Lake Tahoe Ultimate Winter Packing List

The Ultimate Packing List

For a Winter Family Road Trip to Lake Tahoe

One of the most beautiful sights in the world is a cold winter morning in Lake Tahoe! Freshly fallen snow glistening in the morning sunlight, pine trees as far as the eye can see, and mountains silhouetted against the clear blue sky. The lake itself is a sight to behold with its clear blue waters and enchanting scenic views.

A little bit of planning is all that’s needed to have a successful family outing in Lake Tahoe. There are lots of things to see and do in Lake Tahoe, but the temperatures can get very cold and the roads can be difficult to navigate. The weather is amazing, but also, unpredictable. It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan just in case mother nature decides to change her mind.

Your personal packing list will depend on what you are planning to do while you are in Lake Tahoe. If you are going skiing, then you’ll want to bring as much of your own equipment as possible. If you are going to drive around the lake, then you’ll want to bring a map of your planned route, in case you don’t have phone/GPS reception. Either way, if you’re driving to Lake Tahoe, you need to be prepared for the weather, the roads, traffic, car troubles and having fun!

Here is a packing list that will set you up to have a wonderful road trip with your family!


  • Comfortable clothing - you’ll want to bring tops and bottoms that you can layer, that are comfortable and that are easy to put on and take off.
  • A sweater/sweatshirt/light jacket - for those times when your heavy jacket is too warm
  • A pair of snow boots - to keep your feet warm and dry while you explore the outdoors
  • Extra pairs of socks - in case your feet get wet or the temperature drops and your feet get cold – weather proof socks are the best
  • An extra pair of shoes - so you can change out of your snow boots
  • A knit hat and gloves - to keep you warm
  • An extra pair of gloves - to change into after the snow ball fight
  • A waterproof pouch with colorful, reflective tape - for your phone and/or other electronics - you don’t want to lose them in the snow or let them get wet
  • Extra bottles of water - even though you’ll be surrounded by snow, it’s easy to get dehydrated
  • Snacks - traffic can be crazy slow and you don’t want the kids, or the adults, getting hangry
  • Zippered baggies - for keeping snacks in, for separating dirty or wet items from clean ones, or for bringing home pine cones
  • Trash bags - please don’t leave any trash behind. Any mess you make should be cleaned up and anything that wasn’t there when you arrived should be taken with you
  • A parka or other jacket with pockets and a hood - you should bring one that is water - resistant
  • Cell phone - for keeping in contact, research, maps, road information, etc.
  • A radio - for sing-alongs, news, weather and road conditions
  • Blankets - for warming up after playing in the snow
  • Shovel - just in case you get stuck and need to remove snow and ice from under your vehicle
  • Cat litter or a traction strip - it is easy to get stuck in the snow and you can use cat litter or a traction tread under your tires to get you moving again
  • Flashlights - it gets very dark, very quickly. It’s always good to keep a spare flashlight in the car and make sure you carry one with you – extra batteries too!
  • Camera - You’ll see lots of beautiful sights that you’ll want to share with friends and family
  • Sunscreen - Lake Tahoe is at a high elevation. It is very easy to get a sunburn due to the thinner atmosphere and the higher altitude
  • Sunglasses - When the sun reflects off the snow it can be blinding, protect your eyes
  • Toilet paper, paper towels, antibacterial wipes - for mishaps and clean ups
  • Towels - for drying off after playing in the snow, or falling in the snow, or putting on chains
  • Chains - unless you have four - wheel drive with snow tires, you’ll want to carry tire chains that fit your vehicle. The weather can change quickly and having chains with you can mean the difference between getting safely to the next stop or having to pay much more to get them at a chain check point. If they don’t have chains that fit your car, you could be told you have to turn around.
  • Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, Benadryl, anti - nausea meds - changing altitudes can give some people headaches and/or nausea. Benadryl can help with sleep or a mild allergic reaction.
  • A basic first aid kit - for scrapes and bruises
  • A basic car kit - jumper cables, a spare tire, etc. just in case
  • If you plan to go off the main roads, let someone know where you are headed and when to expect you back.

Special Needs:

  • Portable toilet - if you have someone who needs to use the bathroom frequently or urgently, you’ll want to bring this along. There are times the highways are backed up and it can take hours to get to the next restroom
  • Medications - even if you are just planning a day trip to Lake Tahoe, you’ll want to bring at least an extra day’s worth of any medications you take.
  • Ice grips or traction cleats - you can slip these onto your shoes if you are in an area that is slick and icy
  • Bear proof food - storage containers - If you leave food in your car it can attract bears. Depending on when you in Lake Tahoe, the bears may be active and you’ll want to be prepared.

A family road trip to Lake Tahoe is a great way to spend time with your family, get exercise, see beautiful sights and have fun! With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can focus on the amazing views instead of worrying about where to find the next grocery store. Before you leave home, have a plan in mind, but also have a back up plan in case the weather, traffic or something else gets in the way.

This packing list is a good place to start planning your next family road trip to Lake Tahoe!

Winter Travel Gear