What to Bring to the Zoo for a Stress-Free Family Outing

The ultimate zoo packing list sets you up for a day of making memories.

Published May 8, 2023
family enjoying day at the zoo

When your family is excited for your trip to the zoo (and the kids are practically bouncing off their seats), you can maximize fun and minimize stress by knowing what to take. Use this list of what to bring to the zoo so your family outing will be full of nothing but good memories.

Basic Items to Take to the Zoo

A simple and complete list of everything you need for a successful trip to the zoo can help your family have a roaring good time. Check off these items so you're prepared for anything and ready for all the educational fun in store for the day.

Happy mother and son watching and feeding giraffe in zoo

Stroller or Wagon

Your biggest zoo packing list item is perhaps the most helpful. A stroller or wagon will make traveling through the exhibits easy. When toddlers are walking on their own or someone is carrying the baby, you can use the stroller or wagon to carry other items like a cooler, backpack, or diaper bag.

Backpack or Large Tote Bag

You'll need a bag that's easy to carry and can hold all of your family's zoo necessities. A fashionable backpack or a handy tote makes getting all your items through the zoo doors a smooth process.

Cooler With Beverages

Many zoos allow you to pack a picnic basket or cooler to enjoy a meal during your trip. Even if you plan to eat food from the zoo's kiosks, pack a cooler for water and other beverages so everyone stays hydrated during your stay.


You're certainly hopeful for a sunny trip to the zoo, but you also know that weather conditions can change quickly. Make sure your family is prepared for a sudden downpour and pack a few wind-resistant umbrellas.

Reusable Water Bottles

All that walking will make you thirsty! Get ahead of the hydration demands of your family with a few reusable water bottles you can refill at the nearest water fountain.

First Aid Kit

A mini first aid kit, small enough to tuck into your bag, comes in handy for scraped knees or bee stings. Just include the basics like bandages, ointments, and any medications your family may need during the trip.

Sun Protection

All day at the zoo means all day in the sun. Make sure your family is prepared and protected. Pack plenty of sunscreen and hats for the whole gang.

Insect Repellent

Two things you can count on at the zoo: lots of animals and lots of bugs. Some bugs might be in fun exhibits, but there will be plenty of pests flying about freely as well. Pack your favorite insect repellent to keep your family safe from bites and stings.

Cooling Towels

The last thing you want is to get overheated at the giraffe exhibit. Pack a few cooling towels so everyone can feel refreshed no matter how high the temperature rises.


If you're allowed to bring snacks inside the zoo, stick to the basics so you can save your appetite for a fun zoo treat. Protein bars, baby carrots, bananas, and jerky are great snack options as you're waiting for the polar bear to make his appearance.

Hand Sanitizer

There are amazing animals and fun experiences waiting for you at the zoo. But there are also germs to factor in. Keep your family protected with hand sanitizer you can use between meals, after interactive zoo activities, and before you jump back in the car at the end of the day.

Phone, Camera, & Chargers

You probably want to make memories - plus capture them in photos or film. Remembering your phone might be a no-brainer, but here's your reminder to pack a camera for filming and all the chargers or extra battery packs for a full day of memory-making.

Zipper Pouch for Personal Items

You'll need a place to stash car keys, IDs, cash, and other personal items during your time at the zoo. Store everything in one place so you can find anything you need without a long search. A small zipper pouch tucked into your backpack or tote will keep all of your items safe and secure.

Extra Items to Pack for Babies & Toddlers

If you're headed out for a day at the zoo, you might have a baby or toddler in your group. Add these helpful items to your packing list for a smooth day with as few meltdowns as possible.

Young Mother in the Park

Sun Cover

To keep your little one safe and comfy, you'll want something that can shield the baby from too much sun exposure in the stroller or car seat. A cover also makes nap time and nursing at the zoo easy without interrupting your fun.

Compact Changing Pad

If diapers or pull-ups are still part of your day, you need somewhere to make those changes happen. Zoo bathrooms might offer a changing table, but a changing pad helps protect the baby's delicate skin and gives you the option to change a diaper practically anywhere.

Baby Carrier or Wrap

If you practice baby-wearing regularly, your little one will expect the same routine near the gorilla enclosure or the reptile exhibit. Pack your favorite baby carrier or wrap so you can make your way through the zoo while soaking up all the baby snuggles.

Extra Clothes & Diapers

If you're a parent, you probably already know it's better to be over-prepared than under-prepared when it comes to outings with babies and toddlers. Pack more than enough diapers and wipes for the day as well as a change of clothes for those unexpected messy moments.

Blankets & Layers

You may be visiting the zoo during a warmer season, but small weather changes might feel like a more intense difference to your baby. Pack a blanket or two and some additional layers like a jacket or vest to keep your little ones warm as the day goes on.

Extra Items to Pack for Older Kids & Tweens

Your older children might appreciate the sights and sounds of the zoo more than a baby, but they may need a few extra items to keep them entirely happy during the trip. Pack these additional zoo necessities to keep the whole family content throughout the day.

Air Pods or Headphones

Your tween might want a break from the sounds of younger kids and the zoo crowd. Pack some headphones they can plug into a phone or tablet to enjoy some of their favorite music during the long walks.

Change of Shoes

Your kid might want to wear their favorite sandals or shoes with their favorite character detail to the zoo. But - if that happens, they may start to complain about their feet hurting an hour after you arrive. Pack their comfiest walking shoes so they can quickly change before the blisters start to appear.

Polaroid Camera

If one of your goals for a zoo trip is to keep your older kids off of screens for the day, you might want an engaging alternative to a tablet or phone. Give your kid or tween a polaroid camera and designate them as the family photographer for the day. They'll be able to catch snapshots of memories and exhibits without getting lost in the glow of a screen.

Items to Pack for the Drive to the Zoo

You have everything you need for a successful day at the zoo, but don't forget about the time spent getting there. If your drive to the zoo is a bit long, you'll want to have a few items packed that will make the travel time more enjoyable for everyone.

Mother showing children vacation destination on smartphone

Educational Books

If you have kiddos who love to read, zoo-themed books must be on your packing list. Have a collection of age-appropriate books for your little zoologists to flip through and learn about all the animals they'll be seeing on the trip. Try books about animals, reptiles, insects, birds, ocean life, or the countries and terrains the animals inhabit.

Animal Toys

Help your younger kids carry on the zoo fun with their favorite animal toys on the ride home. Your kiddo might have a newfound appreciation for their stuffed elephant or forest creature play sets.

Zoo Trivia Questions

Test your family's new knowledge about animals on your journey back home. Bring a list of zoo trivia questions to keep everyone engaged and help them recap the coolest facts of the day.

Pillows & Blankets

Toddlers might be tuckered after a long day of animal sightings and teens love an opportunity to catch up on sleep. Give your family a comfy ride home with all the necessities for a cozy car snooze.

Plan for a Special Day of Family Fun

With your zoo packing list all checked off and everything loaded in the car, you're ready for a day of memory-making with your favorite people. Don't forget to bring the most important things you need for a zoo trip: genuine curiosity and a positive attitude.

What to Bring to the Zoo for a Stress-Free Family Outing