Day Pack Essentials: What to Pack for Family Days Out

Family days out are an adventure waiting to happen. Be it a day trip from home, an excursion on a family vacation, or even when you are travelling long-term, being well prepared when you explore somewhere new will help make the day smooth and enjoyable. In this guide, we will run through what to pack for family days out so you can make the most of your adventures.

Day Packs vs. Handbags

The first question is, what to pack this all in? When the girls were younger, we used to have our trusty handbag known simply as TB – The Bag! This cavernous bag could take nappies, formula, beach towels, beach toys and just about anything else we could throw in there! Now the girls are that bit older and more self-sufficient, we much favour a small day-pack. 

A day-pack is not as stylish as a handbag, but it is certainly more convenient,  durable,  mobile, and easier to keep things organised. The number of times we had to turn the entire handbag out to find the car keys wedged at the very bottom was crazy! Also, day packs are more comfortable for extended periods and easier to share the burden. Adrian is quite happy to wear a day pack but is not so keen on carrying a handbag for some reason! Depending on what we are doing on the day trip, we use either our Osprey Daylite Plus or Osprey Talon 33.

Another thing to consider is how much your children can carry themselves. Georgia and Eva are now of an age where they can carry their own water and snacks, meaning less weight on our backs. 

The choice is yours; certainly, for simple trips out, a handbag is fine. If you are planning a family day that involves a lot of moving around, then a day pack is a must.  

Kids backpacks – approved by penguins!

What to Pack for Family Days Out – Essential Items For Every Family Trip

Cell Phone With Charger

When out and about in a new place, your smartphone is your most valuable tool and essential item. It is key for navigation, communication, and capturing memories. Also, it will help protect you against common scams.

Sadly, the days of carrying extra batteries for your cell phone are behind us, so don’t forget to bring along a portable charger. We use INIU Power Bank, which has enough to fully change both our phones with some spare capacity. Portable chargers are also very useful on a family vacation. They certainly help keep you topped up at the airport!  

Water Bottles

Staying hydrated is essential, especially when you’re out and about. If you are in an unusually hot climate (we are from Manchester, UK, where it rains 150 days of the year. Everywhere is unusually hot for us!), keeping everyone hydrated is critical to help your children avoid overheating. We pack collapsable silicon water bottles for each family member to reduce weight and plastic waste.

Plasters are a must for any bike trip!


No one wants a “hangry” child! Keeping a good stash of snacks on hand can provide energy to your little ones and avoid a meltdown. I have lost count of the number of times a swiftly deployed oaty bar has made waiting in a long queue bearable. We are huge believers in “make and take” for this reason, and it helps avoid the overpriced snacks many tourist destinations sell. 

Hand Sanitiser

Always useful! If there is nowhere to wash your hands before you eat, you have just had to change a nappy, help a little one with a “tree wee”, or have been handling animals, then a squirt of hand sanitiser helps clean you and your children up. 

What to Pack for Family Days Out - Sun hat, long sleave top, well hydrated!
Sun hat, long sleave top, well hydrated!

Credit Card/Cash/ID

It’s always a good idea to have some local currency, a credit card, and identification with you. You never know when you might need them, whether it’s for snacks, entrance fees, or emergencies.

Adrian got caught out by this on a day trip in Cuba when moving from Cayo Coco to Cayo Santa Maria for a friend’s wedding. Without ID, the Cuban security forces would not let him into the resort. Fortunately, his friends came and vouched for him! 

Basic First Aid Supplies

Accidents are bound to happen. We pack a small first aid kit with band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relief, insect repellant, anti – histamines, and bite/sting relief.

The sting relief came in incredibly useful when Eva picked up a mild sting by a jellyfish in Costa Rica. We were nearly an hour’s walk through a jungle from the beach to the nearest chemists in the town. Having that on hand saved the day. Also, keep a backup of any prescription medications you would need in there as well. 

Ready for anything!

Sunscreen, Sunglasses and Sun Hat

This is another key part of avoiding sunburn and heatstroke. Protecting your family from the sun’s harmful rays by packing sunscreen and covering up your family’s heads will make a huge difference to a day out. A bad dose of sunburn is sure to ruin a trip. 

We choose SPF 30 or higher for optimal protection. Also, if you get sunglasses for your kids, make sure they have good UV protection, as their eyes are especially vulnerable. For this reason, we tend to avoid “tourist tat” sunglasses and buy from a pharmacy. 

Rain Gear

From one extreme to the other! We always carry some lightweight, reusable rain ponchos. Are they the most unfashionable item ever created? Absolutely! But they are perfect when caught in an unexpected downpour and are certainly better than spending the rest of the day soaked through. 

The day was warm, but it was much chillier in Treak Cliff Cavern

Warmer Layers

This will depend on where you are in the world and the time of year, but having thin, long-sleeve layers with you can save a day out. There have been trips, especially in Costa Rica and the higher parts of South America, where it can be beautifully warm, but if you head to any altitude or the sun drops, the wind can pick up a nasty chill. Having easy access to a warmer layer will keep everyone toasty and happy. 

What to Pack for Family Days Out – Family Beach Essentials Checklist

If you are going to hit the beach as a family trip for the day or part of a family beach vacation, then there are some extra beach items to consider beyond the obvious things like beach toys, flip flops, and beach towels!

Extra Water and Suncream

If you are planning a day at the beach, take additional supplies of bottled water and sun cream. It is also worth considering bringing or hiring a beach umbrella to provide extra shade.  Other essential clothing is a long-sleeved “rashie” vest. We were introduced to these by our Australian family (who take the sun very seriously), and now we never hit the beach without them.  

Eva might need a bigger wetsuit!

Water Shoes

We love our water shoes. The UK has some very rocky beaches, and that bit of extra protection on your feet makes exploring them much more comfortable. If you are going anywhere with sharp coral, these are a must. We use these, and they are much more comfortable than flip-flops when you are in the water. You can even swim in them!

Wet Wipes

An unusual beach item if you don’t have a baby, but stick with us! If there is no running water and you want to clean the sand from your children’s feet so their shoes don’t rub, cleaning wipes are a must. 

Our water shoes were a lifesaver on the sharp rocks of Fortuna Waterfall.

Ziplock Bags

Another unusual item of beach gear! Having a couple of good-quality ziplock bags gives you somewhere to keep electronic devices and other items away from the sand.  

What to Pack for Family Days Out – Any Essential Items We Have Missed?

So there you have it! With your day pack essentials in tow, you’re well-prepared for fantastic family outings. From city to beach, you have got it covered! Remember that the key to a successful day out is planning, so tailor your day pack to your specific needs and activities. Whether you’re embarking on a nature hike, visiting a museum, or spending the day at the beach, your well-packed day pack will ensure you’re ready for anything that comes your way.

If you think we have missed anything, then please let us know in the comments below! 

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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