little house • little girls • little small town story

what to pack for a day at the lake with kids

douglas lake, tn

Ah, the lake. It’s my home away from home every summer for about 14 years now. And if you’re a beach person…I also always thought I would chose the beach over the lake, until I started dating my husband. And now I would chose the lake over the beach almost every time (I do still enjoy the beach, but if I had to pick one to go to for the rest of my life…a lake would win hands down–the salty water and sand can be a bit much some times). I believe there’s nothing better than sitting on the dock, reading a book, enjoying the day on the water…but lets face it with kids there’s no reading or resting when you’re at the lake. And that’s okay! I still love it and am so happy that my kids will look back and see that most of their childhood summers were spend on the water.

After bringing my kids to the lake almost every week during the summer now for almost 7 years, I can say I’m basically a pro at what you should pack. First, don’t over complicate things, if you forget something…just go with the flow…you’re on lake time and there should be no stress at the lake! HA. so easy to say that…but try to keep that mentality. But if you’re a planner, need to have everything prepped. I’m going to list all my essentials and I hope it helps you when you are planning a lake trip.

  1. Sunscreen: I still haven’t found a sunscreen I absolutely love. Neutrogena is what I’ve used in the past, but there’s been a recall and on the “think dirty” app it scores an 8 out of 10 for harsh ingredients. I’ve been searching for a mineral based sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast….I have yet to find one with good ingredients. I love the sun bum sunscreen face sticks especially for kids bc it’s fast and easy. I’ve been meaning to try supergroop glow stick, but haven’t ordered it yet. Sunscreen is such a hot topic right now, that it almost feels overwhelming. So for me personally, if we are not out in the middle of the day in harsh sunlight we skip sunscreen. You can also use a rash guard too which will minimize use of sunscreen.
  2. Cooler: If you’re going to be spending the day out on the boat, or just sitting on the dock near the water. Having a cooler for snacks/drinks is such a life saver! I use two different ones depending on what were doing and how long were going to be staying out. If we plan on being out on the boat almost all day, I use my yeti roadie. It’s small enough to pack a days worth of snack/drinks and keeps everything ice cold. (the sagebrush color I have is discontinued, but the new green they replaced it with is awesome!) The other cooler I use is a backpack one I found at target.

3. Insulated cups: This one isn’t necessarily an essential but the girls and I love our hydro flask. We love having our water icy cold and not buying plastic water bottles all the time. You eventually save money because you can just refill these, instead of buying bottled water all the time and there’s so many cute colors. Mine’s the 32oz with a straw lid. Idk why but I just drink more water when I have a straw…lol anyone else? Both of the girls have the kids hydro flask…I think I bought them one year and put them in their easter basket. They’ve had them for years now and they’re still going strong. Also, hydro flask sent me a free replacement lid a while back because we lost it. So yes, they’re expensive but usually brands like this have AMAZING customer service…so I don’t mind spending a little extra because they’re going to be around for years to come.

4. Life jackets/Puddle Jumpers: Life jackets are a must and no brainer! Puddle jumpers are coast guard approved so when you’re out on the boat, these are fine. At least they are in Tennessee/North Carolina. Check with your local game warden/state. I love puddle jumpers for toddlers, life jackets ride up. Both of my girls were swimming by ages 4/5 and I really think it’s because of puddle jumpers. It gave them confidence around the water, and once they were tall enough to get in water where they could stand they were just natural swimmers. Also, don’t forget your life jacket mom! You don’t have to wear them, but if you are stopped by the game warden on the lake there has to be enough life jackets for every person on the boat. And I’m a little picky about life jackets, I don’t like the scratchy ones lol I like the softer material like this one, but if you’re not going to be at the lake multiple times throughout the year just get the cheap ones!

5. Hats for everyone!: I’m also picky about hats….ok. I’m just going to come out and say it. I’m really picky about everything. oops…Oh well, it’s who I am. I try so hard to be laid back, but bottom line I just want what I like. LOL but here’s one of the hats I’ve had for years that looks awesome once it’s faded and been wet and used for years to come. Your kids might be like mine, and not want to year hats. But it’s worth a shot to try and get your kids to wear a hat especially if your out in the sun all day.

Bug Spray: Some days the bugs are bad, some days they are not. Better to be prepared!

Sunglasses: I love love love these sunglasses because they fit so good under hats. Right now I’m rocking a fake pair I found on eBay because last year Penland (my oldest daughter) pushed me in and I lost my real ones. So I ordered a pair of used ones off eBay and they were guaranteed real. They 100% are fake, so I got my money back and I’ve just been wearing them. Eventually, I’ll buy another pair but these fake ones are doing the trick for now.

swimsuit: I don’t have a link to the swimsuit I’m loving this year, but if you are on instagram I know you’ve seen them. It’s the you.swim brand. They’re awesome! I love this suit. I got the Poise high waist two piece in sage. If you have kids that are still in diapers, you will need to pack a few swim diapers. You can also use the reusable ones as well, I liked those when the girls were smaller.

towel: I love an oversized beach towel. These are my favorite because they’re so big and so fluffy! check for sales, I’m sure amazon has some really big towels too. But these are just my go to!

Ear plugs: Ear plugs for kids who have tubes in their ears or if your kid gets swimmers ear frequently.

Okay, this one is totally not essential but so much fun! These are called rubber dockies. And they’re A LOT of fun.

6. The rubber dockie is a REAL blast for kids. Are they essential no. If you’re just going to a weekend or a week, probably just pass because they’re an investment. If you’re at the lake almost every weekend, spend most of your days on the water then YES. It has been so fun for the girls and I. We play gladiator which is where you see who can stay on the mat the longest. It’s seriously a blast for kids. Check your local Sams club too! That’s where we found ours.

7. Lastly, a change of clothes and a wet bag to put all the wet swimsuits in for the drive home.

I hope that was helpful! Below I just created an easier list you can just print off instead of referring back to this! Did I miss anything?


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