Cottage packing list for a toddler and a babe
Updated: Apr 29
Yes, mama, the otherwise relaxing task of going to a cottage becomes a tad more onerous once you bring babies and kids into the picture. Someone recently told me that vacationing with kids is often more like 'relocating', and that just can't be more true. You're still going to deal with the same chaos, tantrums, little (and big) challenges, whether you're home or not. The way I look at it, I'd rather deal with the obstacles at a quiet lake, in the sunshine, out of my own messy home. When the kids nap and go to sleep, I can (for the most part) take a load off without too much responsibility.
We just came back from a week at a cottage with my 2 year old, 9 month old, parents and family, and when Sean looked at the packed car, he thought I'd gone nuts. He was leaving on a trip midway through the week, so I basically had to recreate that second set of parental hands with baby gates, high chairs, and distractions for the kids. Every single thing I brought was put to great use, and I just love telling my husband that 'I told him so' (I can't be alone here), so here we are. A cottage packing list of all the essentials for your trip up to the lake. *I've included some affiliate links below (marked with an AL next to them). What this means is that at no additional cost to you, I earn a small commission by advertising these products on my page when you click and purchase!
High Chair This one seemed funny to my husband at first, and I debated getting a pop-up chair off Amazon, but I'm so glad we brought the regular high chair. We have the IKEA Antilop (which I can't rave about enough - small, compact, easy to clean, cheap... like 25$ cheap... I could go on), and it was great for so many reasons. Auli could sit with us at the table inside and outside, we brought it down to the fire so that she could hang out safely without wiggling about in our arms, we brought it onto the dock so that I could go for a quick dip, and so it basically acted as another parent on this vacation. Check. Buy this high chair, and bring it. You'll spill significantly less drinks if your child is a mover.
Baby gate If your child is a mover and you're going somewhere with stairs, this one is a no-brainer. Yes, you can stick a cooler in front of the stairs and hope for the best, but I personally would rather put my mind to rest knowing that the stairs are one less hazard to worry about. We used the Munchkin baby gate (AL) - quick and simple, but solid setup by pressure-mounting, leaving no marks on anyone's walls or rails. We literally bring a piece of wood and zip ties to secure these baby gates in case the railings are rounded. They slid easily right behind the driver and passenger seats, and saved us a whole heck of a lot of grief once we were there. Auli could roam as much as she wanted, and Owen had boundaries so we always knew where she was (she tends to wander where she wants at home, which is fine seeing as we don't have a lake in our backyard).
Bed rails/bumper Our 2 year old is a tall gal, and no longer fits in a playpen comfortably. We've transitioned her to a big girl floor bed at home, but this makes things a tad challenging when we're away. I bought the Milliard bed bumpers (AL) from Amazon which can be slid underneath the sheets to avoid your toddler rolling off the bed. They fold up nicely and can be brought in a box or small suitcase wherever you go - for peace of mind that you won't hear that dreaded 'thump' in the middle of the night. Especially nice because most cottages have ceramic tile floors.
Floating devices These were super necessary for being at a lake (or anywhere near water, for that matter). For our toddler, we brought a puddle jumper that she had to wear if she was out on the dock, in the water, or if she was on a boat. For our babe, I bought a dollarama inflatable boat that we could stick her in when we went into the water (we had a 'beach entry', and could always touch bottom - I would have forked out more money for a safer option if I knew we'd be bringing her into open water). Again, it was nice to be able to sit next to her in the water and not to be struggling to hold a wiggly baby wanting to nose dive for a bite of the yummy sand at the bottom. Disposable diapers: So I'm a pretty avid cloth diaperer, and know that this isn't a very eco-friendly suggestion, but I just wanted one week off from the additional laundry that cloth diapering brings. Some people treat themselves with ice cream, I treat myself with disposable diapers (and ice cream). #noregrets
Bottles If you're an EBF mama, bring your pump and bottles. You might not use them at all, but it's nice to have the option for someone else to take the reins if you need them to. There's just something about the fresh cottage air that makes us change our minds on things that we didn't think we'd want to do, and after all, you deserve that night off. It's a lot easier to let someone else feed your baby when you're enjoying a cold one by the lake, toes in the water and sunshine in your face.
Baby monitors Of course you're going to bring a baby monitor. You're a mom. That's a given. At home, we barely check the monitors because I'm always within hearing range, but at the cottage, I loved being able to check up on sleeping kids from the dock, from the fire, and in the middle of that game of washer toss. We bought the awesome Wyze Cam v2 (AL) from Amazon (so reasonably priced) that allow us to check on the babes right from our phones. You need a WiFi connection to set it up the first time, but then it can be used with only an SD card, and on data for the 'parent unit' on your phone. The Wyze website has loads of information on setting this up if it's something you're wanting to invest in! We've loved how portable and small the cameras are, how easy they are to set up, and how they send you a ping notification when babes are awake so you don't have to always be staring at that screen.
Sound machine If you know my husband, you know why we use these anywhere and everywhere we go. Especially when we're in an environment where he and beer might hang out. If you're going to be at a cottage, the last thing you want is to be shushing everyone around to be quiet while baby sleeps. Sound machines are a great way to ensure you don't feel like the nap police, and that babies will keep on snoozin'. We've loved the fact that ours (Yostyle Sound Machine) (AL) can be charged because it can be easily brought into the stroller if babe's napping on the go, and for peace of mind that it will keep playing in the event of a power outage (no one needs you scrambling in the dark with a screaming child because their 'musique de dodo' stopped playing - yes my toddler is addicted to white noise and no I'm not sorry).
Baby pool Like, a 3$ inflatable pool from the dollar store. It was handy in keeping babe cool, somewhat contained, and was a great distraction. Stick a few red solos in there and you've got yourself a solid 10 minutes of play (that's enough time for you to finish that drink). We brought it down to the dock for the most part, put some lake water in there in the morning and by lunch time Auli had a nice warm spot to splash around in. No swim diapers needed, either, because the impending mess is contained - what baby doesn't love to be naked?!
Full body UV swimsuit For when Auli was going to be out in the sun, in the water or not, she was in her adorable full body UV swimsuit by Honeysuckle Swim Co. (Canadian company - bonus!) - it made things so much easier than applying sunscreen every hour to a baby that won't sit still for the life of her. I tested this suit out in the hot Jamaican sun back in May, and not a single sunburn was had. These suits are also clearly designed by mamas, because they have both a zipper at the neck, AND at the legs for easy diaper changes... oh and all of their prints are unbelievably cute. Check 'em out!
All of the baby pharmacy Tylenol, Advil, Benadryl, diaper creams, thermometer... you name it, you bring it. Especially since most cottages are far away from a pharmacy that will have these items for you if you do need them. This time around, we dealt with teething pain, a diaper rash, bug bites and a fever, so I sure was glad I'd packed it all.
A fan Especially if your cottage doesn't have A/C, a fan will help in the heat. Bonus is that it can act as a white noise machine if you don't have one and Amazon can't get one to you quick enough.
A double-walled cup with a lid for yourself This is one thing I didn't bring, but I wish I had - I often was pulled away from my chilled wine to tend to a whine (ha), and it takes all of 0.9 seconds for a drink to turn warm. It would have been great to have brought my trusty Maars steel wine mug (AL) to ensure I could jump right back into enjoying that cool bevvie.
Wipes - like enough for triple the amount of time you're gone
Sun hats/glasses for kiddo
A few toys (honestly, my kids preferred playing with bowls and sticks the whole week)
A couple books for quiet time and bed time
A warm outfit for the campfire (it can get chilly out at night, and nice to cover them from bugs)
Rain boots (I opted for bath time before fire, so stuck their toes in cozy socks and rain boots to keep them clean before bed)
A playpen (awesome both for sleep and for play. If your baby can't wear sunscreen yet, take it outside, stick a UV net overtop and they can be entertained by simply looking up into the trees)
A floor mat if your baby isn't on the move yet, and you want to be able to put them down (playpen can work awesome for this too!)
Other than all the stuff I've listed above, I obviously packed copious amounts of snacks, beverages (I gave into juice for the sake of hydration in a heat wave), and all the regular stuff we use on the daily.
Cheers to you, mama. You deserve this break at the lake!