What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids

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Heading to a vacation rental this summer with your kids? If this is your first time going to a cottage whether its your own or a friend’s or you are renting one, having the right stuff with you can make all the difference!

What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids
What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids

What to Look for in a Vacation Rental with Kids

Some cottages are far from the main towns so getting to a store may not be as convenient as it is back home. Ensuring that you are set up before you leave for a fun filled weekend or week will go a long way for your sanity!

Before we get to the list here are a few things I look for when trying to find the perfect vacation rental for my young family (6 year old and 2 year old twins):

Beach. Any spot we choose must have a beach. When on a lake with little kids, save yourself the worry and hassle and get a spot that has a place where the kids can safely enter the water with or without you. Docks are great but toddlers and docks aren’t a great mix.

Dishwasher. This was is not a deal breaker at first but after spending a week at a beautiful spot without a dishwasher, I vowed never to return, no matter how amazing it was. Washing dishes three times a day for 5 people (even though my husband and I share duties equally) was exhausting!

Washing Machine and Drier. This is a given with small children. I don’t pack clothes to last the week so I like a spot that has these amenities so that I can save on space in the car.

BBQ. This is not a deal breaker but being able to bbq dinners and lunches is a nice way to cut down on the kitchen mess.

Bedrooms on the Same Level. Some rental homes are big and will have multiple levels, this only works for us if the children’s bedrooms and ours are on the same level. I always like to be close to my small children in an unfamiliar house during the night.

Television. This one is not a deal breaker but it is nice to have. The TV stays off for the majority of our trip but it is nice to have the option to catch up on movies with my husband at night after the children have gone to sleep.

What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids

Here is my list for what to pack to keep the kids happy and entertained at the cottage.

What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids

Road Trip Activities for Kids

For the road, I like to keep it simple. For my 5 year old I allowed her a little of screen time with games on an iPad. But I also brought her books on tape or CD. I love the Disney read-along series because they come with a book that she can read along and look at the pictures.


What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids

For younger kids, I try to time the majority of the trip around their nap. To entertain them while they are awake I play children’s music CDs and give them small board books, and toys or cars that light up or play music.

I also like to bring mess free drawing tools, like a magnetic drawing board.

What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids

Toys at the Rental Home or Vacation Rental with Kids

I don’t like to bring a lot of toys when we head to a cottage or vacation rental. The entire point of going is to unplug as much as possible and that includes this activity mama. I take off my activity mom hat (well mostly) and let the kids enjoy all the amenities a cottage and vacation rental by a lake has to offer. But when you are with little ones you have to plan. If it rains and you are forced to stay indoors you will want to have a few key toys and/or activities to help keep everyone happy.

Playdough Kits. Sensory play dough kits are a great way to keep kits entertained on rainy days at the cottage or vacation rental. You can order the large kits or the small kits (coming soon) and take one for each kid. That way they can either play together or switch kits when they get bored.

Snack Necklaces. This was a fun ideas we did at home but would be great at the cottage or vacation rental. Set out their snack and let them turn it into a delicious necklace. This is a great one to do indoors on rainy days or outdoors!

What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids

To transport the toys, I use a sensory bin or storage bin for all three kids (5 year old and 18 month old twins).

Cottage with Kids: What to Pack
what to pack for the cottage

This will come in handy while you are relaxing on the deck and want a way to entertain your little ones. You can set up a simple water sensory bin using your beach toys

Cottage with Kids: What to Pack
what to pack for the cottage
What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids

Beach/Outdoor Toys

what to pack for the cottage
Cottage with Kids: What to Pack

Indoor Toys to Bring to Your Vacation Home with Kids

For the older kids (5 years old and up) I like to bring low impact toys they can do on their own such as:

  • Puzzles
  • Books
  • Colouring Books
  • Books of mazes, word searches etc.
  • Sensory Kits
Cottage with Kids: What to Pack
what to pack for the cottage

For the young children (18 months to 4 years old), I like to bring:

  • Magnetic tiles;
  • Pull back cars;
  • Animals figurines;
  • Lego;
  • Puzzles (age appropriate);
  • Their favourite toy such as Paw Patrol or Thomas and Friends; and
  • New books based on their favourite toy;
  • Dress up clothes
  • Glow Sticks

Activity Ideas & Supplies

So I don’t like to do ‘activities’ at the cottage but I will bring a few items that I can quickly bring out to help keep everyone happy in between activities or right before dinner.

I will bring things like:

  • Post-it notes;
  • Masking or painters tape;
  • Kraft Paper
  • Blank Paper
  • Dot Markers
  • Markers and crayons.

I use the post-it notes for activities like DIY Flip Book for Toddlers and Tape Peeling activities. If you are concerned about putting tape on furniture, you can use the sensory bin instead. Tape animals or toys to the bin and let your little one rescue them!

Cottage with Kids: What to Pack
what to pack for the cottage

Other great things to include:

  • A small pop up tent and tunnel
  • Megabloks
  • Pen and paper for bigger kids
  • Toy dinosaurs
  • Books, books and more books
  • A small wagon
  • Beach balls
  • Small soft balls for inside
  • Bouncy Castle (small version) if you have space

But the best toy for your little one at the cottage is YOU! Although we brought things to keep the kids occupied, we spent the majority of the time playing outside together and making family memories!

Other Basic Items to Bring for the Kids

  • 2+ bathing suits
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterproof sunhat
  • Life Jackets
  • Floatie
  • Beach and water toys
  • Lots of snacks
  • Fishing rod
  • beach poncho for after swimming

Kitchen Items to Bring for Kids

  • Baby or toddler spoons and forks
  • Baby/toddler bowls
  • Travel highchair
  • Sippy Cups
  • Bibs
  • Bottle brush and drying rack (for babies)

Kitchen Items for Parents

  • Wine Pump (this is for you, because finishing an entire bottle of wine is unlikely)
  • Tupperware or ziploc bags (for leftovers, the rental home may not have these items)


Cottage with Kids: What to Pack


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8 comments on “What to Pack for a Vacation Rental with Kids”

  1. As you mentioned, when you have small children, they go through clothes quite quickly. Having a washer and dryer in the cabin rental could make a big impact on how many clothes you will have to take for them. My sister is looking to take her kids to the beach for a week, and would like a cabin to rent. I will have to share these tips with her on what things to look for.

  2. I know you said no toys, but our whole family loves the stomp rocket. And it’s always fun to use it in a new environment, it’s a completely different level of fun on the beach, in the country as opposed to the backyard. I also always pack Uno. It’s a good game for many ages, my husband, my 13 year old and my 6 year old all enjoy it together. And the two year old likes to play along and practice his colors and numbers.

    I’m definitely going to check out those read along story books and CDs. Thanks for that idea.

    1. Avatar photo

      Love that idea! Thanks for sharing! I do bring toys just not a lot but as my kids get bigger I find I am starting to bring more things to entertain them outside. This year we brought a bouncy castle and it was a hit!!