Updated on August 4, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
Preparing for a lake house trip should be just as simple as the journey itself; that’s where we come in with our Lake House Packing List! Below, you’ll find 17 essentials for a Lake House trip, as well as what to wear at a lakehouse, what not to wear and some Lake House FAQs.
What to Pack for a Lake House Trip — 17 Essentials
1. Duffel Bag
When you’re heading to a lakeside destination, duffel bags are always an excellent choice: casual and functional, this luggage is a no-brainer. This lightweight model is made of nylon, boasts 6,000 cubic centimeters of interior space, holds up to 50 pounds, and stores soft so you can easily sling more than one into the back of your car! If you’re flying somewhere and need a checked bag, this also makes a great pick.
Whether you need a sturdy bag for additional clothing or plan to squeeze everything into one suitcase, this heavy-duty backpack makes the perfect carry-on. It’s sized for storage in the overhead bin, includes an interior laptop pocket to make security a breeze, and even has luggage straps to secure your clothing. If you’re traveling by car, no worries—this makes great storage for spillover items.
Anyone who regularly travels to a lake—especially in warmer months—knows this fundamental truth: there will be bugs. You can apply copious amounts of this Deet-free spray to deter unwelcome pests without concern about its impact on the environment (or, for that matter, your health). Although this bottle is 4 ounces, it can be easily transferred to a TSA-compliant spray bottle if you need to bring it on a plane.
If you’re planning to spend any time in a lake, a good pair of water shoes are a must. Save yourself the concern of cutting your foot on a broken shell, getting grit embedded in your heels, or feeling your toes brush against a suspiciously slippery object. These quick-dry aqua socks will safeguard your feet, and the rubber soles are slip-resistant.
Any organization aficionado knows the merits of packing cubes, but if you’re new to this innovative way to keep your luggage in order, this set will quickly have you convinced. With five cubes in assorted-sizes, you’ll be a packing pro in no time. This set also comes with two laundry bags, which are great for keeping sandy clothes separate.
6. Neck Wallet
While traveling, it’s crucial to keep all your important cards and documents together and close-at-hand. This neck wallet is the perfect solution; its petite size perfectly accommodates a passport, while zippered, RFID-protected pockets provide a secure spot to store all of your cards. Regardless of whether you’ll be flying or road-tripping, this neck wallet will come in handy.
Nothing quite makes a lake vacation like kicking back on the water. If you’re on the lookout for an unobtrusive flotation device, this inflatable lounge float is your answer. It compresses and rolls up for easy packing, can be manually inflated without the use of an air pump, accommodates up to 250 pounds, and provides four distinct methods of use: hammock, saddle, chair, and drifter.
When you’re heading to a lake, a beach towel is a must; with this assorted-size, multi-pattern option, you can easily dry off after a swim or stretch out on the sand. This towel is made of a gentle, quick-dry material and comes with its own travel-size bag so you can pack it in your luggage without a second thought. As an added bonus, the fabric is sand-resistant!
This thermal lunch tote is the perfect accompaniment for any day trips or lakeside meals. Its two-level compartments maintain both hot and cold in unison, and the tote also includes an exterior pocket for additional non-perishable storage. With easy-to-carry padded handles and cheerful colors, this is a one-stop-shop for all of your portable food needs.
10. Sleeping Bag
If you’re going rustic with your lake house, we highly recommend this three-season sleeping bag to keep you comfortable come night. Whether you’re throwing it atop a mattress or roughing it up on the floor, this bag has you covered. It rolls up for simple packing, and the zippered bottom and top can be adjusted to release your feet or keep your head warm.
A good water bottle is a must for any travel, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better choice than this BPA-free, carbon-filtered model, which can even tackle lake water. The bottle has a built-in straw and can easily be secured to a bag with an attached carabiner; it’s a great way to stay safely hydrated whether you’re on-the-go or lounging lakeside.
Many a phone has been fumbled while snapping a lake picture or flown overboard on a boat. This waterproof phone case allows you to bring your device along for any water-centric activities without a second thought—it even protects your phone if you want to take some underwater pics. Guarding against all types of conditions, this is a must whether you’re hiking, skiing, or spending some time in the sand.
Regardless of the season, it’s good to be prepared for all types of weather at a lake house. This unisex windbreaker is well-suited for the range of weather that accompanies lake climates, especially the cooler nights. Coming in a unisex style and a range of sizes and colors, there’s a range of options to reflect your personality; you can throw this in your suitcase without a second thought.
14. Portable Speaker
Traveling with a portable speaker is always a plus, especially if you’re heading to a remote location. Putting on some favorite music as you kick back or prepare dinner is a great way to create a soundtrack for the memories you make; this portable version is also waterproof, making it a foolproof tagalong whether you’re on a boat or reclining by the water.
15. Travel Fan
At a lake house, having a way to keep cool is essential; many older homes, especially cabins, aren’t outfitted with air-conditioning. Whether you’re needing a breeze while under the sun or trying to stay comfortable through the night, this small-but-mighty portable fan is a great choice. If you’re flying, you’ll have to leave its lithium battery behind, but no worries—you can also power the fan through a USB charging port!
There’s no warm-weather treat quite as delicious as a popsicle; growing up, these were a staple during our lake house visits. These BPA-free, disposable popsicle bags are a great way to ditch syrupy, artificially-colored alternatives and make your own. Pack a handful of these in your suitcase—they won’t take up much room—and fill them with your juice of choice. Within a few hours, you’ll have a delicious, much healthier popsicle to savor under the sun!
When you’re staying at an infrequently-used lake house, kitchens tend to be understocked. This portable pour-over is ideal for people who need their morning brew but don’t want to worry about securing a coffeepot. A travel-friendly option, this pourer sits right over your mug of choice; you’ll have a great cup of coffee in a couple of minutes.
Other lake house packing list items not to forget
Travel toothbrush kit
Small makeup bag
Swimsuit (Women Men)
Travel shoes bags
Keychain bottle opener
Travel-size sprayable hand sanitizer
Lipstick-sized portable charger
Carbon monoxide detector
Noise Cancelling Headphones
What to wear at a lake house
Dinner out: For men, a simple combination of a button-down, shorts, and nice shoes will more than suffice. Women can bring a casual dress up a notch with the right accessories and shoes.
Boating: Boating clothes should be lightweight and no-fuss; ideally, you can slip on your swimsuit underneath! A loose t-shirt, shorts, and sandals will do the trick.
A day trip: If you’re taking a day trip to explore a nearby landmark or town, keep your clothing simple, but feel free spruce up your outfit with a nice shirt or pair of shoes.
What NOT to bring to a lake house
2) Extensive clothing: There’s no reason to load down your luggage with a bounty of clothing; keep your suitcase to comfortable basics that you can wear for a variety of activities! You can free up your time by selecting versatile, easy-to-wash options.
3) Multiples of items: As with most any packing, it’s not necessary to bring multiples of items to a lake house. Bring options that can be mixed-and-matched, and you won’t need duplicates for your trip to go smoothly.
4) Guidebooks: In this day and age, guidebooks are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Rather than bringing along bulky intel, do your location research online before leaving your trip, making note of anything you want to see. Depending on your location, there may not be a lot of printed material to consult, anyway—the more obscure your location, the more the internet will help!
5) Extensive accessories/makeup: A lake house visit is the perfect time to scale back and leave accessories and makeup behind! Of course, you should bring whatever is going to give you the most joy—but if it’s not a priority, you can leave the accessories and makeup behind assured that their absence won’t be felt.
FAQs about a trip to a lake house
1. What lakes are the best for vacationing?
A) In the U.S., several states are well-known for their lakes. Among the most popular of these are the Great Lakes, which span both North America and Canada and include locations in eight upper-midwestern and northeastern states. Many of these states offer much smaller lakes as well!
B) Regardless of whether you orient your trip around one of the Great Lakes, almost every state has a natural lake worth visiting, so chances are you can find something near where you currently reside. Our go-to lake house destination is always northern Michigan; with its temperate weather and charming clusters of small towns, it has many lakes worth a visit. Among these are Carp Lake, Paradise Lake, Douglas Lake, Crooked Lake, and Torch Lake (not to mention one of the Greats, Lake Michigan).
2. Where should I rent a lake house?
A) If you’re not traveling to a family- or friend-owned lake house, you have the challenge of finding a reputable accommodation. We recommend steering clear of host-oriented rental services, like Airbnb, and relying on local, well-reviewed, and reputable rental sites. If you know people in the area, look to them first for suggestions—perhaps they’ll know a friend who’s looking to fill their cabin for a few days.
3. What should I be aware of when selecting my accommodation?
A) If you’re renting your accommodation, you’ll need to be aware of several factors: first, decide whether air-conditioning is a priority. Many lake houses—especially cabins—tend to be on the rustic side and may not have the luxury of central cooling. Second, you’ll need to verify what other amenities are included, particularly with regards to the kitchen—is the stove gas or electric, and what dishes are provided?—as well as whether you’re expected to bring your own linens. It’s also important to check about the clothes-washing method, your accommodation’s proximity to the lake, and whether your location has a carbon monoxide detector and fire alarm. All this information should be clearly stated in the listing; if not, you may want to move on to a more transparent option.
4. Should I drive or fly to my destination?
A) This comes down to a combination of personal preference, time, and location. If you have the means and the time to drive, this might be a good option, as you’ll likely need a rental car once you reach your destination. If you’re hard-pressed for time and your lake house is located more than a day’s drive away, flying might be a better option to maximize your travel time.
5. What are some good activities for a lake house trip?
A) Lake vacations offer a bit of something for everyone! If you’re a bookworm, it’s the perfect place to kick back with a good novel and soak up the sun. People with athletic tendencies will enjoy swimming and hiking, and shopping enthusiasts and foodies will find a lot of charm in small lake towns and their local artisans. Finally, if you have kids, they’ll delight in water play and games on the shore! Depending on the lake, boat rentals may be provided, which you can use for all sorts of fun: fishing, tubing, waterskiing, or just drifting. Kayak and canoe rentals are an equally enjoyable—but perhaps more budget-friendly—option.
6. How do I decide between visiting a lake or the ocean?
A) Whether a lakeside or oceanside visit is right for you is a matter of personal preference. Depending on the location, lake accommodations will likely run cheaper than ones approximate to the ocean, and they also tend to be less crowded than beaches. There’s more variety in terms of lake-friendly activities. If you want the smaller scale of a lake without losing the awe-inspiring sublimity of the ocean, Lake Michigan is only one example of a great compromise.
7. Is there anything important I should know about lakes?
A) If you’re unfamiliar with your lake of choice, make sure you do some research before settling on a location. Shoreline, water temperature, and swimming conditions vary widely among lakes—not to mention the size of the body of water. You’ll want to make sure you choose a lake suited to your desired activities; if you plan to do a lot of swimming, a massive and frigid option like Lake Michigan probably isn’t for you. People who plan to spend a lot of time in the water will want to choose a lake without a fraught history of summer’s itch—a microscopic parasite that lives in water and causes a rash-like reaction with varying severity—as well as being mindful of not visiting at the time of year when this condition is worsened. There are many factors to consider, so the most important thing is to make an informed decision!