What to Pack for a Day Trip or Family Outing

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Be prepared for a fun family outing when you have a day trip checklist. Don’t recreate the wheel; reuse your own brain power when it comes to knowing what to pack for a day trip.

There are loads of Fun Places to Go with Kids, but if you’re going to be gone for more than a few hours, then you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared. Consider this day trip packing list when you plan your next family outing or vacay day with your partner.

girl in a pink sweater watching the flamingos at the zoo on a sunny day.

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As you plan out your family vacations and weekends, no doubt you see a few day trips in your future. No biggie, right? No need to pack much, no need to sleep in a strange bed, no need to prepare. Right?

Whether you’re doing a great staycation or using a hotel or vacation rental for a home base, family outings can be a great way to spend time with your kids, but they need to be planned for.

If you’ve got kids with you, then you’ve got to be prepared for your family outing!

Why It’s Important

Something will go wrong. Someone will get hungry, hurt, or unhappy — while you’re away from home, more than arm’s reach from the regular supplies that would bring your people — and you — comfort.

You want to be prepared. If you’re prepared with a well-supplied day pack for your family outing, then you will be ready for any adventure or mishap that may come your way. How do you make sure your day pack has what you’ll need?

You don’t want to think about this every single time. Getting ready for a trip of any kind takes so long, why do I want to do the planning work every single time? Keeping a checklist on file in your planner or on the computer can save you some time and some brain space. 

It makes it easier to go on family outings. As we have traveled domestically or abroad, having a day trip checklist has come in hand more times than not. One of our hesitations to do day trips when our kids were little was how hard it was. Knowing what to pack for your family outing makes it easier to do. If it’s easy, you’ll do it more often.

day trip items for family outing laid out on table.

What to Take

Here’s what you’ll need for the average family outing:

If you’ve got a baby or toddler in your midst, you may also want to include:

  • bottled water, formula, juice boxes, plastic cups and sippy cups or bottles
  • extra clothes for each young child, aged birth to preschool
  • diaper bag ready to go
  • stroller or baby carrier
  • portable booster seat with tray
  • entertainment for the kids’ duration in the car
  • Activity Bags for Family Fun, depending on where you’re going and what activities are planned.
close-up of reusable packing list made into a bag tag.

Tips for Success

Make a reusable list! As you test out your day packing list, take note on each family outing what would have made the experience better.

Then make a reusable list. You can keep your packing list in your phone, in a planner or print it.

If there are situations when others might help you pack, then you definitely want to make the list easily accessible to others. You can share it on a reminders app or even print it out.

Pro tip: I created a small printable list on my computer and turned it into a plastic coated bag tag. You can buy self-laminating tags that work great for this!

You don’t have to make your list fancy. Just create it so you don’t have to recreate it every time you take your kids out.

Believe me, you’ll be so glad you did this. In fact, if you can keep a bag ready with most of things, it will be even easier for you to head out on adventures at a moment’s notice. Put your list somewhere you can access it, and then make sure you consult it each time. You’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way!

mom with daypack and kids on family outing.

More Family Travel Tips

What works for you?

Leave a comment below and let us know what works for you.

This post was originally published on June 13, 2008. It has been updated for content and clarity.

text overlay on picture of packed items on table top.

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  1. This is so great! I followed your tip from some time ago about having bags already packed for certain destinations (like the beach) and I can’t tell you what a life-changing tip that was!!! I am so making this checklist, because I’m the mom that forever forgets something (like sanitizing wipes)!!!!!

  2. I don’t have lists, but I do have a few pre-stocked bags for different things. One bag has essential swim gear: towels, sun screen, and life jackets in it. Another has our sand toys. A small insulated backpack always has paper plates, napkins, and a few utensils in it (so all I have to do is throw in the food). My diaper bag is always stocked with anything else we need for a day out (diapers, wipes, a few small toys, the kids’ sunglasses, etc). We can head out for a fun day within about 30 minutes of someone inviting us somewhere (or us deciding to go somewhere)

  3. I started doing this last summer, and it was SO helpful! I put a master list in a plastic page protector and use a magnet to hold it on the door to our garage – I quickly run through it before each outing. The thing I always had to run back and get was the camera! This idea worked so well during the summer, that I made a new list for the door in the fall. I was having trouble remembering if I needed swimsuits or gymnastics leotards or book bags or whatever during those first weeks of school and activities!