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Welcome, summer! School is out and families are looking forward to spending a little quality time together – usually away from home enjoying the great outdoors. Whether it’s a three-week vacation camping in the mountains, a week at a theme park, or a weekend at grandma’s, you’ll always need some comfort and safety basics close at hand. Why not get them organized now, and ready to go when you are?

As a habitual camping couple – even before kids – I can’t tell you how many times I ran through my mental list of must-haves while packing, only to arrive without a key item – say, sunscreen at the beach! Well, that just couldn’t happen once our daughter arrived. So, I resorted to a master checklist and a ready-to-go kit of travel essentials that change a bit as she grows. It’s been smooth sailing ever since.

To make your own “Family Essentials” kit, first think about your typical outings. For weekend camping and days at the beach, a medium-sized plastic storage box is ideal. I like the kind with the removable lid, and tape my master checklist to the inside of the lid and carry it with me through the house – or store – while loading up. If you’re traveling by air or your outings include theme parks, relatives’ homes or zoos, a zippered shoulder tote is a great choice – you can Velcro your master list inside a pocket so it stays put.

The contents of you kit will vary, depending on the age of your children, the nature of your destination, and how far it is from home. Here’s my master list, which you can customize to your own family’s needs.

The Go-Anywhere Basics

Even if you just stick these in your diaper bag, you’ll be happy that you did!

  • A small first-aid kit – Most important: Band-Aids in various sizes, antibacterial cream, insect sting pads, tweezers, small scissors, and a bandanna and small Ziploc baggie (in case you need to ice or wrap an injury)
  • Sun block – We like the kid’s sprays and sticks, they’re compact and easy to apply.
  • Insect repellent – Also in sprays and sticks.
  • Individually wrapped antibacterial wet wipes – for cleaning hands, shirts and you name it, anywhere!
  • 3-4 removable cabinet locks – a must for any family with toddlers, even if you’re just visiting a friend for the afternoon. (A removable pressure-mounted safety gate is handy, too, for safer visits to friends and relatives.)

Comfort in the Great Outdoors

This is where the box or tote comes in handy. Now this isn’t all you will need, of course, but these are the often-forgotten basics you’ll miss, so keep a small assortment packed, ready to go.

  • A small roll of trash bags and plastic grocery bags
  • Several large and small heavy-duty Ziploc resealable bags
  • Napkins or paper towels (in a Ziploc)
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Paper or plastic plates and cups
  • Toilet paper (in a Ziploc)
  • Can opener
  • Sharp knife secured in a cover (like our Knife-Safe snap-on covers)
  • Twine
  • Twist-ties
  • Small notebook and pen (in a Ziploc)

Added Security

Another key item for safety on the go is a whistle. Whether in a forest or in a crowd, a child can quickly disappear from sight. Equip kids (4 and up) and mom or dad with whistles for quick reunions!