Activity Bags for Family Fun

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Get out with the family with no fear of being caught unprepared. Pack these activity bags to ensure that fun is exactly what your outing holds.

Activity Bags for Family Fun

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It seems that in our current culture, at least at my house, it’s all too easy to stay home. There are devices to look at and all kinds of distractions. And really, it’s such a lot of work to pack up the kids and get outside. Right?

Wrong. Now’s the season for getting out and about. Summer, of course, 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. 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.

Activity Bags for Family Fun | Life as Mom

A few years ago, FishPapa and I came up with the Bag Idea.

The Bag 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.

Over the years, the bags have changed shape, size, and contents, but they prove to be invaluable to make our family outings a little more fun and little less chaotic.

This tutorial is one I shared years ago as a way to make getting out with the kids easier for your family, too. We know from experience, now six years later, that if we have the bags, we will travel — a little more peacefully and enjoyably.

Here I present to you lists, bags, and even cute little tags to go with, so that when it’s time to repack the bag, everyone will know what should go into it. We’ll all be 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!

Activity Bags for Family Fun

Consider packing these activity bags so you’re always ready for family fun:

Activity Bags for Family Fun | Life as Mom

A beach bag

A beach or pool bag, complete with towels, sunscreen, flipflops, goggles, beach toys, and whatever you need to make a day in the water fun and safe.

Activity Bags for Family Fun | Life as Mom

A picnic bag

Be ready for spontaneous picnics with all the serving ware, plus tablecloth or blanket. If you’ve got these tucked away in the car, you can easily pick up food at the store or your favorite take-out join and picnic without fuss or worry.

Activity Bags for Family Fun | Life as Mom

A bag of fun

Whether you’re on a road trip or just making an impromptu stop at the park, you can be prepared to have a good time with some balls, light sticks, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles.

Having supplies at the ready helps our family enjoy the great outdoors and other adventures a little bit more. I hope it does the same for you!

Do you worry that you’re squandering the precious days with your kids? Be more intentional this summer by planning simple yet intentional family fun activities. Grab your copy of the Summer Survival Guide.

cover image of Summer Survival Guide.

Within its pages, you’ll find everything you need, and I do mean EVERYTHING, to be prepared for summer break, including printable activity bag tags and a tutorial for making your own activity bags.

Not only that, I’ve included 16 weeks of fun learning activities to do with your kids, a mom’s reading list, meal planning tips and tricks to make summer delicious and affordable.

Buy the Summer Survival Guide here: and make the most of every summer minute.

What will you pack in your activity bags?


Activity Bags for Family Fun | Life as Mom


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  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

    1. Welcome! Hope you’ll come back. We got all kinds of fun over here. 😉

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

  12. 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!!

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

  14. 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.

    1. “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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

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

  18. 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!

    1. 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!

  19. 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!

  20. 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!

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

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. 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!

  26. 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!

  27. 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!!

  28. 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.

  29. 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!

  30. 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)?

  31. 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!

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

  33. 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!

  34. 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!

  35. 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.

  36. 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!

  37. 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!!

  38. 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.

  39. 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!

  40. 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!

  41. 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.