Pack Up the Pool Bag in Style

Real Style on 05.30.11
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Photo: Lands' End

The pool's open! Which means it's time to gather everything you need for a day of sun and fun with the kids. Start with a great bag; my favorite is the classic canvas tote from Lands' End. The canvas is sturdy and durable, and cleans up easily. The inside has three small pockets, the perfect size for sunscreen and hand wipes, and a large snap pocket that will hold a magazine or book. The tote has an interior key clip -- no more fumbling around at the end of the day! -- and an exterior pocket perfectly sized to hold your cell phone, away from wet hands. Choose your trim and monogram color for a look that is uniquely yours. (These totes make great kids' school bags, too!)

What goes inside your bag? Start with sunscreen -- even if you've applied at home, you'll need to reapply at the pool. Choose from wipes, spray, or old school lotion, but be sure you've got plenty. Toss in a lip balm with SPF, to keep your kisser soft and protected. Add a hat, to shield your face, something that can hold up to the water and chlorine. Keep your hat in the bag, so you won't leave the house without it. A packable hat, like this one from Target, can stand up to anything you throw at it and still snap back.

Once you've packed for yourself -- hat, book, sunglasses -- it's time to pack for the kids. Use the diaper bag philosophy for the pool bag: load it up with what you will need, and keep it ready to go at all times. Store pool toys and goggles in the bag, so you're not turning the house upside down every time you try to go swimming. Our bag has a set of Torpedo Bandits dive toys and Splash Bombs, and the occasional squirt gun (although those seem to go missing every time we have a playdate -- hmm).

Toys and sunscreen are a must, but that's not all you need. Toss in some antibacterial handwipes and tissues, so you can deal with sticky post-snack hands and runny post-pool noses. If you're little swimmer isn't potty trained, keep a few swim diapers in the bag; if you're going to dress the baby before you leave the pool, pack regular diapers as well. Store them in ziploc bags, to keep them from getting soaked before you use them. And keep the diapers to a minimum -- your wee one has a limited tolerance for the pool anyway, so you shouldn't need more than two or three diapers in your bag at any time. Just be sure to replace them as you use them!

If your pool doesn't have water or a snack bar, pack a water bottle -- one for you and one for each child, or one big one that you can all share. If you don't want to drink after the kids, toss some Dixie cups in the bag, but be sure to clean up when you're done. Throw your towels in on top and you're ready to go.

More tips for simple summer packing

Family Packing List Makes Vacation Simple
Summer Travel Destinations for Families
10 Must-Have Accessories for Summer Vacation