25 Lake Trip Packing List Ideas (for Families)

Are you looking for a list of fun things to bring to a lake house vacation?

My husband and I love spending time on the lake with our two kids during the summer months.

Since we are often joined by other family members and friends, we tend to spend our lake days with a whole crew of kids who range in age from one year old to sixteen.

Packing for a family trip to the lake can feel really overwhelming when you have such diverse ages to consider.

Luckily, we started keeping notes of all our must have items and travel hacks for a vacation on the lake with kids.

In this post, I will list ideas for some super fun activities to enjoy on your vacation. I’ll also provide a comprehensive checklist of items to pack in your day bag for your day on the water!

(Some of the links in my posts are affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you.  As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Lake House Vacation Rental

My sister is lucky enough to live incredibly close to a lake, so we typically take day trips to the local marina near her house.

If you live farther from a lake or if you want to spend at least one night, you are probably looking for lake houses available to rent.

houses on a lake with docks and boats

Our favorite source for finding great deals on lake house rentals is the website VRBO.

On this site, you can search any region or lake in the country to find loads of available rental properties. 

Whether you are looking for a one-bedroom condo or a house that sleeps over 20 people, VRBO provides so many options and amenities to meet your needs.

This is also a great resource when looking for properties to host family reunions or group trips.

You can check out VRBO- Vacation Rentals by Owner (Affiliate Link) to search for lake house rentals in the area you are planning to visit.

If you don’t currently have a lake in mind to visit and you live near South Carolina, I highly suggest checking out Lake Keowee in Seneca.

Located just outside of the family friendly city of Greenville, Lake Keowee offers incredibly clear, clean water AND amazing mountain views!

Things to Do on a Lake with Kids 

If you aren’t accustomed to visiting a lake with your family, you may be wondering what you can do with your kids on or near the water.

The list below provides examples of fun activities for kids at various age levels.

(Feel free to comment below to share any additional family activities you like to enjoy on a lake vacation!)

Rent a Boat

The lake is the best place to rent a boat like a ski boat or a pontoon since it allows for super fun activities on the water.

Most lakes and rivers offer marinas or places for boat rentals during your trip.

Check out the prices and availability before your trip and don’t forget to factor in the cost of fuel for your budget.

Ride a Jet Ski

Similar to renting a boat, you can often find jet skis available to rent for your trip.

This is a great lake activity because it’s often easier for teens and adults to drive a jet ski than an actual boat. Jet skiing is a fun way to experience the water on a hot summer day.

Tube or Ski

Rent or purchase water skis or a tube to pull on your boat while on the lake.

My kids started tubing as toddlers, and it continues to be their top pick for most fun activity on a lake.

Water skiing is also one of the most popular lake activities for both kids and adults!

Play on a Lily Pad

These lily pads are the perfect item to take when spending the day on a lake with a baby or toddler.

Just lay it out on the water, and your little one can easily sit and play with toys. Bigger kids can use the lily pad to jump into the lake water.

floating mat for lake
find it here

You can find these floating water mats here! (Amazon Affiliate Link)


Pack some pool noodles or floats and spend time floating in the water to cool off on a hot day at the lake.

This is one of the easiest ways to have fun at the lake since it requires very little supplies. You can even float in the water with just your life vest!


The teenagers in our family love taking time to sunbathe while on the lake.

Whether you are laying out on the dock, boat, or on the lily pad, the lake is a great place to work on a suntan!

Just make sure to apply some sun protection, so you don’t get burned on your sunny days at the lake.

Go Fishing

Pack or rent a fishing pole and bait to teach your kids the sport of fishing.


Many times you can find trails, waterfalls, or cliffs on a lake you are visiting.

If you are able to locate a special spot like this on your preferred lake, your kids can enjoy jumping into the water from up high or swimming around the waterfall.

**It’s important to note that these areas are typically really popular and do become quite busy during peak times.

Play with Baby Toys

Bring a cheap inflatable baby pool to fill with lake water for your infant or toddler to splash and play while on the boat. Don’t forget to pack some water toys for the pool too!

inflatable baby pool with sand toys

(If your baby likes to drink the water in the pool, you can bring a few gallons of drinking water to pour into the inflatable pool rather than using the lake water.)

Play Water Games

Older kids can have competitions like best cannonball, best straddle jump, best flip, etc. The other family members can rate each jump like in the Olympics.

The winner can get a prize or bragging rights. You can also purchase pool games to take with you to the lake.


If your kids are anything like mine, they will need lots of snack options available for their day at the lake. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water to stay hydrated as well!

Play Cards or Board Games

Spend some quality time together playing cards or board games on the boat, dock, or shore.

Paddle Board, or Kayak

Stand-up paddle boards and kayaks are perfect for kids of all ages!

Teenagers can often enjoy them on their own while little kids love to go along for the ride with an adult.

paddle board with kids on a lake

If you don’t have room to pack a paddle board or kayak in your vehicle, check out this convenient inflatable paddle board from Amazon! (Affiliate Link)


After a long day on the water, who doesn’t love a good nap?!

My older daughter is well beyond the age of daily nap times, but she still enjoys a nice rest on the boat after a day of fun on the water.

Lake Vacation Packing List

The checklist below includes items you may want to consider packing for a visit to the lake.

Note that this packing list does not include items for an overnight stay. I tried to narrow it down to must haves for time spent actually on the lake.

  • insulated cooler
  • bag of ice
  • snacks
  • water bottles
  • plastic cups (for drinks or to hold snacks)
  • beach tote (Amazon Affiliate Link)
  • beach towels
  • change of clothes per person (Place each child’s clothes inside his/her own gallon sized Ziplock bag to stay organized. When your child changes into the dry clothes, you can use the Ziplock bag to hold the wet swimsuit.)
  • sunscreen
  • sunglasses
  • waterproof phone case (Amazon Affiliate Link)
  • lip balm
  • sun hat
  • swimsuits and coverups
  • flip flops
  • games /favorite toys
  • Lily Pad (Amazon Affiliate Link)
  • life jackets / floaties
  • good book
  • inflatable baby pool 
  • baby water toys
  • fold up wagon (Amazon Affiliate Link) 
  • swim diapers and baby wipes
  • hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes
  • bug spray
  • pool floats / pool noodles
  • trash bags

You may also be interested in the following posts:

Final Thoughts on Favorite Things to Do at a Lake Home

We hope you found our activities and packing list helpful! There are so many fun things to do on a lake vacation that it’s difficult for even the teens to get bored.

Whether you have a second home on the lake or you’re planning to enjoy a lake day on your weekend getaway, the whole family is sure to have a great time experiencing the water sports and activities listed above!

If you’re planning to experience lake life with little ones, just make sure to add lots of snacks and toys to your checklist to get toddlers through the long days on your lakeside vacation!

For more family vacation tips, you can check out this post: Best Family Vacation Spots in the South.

Do you have any suggestions for fun things to bring to a lake house?

Comment below to share with us!

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paddle board with text overlay 25 Ideas for a lake vacation packing list

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  1. Thanks for sharing this! We recently bought a 1980 Gibson Houseboat and completely renovated it for family vacations. My favorite part was ripping out some of the old and outdated material. You’d be shocked based off the size of the boat just how much waste we had. We had to rent a dumpster to fit it all! Now we are excited to go make some actual memories out on the water thanks to your tips. Planning our first boat vacation as we speak. Thanks again.

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