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If you are a regular reader of Southern Savers, then you know that one of the best ways to save money is to plan ahead. We mostly talk about it in terms of food, but there are other ways to plan ahead that will save you money! One of my best tips for doing this in the hot months of the year is to have a summer go bag always on the ready. Some people refer to a “go” bag to have on hand in case of an emergency like a natural disaster. But I’m talking about it from a positive perspective: having things ready so you don’t have to scramble when a fun opportunity comes up.
Today I’m going to share what to put in a summer go bag so you can be prepared for anything that comes up this summer. This summer go bag can also be transformed for a fall or winter to go bag, depending on the weather where you are.
Think of your summer go bag as stockpiling the potential for spontaneous fun this summer. You’ll enjoy the spontaneous trip to the splash pad way more if you don’t have to drag your kids into the drugstore to buy $13 sunscreen!
What to Put in a Summer Go Bag
I hope this goes without saying, but sunscreen is probably the most important thing to have in your summer go bag! You can let your kids get wet in their clothes, but there’s no substitute for sunscreen. I check the current sunscreen deals and get several bottles: one for the back porch, one for our beach bag (a separate bag just for intentional pool/beach trips), and one for this summer go bag. If I know we’re going somewhere where we’ll be in water, I take the beach bag, but sunscreen is important any time we’re outside, even just at the park.
Mosquitoes can also ruin an outdoor experience really fast. You can often get bug spray on sale if you watch the store deals. I like the plant-based repellents since they’re considered safe even for really young kids.
First Aid Kit
You can buy first aid kits at most pharmacies or big retailers that are already put together, but the Red Cross also has a guide for putting together your own first aid kit. I remember one time when my girls were really small and we had spontaneously gone to the park. They had just started playing when one of them tripped and skinned her knee. It wasn’t a terrible injury, but she was really upset and I knew that if I could just clean it and put a band-aid on it, she would settle down. But because I didn’t have any band-aids on me or in my car, it basically ruined her time (and as a result, my time) at the park. Now I never leave home without a band-aid!
Even when I haven’t had kids in diapers (which hasn’t been much of my parenting life), I always like to have baby wipes on hand. Keeping baby wipes in your summer go bag is a no-brainer! They can wipe off sticky stuff, clean off a skinned knee, or be used to wash hands before eating. We also see them on sale all the time!
Big Ziploc Bags or Plastic Grocery Bags
These are crucial to have a place to put wet or dirty clothes, or even dirty diapers if the place you’re at doesn’t have a trash can. They can also be used to collect souvenirs from the park! I tend to always have a few plastic grocery bags tucked away in our bag plus a few extra in the car.
Snacks that Can Get Hot
You’re obviously not going to be able to keep fresh fruits and vegetables in your summer go bag, so you’re going to want to choose snacks that will be OK, for example, when it’s 100 degrees outside (and even hotter in the car). Think granola bars (that don’t have chocolate in them), popcorn, dry cereal, veggie straws, nuts, or fruit pouches.
Bathing Suits (and Swim Diapers if you have a little one)
Find that bathing suit that is a little small or worn for each of your kids and throw that in the summer go bag. It’s worth grabbing a couple cheap swimsuits at the consignment store or Goodwill just to have these! I remember when a family that was in town to visit our zoo came over for dinner and without me realizing it, our kids pulled out all of their water guns and turned the hose on. Because the family was driving home that night, they didn’t have any bathing suits or changes of clothes on them. I felt so bad! It is always a good reminder to me to make sure I have something my kids can get wet in the car. If you have a little one in diapers, make sure there’s a swim diaper in there, just in case!
I always make sure I have a spare towel in my car. You can use it as a picnic blanket in a pinch, but it’s also great for when you go to the park the day after a thunderstorm and all the slides are wet. Many a park trip has ended too soon because all the kids have wet bottoms and are getting uncomfortable. If you have lots of kids, I would pack a couple extra towels!
Change of Clothes
Look through your kids’ clothes and pick out the rattiest, oldest ones to put in the summer go bag. That way they won’t miss their favorite T-shirt all summer, but you’ll be prepared if you’re out and about and their clothes get wet, muddy, or dirty.
Empty water bottles
Having filled water bottles in the car isn’t really helpful since the heat will make the water hot and not super fun to drink. Most places will have a water fountain or place to get water, so make sure you have enough water bottles for each person in your car and plan to fill them when you can.
The Bag Itself
The final important part of the summer go bag is the bag itself! You can use a backpack, a large reusable bag, a canvas bag, or even a mesh bag (which is what I use for our beach bag). What’s important is that you can fit everything inside without having to empty it all out in order to find something. It might be helpful to use a small plastic container inside for snacks so that they don’t get smushed. The good thing is, you probably have a bag around your house that you can use without having to buy something.
Is there something I forgot? What would you put in your summer go bag?