It’s summer. That means fun, hopefully lots of sun, and plenty of reasons to get in your car and drive to places where you can find both. In the winter, we carefully pack our cars to deal with inclement weather. Just because it is beautiful outside doesn’t mean that we don’t have to pack our cars with equally as much care. There are several summer essentials to pack in your car to assure that you are fully prepared to make the most of your summer break. Sure, you may have some specific items particular to your life like sports equipment or school supplies, but if you have kids and plan to spend most of your time outside of your car than in it, I have a list that has kept my summers rolling year in and year out.
Here are 18 summer essentials to pack in your car, from one summer-loving parent to another:
1. Sunscreen (and hat)
We are hearing more and more reports on the news about how vital it is to put on sunscreen before going outside. But we are also hearing that many sunscreen users are getting burned because they don’t reapply liberally and often. That’s why I keep sunscreen on-hand. I have a spray can I use on my arms, neck, and feet before all of my outdoor Miss Lori concerts, and a tube of cream for more extended periods with greater skin exposure on my own time. I can’t wear a hat when I am performing, but I keep one close by for when I am off duty.
I have two pairs now, one that I keep in a case in my car for driving, and one that I leave in my purse for walking about. I was tired of either being late for an event because I had to return to the house for my glasses or getting a headache from squinting my eyes against the sun’s glare.
3. Window Shade
It is always a sure sign of summer when you see cars parked with a window shade in their front windshield. Blocking out that sun can make a huge difference in how fast your car cools off once you are ready to move on to your next summer destination.
4. Hand Sanitizer
My giant bottle of hand sanitizer stays with me through every season. The last thing I want to do is catch a cold that could keep me away from my summer fun.
I carry moist, flushable wipes because they are good for just about any kind of dirt.
6. Reusable Water Bottle
Keeping a plastic water bottle in the car can present some problems with leeching. It’s not definite, but why take a risk? I am always a fan of traveling with a reusable water bottle to fill at water fountains that are live and pumping all around the city. However, I will freeze a couple of water bottles and add them to my insulated bag to keep the contents chilled.
7. Juice Boxes (in cardboard cartons, not plastic.)
I love my reusable water bottle, but sometimes I can’t find a fountain when I really need one. I keep a stock of juice boxes in my car just in case. They are the cardboard ones, and I leave them in my insulated grocery bags when traveling.
8. Ice Packs
Summer means outdoor play, which can lead to boo boos. I recommend carrying a few single use ice packs in your glove compartment. Throw in some bandaids and antisceptic ointment and you will be ready for anything that your rough and tumble children have to offer.
9. Insulated Bag
It doesn’t matter what season it is, we always need to go grocery shopping. But in the summer months, a short jaunt from the frozen foods section to home can be disastrous. I keep several insulated grocery bags in my car for just this reason. Not only do I protect my frozen peas, I also save the earth from a few extra plastic bags. Go green!
10. Heat Resistant Snacks
I swear it is Pavlovian. No matter how much I feed them, my kids are always hungry as soon as they get in my car. I keep heat resistant snacks available for them to nosh on, like Graham crackers, Cheezits, Wheat Thins, granola bars, and nuts. One year when I was coaching soccer, a parent forgot to bring snacks for the team, and I was able to rustle up enough replacement snacks from my personal car stash. “Super Sports Parent!”
11. Paper Towels
Put kids and cars together and you are going to get spills. I keep at least one roll of paper towels in my car. The best part of using my personal favorite Viva paper towels is they can also double as lumbar support or a pillow when necessary. Bonus!
The weather has been relatively nice here, but it is still quite unpredictable. That’s why an umbrella is a must have during the summer season. I actually have two, one really big and one in travel size.
13. Insect Repellant
I love sharing my life with little children; mine or anyone else’s. But there are small things that I absolute abhor sharing anything with and that is mosquitos! You won’t catch me without insect repellent for just that reason. Unfortunately, mosquitos like me as much as children do, so I also have to carry hydrocortisone anti-itch cream to care for the welts the Miss Lori loving mosquitoes leave behind.
14. Shout Wipes
Summer heat means everything melts faster which can lead to many a spill. That’s why I carry Shout wipes so I can remain relatively stain-free even if I can’t avoid any accidents throughout the course of my active day.
15. Ziploc Bags
I think every self respecting seasoned parent can admit that having a stash of Ziploc bags is never a bad thing. You can divide snacks, gather up change, seal trash, keep wet things off of the seat … the uses are endless!
Given the nature of the season, with better weather and all, there is a lot more equipment that accompanies summer play. I have learned the hard way that if I want to ensure that the items I have paid good money for eventually return to my home, I must Sharpie our family name onto them. Well, it’s either that or use a cattle brand, and they are just too cumbersome to manage in my Kia Soul. So, Sharpie it is!
17. Sun Gear
I like to be ready for spontaneous excursions in the summer. I subscribe to the Field of Dreams philosophy, If you build it, they will come. So I figure, “If I pack it, opportunity will come.” I keep a towel, some flip flops, shorts, and a tank top or swim suit in my trunk, putting it to the universe that I need a sun break!
18. Safety Bag
This can sit in your car all year long, but it is a good idea to replenish your supplies at the start of each season. In my safety bag, I have Fix a Flat, jumper cables, a flashlight, tire gauge, cellphone charging cords, an external cellphone charger, glow sticks, and a reflective vest. If you have any additional summer essentials to add to the list, please share them in the comments. We are all in this together.
If you enjoyed this seasonal piece please read 7 Things To Do Now That School Is Out, 6 Summer Drumsticks Recipes, 7 Tips To Beat the Heat, and Miss Lori Concerts Are Back To Help Welcome Summer.