California is known for glorious weather and endless summers so it may come as a surprise to many to hear that our packing list for San Francisco includes sweaters, jackets and raincoats even for summer!
Located in the Northern part of the State, San Francisco has weather patterns that make it similar to the pacific north-west and while the city has its fair share of sunny, gorgeous days, it is also known for very changeable weather and fluctuating temperature. In this article, we share our experience to have you ready in all circumstances.
First, the essentials. The main items we recommend packing when visiting San Francisco with small children are a baby carrier and a stroller.
The stroller is indispensable to cover the long San Francisco distances but the city’s famously steep hills are very buggy-unfriendly: having your baby in a carrier will save your arms and legs from very tiring climbs.
Some of our favourite San Francisco travel essentials are highlighted below. You can download a full printable packing list at the bottom of the page, with check boxes to tick items off as you put them in your suitcase.
Travel accessories for San Francisco
San Francisco is a pleasant city to discover on foot but distances are wide. Because of this, we recommend also travelling with a stroller. It will make longer walks easier on little legs and can offer the opportunity to nap to kids that have outgrown their carrier. Look for a lightweight stroller that is easy to fold, and also look for things like good storage and the ability to recline for naps.
Portable booster seat
If you are planning on using taxis or the more affordable Uber, we recommend you bring your own car seats. Car seats are required by law in California but not all taxis and Uber cars are equipped with them so better be prepared.
- We recommend: the mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat or the BubbleBum backless inflatable car booster seat.
Having a day pack is always a good idea for city trips with kids, so that you can carry all the wet wipes, snacks, tissues, sun cream etc and still keep your hands free to keep hold of the kids. Look for a crossbody bag with padded shoulder strap or a lightweight backpack that can be easily packed in your suitcase when not needed.
- We recommend: the ZOMAKE Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack or the Outlander Most Durable Packable Lightweight Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack.
Collapsible water bottle
Do your bit to save the environment and bring your own refillable water bottles with you instead of relying on buying plastic bottles of water every day. We love a collapsible water bottle that you can fill up as needed and can easily be packed in the suitcase.
- We recommend: Baiji Bottles Collapsible Silicon Water Bottles or the Nomader Collapsible Water Bottle.
When you are traveling as a family, it is inevitable that you will end up with multiple accessories needing charged: phones, tablets, cameras, kindles etc. Don’t ruin the holiday by fighting over the charger; opt for a multiple charging station instead.
- We recommend: the Photive 60 Watt 6 USB Rapid Desktop Charging Station or the Vogek 6-port USB Charger.
Electric current in the USA is 110 to 115 volts, 60Hz AC. Outlets may be suited for flat two-prong or three-prong plugs. If you are traveling from a country with different style plugs, make sure you bring a travel adapter.
- We recommend: the Urophylla Universal Adapter Dual Fuses or the Pac2Go Universal Travel Adapter with Quad USB charger.
Portable Charger Power Bank
Have you ever been caught out sightseeing with a low-battery phone and not been able to take photos? Or found your child’s iPad has run out of battery half way through a long haul flight? Don’t let it happen again! Go prepared with a portable charger power bank, a great tool to have in your travel arsenal.
Of course you have to record all your happy holiday memories, and having an easy-to-use waterproof and shockproof camera means everybody in the family can share in the photo taking, without having to worry about the camera getting damaged.
It’s always good to have some hand sanitizer in your bag when you are travelling, for times when you can’t wash your hands before having a snack, or have been traveling on public transport.
- We recommend: Babyganics alcohol-free foaming hand sanitizer on-the-go or PURELL Advanced hand sanitizer travel size.
Sun cream is useful in San Francisco during most of the year, at least during the sunny spells of the day.
- We recommend: Babyganics Mineral-based baby sunscreen spray or Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen.
Books and Games
San Francisco Travel Guide Book
No matter how much research you do online before you travel, it can still be handy to have a travel guidebook in your bag.
- We recommend: Lonely Planet San Francisco (Travel Guide) and this fun kids guide to the city Kids’ Travel Guide – San Francisco: The fun way to discover San Francisco-especially for kids (Kids’ Travel Guide Series)
It’s always handy to have a few activity books in your bag for your kids, for airports, flights, or when they just need some downtime after a hard day of sightseeing.
The family that plays together stays together! Pack a few fun travel games for fun family evenings, rainy days or airport layovers.
Clothes for San Francisco in summer
Summer in San Francisco is a lot colder and more unpredictable than visitors expect. On the same day you can have very hot spells followed by seriously cold evening and the change between one and the other is so sudden it truly catches the unprepared visitor by surprise. To make sure you are prepared for all weather, layers are your best friend. Make sure you pack:
- Cotton t-shirts
- Trousers (summery and jeans)
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Nicer clothes/shoes for more upmarket restaurants
- Light jacket
Clothes for San Francisco in winter
Winters in San Francisco are mild but rainy. We recommend you and especially your kids wrap up and bring good, waterproof shoes and rain jackets.
We recommend including the following for your San Francisco winter outfit:
- Warm sweaters
- Warm jacket
- Comfortable, waterproof walking shoes
Clothes for San Francisco in Spring/ Autumn
Spring and autumn are wonderful times to visit San Francisco and can be surprisingly warm, autumn especially. Our packing list for these times of the year is similar to the one for summer and includes:
- Sweater / cardigan
- Short sleeve tops
- Light jacket
- Light scarf
- Comfortable, close toe shoes
Travel accessories for the plane
Multiple Passport holder
A multiple passport holder is invaluable for keeping all the family’s passports together in one place. Look for one that makes it easy to remove the passports, and that has space to store luggage tags, frequent flier cards etc.
- We recommend: Zero Grid Travel Wallet & Family Passport Holder or the Apadi Travel Document Organizer.
Travel Pillow (neck support)
We all know how uncomfortable it is trying to sleep on the plane. While we can’t promise you a good sleep, we can recommend using a travel neck pillow to help ease your aches and pains once you get to your destination.
Travel Pillow (leg support)
Travel leg rest pillows have been a bit of a game changer for long haul flights with small kids. These inflatable pillows allow you to fill the leg gap between the seats, allowing small children to stretch out or even lie down flat. Note that some airlines have banned the use of these travel leg rest pillows. Check with your airline before you go to the airport.
We highly recommend headphones for everyone in the family. Noise cancelling headphones for mums and dads are great for cutting out the ambient sound of the plane, while kid-sized headphones with volume limits will ensure kids can watch their iPads without disturbing others, and without damaging their eardrums.
- We recommend: Bose QuietComfort 25 noise cancelling headphones for adults and Kidz Gear Wired Headphones for kids.
If you’re looking for a new suitcase for your San Francisco trip, we love the foldable luggage from Biaggi – these can be folded down into a small pouch for easy storage and saves you from having to step over your suitcases in your hotel room. We love the easy-glide spinner wheels on them too.
- We recommend: Biaggi Luggage Zipsack 31” Micro Fold Spinner Suitcase and the Biaggi Zipsack 27” Micro Fold Spinner Suitcase.
Packing cubes are so useful when you are traveling with kids. There is nothing worse than spending every morning rummaging through your suitcase looking for a matching outfit. Packing cubes allow you to segregate clothes into their own cubes, making it easy to find what you need. Look for cubes with a peekaboo window so you can easily see what is inside.
How many times have you found yourself rummaging around in your suitcase looking for a phone charger? An electronics organizer can save you plenty of time and frustration by keeping all your chargers, cables, memory cards, headphones and adapters in one handy pack.
Ziploc bags are a parent’s secret weapon when traveling. You can use them to store snacks, dirty clothes, nappy changing kits, puzzle pieces, small toys, crayons and leaky shampoo bottles. Be sure to add a few to your case!
Be super organized for your next city trip. Download our fully comprehensive printable packing list, with checkboxes to ensure you don’t forget anything.
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