Organize Your Car For Summer Fun

One of my favorite things about summer: the seemingly spontaneous things we get to do with our kids. Few things delight my son like the mornings I announce over breakfast that we’re going somewhere fun. Little does he know that I’ve already planned our trip and, thanks to some time spent early in the summer, I’ve just been waiting for the right day. You know, the day when hearing “I’m bored” gets to be boring itself. Prepare your car ready for some planned spontaneity and you’ll be able to nip those whines of “I’m bored” in the bud, too.

Start with a clean car: As soon as school’s out for the year, I like to thoroughly clean the car to get rid of the paperwork, sports or band gear and, yes, fast food wrappers that have piled up.

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Plan for bad weather: Here in the Midwest, our weather changes in the blink of an eye, so it’s always good to plan for rain even when the forecast calls for a drought. I know this from (bad) experience! Keep a change of clothes for each child, and yourself, in a plastic bag in the trunk. Be sure to include an umbrella, along with a few extra plastic grocery store bags to hold wet clothes.

Plan for sunny weather: I have an old tote bag that I got as a freebie with a makeup purchase years ago. We call it “Mom’s Magic Bag” due to all the things I stash in there. Like: sunscreen (replaced annually), wet wipes, mosquito repellent, itch relief cream, a bottle of aspirin (for me), granola bars and a couple of bottles of water (both replaced regularly), a roll of quarters (for gum ball machines and other emergencies), some paper and colored pencils, stickers and a compass. With my Magic Bag I’m ready for just about anything from last-minute trips to the playground to Geocaching excursions.

Plan for pool time: We love playing in water, so I keep beach towels and a spare swimsuit for each of us. Rather than stuff them in the trunk, which gets crowded even in a minivan, I fold them together and slip them in a pillow case. It makes a great cushion to sit on while watching my son play with friends at the park, and a great pillow when he nods off on the way home. Plus, I have our swimming gear when I need it.

Plan for messes, big and small: I save all the paper napkins from fast food places in the console of my van, where I also have another bottle of water to use to clean sticky faces and hands. Also in the console: more plastic grocery bags to corral the trash that inevitably piles up when we’re on the go, and a couple of large trash bags for wet bottoms to sit on when we’re in a hurry getting home from the pool.

Keep in mind, I drive a mini-van with in-floor cargo storage. If you’re more the Mini Cooper kind, you may need to keep your activity bags in a closet and swap them out based on your activity for the day. What items do you consider essential to keep in your car for summer fun? Share your lists in the comments below!


  1. says

    honestly, these are great tips even for those of us who don’t have kiddos (yet!), especially planning ahead for changes in weather, messes in the car, having a ‘magic bag,’ etc. i can’t tell you how many times my husband + i have unexpectedly stopped at a friend’s impromptu barbecue or the farmer’s market on a sunny day, + are kicking ourselves that we have no sunscreen in the car. and i won’t even tell you about the amount of times i’ve spilled drinks in the car + am wishing desperately for some clean-up wipes + paper towels. i really need to stock up my car!

  2. Sandra says

    Those are great tips and I do most of those myself LOL I actually just cleaned out the truck completely a few days ago. Always keep plastic bags for trash and in case someone gets car sick. Wet wipes are a must too…and I also like you, keep all the napkins LOL

    I AM going to steal the Mom Bag though, don’t have that one :)

    • says

      Mom’s Magic Bag has been a lifesaver for me on so many occasions! Not long ago, we got caught in traffic behind a horrible car accident. If I didn’t have things to occupy my son stashed in that bag, it would’ve been a miserable 2 hours sitting there, idling on the highway. Why, he might’ve wanted to play games on my iPhone and then I would’ve been bored, too!

  3. says

    Great tips. Unfortunately with a toddler my definition of an organized car is one that doesn’t have rotting food somewhere on the floor. 😉

  4. NotQuiteSusie says

    We currently have a “pool bag” but I am thinking of coverting it to a bag like yours & putting our swim stuff & towels in a pillow case- it’s just SUCH a good idea!

    • says

      The great thing about that stuffed pillow case is, like I said, having a tushy cushy when my son wants to go to the playground. I’m at the age where, despite having PLENTY of padding on my keister, it’s hard on the ol’ bones to sit on those hard benches without a pillow.

  5. Lara N says

    Ok, this is my new checklist for mamavan prepping! Until now, it’s been pretty haphazard – if I’m lucky I happen to have stuff I need, if not I usually mentally kick myself ‘I should have brought that!’ I like your “leave nothing to chance” thoroughness :)

  6. Jennifer G says

    I love these tips. I have some of these ideas in place already, some of them I will have to add.

  7. Sarah says

    I always like to keep a book in the car, just in case. And a dog bowl and of course some dog water, as well as people water. LOVE your website!!!!!!!!!!!!

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