Have Bag, Will Travel (or Go to the Beach, or the Park, or on a Picnic)

Now’s the season for getting out and about. The weather is warming up. Spring fever has hit.

During Springtime, the outdoors positively beckons you to load up the family and head out for adventure.

But, do you ever find yourself…

  • at the beach or other fun locale, and the weather turns cold, and tshirts and shorts just won’t cut it?
  • on a family field trip at a location where budget-friendly meals are a foreign concept?
  • at the park for an impromptu outing and find that you have no balls or toys in the car?
  • on a road trip without sufficient activities for the kids to amuse themselves with?
  • on your way to a faraway special event only to find out that someone made it into the car without any shoes?

{FishMama waves one hand while shamefully covering her eyes with the other.}

This has happened to us more times than I can count. And I can count pretty high. Though I was once a Girl Scout, I often find myself woefully unprepared. And that’s a bummer when you want to be out with the family having a good time.

The last thing you want to do is shiver in the cold, buy your kid new shoes when she has five pairs at home, or pay through the nose for a mediocre sandwich.

A few months ago, FishPapa and I started brainstorming the Bag Idea.

The Idea was that we would create lists of the things we might like to have on an outing and then create bags to hold all these items. Then, we’d try to keep the bags packed and ready to go at all times.

Well, an idea is only as good as its execution. We’d had this great idea, but didn’t put feet to it. And all of the above scenarios have happened since we conjured up the Bag Idea.

FishMama says no more!

I’ve got my lists, I’ve packed my bags, and I even made cute little tags to go with, so that when it’s time to repack the bag, we know what should go into it. We’re ready to hit the road — whether it be a road trip, the day at the beach, playtime at the park, or a simple picnic. And, Lord willing, we’ll be prepared!

Have Bag, Will Travel

You can easily do this yourself.

1. Gather your bags. I found some on clearance and others were discovered in dejunking some of my closets. We decided to use bags with zippers or closures instead of tote bags since a certain someone in the family has a tendency to undo a lot of my hard work. Zippers won’t prevent her from digging in, but they should slow her down.

2. Print your lists. Getting feedback from FishPapa and the grammas, I jotted down all the things that I thought we might need on a certain outing. For instance, on the ideal picnic, some things that I would like to regularly have would include: tablecloth, napkins, cups, plates, straws, plastic ware, bread knife, sunscreen, bug spray, and hand wipes. I made lists for the beach, playtime at the park, picnicking, roadtrips, as well as for a snack bag and a spare-change-of-clothes bag, “just in case.”

I printed these two-sided lists on colorful paper, cut them out, and then laminated them in self laminating luggage tags . No, this is not necessary, but I thought they were cute this way and I know they will be durable. The tags I used also came with plastic loops making it super easy to hang them on the bags when I was done.

If you have access to a laminating machine, you could do it that way. And metal rings or ribbon should work just as well as luggage tags. And if you’d like to give our lists a go, I made them into a free Bag Tags printable, available to you for your personal use. Have fun with them and let me know how they work for you.

3. Gather your stuff. Having recently sorted through the kids’ clothes helped me locate swimsuits and extra sweatshirts. Knowing what was in my stockpile made it easier to collect sunscreens and bugsprays and to know what I needed to go buy, too. So, this is an excellent activity to keep in mind as you declutter your home.

Below is the park play bag, including a football, insect repellent, sunscreen, bubbles, a kite, and an airplane toy that really flies. Most of these were items we already had that I consolidated so that we’re prepared next time we head out.

4. Assemble your bags. This part is a test of your skill at spatial relationships. I had to repack and reassign different bags because things didn’t fit easily. If you can, have extra bags handy in case some just don’t work for your purpose.

5. Store bags in an easily accessible place. I chose one of the foyer closets. Most of the bags fit on the top shelf, another hangs from the bar and the last sits on the floor. Since it’s on our way out the door, this closet is easy to get to, perfect for an outing.

I’m hoping that having supplies at the ready will help our family enjoy the great outdoors and other adventures a little bit more this season.

What do you do to stay organized and prepared for adventure?

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Comments

  1. LeeEllen V says:

    I have an “emergency bag” in the car that covers some of these items – but you have given me ideas for adding to it. So many times, we’re out someplace and it’s colder than we expected it to be (need sweatshirts!), or sunnier than we expected (sunscreen!), or things like that.

  2. What a great idea! With summer vacation almost here for us these bags would be so helpful around here. I always keep our old diaper bag in the car with extra clothes, but your idea takes that up a notch!

  3. We did something very similar when we lived in Germany with our 3 children, and it was a life saver! It was a simplified version with just one bag of necessities that stayed in our car at all times. I cleaned it out about every 6 months to be sure things were still useful and fit the kids. I need to get back to doing that now!

  4. This is positively brilliant! Off to find bags and make lists….

  5. I like your ideas!

    I keep two bags in my van at all times – the first one is seasonal. Right now I have a water play bag – sunscreen, towel, swimsuit, extra clothes, water shoes, etc. I want the ability to say “yes” if we come across a sprayground, river or some other place that we want to play in the warm weather. The second is sports equipment for young kids – balls, racquets, rings, etc.

    We also keep an overnight/travel bin available inside the house. It has things like an air mattress, baby monitor, 2nd copy of a favorite stuffed animal, our airline CARES seatbelt, etc. It’s easier to have these things together already when I’m ready to pack.

  6. LOVE this idea. We do a more simplified version, ie: one bag with all the essentials that we keep in the car at all times. I have also started a snack bag that I refill on a weekly basis. I keep snacks, a bottle of water, wipes and a couple plastic grocery bags (for garbage, etc). It’s been working great! We seem to live in our car sometimes, so this works great. Thanks for more inspiration!!

  7. I absolutely love this!

  8. What a GREAT idea!!

  9. You are amazing!!

  10. What a great way to make your life less complicated!
    Jana

  11. I used to have a great bag packed with extra clothes, sweatshirts, u/w, socks, flip flops (gender neutral) but have not kept up with it – I need to do that while I’m sorting through clothes for this change of seasons!

    I do however prep for summer. We spend many many afternoons and weekends at our local lake. The start of every season I go through the sand toys, boogie boards,goggles and pitch old items that are broken/outgrown and replace. Next, I pack a medium size bin with our picnic supplies – napkins, paper plates, salt/pepper, extra condiment packets we might have around, paper cups, etc. I also put in a zipped bag of extra hairbands, kleenex, bandaids, sunscreen, bug spray, cortisone cream, hand sanitizer/wipes and swimmie diapers(don’t need those this year!)Each shopping trip I add big bags of snack items to keep my crew happy, and I make sure I have a cold thermos filled with juice or lemonade ready to throw in the car (vs buying tons of pricey juice boxes) along with cold water bottles (using our own refillable bottles). This saves so much time – I can pack my car within minutes. I make sure to keep a good supply of towels, extra bathing suits and we can be ready to roll within about 10 mins after I’ve packed the bin, chairs, boogie boards and toys…it becomes a cinch. I also have the reverse packing down to a science – empty car, wet things hung up to dry or dumped in a heap on porch for doing laundry after kids have gone to bed, garbage thrown right into garage bins, and items to replenish put on my whiteboard. It makes the lake season much less labor intensive for me!

  12. I do this because everything is at least 45 minutes from the house.We live in a very secluded area.It will save your sanity.

  13. I started doing this a year or so ago with a “play outside” bag for taking to the park or on car trips (in case we stop at a park): sunscreen, bug spray, first aid kit, pinwheels, Frisbee, balls. It works out great — and I just this weekend transferred it from the coat closet to the hooks in our entryway (where, in the winter, I use a tote bag to corral small mittens and hats). I’ve been thinking I need to do a “beach” bag, too — but that won’t be necessary for us for another couple of months, at least!

  14. Great tip! Thank you! ♥ Michelle
    Btw, I’ve just started following you on twitter, but hadn’t visited your blog until I found it on 29 Lincoln Avenue today. I’m GLAD I did!

  15. Thanks for the idea, it will really come in handy this summer! You are completely right though, it’s all about execution, lol.

  16. I love your idea for the check lists and labels. We just got back from an impromptu sleep over at Grammies and we used our extra clothing bag from the back of the car. I like to include a pair of shorts and a pair of sweat pants for each child because you never know when the weather will change quickly. Sweat pants can also double as jammies!

  17. This is just brilliant! I am already brainstorming the bags that we will need! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Great ideas! It makes going somewhere spur of the moment a little less stressful and more fun…I like the idea of an emergency bag too – how often would you update the emergency bag (ie for meds)?

  19. What a great idea. Just a few days ago I was out for a quickie errand, and decided to swing by the farmer’s market on the way home – only to realize that my 3yo did not have shoes on! We did have a pair of soccer cleats (a few sizes to large) in the car and made do with those, a little embarassing, but hey, that’s life with kids!

  20. kathleen says:

    i love this idea. we are planning all these trips this year and this is exactly what we need. i have experienced many of the same problems, but now with this idea hopefully not again! thanks for sharing.

  21. I love this tip. I am always driving myself crazy looking for bags and everything I need at the last minute. Putting this on my to do list to get this ready for Summer. Thanks!!

  22. What a great idea! We love to take off for adventures-but sometimes we forget essentials in our haste to get out the door (like shoes, we’ve done that more than once!) Thanks for sharing this-we’ll be doing this for sure!

  23. I do this to a lesser degree but I’m really impressed with your fancy bag system! I have a bag for church which contains little white boards, dry erase markers, my Bible, etc. so I can just grab it quickly on a busy Sunday morning. I also have a bag I use for the park with water bottles, sunscreen, etc.

    Thanks for this excellent post!

  24. This is genius!! You are so organized I love it. Brilliant idea to have all these bags so carefully prepped and ready to go!

  25. Sad, but true- I even have a bag for going to our backyard! I was so tired of running in and out (have a 3 1/2 yo and 2yo). So out comes our backyard bag of juice cups, snack, handiwipes, camera, cell phone and my gratitude journal.

    Love your travel bags- will definitely get on this!

  26. I am so inspired by your post! Thanks! I can not wait to make and fill these bags!

  27. Sharisse says:

    Absolutely love this!! Can I ask how you created the list for the bag tags? I saw your template but want to be able to edit the list for my family. Thanks!

  28. What a brilliant idea! We always seem to forget the things we need every time we try to put things together right before leaving the house and this would be a Godsend to actually have all the things we need.

  29. Love it! Thanks for sharing that fab idea!

    Heather
    http://www.thegiftcloset.blogspot.com
    The Gift Closet

  30. What a great idea! I never thought about having different bags for different activities – I’ve been changing it out as needed. Thanks!

  31. I have an American Red Cross fully loaded 4 day emergency bag in my van, the drawer under one of the seats holds a change of clothes for each kid, and a fully stocked extra diaper bag also stays in the van. However, that’s the extent of it. If I forget to put together whatever we might need for an outing, then we’re out of luck.

    This is such a great idea that I’m going to work on implementing it after our upcoming move!

  32. Love love love this idea. Thanks! I keep a “just in case” beach/pool bag ready to go (a girl can dream) BUT since I am um…shall we say “on a long road to organized”…my tags list what *else* to grab too (water, snacks, whatever else I’m likely to forget that are not things that can be packed away too early).
    Super-super smart you–thank you for kindly sharing your lists–off to containerize!

  33. Patty Feinstein says:

    I added our family name and telephone number to the flip side of the Bag tags in case we lose one at the pool or soccer game!
    Tx for the great ideas!

    • Adding your name, phone, address and email to a label on the bags is SO SMART; I once found a woman’s expensive leather diaper bag with tons of books, toys, and personal things in it without any name or phone on it. I had to go through it piece by piece, and found a church service program so I knew which church she had attended. I then found a note where her kids had practiced drawing their first names, and since the church program had a list of all the members, I could figure out who the family was. And after all that, she was pretty much unconcerned when I called her; it took her three weeks to pick it up. I would be NUTS if I lost any of my stuff!

  34. Sue Rogers says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! I am off to make my own. Thanks so much for this idea!

  35. Love this! I had an emergency bag of sorts in the car some years ago but need a new one for sure. btw – where did you get the picnic ‘bag’? Almost looks like a basket. Very cute.

  36. What a wonderful idea! I am about to become a mom to my first little one in June, and seeing strategies that different moms use to keep life more organized is always an inspiration. Thank you for sharing!

  37. Love the idea of laminating the tags too! Fantastic! I make tote bags when there are discount deals on the printing company sites and just write what the bag is for right on it. For example: donations, magazines, dry cleaning etc… the last one I made was about $2 and it turned out beautifully.

    • “I make tote bags when there are discount deals on the printing company sites and just write what the bag is for right on it.” Great idea! I am going to start doing that. Thanks!

  38. I love this idea! Is anyone else having trouble prinitng the tags? Help, lol. Maybe i am doing something wrong.

  39. Just came over from Metropolitan Mama…and I LOVE this idea. Can’t wait to get our bags together! I already have so many ideas about what types of bags and what I want in them. It never fails that we always get somewhere and don’t have what one or two things we would like to have or need!!

  40. This is such a cool idea! Planning ahead definitely makes being spontaneous easier (the ultimate irony!). :)

  41. I clicked over from Metropolitan Mama, and I’m so glad I did, because this is such a wonderful idea! I had a plastic bin in my car when my son was an infant w/ extra diapers/wipes, spare onsies and outfits, bibs, etc…but that just fizzled out over the past year or so. I’d been thinking about gathering supplies for bags lately, especially after an unexpected playdate at the beach. My poor son was buckled into his car seat wearing nothing but a diaper and one of my old t-shirts! You’ve inspired me to get going on this!

  42. Being an active family, we are always on the go. I have an ongoing bag in my car at all times. In it I have at a minimum a change of clothes for each child, even the big ones, including sweatshirts. one towel a blanket/sarong, spare shoes(ussually flip flops from the dollar store). Flip Flops come in handy when someone forgets shoes or forgets shoes for after soccer games or a shoe breaks. (that happened to me at church). In the food and beverage dept we always seem to have water bottles both the refillable and throwaway types and I have an ongoing snack bag ( an oversize lunch bag that we refill for kids for after school and practices) As the seasons change I rotate what I keep in the car. Right now I have a spare set of soccer cleats and extra soccerballs, a spare leotard and a refereee whistle for daughter number 1 . I know that sounds like a lot to keep in the car but it all fits nicely in a small bag. But I do like the idea of a bag that zips closed. To keep it all contained.

  43. This idea is aboslute genius! I hate going out places and wishing I’d remembered things. I can’t wait to put some of these together!

  44. I usually keep a summer bag in the car, but completely forget about it in the winter, for some reason. Thanks for the reminder to keep supplies ready for anything that comes up. The tags you made are great!

  45. Tracked back from your giveaway of a bag.

    This post cracked me up – you are my grandmother reincarnated!

    Mom of 5, grandmother of 13 she perfected her “bagling”. They lived in the basement until “their season” (like sleds, mittens, etc not needed in summer) but during their season they lived in the trunk.

    I thought she was the awesomest grandma because she was up for anyTHING anyTIME.

    So of course this is one trick we still use.

  46. Heather E. says:

    I can not get the printable tags page to work for labeling the bags. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks for the help!

  47. I use to have a big blue box that my husband made that fit nicely in the back of our truck. I kept it stocked with picnic supplies, extra clothes, snacks, first aid supplies, kids activities, science gathering containers and tools, drawing books, and art supplies (no crayons, they melt together). It allowed us so much freedom to just go and do. When we bought a new truck, somehow it didn’t make it into it. I think it is time I find it again, and get it back to where it belongs.

  48. In my car trunk, I have
    an Emergency bag that includes water bottles;
    also a First Aid kit;
    a sleeping bag;
    a vomit bowl with a lid that has a bottle of water and wipes in it for carsick kids;
    a zip baggie with a roll of TP in it for nature calls between far-apart rural towns (take out the cardboard and the TP flattens to fit in the baggie better);
    a ‘soccer blanket’ (fleece on one side & waterproof stuff on other side that rolls up) that comes in handy to throw across the backseat or trunk as needed when you have a dog along, have bought plants at the nursery or have wet muddy kids.

    In the back seat, I keep a fleece blanket for those who think the AC is too cold.

    My sister always kept a cooler between the seats of her van; she would put a cold pack and some juice boxes and snacks in it on the way to school in the morning, it stayed cold enough for snacking on the way home from school when the kids were really hungry and kept them from screaming for fast food as they passed the restaurants.

    In a closet at home, I also keep a ventilated swimming bag with our suits, flips flops, coverups, chair-towels & clips, sunscreen, ear plugs/ nose clips/ goggles, and toys so even if we just head to a hotel that has a pool, I have that bag “already packed.”

    I also a have a ‘church purse’ with different stuff than my real purse.

    I have a travel make-up /tolietries bag with duplicates of my home makeup box, and a lingerie cube that has duplicates ‘newer/better’ of my underwear, slip, bras, hose, etc; When we travel, most of my packing is already done.

    Most of my lifestyle seems to already be packed in boxes, tubs, bins or bags ha ha but makes it easier to clean up after 8 kids.

  49. This reminds me I need to redo our LOP (lack of planning) box for our cars. I always kept extra pajamas for our boys, along with clean sippy cups, toothbrushes, underwear. Now that we’re beyond sippies and diapers, we can repack for “older” kids (they’re 4 and 7).

  50. I, too, love this idea and post. Silly me, I thought I was “done with all the bags” when my kids were out of diapers. :) I just have one more idea that might be useful. We live in FL where it is super-hot and I’ve had groceries spoil in my car while running errands. I’ve learned to keep a cooler in the car when I’ll be going to several stores. All the perishables go in and the frozen food keeps everything nice and cool. Definitely worth the piece of mind of not worrying about 4 gallons of organic milk going sour before you even get home.

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