Table of Contents

23 Top Zoo Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

23 Top Zoo Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring
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A day trip to the zoo is the perfect outing for families with children of all ages. Besides the opportunity to get outside and explore, the zoo is a wonderful chance for children to learn all about ecology and the importance of animal conservation.

The following zoo packing list will outline the absolute must-haves to bring on your outing, plus information on what to wear at the zoo, what NOT to bring, and some FAQs about planning your adventure!

fergusson family at san diego zoo
Our family at the San Diego Zoo.
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What to Pack for the Zoo – 23 Essentials

  • 1. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    A little bit of rain shouldn’t ruin your day at the zoo. This umbrella can keep up to two people dry, has advanced windproof protection, and is compact enough for your family to bring several with you on a day trip. The hard travel case is a great bonus to this already quality-made umbrella.

    Hero Umbrella

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  • 2. Hand Sanitizer Wipes

    While zoos are a great outing idea, it’s still important to keep your family germ-free. These hand sanitizer wipes are a better alternative to hand sanitizing stations around the zoo, all the while being biodegradable and alcohol-free.

    Hand Sanitizer Wipes

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  • 3. Cooling Towel

    It can get hot walking from one outdoor animal exhibit to the next, and the sun can really take a toll! My family and I love to use cooling towels when we’re outside in the heat for an extended amount of time. These small towels pack a refreshingly cold punch. All you do is get them wet, wring out the excess water, and the towel instantly gets 20-30 degrees colder than the outside air temperature. It’s a real lifesaver on hot days!

    towel pink

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  • 4. Stroller / Wagon

    Depending on how little your kids are, this wagon is a serious gem! We use this for zoo days, beach trips, and anywhere that involves some walking (because little legs can only keep up for so long). This will make everybody’s day easier since toddlers can rest and you can spare yourself the drama of a tantrum. In the long run, you can use it for gardening, groceries, or to transport whatever!

    Stroller / Wagon

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  • 5. Snack Containers

    If you’re going to bring your own food on your trip, these containers are a great way to safely pack all of your kids’ snacks, from fruit to crackers. They are super sturdy for the price, and best of all, reusable and dishwasher safe.

    Snack Containers

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  • 6. Neck Wallet

    These portable travel wallets are a great way to keep track of all your important belongings like cell phones, cash, and cards while freeing up space in your bags and keeping you hands-free. This one has RFID-blocking material so e-thieves won’t be able to scan your bag for credit card data.

    Neck Wallet

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  • 7. Comfortable Walking Shoes

    You’ll be spending most of the day on your feet, so it’s essential to wear a sturdy pair of shoes. These sneakers have memory-foam soles, keeping your feet comfortable and pain-free all day long.

    sneaker shoes

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  • 8. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    A quick-dry towel is definitely worth bringing along on a zoo trip. They are super handy when you need to dry off or need to wipe away a little sweat during the heat of the day. Zoos often have fun water features for the kids to play in. Throw a compact travel towel in your bag, that way you can dry the kiddos off whenever they’re done playing.

    HERO Travel Towel - Blue

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  • 9. Day Bag / Backpack

    Though this daypack was originally designed for hiking, its ample storage space and numerous pockets make it a perfect bag for any day trip, while still being compact enough to fold into itself for easy storage. Before you go to the zoo, though, make sure to check if there are any size restrictions on the bags that guests can bring.

    Day Bag / Backpack

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  • 10. Locker / Backpack Locks

    Whether you’re using lockers or just securing your bags, luggage locks are great to have on hand. These are TSA-approved if you’re flying anywhere and can be great peace of mind for backpacks or any bags left out of sight.

    luggage locks

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  • 11. Reusable Water Bottle

    Plastic bottles of water can be absurdly expensive at some zoos, all the while being bad for the environment. This reusable water bottle is leak-proof and stain- and odor-resistant. You’ll save a small fortune by filling up these bottles at water stations around the zoo, rather than paying for bottles sold there.

    Brita water bottle teal

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  • 12. Lipstick-sized Universal Charger

    We never do big excursions without a portable charger. This one is about the size of a tube of lipstick, yet can powerfully charge multiple devices at once. Throw it in your backpack next to your phone, camera, or any other electronic and it will charge your devices as you explore!

    Lipstick-sized Universal Charger

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  • 13. Lip Balm

    On sunny days, our lips are more likely to be damaged by UVA/UVB rays and become uncomfortably chapped. This balm not only protects against the sun, but also is fragrance and preservative-free, making it the best choice for the whole family.

    Lip Balm

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  • 14. Sun Hats

    No matter the temperature, it’s still important to protect your skin against the harsh rays of the run. These hats come in a variety of colors and sizes, keeping the whole family cool and protected.

    fishing hat

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  • 15. Electrolytes

    Walking around in the hot sun all day can be dehydrating. Use electrolytes to supercharge your water and give you significantly more energy. These are loaded with vitamins and minerals to expedite your hydration and make you feel better faster.


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  • 16. Rain Ponchos

    On especially crowded days at the zoo, it may be less convenient to bring around an umbrella, particularly in areas that are densely packed with others. These rain ponchos are sturdy enough to be reusable and have drawstrings to ensure a close enough fit to keep you extra dry.

    rain ponchu

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  • 17. Bag with Built-in Cooler

    A lot of zoos allow you to bring your own food and beverages. If your family is going to pack provisions, you’ll want a way to keep them cool without having to lug around a huge cooler all day. This bag doubles as storage for your essentials with a cooler built into the bottom. It can hold up to 14 cans and will keep everything delightfully chilly for you.

    Bag with Built-in Cooler

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  • 18. Mosquito-Repellent Wristbands

    Being outside means you’re vulnerable to bug bites, especially during the warmer months. This insect repellent is plant-based and DEET free, all the while repelling mosquitoes that may carry harmful viruses like Zika and West Nile. Our favorite part is that they’re wearable as wristbands and safe for kids, so you don’t have to spend all day respraying toxic fumes.

    Mosquito-Repellent Wristbands

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  • 19. Portable First-Aid Kit

    No matter how hard you try, sometimes accidents happen. This portable first-aid kit is the ideal size for a day trip, so your family will be patched up and ready to go in no time. It comes with antiseptic wipes, bandaids, gauze, and more.

    aid kit

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  • 20. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    Regardless of where your travels lead you, this hanging toiletries bag is a game-changer. It unfolds to expose 4 giant pockets that hold all of your skincare, hygiene, and haircare products. In case you don’t have any countertop space or storage room, this bag converts any door or pole into an immediate built-in shelf. We bring it for hotel stays and camping trips, it literally saves our sanity!

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

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  • 21. Deodorant Wipes

    Let’s face it. For many months of the year, zoo days are HOT. These deodorant wipes are amazing because they’re pocket-sized, natural, and eliminate odors on the spot. They make me feel super refreshed. Your future self will thank you.

    Deodorant Wipes

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  • 22. Natural Sunscreen for Children

    This sunscreen is specifically designed for children and those with sensitive skin. It’s vegan and cruelty-free, making it animal-friendly — perfect for an afternoon on safari at the zoo!

    baby sunscreen

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  • 23. Packable “Just in Case” Bag

    Your kids will love some zoo souvenirs and it’s fun to collect wildlife keepsakes – many of these support animal conservation. This “just in case” bag is for any shopping you do at the zoo, but can also double as a diaper bag or essentials tote. It’s a great option since it’s made of a duffel-like material and weighs virtually nothing when empty.

    Packable “Just in Case” Bag

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What to Wear at the Zoo

What WOMEN Should Wear at the Zoo- (Click to expand)

Below is a sample women’s clothing list.(All items link to for your convenience).

You’ll be outside for most of the day when you visit the zoo, so the best way to prepare is by wearing layers. It’s especially important to bring a light jacket or sweater, even on the warmest of days, since some exhibits may be indoors and in air-conditioning, and therefore much colder than the temperature outside. Since you’ll be walking around all day, you should wear clothes that you will be comfortable in. Avoid anything too tight or constraining, and stick to lighter, natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and some performance fabrics.

What MEN Should Wear at the Zoo - (Click to expand)

Below is a sample men’s clothing list.(All items link to for your convenience).

For men, too, the key to a great outfit for a day out is layers, including a light sweatshirt that you can keep in your bag just in case. As always, dress as comfortably as you can, with fabrics for the season. You can never go wrong with jeans, and in the cooler months, you can try mixing it up by dressing a bit less casually and try different combinations of plaid shirts and light jackets.

What KIDS Should Wear at the Zoo – (Click to expand)
As for what children should wear, the key to any zoo outfit is a pair of comfortable sneakers. A trip to the zoo is a lot of walking, and ill-fitting shoes will only make small kids fussier as time goes on. A sturdy pair of shoes will help keep everyone in a better mood. No matter the time of year, a rain poncho is also a good time. The zoo doesn’t shut down in the rain, and the animals will still be out and about in their enclosures. A poncho will allow kids to see animals in a new way, but stay dry all the same.

Seasonally speaking, a hat and sunglasses are essential during warm, sunny weather. Kids’ skin is especially sensitive to the sun, so it’s important to give them a little extra protection while they’re outside all day at the zoo. In cooler temperatures, it’s always a good idea to pack an extra jacket or sweatshirt, even if you don’t think you’ll need it. Remember, if you’re too hot, you can always take off a jacket or sweatshirt, but you’ll just be cold and miserable if you don’t bring one and end up cold. In fact, for especially young children, it’s not a bad idea to bring a whole extra outfit. Kids can unintentionally get pretty messy, so a spare shirt and pants could come in handy.

FAQs about visiting the Zoo

  • 1. How can I keep kids entertained if it’s busy/not a lot of animals are out?

    Unfortunately, a trip to the zoo includes some unpredictability. Animals may not be completely visible through large crowds, or they may not be in their enclosures that day at all. While this may be disappointing, there are plenty of other things at the zoo to keep your children entertained. Most zoos have exhibitions and presentations aimed at small children, as well as children’s play areas and attractions. Many zoos also have scavenger hunts or adventure games to keep kids engaged during their trip, with most being available online for free. The reptile houses and aviaries, which are largely indoors, are often some of the least crowded places in the zoo, so these make for good stops during particularly busy times of the day.

  • 2. When is the best time of the day to visit the zoo?

    While there is no bad time to visit the zoo, it will probably be much less busy during the early hours right after opening, and late in the afternoon before closing. These are ideal times to visit during the summer since mid-day can also be really hot. However, interactive presentations and special exhibits may not be open during these times, so make sure to plan accordingly.

  • 3. What is the best season for trips to the zoo?

    One of the best things about visiting the zoo is that it’s not weather dependent. The animals will be out and about during all seasons. In fact, seeing the animals play in the snow can be quite a unique experience! The zoo is busiest during the summer, so the ideal time would be spring or autumn when the weather is still enjoyable. If you visit during the summer, though, try and go on a week-day to avoid the biggest crowds.

  • 4. How should we plan our day at the zoo?

    The day before you go to the zoo, try to do as much research as possible on the exhibits, available activities, and amenities. The best resource for this is the zoo’s website itself, which often has free, printable activity sheets and guides for kids. It’s a good idea to print out a map ahead of time, and get your kids involved in the planning. Ask them what animals they’re excited to see, what they are eager to learn, and if there are any special presentations they want to go to.

  • 5. What should our family NOT do at the zoo?

    Before a trip to the zoo, it’s important to go over proper zoo etiquette, especially if you have small children. While seeing wild animals up close is exciting, it’s important to show them respect. Though it may seem obvious to you, make sure to remind everyone not to litter, yell at the animals, bang on their cages, or otherwise disturb them. The animals are close, but they are still wild, and should be treated as such.