Having now gone through more than a decade figuring out the best lunch bags for kids, I’ve determined that insulated lunch bags are the way to go. Let’s just say we’ve come a long way from the metal lunch boxes some of us used to carry, featuring the cast of Full House or uh…The Brady Bunch.
Now I know which brands hold up after more than a few months — sometimes even more than a few years — which ones can take a beating, which ones are wipeable and cleanable, and most importantly, which ones actually helps keep those lunches at the right temperature.
Updated for 2023
In addition to stocking up on ice packs for fruit and yogurt, plus insulated containers for those hot lunches you may be packing, check out my picks for best insulated lunch bags for kids this school year.
If you prefer neoprene style bags, I highly recommend Built NYC lunch bags, and Dabbawalla lunch bags (I also recommend their backpacks for young kids) for durability plus style.But if you’re going for a classic, wipe-clean insulated interior in a lunch bag or tote with some structure, here are 7 worth exploring.
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Our picks for the best insulated lunch bags for kids
An insulated lunch bag that’s modern, smart and built to last: MilkDot
MilkDot Insulated Lunch Tote | $24.99-25.95, Amazon
While I present this list in no particular order, I have to kick it off with a longtime favorite of mine, MilkDot. For years, I packed day camp lunches in the same MilkDot bag — it still looked great after four summers and relatively new, and that’s saying something.
The inside is deceptively large; good for bigger kids with bigger appetites. I love the semi-rigid structured sides that help protect fruit and anything else that’s squishable, while the mesh pocket at the top of the bag is a big help. Att the end of the day, it folds nearly flat to tuck easily into a backpack. Should it come home empty.
An insulated lunch bag that’s deceptively rugged and so cool: SoYoung
Another favorite lunch bag of mine going back to 2014 (back when your fourth graders were born, sniff), SoYoung continues to impress. This wonderful mom-run company make very stylish yet durable insulated lunch bags in several size and super cute designs (like the blue dino, seen above, the shark at very top, or the astronaut here). The outside may look delicate, but it’s actually a coated canvas that keeps it cleaner, longer, and makes it easy to wipe down. and the inside wipes down easily, which is the most important part of course.
Additionally, I like SoYoung’s Petite Poches (formerly called cooler bags), which come in more adult designs but have that convenient, detachable carrying strap and a removable insulated insert for easy cleaning.
I think these are a better bet than a standard lunch box shape for kids who bring more food, or if you’re packing insulated containers like a Thermos Funtainers, or larger water bottles like the ones we love from Hydro Flask Kids. Plus it has the space to stack lots of little insulated food containers, should you have grazers who like all kinds of little items instead of one big sandwich and a bag of chips.
They’re so good, Target just introduced a SoYoung Lunch Tote line that’s very affordable (though I haven’t tried them myself.)
An insulated lunch bag for older kids who won’t outgrow it so soon: Yeti Daytrip Lunch Box
Yeti Daytrip Lunch Box| $80, Amazon
If you know Yeti products, you know they are absolutely incredibly made, durable as all heck, and built to handle the great outdoors — which means surely their Yeti Daytrip Lunch Box can handle the school day. This is the newest addition our list, and I wish I had known about it when my now-teens were younger, because (provided they could pick a color), they’d be taking it to college! It’s an investment for sure, but you’re getting incredible temperature retention with the ColdCell Flex Insulation, coupled with ThermoSnap closures.
Do I know what those mean? Yes — that Yeti has really good branding!
An insulated lunch bag for older kids who prefer a tote style: Hydro Flask
Insulated Hydro Flask Lunch Tote | $44.95, Amazon
Many teens head straight from school to sports practice, play rehearsal, or other after-school activities, so a small lunchbox just won’t hold enough food for both lunch and after school fuel. This limited edition 8-Liter Hydro Flask Insulated Lunch Tote is another new addition to our list this year, to go with the teen- favorite Hydro Flask water bottle.There a few colors available from the official Hydro Flask Store on Amazon, and from The Container Store online, or you can always check the Hydro Flask website directly. (Though I know how may parents will appreciate free shipping where they can get it.)
An insulated lunch bag that’s so stylish, you’ll want one too: State Bags
State Bags is a newer entry to my lis of the best insulated lunch bags, definitely scoring big style points for picky older kids. In fact, plenty of adults are fans of this fully insulated lunch bag that includes a handy detachable divider, a mesh zippered pocket (love that zipper) and a see-through pocket inside — tuck in a cute lunchbox note (shown at very top), a family photo, a picture of the dog, you name it. But above all, I like that each purchase from State supports kids in need.
I like the silver and gold, but visit the site for more than two dozen lunch bag colors and patterns.
An insulated lunch bag that’s all about durability and value: LL Bean
LL Bean Insulated Lunch Bag $19.95 with some styles on sale for $14.99, LL Bean
Another parent favorite for best insulated lunch bag–for years, if not decades–is LL Bean’s kid-sized lunch bag. It’s fairly basic but durable and the price is terrific. I will admit my kids were not big fans of their original middle-of-the-road prints, but they’ve definitely stepped up options in recent years with cute additions like the ones shown above. There are 8 options in their solid colored insulated lunch bags as well.
An insulated lunch bag that’s the perennial parent fave: Pottery Barn Kids
Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Lunch Bag | $22.50 and up on sale for a limited time, Pottery Barn Kids
This insulated lunch bag from Pottery Barn Kids easily wins for parents’ choice — it’s so popular, in part because it’s just the right size and shape to fit into even a smaller backpack for preschool or kindergarten. Plus there are so many colors and styles, from solids to patterns, Disney Princesses to Star Wars heroes and villains, that I know a lot of parents whose annual September tradition is to pick out a new one. (Though hopefully the old one gets donated or handed down because it will likely still be in great shape.)
If you need a little more room, check out the Insulated Cold Pack Lunch Bags at Pottery Barn Teen (on sale for $25 and up!) which includes a removable cold pack, and has some handy packing features.