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The Secret to a More Relaxing Summer

I’ve got a secret to share with you today!

I’m not really that organized during the summer 🙂

Ok, that’s not really it — the secret is in how I APPEAR to be organized on those crazy summer days. 

If you’ve been following The $0 Summer: 105 Ways to Make Memories with the Kids series, you know our goal is to help you focus on more fun and less chaos.  (If you haven’t been following along, we’d love for you to join us!)

We had one of THOSE summers a while back — you know the ones — every time we would head to the park or the pool or out to an event, something would get left behind.

Like the water bottles or the kids’ socks (which you ALWAYS need at play places) or the towel so my kids wouldn’t shiver when they got out of the pool. 

Or worse yet, I would forget the snacks!


So I got myself together and put a little system into place — a very easy system that made my family very happy because we always had what we needed when we needed it (yea!)

Want to know my secret?  And bonus:  it comes with a FREE printable to make your summer less chaotic too 🙂


Tips for an Organized Summer Bag

Drum roll please ….

My secret is our Summer Fun bag — ‘fun’ because now I can have MORE fun instead of worrying about what we forgot to bring!

Seriously — It’s. So. Awesome!

I toss all the items that we might need into a very cool bag which sits right next to my front door all summer long!

And whenever we head out the door, I grab the bag so I know we’re all set for the day — no matter where we may be heading.

Great if you’re just going to the pool or heading on a fun road trip for the day.

Less worry and planning on my part — less whining from the kids — less money spent because we ‘forgot’ those must-have items.

Life is good!

Here’s what I stash in our bag:


A nice LARGE towel or blanket

Large – as in one that can fit the whole family!  We have a HUGE waterproof picnic blanket that I keep in the car and then I toss a big beach towel into our bag. We’ve also used it as a ‘changing room’ when the kids needed to make a quick change in the car. 

Bonus:  our kids also have something to cover up with if we’re ever in a place where the air conditioning makes it too cold (or like the time we visited Mount Rushmore and it dropped to 49 degrees for the evening activities — it’s times like that when my bag really impresses the family plus cuts down on the whining and complaining 😉


Extra Swimsuits

Can’t tell you how many times we ended up at a friends’ house or near a splash park and wanted to have our suits! 

So I keep one tucked in the bag for those ‘just in case’ moments.



Totally a must!  We live in Kansas where sun/shade ratio is like 90/10. 

I’m all for getting some Vitamin D but sunburns are NOT fun (and we spend a lot of time outdoors hiking, swimming and kayaking with the kids).  Having a good sunscreen on hand is perfect because we can use it at a park or at the pool.  

And even though we usually apply it before we leave the house, I really love to have it with me so it’s easy to remember to re-apply after we’ve been out in the sun for a few hours.


things to pack in a beach bag


Socks or Flip-flops

As I mentioned above — play places!  We wear flip flops or sandals all summer and have gotten caught on more than one occasion without socks.  So after a few meltdowns when we couldn’t play (and one slight hissy fit from me when I had to pay $3 for a pair of socks), I am now smart enough to make sure that we have some with us.

And if we happen to be wearing our sneakers when we head out the door, I grab flip-flops for all of us since I know we’ll want to cool our feet off at some point during the day 🙂


8 Quarters

This is something I mentioned in our 34 Ways to Be a Fun Parent this Summer list — I like to have quarters with me.

Visiting petting zoo to feed goats = 50 cents

Stopped at a lemonade stand to support mini-entrepreneurship = 50 cents

Had to feed a parking meter downtown (yep, they still have those) = 50 cents

Bought a honey stick at the Farmer’s Market from a stand that didn’t take credit cards = 50 cents

Lesson: Always have quarters during summertime 🙂


Head Gear

Hats, bandanas, pony tail holders — always have something to keep the sun off your head and the hair off your neck. 

Everyone’s happier.


things to pack for the beach

See us all smiling?  This was after 6 hours at the beach — where we needed the hat, extra bottle of sunscreen, waters and 2 band-aids that no one else thought we would need 😉


Snacks, Water Bottles & Wet Wipes

Kids are always hungry, you can never have enough water with you and just don’t even get me started on the whole ‘clean hands before we eat’ mantra 🙂

If you’re a fan of having COLD water (even when you’re outside for a while in the heat) try these stainelss steel insulated water bottles — really, so MUCH better than plastic ones for keeping water cold! 


Kids Magazines

Seems that we always need something quick to read so having a few kids magazines in a great option!  The stories are short, they usually include some puzzles or fun games and I don’t worry about getting them wet if we’re at the pool.  Plus they don’t weigh as much as books 🙂

Looking for ideas your kids will enjoy?  See our Guide to the Best Children’s Magazines.


Travel Books & Coupons

Any book that applies to where we might be headed that week/month.  Since we do a lot of hiking, I usually have a book with the park trails or a guide to the National Parks with us.  If you have an Entertainment coupon book or one of those coupon cards the school sells as a fundraiser, keep it in the bag and you’re more likely to use them!

And if I’m not bringing my purse that day, I also grab my wallet to tuck in the bag since I usually have things like my zoo membership card in my wallet.  AND (as my family will be quick to tell you) because I ALWAYS need my AAA card since I’m infamous for locking my keys in the car — I have to call and have them bail me out every summer 🙂


Medications & First Aid Items

For us, it’s important to have the kids’ inhalers with us just in case their asthma is acting up.  I also keep eye drops and headache meds in the bag for me too.

And who here has NOT needed a band-aid since their kids were born? 

I think when you have a child, we should all be smart enough to buy stock in the band-aid companies because we go through them like no one’s business.  Oh, and don’t think it’s always the kids — I’ve needed the first aid cream and band-aids for my husband on a few of our summer outings (“What? I’m bleeding?” — it’s a regular saying at our house).

Use our free printable list to make your own DIY First Aid Kit!


A $10 Bill

I don’t know about you but I usually don’t carry any cash with me.  These days, a credit or debit card works 99% of the time.

But for those 1% of times — like the day my son was in a golf tournament, we drove an hour to the course and as we got out of the car, I realized that we left all the water bottles at home in the fridge 🙁  And the snack stand only took cash — that $10 came in very handy!


things to pack in your summer bag

As promised, here’s a FREE handy dandy checklist to keep with your Summer Fun bag. 

I quickly go over the list each time I bring the bag back in the house and just toss in whatever we used or needs to be replaced before our next outing.

There you go — less chaos means more time for you to enjoy the season!




20 Ways to Enjoy a Summer Evening

Summer Scavenger Hunts for Kids {with free printables}

100+ Free Things to do this Summer



things to do on a summer night



The original post was a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Banana Boat® .  The opinions and text are all mine.