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In our hallway, we keep a big wicker bag at the ready. I call it our summer bag, as in, “Betty, will you please grab the summer bag when you head to the car?” Since this is California, and outdoor weather can appear during any of the 12 months, the summer bag stays in the hallway year round.

The summer bag is not jam-packed. It has a few essentials only, and is mostly empty space. It’s ready and waiting to be customized depending on the outing. Swimming pool? Add goggles and swimcaps. Beach? Add sand toys and baby powder and a paperback. When I say “a few essentials”, I mean it. This is what’s in the bag:

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1) A water bottle. We keep this empty and waiting. We’ve found it’s not hard to find a water source as we adventure, so we fill it as go throughout the day. The water bottle means we can push ourselves as needed. Weren’t planning on a hike, but happened on a good one? No worries, because we’ve got water.

2) A wide-tooth comb. This works best for my kids’ hair, which runs on the curly, knotty side, (especially after encounters with water). The comb means we can tidy ourselves — even post beach — if we end up somewhere requiring everyone to look presentable.

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3) Bandaids. There’s a more complete first aid kit in the car, but in the summer bag, a box of band-aids is all we need. The bandaids are comfort — they fix a range of ills. A scratch. A blister. A bug bite. They offer bravery as needed until we get home.

4) Sunglasses. My kids all have sunglasses, but typically only Olive remembers to bring them (she has a wide selection and likes to pick out a particular pair based on the fashion statement she wants to make). So we keep the rest of the kids’ sunglasses in the summer bag. I’m not sure if it’s the blue eyes or the California sun, but if we’re going to end up outdoors for any length of time, sunglasses really help keep the grouchies away.

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5) Sunscreen. Having good sunscreen on hand, and plenty of it, is just a non-negotiable fact for my un-able-to-tan offspring. If possible, a variety can be nice, so that one kid can use a sunscreen stick on their face, while I’m helping another kid add sunscreen lotion to their back.

 

That’s it. Just five items go in the summer bag. And then, like I said, we can throw in additional items as needed. But even when we add things, I still want it to be mostly empty as we leave the house, because one of the main jobs of the summer bag is collecting things as we go about our adventures.

Half an hour into any outing and our family starts shedding. June’s hoodie goes in the bag because she’s perpetually too warm. Ralph’s hat goes in the bag — it seemed like a good idea when we headed out, but the day turned out to be too windy. Maude’s book ends up in the back when sitting at the park turns into a museum visit.

Having a summer bag at the ready, with only a few essentials, may not sound that helpful. But I’ve found it truly allows us to be spontaneous. If we find ourselves with a free day on the weekend, we can be out the door quickly, building on our excitement and enthusiasm, instead of getting stuck and losing momentum while we figure out what to bring. The essentials in the bag allow for a lot of different adventures, so even if we don’t add anything to the bag, and we’re not sure where we are headed, we’re still prepared for all sorts of fun.

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Now I’m curious and I have two main questions: 1) Do you have a summer bag? Either seasonally or all year round? And 2) If yes, what’s in it? I want to hear!