooth health!

Hair Care Items – don’t forget your hair brush! Nothing like sleeping with wet hair to create a real mess of a wig.

First Aid Kit – first aid kits are especially important if you’re travelling with your family. Having one on hand to make a quick bandage is a great way to keep the mood up for a fun weekend!

Two stuffed bears sitting on a dock on a lake

Extras for the Kids

The main thing to remember when you’re travelling with kids is that you need extra extra extra! Extra blankets, extra bandaids, extra snacks, extra games, extra towels, extra sunscreen, extra hats, and everything else that you can think of.

Lake vacations are for everyone, and if you happen to be the planner, god bless ya! Being a planner can be stressful, since it means that you feel somewhat responsible to ensure that everyone has a happy and easy weekend.

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Ensuring that for everyone (when you’re travelling with kids) is ensuring that everyone has the proper entertainment. Both indoor and outdoor activities for the kids, as well as organizing day time and night activities helps open up space for the adults to play their own games, too! Rummy anyone?

Floatation device next to a beautiful lake scene


Where are some popular locations in the United States for lake cabin getaway?

Lucky for us, the world is absolutely covered with beautiful lakes. All the way from New Hampshire to Lake Michigan, you are bound to find a place to have the perfect lake cabin getaway. Some of the most beautiful places to visit are lake Tahoe, the Finger Lakes, Lake Powell, and many many more!

What are the best things to have in a beach bag?

There are some essentials to bring to the beach. The best things to remember to put in your beach bag are: your beach towel, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, a crossword or book, a snack, a water bottle, and whatever else you need to have a good day!

What is a good national park to visit for its lake?

There are so many amazing national parks in the country to visit. A great national park to visit specifically for its lakes are the North Cascades National Park to see crater lake, the Young Lakes in Yosemite national park, Or Jenny Park in Alta, Wyoming.

What are the things to look for in a cabin rental?

The type of cabin rental you choose will totally depend on the type of person you are! I personally love something that is rustic, cozy, with some personality Other people go for luxury with jacuzzi tubs and amazing views. Luckily, there’s something for everyone out there.

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The main thing to look out for is if the place has good reviews, if the owner is quick to respond, and if it has the sufficient amount of amenities in order for you to have a relaxing vacation!

Do you have to bring kitchen stuff to a cabin vacation?

If you’re renting a cabin for a cabin vacation, you should absolutely have a conversation with the owner to see what types of kitchen stuff they have, as each host will equip you with different levels of things.

Some places will make sure you have everything from paper towels to ramen, whereas others sometimes leave you without salt! Just ask questions, and make requests!

What are some travel tips for a road trip to a cabin trip?

There are so many travel tips out there, but I have a lot of experiences with road trips, Lucky you to have a cabin trip on the other end! My best advice is to make sure that everyone person attending voices the type of trip that they want to have.

Ask questions about how often everyone wants to stop, what types of snacks they want, how many hours of driving to do in a day, and other things to make sure everyone is comfortable!

What are the most important things to include in a packing checklist?

Your packing checklist should be arranged around safety and comfort. Specifically for a lake vacation, safety is pretty much guaranteed, so comfort is the second priority!

That’s why the top 5 most important items are going to be: clothing, food, entertainment, outdoor items, and whatever else is important to you.

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