What to Pack for Wisconsin Dells

It isn’t called “The Water Park Capital of the World” for no reason. If you are looking for a place to go with your family that will appease the thrill seekers, lazy river lovers, and water fountain fans, the Wisconsin Dells is the vacation spot for you. But just like any trip you make with your family (and yes, it is called a trip NOT A VACATION), you want to make sure that you remember to pack all the necessities and a fun fun extras for your trip over the border. After going to Wisconsin Dells during each and every season, I have come up with this MASTER list of What to Pack for Wisconsin Dells.


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What to Pack for the Car Ride

Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. I firmly believe that snacks can make or break a road trip, even when you are traveling WITHOUT kids. I bring tried-and-true favorites like Goldfish crackers and pretzels but I also pack a few special treats like Oreos and Twizzlers when we go away for a weekend as a family. Just be sure to avoid nuts, fruit snacks, and other foods that your child can choke on in the car.

I try to keep my kids as “screen free” as possible, especially on car trips, so I load up bags filled with tons of fun games, books, magazines, and activities to keep them busy all car ride long. Some of our favorites?

  • Melissa & Doug Water Pen Books
  • Sports Illustrated for Kids Magazine
  • I Spy Books
  • Paint by Sticker Books

Lastly, my family and I have REALLY started to get into podcasts lately, so we will tune in to stories that teach us about what happens to our poop once we flush it down the toilet and what kinds of animals live in the rainforest. I’ll be working on a list of our favorite family-friendly podcasts soon.

What to Pack for the Hotel Room

In order to ensure that we all have the best night of sleep possible, I try to bring as much comfortable bedding from home as I can. Now I’m not stuffing a duvet in the trunk or anything, but I definitely bring some cozy blankets and the pillows we sleep on every night (because there is nothing worse than a bad hotel pillow when traveling). Don’t forget to pack your child’s nightlight, and an extra set of pajamas and clothing in case of accidents.

Board games are always a hit when hanging out in a hotel room, but be sure to bring ones that don’t have a ton of pieces and won’t take up too much room. We also bring our typical bedtime books to keep our bedtime routine as normal as possible, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in watching a movie that the books get ignored. Oh well! As long as I can find something for my kids to use to relax and unwind after a day of playing is great with me.

While there are some great restaurants at Wisconsin Dells like these, many of them are closed during the off-season, so if you make the trek in the winter like we usually do, food options are VERY slim. That’s why we book a hotel room with a kitchen so we can cook most of our meals and utilize pizza and restaurant delivery for our other meals. Here is our food checklist for what to pack for the Wisconsin Dells:

  • Drinks–Bottled water, juice boxes, wine, beer
  • Breakfast–Muffins or bagels, fruit, cereal, granola bars, pancake mix, eggs, syrup, bacon/sausage
  • Lunch–Bread, lunch meat, peanut butter, pasta salad, chips, fruit
  • Happy Hour–Cheese, crackers, trail mix, popcorn, cut up fruit and veggies
  • Sweets–Cookies and brownies
  • Also be sure to pack extra paper towels, disposable plates and cutlery, as well as extra plastic bags for storage.
What to Pack for the Water Parks

I’m a firm believer that you should always OVERPACK when you go to a water park. Why? Because things get wet SO easily, and attempting to dry off an overtired, cranky kid who didn’t want to get out of the pool in the first place with a wet and cold towel is NO fun. My water park packing recommendations?

More bathing suits than you think you need.

Pack your own beach towels because they are larger and much more plush than what indoor water parks provide.

Empty water bottles! Staying hydrated while swimming in pools with tons of chemicals is very important, so bring refillable water bottles to ensure that your family stays hydrated while playing.

A waterproof phone case. Enough said.

Comfortable, non-slip sandals. As hard as staff may try, water park floors can be pretty gross, so bring a pair of sturdy yet cheap (you don’t want to be worried about someone stealing your sandals while you are floating on the lazy river) sandals.

Two pairs of goggles because they always seem to get tangled or leak when you need them the most.

Waterproof sunscreen lotion (use the spray options to reapply, not to set your base).

A backpack instead of a tote bag. Why? Because chances are your exhausted child will want to be carried and it is much easier to carry a kiddo when wearing a backpack.

Most water parks provide life jackets, but if you prefer to use your own, make sure it is Coast Guard certified or you will not be able to use it.

A thick, comfortable robe to wear when walking to and from the pools (especially in the cold and drafty winter season).

Leave balls and rafts at home because they are not allowed in the indoor or outdoor water parks. Worried your child will be bored? Don’t be! There are tons slides, water spouts, and other activities to keep your kiddo entertained.



Happy Splashing!
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    • amandasimkin says

      It is a really fun place…I recommend it! My mom and I splurged the last time we were there on the spa and it was such a fun mother-daughter treat!

  1. Jenn says

    These look like fun. We are in CA so the only water parks are outdoors. We also rarely go because with seven children, we have made choices to find entertainment with a low dollar sign. Hiking by a creek, canoeing on a river or camping at the beach are the entertainment choices that we have made, and because I love being outside, they suit me just fine.

    • amandasimkin says

      I would much rather do what you do and take advantage of the free and nature based water fun…but since it has been in the negative degrees lately, we have to get a little creative! 🙂

  2. Natasha says

    Love the Dells! We go to the Dells once a year and always stay at the Kalahari in one if the large villas. It’s always a big family trip and so much fun when everyone goes but can be costly with over 15 people. Last year was the first year that we flu instead of drive and let me say this, I will never do that ever again in my entire life so long as a live and have four children and have to pay for food, snacks and all the other little things we carry that I completely forgot about. On a good note those family trips are the best trips ever.

    • amandasimkin says

      Flying can be so unbelievably expensive! Have you ever stayed at Great Wolf? We always manage to get great Living Social and Groupon deals there. But then again, the water isn’t as warm as the Kalahari!

    • amandasimkin says

      Thanks! What can I say…they are in high demand in Chicago about this time…we are so done with winter. Have a great week!

  3. susan says

    I love indoor waterparks having gone to my only one when we lived in England. Where I currently live (CA) there are no indoor parks.

    I loved your review – some great suggestions esp regarding where to stay. If ever I get back east with my son and family, I will recheck your ideas.

  4. Melissa K. McCarthy says

    I’m ashamed to admit that I live just 90 miles away from the Dells and I haven’t been there (aside from driving through on my way to somewhere else) since I was 8. I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Kalahri. I’ll have to take the niece and nephews one of these days…

  5. Jeremy Lagatule says

    Well I can’t say I’ve ever been to an indoor water park like these one’s but here in New Zealand our local swimming pools have a few cool features like hydoslides, spa pools & diving platforms which seem to keep the masses engaged 🙂

  6. Tammilee Tips says

    This looks like an amazing water park to visit! I love to visit them in the water time they are a great way to beat the winter blahs! Your little guy looks like he is having a blast!

  7. Michelle Hwee says

    Wow you guys had an amazing time! I love all the photos they look like so much fun for the entire family! Water parks are just the best! And especially a treat for the kids! Thanks for sharing this with me, I’m about to plan my next vacation trip for the family! 🙂

  8. Delia @ Happy Blogger Plaza says

    We love Great Wolf Lodge and been many times with the kid and had a wonderful time! I love that no matter the weather you are covered as it’s inside so you are guaranteed a fantastic vacation. Thanks for sharing these other fantastic vacation spots.

  9. Chubskulit Rose says

    I am like you when it comes to packing snacks, I am big on that because they are pretty expensive inside the park lol. Thanks for these tips, will definitely keep these in ind.

  10. Krystal says

    My son LOVED water parks last year when he turned two. he was really interested in the wave pools and the kiddie slides. I had no idea we could stay there for as long as we did. He had SO much energy! I’m in Florida and we have a lot of water parks too. They totally wreck my skin, you are so right, I definitely need lotion!

    • amandasimkin says

      My boys are entranced by the wave pools….when we took them to the ocean in Miami I think they were astounded that there were waves in places other than pools.

  11. Yona Williams says

    Ooo – I will have to tell my sweetie about this because he is obsessed with water, and enjoys being around it when we travel. We tried going to an indoor waterpark at this ski resort a couple of weeks ago. When we walked in, there were like a million lifeguards and not a lot of people there, so we felt like we’d stick out on like a sore thumb staying in the wave pool for more than 3 hours. We LOVE the wave pool, and the last time we were at our largest outdoor waterpark, we literally spent more than 3 hours in the wave pool

  12. Amanda @ Adorkablii says

    I can’t tell you the last time I have been to a water park. I think my son would have a blast! He went to Sesame Place a few years back but I think he would enjoy it much more now that he’s older and enjoys the water. It looks like you had a lot of fun and I love that they are about safety and have the vest available! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • amandasimkin says

      The vest makes everything so less stressful, even though I typically always have a hand on my boys–just in case. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Stephanie C. says

    Wow, this looks like the ultimate water park. My kids would have such a blast here! Love your list of tips – there’s some really good ones in there that I wouldn’t have thought of before visiting a water park!

  14. Natalie says

    This looks like a blast! I’ve never been to a water park before, I know the kids would love to go to something like this. This would be a fun place to take them. I’ve talked with my siblings before, that we should all go as a group once or even ask my parents if they wanted to go. Because me and 4 kids would be hard to do, lol.

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