What to pack in the car for MORE fun, LESS stress and mess, to have EVEN BETTER adventures this spring and summer!
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Spring is here and summer is right around the corner, which means it is now what my family likes to call “ADVENTURE SEASON”! At least once a week for the next several months, we will spend a day exploring parks, hiking up mountains, swimming in creeks/rivers/lakes, and playing on all kinds of playgrounds.
I am very passionate about adventure season, or more to the point, getting outdoors as a family. The benefits of being in nature together are MYRIAD– physical health, mental health, relational health, and more. Spending time outdoors together in a free, unstructured way, can be the simplest thing you do this summer…with just a little preparation.
This week on the blog I am designating as ADVENTURE WEEK. Each day of the week I will share a new post with the helpful ideas, tips, and tricks based on many, MANY, hours of experience! Plus, because I AM SO EXCITED, each day on Instagram will feature a new adventure-related giveaway. Be sure you are following along on Instagram so you don’t miss any chances to win this week!
Let’s start with Adventure Week with a great first step– what to keep ready in the car for spring and summer adventures…
[Check out my Family Adventures page to see all the topics and resources in one place]
Packing the Car for Spring & Summer Adventures
ANYONE who has tried to get children out the door to go somewhere knows how hectic it can be to make sure you have everything you need for whatever task is on the agenda. Simply making sure everyone has the essentials like shoes, food, and water can be enough to worry about.
This is why I like to keep my car packed with some basic supplies that can be used almost wherever we go. The gear is used while we are out, then returned to the basket– it doesn’t get taken inside again or used at home so that it’s always ready to go. One less thing to think about or pack.
Last year I had a mesh bag to keep everything in, and that worked well. But this year, I wanted something that had a little more structure to it so that our gear stayed tidier and more organized in the car when we weren’t needing them. This (pictured below) folding laundry tote from Target is perfect.
What’s in our adventure tote:
- NETS :: I prefer nets with wooden handles because they are sturdier, less likely to break. A net is an easy, inexpensive way for kids of all ages to have fun outdoors.
- FRISBEES :: Sure, frisbees are great for tossing, but they also make great tools for sifting in the river, great plates for sand food, and more. They’re perfect for so much, especially since they’re so compact!
- BUCKETS :: just a basic bucket & shovel are useful for so many things! Keeping critters/fish, playing in the sand, collecting rocks, and more. I found inexpensive buckets at both Target and Academy Sports. Or, you can save space and get collapsible buckets.
- ZIPLOC BAGS or PLASTIC CONTAINERS :: kids are always collecting treasures or finding bugs/lizards to observe, and having a bag or clear container to store them in is so handy.
- WIPES :: no explanation needed!
- SAND/DIRT/ROCK TOYS :: I like to keep these basic, but a handful of inexpensive tractors, small shovels, and a few cups/pots/bowls can entertain kids for hours!
- INFLATABLE FLOATS :: Academy sports have round inner tubes for under $5. We keep them with us for floating down creeks and rivers, and sliding down waterfalls. So much fun!
- GOGGLES :: I keep a zipper pouch of goggles for all the kids.
- EXTRA BACKPACK :: We all have backpacks we carry on adventures, but this small packable backpack has come in handy so many times for impromptu walks/hikes/etc.
- SUNSCREEN :: We don’t use it on every adventure, but it’s nice to have on hand when we need it.
- BABY POWDER :: So helpful for cleaning off sand!
- BIG SHOVEL :: (not pictured) We have a few big shovels we bring along when we are going to more beachy areas. Digging holes is fun for all ages!
Keeping the car clean on trips…
I saw this tip in Hey Mama Chic’s Instagram stories on day and I decided to give it a try.
I bought a cereal storage container (mine is from Target) and we have been using it for trash in the car for weeks. I actually love it because it’s easy to pass around, flip open the top, and collect the kids’ trash. When we aren’t using it, we just tuck it under on of the middle seats so it stays out of the way.
Other essentials we keep on hand in the car…
- JUST IN CASE :: one of my kids struggles with a little carsickness, so we always make sure we keep one or two extra outfits on hand (more about car sickness relief in my Adventure Hacks post)
- DISCOVERING NATURE :: I loooooove Sibley’s laminated field guides for our adventures. They are so much easier to tuck into backpacks and are also just fun to look at in the car. We have one for fish, birds, wildflowers, and snakes in our region.
- LITTLE ESSENTIALS :: (1) motion sickness medicine, chapstick, and nail clippers, (2) hair ties, (3) bandaids & ointment
- SNACK TIME :: I keep a few non-messy snacks that are filling/healthy in the car: beef sticks, fruit & veg pouches, and fruit strips
- BOREDOM BUSTERS :: I keep simple toys/activities that don’t have a lot of parts to lose in the car for longer trips: paper & pen, magnetic drawing board, fidget spinner, and Rubik cube, a joke book, and a travel game (love this travel OTRIO)
Our portable first aid kit that goes along with us on adventures…
- Aunt Fannies mosquito wipes (we haven’t tested these yet)
- Welly band-aids (the BEST band-aids!!)
- Benadryl itch cream
- hand sanitizer
- ointment for cuts and scrapes
- extra hair ties
- clear tape for covering band-aids to keeping playing in the water/sand/mud
- essential oil roller bottles (we like the kid set from doTERRA)
Two bonus adventure gear suggestions…
- Ultra Light Camping Chair :: I bought this chair last year at the beginning of adventure season and was thankful for it SO MANY TIMES. It’s small and easy to carry (often one of my younger children carries it in for me), and yet still comfortable.
- Ultra Compact Picnic Blanket :: We have a larger picnic blanket, but it’s just one more thing to carry. Having a ground cover is great, but especially so when you can tuck it right into your backpack!
I hope this list of what to pack for adventure days has been inspiring… but most of all, I hope it helps you to feel prepared to have your own outdoor adventures with your kids!
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