The Pool Bag

This summer I am trying something new, and so far I am really loving it.  During the summer, the kids and I can be found either out by the pool or at the splash park.  We are water loving fools around my house.  Last summer, though, one of the things that held us up the most was having the condense the diaper bag into a pool or beach bag.  I was forever leaving sunscreen in my diaper bag and not having it when we went to the pool, or leaving my sunglasses in the pool bag and not having them in my diaper bag, or forgetting to pack things like sunglasses and hats altogether.  This year I am trying something new.

First, I changed the type of pool bag I have.  I used to carry the traditional fabric oversized beach bag, but I never found one I liked.  They were never big enough to hold all my towels, and even the vinyl ones had to be hung out to dry if they got wet.  And they ALWAYS got wet.  This year I am using a large plastic tote from Old Tyme Pottery.  If you don’t have an OTP near you, then I feel sorry for you, but I’m sure you can find something comparable or even the same from Walmart or Target (though I haven’t seen them at my Target).  At OTP, this giant doozey of a tote cost $4.99.  That’s right.  A pool bag for less than $5! I also like this bag because it is lightweight and because it has a flat bottom, so it never spills over in my car.


This year, I decided to keep my pool bag packed and ready to go all the time. Rather than having to pack a pool bag every single day or rather than having to drag a thousand things outside every time we wanted to go out to the pool, I keep my pool bag packed and ready. Here are the things I always have in my pool bag:

1. Hats for the kids to keep the sun off of their face.  For wee little ones, you can get hats with UV protection, like Bean has here.  But I keep them pretty covered with sunblock, so I opted this year to get Gracie a cowgirl hat instead.


2. Sunglasses for each of the kids. I try to get the kind with UV protection.


3. All kinds of suntan lotion. I have a little of the WaterBabies left, but I’m not crazy about that brand because it never seems to stay on for long and it goes on pretty thick. What I use religiously on the kids is Coppertone Kids Broad Spectrum 50. It sprays the best! You don’t have to rub it in, and it isn’t greasy. I have Banana Boat SPF 15 tanning oil for me, but I use the kids stuff on my face.


4. Goggles. These are new for the kids this year, and so far they love them. In fact, I can’t get them to take them off long enough to even take a picture of them! They use these in the pool, but still like to have them handy at the splash park, mostly because they are still a novelty, I think.


5. Crocs for the kids. These are the BEST summer shoes. They are durable beyond belief, and I love them because they can get wet and never look any different. They don’t shrivel up like those cheap flip flops, do. Plus, they are easier for my kids to wear because they don’t like things between their toes. I also like them because they can be worn with bathing suits in place of flip flops, or even with shorts and t-shirts for playing. Bean has even worn his with khaki shorts and a polo to church. They are a little pricey, but we get one pair at the beginning of the summer and they has until fall. I buy them about half a size too big and use the strap on the back for the first part of the summer. Then when their feet grow into them a little bit, you can flip the flap up and make them backless. This gets me almost two sizes worth of wear out of them.


6. (Not pictured) An extra swim diaper for Gracie, just in case she has an accident in hers while we are out and needs to change.

7. Bubbles. Inevitably, when we are at the splash park, one of my kids wants to stay and one wants to leave. I’ve learned to keep bubbles handy for the one who wants to leave. I can usually convince them to hang out for 15 or 20 minutes longer with bubbles while the other one plays. Plus, bubbles are much easier to use when you’re around water because the kids can spill them and it isn’t the end of the world. They also help make friends when we are out because everyone loves bubbles!


Because this bag stays packed with all our essentials all the time, I can simply toss in beach towels and a snack and we are on our way. For the snack, I keep juice boxes frozen in our freezer, and toss those in with a bag of Goldfish. By the time we have been outside for a while, the juice boxes have melted and they are nice and cold. And the Goldfish we just eat straight out of the bag. I used to pack individual snacks in little Tupperware containers, but that got to be such a time drain. Now, we eat out of the bag. Just. Like. Animals.

The key to keeping it packed and ready to go is cleaning it out when we get home. But since everything stays in the bag, there really isn’t much to do when we get home. I take out the towels and hang them out to dry, clean out any remnants of a snack if we’ve had one while we were out, and then toss any wet clothes we might have collected that day into the dirty clothes hamper. It takes about two minutes. Then, I put the refreshed bag back in our front closet and it’s ready to go for our next outing.


Keeping a pool bag packed has saved us so much time, and a lot of stress, too. It is no longer such an ordeal to go anywhere. In fact, one afternoon after school this week we came home and the kids asked to go to the splash park. All we had to do was put on bathing suits and grab our bag, and we were out the door. Even a school night can become a splash park day now because we have streamlined our system.

Oh, wait!

Do you hear that?

What’s that noise?


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9 Thoughts to “The Pool Bag”

  1. Bronwen

    I read this thinking “This is a good idea!” And then I realized that my mother must have had this exact same idea about 30 years ago, because she always had the big red swimming bag packed for the pool and ready to go when I was little, and my parents had five kids under the age of 15. Guess my mum was on to something! When Bean gets bigger, I highly recommend packing some Archie comics and a pack of playing cards 🙂

  2. Kathleen

    Totally going to find one of these totes somewhere – my daughter LOVES to be outside. Now, if I could only get her to wear sunglasses….she’s sixteen months and I’m lucky if she doesn’t pull her hat off! Usually she gets too busy to notice she’s wearing it.

  3. Love these tips Katie! I just tried the Up & Up 50 kids spray sunscreen from Target and I was super impressed by it, the quality surpassed the expensive one I was buying & it sprayed on way easier. I know you are a Target girl so I figured I should mention that 🙂

  4. KP

    I LOVE these type of practical posts (I know you’ve done many before, too). The getting-out-of-the-house routine was draining me. Now I have a loaded bag always in the trunk of the car, a second packed bag in the double stroller, and a packed backpack by the door. We’re finally able to leave in record time. I like your tip about just bringing the whole bag of crackers, too. Chopping up fruit or individually bagging snacks was my least favorite chore while the clock ticked away.

  5. I keep our beach bag packed too. I throw the beach towels and swim suits in there too after I take them out of the wash so everything is together. I also pack everything is big ziploc bags. We are much more likely to go somewhere with sand and it keeps things, like sunscreen less gritty. Gracie looks so stinkin’ cute in those goggles!

  6. Sarah

    Such a great post:) even for those who don’t have kids, it would probably be really helpful to have a swim/beach bag ready to go if you have a pool at home or local pool or beach you plan to visit often this summer

  7. Katie N.

    So smart! Love this idea!

  8. We don’t live near a beach, nor is it summer here quite yet BUT having a bag at the ready seems like a smart idea!

  9. I did this last summer. It made it way easier and more fun to have a spur of the moment trip to the beach or pool. Since my kids were only 2 years old last year, I kept their swimsuits in the bag, too. Then we’d get them dressed when we got to our destination. I did just like you, in cleaning out and refreshing my bag after each use, so it was always ready to go!

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