What to Bring to a Water Park: 21 Essentials to Splash the Day Away

Stay prepared but avoid overpacking with this water park essentials checklist!

Published May 11, 2023
Smiling group at water park in inner tubes

Summertime brings lots of opportunities for fun in the sun! However, it's not so fun when you make the trek out to the water park, only to later need to purchase additional supplies at an extremely inflated price. For parents wanting to know what to bring to a water park, as well as what to leave at home, we've made the ultimate water park checklist just for you.

What to Bring to a Water Park for Any Age

No matter if this is an adults-only trip or you are taking the family out for some thrills, there are certain items that everyone needs while at the park. Here are the essentials to bring that most water parks permit. Use this simple printable to stay organized.

Pack these esentials for water park fun:

  • Sunscreen
  • Towels
  • Swimsuits
  • Rash guards
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats
  • Water shoes
  • Change of clothes
  • Waterproof wet bag
  • Lock box
  • Waterproof cell phone case
  • Hand sanitizer and/or wet wipes
  • Drawstring bag
  • Water
  • Cash/change
  • Medications
  • Portable phone charger

Lots of Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a must when you plan to spend the day in the sun. Not only does the pavement reflect up to 50% of the sunlight, making it more likely that you will get burned, but being in the water speeds up the clock for sunscreen reapplication. Having stick, lotion, and spray sunscreen options is ideal for quick and easy sun safety.

Extra Towels

When it's time to eat, reapply sunscreen, or head home for the day, towels become quite the necessity. Make sure you have one for every person in your party, and leave a few extra in the car for the ride home.

The Right Swimsuits

Obviously you need a swimsuit for a water park! However, what's important to point out is that the type of swimsuit you choose is key to having a good time. If you're excited to enjoy some of the faster water slides and rides, a teeny tiny bikini is not an ideal choice. Instead, a one piece or more secure two-piece bathing suit will keep you comfortable and covered throughout the fun. Thus, think about your plans for the park before you get dressed.

Need to Know

Many parks do not permit visitors to wear baggy clothing or loose-fitting accessories. This can pose a safety risk. Thus, make sure swim trunks fit snugly, shirts are form fitting, and accessories other than hats or sunglasses are left at home.

Sun Safe Rash Guards

A great way to protect your kid's skin and limit sunscreen application times is to invest in sun safe rash guards! Not only will this help to prevent abrasions from the rides, but it will also shield their skin from the sun. Look for gear that is labeled "UPF 50+." This will block out 98% of the sun's rays! RuffleButts has an adorable line for young kids and Coolibar has options for the older members of your family.

(Cheap) Sunglasses

Keep your eyes sun safe with some shades that offer UVA and UVB protection! It's also good to bring sunglasses that are polarized to help with glare. Finally, since you have to leave this item in a cubby to enjoy most of the rides, consider bringing a cheap pair just in case they walk off while you are gone.

Protective Hats

Hats are another fantastic accessory for keeping sensitive faces and necks safe from the sun's harmful rays. For little kids, look for hats that have ear and neck flaps for added protection.

Water Shoes

Water shoes are the premiere footwear choice for water parks. In fact, most parks have rules that either water shoes or tennis shoes must be worn at all times. Surprisingly, flip-flops are not permitted most of the time. Therefore, skip the expensive gift shop purchase and wear water shoes into the park.

Change of Clothes and Shoes

Once the fun is done, the last thing anyone wants to do is to sit in wet clothes and shoes for the whole ride home. Make sure that your family is comfortable by leaving a dry change of clothes and shoes in the car.

Waterproof Wet Bag

Once they have changed out of those wet clothes, it's also ideal to have a place to put them so that they don't soak the back seat or the trunk of your car. Wet dry bags are an affordable option that seal for transport and then can be easily thrown in the wash when you get home!

Lock Box

Even if you get a locker, it is nice to know that your belongings are secure. A lock box can be an easy way to keep everything safe.

Waterproof Cell Phone Case

If you intend to keep your cell phone in hand, a waterproof cell phone case is a must! Look for options that allow you to still use the touchscreen. That way you can continuously keep it safe in the pouch and don't have to worry about a fumble into nearby water.

Hand Sanitizer or Wet Wipes

When it comes to meal and snack times, there's not always a bathroom nearby. Save yourself a hike by having hand sanitizer and Wet Wipes on hand.

Drawstring Backpacks

Another water park restriction is large bags. Not only are they not allowed on rides, but many parks won't even let you enter the park if your backpack or tote is of a certain size. Save yourself the trek back to the car or the extra cost of having to rent a locker by packing a drawstring backpack instead.


Hydration is key when in the sun for extended periods of time. Water bottles are one of the few "food items" that are permitted in almost any park. It's always best to check the specific park website to confirm size restrictions and limits on the number of bottles you can bring.


Not all water parks have left the 90s. This means that pocket change may still be required for lockers and vending machines. Carrying a small collection of quarters and cash is a great idea in case of an emergency.


While most medications should be left at home, most parks allow parents to bring antihistamines, asthma medications, and EpiPens in case of an emergency. Ear drops are another great item to bring for after you are done at the park. These can help to prevent swimmer's ear.

Portable Phone Charger

This is a wonderful device to keep in the center console of the car for your long ride home! It makes sure that anyone can give their device a little extra juice if their battery is low after a long day of fun.

Water Park Essentials for Families With Kids

If you have babies, toddlers, and elementary school-aged kids in tow, also consider adding these items to your water park checklist!

Three girls having fun sliding in a waterpark

Think about packing the following items if you have kids:

  • Coast guard approved life jackets
  • Swim diapers (regular and reusable)
  • Temporary safety tattoos
  • Food and eating essentials

Coast Guard Approved Life Jackets

Just because water parks have lifeguards on staff does not mean that your kids are automatically safe in the water. For less experienced swimmers, a coast guard approved life jacket can keep them safe and give parents peace of mind.

Need to Know

Many water parks prohibit life vests that are not vetted by the Coast Guard. That means water wings and puddle jumpers are not permitted.

Swim Diapers - Disposable AND Reusable

Another must-have item for parents of babies and non-potty trained toddlers is swim diapers. Just like with life vests, each park has specific guidelines that must be followed. Most require a "protective swim diaper," aka a reusable diaper, that goes over either a regular diaper or a disposable diaper.

Why does this layering matter? You never want to be the family that causes the pool to have to be evacuated for cleaning.

Temporary Tattoos to Keep Kids Safet

When there is lots of distraction and exciting things to see, little kids have a tendency to wander away. Parents can now buy temporary tattoos that give the child's name, an emergency phone number, and even medical information in the case of an emergency. These are waterproof, and unlike wristbands, there is no worry of them slipping off.

Food & Eating Supplies

Outside food and drinks are typically not permitted in most water parks, but baby formula, breast milk, and even baby food are normally allowed. Make sure to pack more than you need for the time allotted and bring plenty of bottles, sippy cups, and utensils for feedings.

Need to Know

Call the park ahead of time to find out their small cooler rules. Since these items are necessary and perishable, many parks will make exceptions, but it's always good to confirm before getting to the park.

What to Not Bring to a Water Park

Every water park has a different set of rules and regulations, but most water-based amusement locales have a standard set of items that they prohibit on their grounds.

Outside Food & Beverages

Other than water, baby formula, breast milk, and baby food, most water parks prohibit outside food and drinks. However, we advise storing a small cooler of drinks and non-perishable snacks in the car to make the ride home more enjoyable.

Hard & Soft Coolers

Since food and drinks are normally not allowed, it should come as no surprise that hard and soft coolers are not allowed on the premises either. For the parks that do allow these items, it's important to note that many prohibit loose and dry ice.


While it would seem logical to have a wagon on hand to wheel around smaller kids, these items are also prohibited in some water parks, like Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. Calling ahead to confirm what wheeled items are allowed prior to your visit is important for parents planning a day with young kids.

Backpacks of Certain Sizes

As mentioned above, larger bags are not allowed in a handful of water parks across the nation. However, drawstring style backpacks are normally permitted and many parks even allow these smaller bags on some rides. Again, calling to confirm specific park rules is smart for parents who have to lug in a laundry list of supplies for their day out with small kids.

Folding Chairs

If you are worried about getting a lounge chair at the wave pool, then get there early! Folding chairs are another item that many parks will make you leave in the car.

Selfie Sticks

This one may seem like a bit of a surprise, but when used in the wrong spot, like on a water ride, this can impact park-goer safety. If you want a group photo, ask someone nearby, research how to take good photos of yourself, or consider buying one of the candid shots that are taken while you are on the rides.

Pack Waterpark Essentials for a Stress-Free Day

While we all like to be prepared, water parks are one place where less is more. If you stick to these water park essentials and avoid bringing extra items, you can save yourself a trip back to the car at the start of your fun-filled day.

What to Bring to a Water Park: 21 Essentials to Splash the Day Away