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Be prepared - How to create care packages to streamline your summertime outings

Always be prepared

We've all been there -- we've forgotten the diaper bag or the kids are starving and we forgot to bring along some snacks on the way to our favorite park. Parent Educator Debbie Williams has some tips to make family outings a little less stressful.

It's not just for the Boy Scouts anymore. Being prepared, and having items assembled in a kit or care package format, saves me a tremendous amount of time at home and in the office. Below are a few care packages you can prepare for your own troops.

Mess kit -- Anyone who spends more than half an hour away from home realizes the importance of carrying snacks and drinks with them. Sales people driving in a car need coffee or a cup of water with a snack to keep them energized during those unending days of cold calling. Professional speakers wouldn't be without a snack and bottled water in their carry-on bag for long waits in an airport. And if you are pregnant, have low blood sugar or have children, you need a granola bar and bottled water in your tote bag for emergency snacks on the go. Pack these in a zippered plastic bag or softsided lunch bag, and you're ready for just about anything your mobile life has to throw at you.

First aid -- Pack a simple first aid kit in a shaving kit, makeup bag or zippered bag. The presentation really won't make any difference as long as you have it safe and dry and at the ready when you need it. Toss in a few bandages, gauze with tape, fingernail clippers which will double as scissors, antibacterial cream, anti-itch cream and sunscreen.

Picnic to go -- If you're fortunate enough to have a pretty wicker hamper, just keep it packed full of your favorite picnic items and grab and go to your favorite hideaway with your family for a restful picnic. Or use an underbed storage box or plastic tub to contain the nonperishable items your family uses on a regular basis when picnicking in the great outdoors: A plastic tablecloth, tablecloth clips, paper plates, plate holders, napkins, cups, wipes or hand cleaner, bug spray and sunscreen (or a combination of the two), can or bottle opener, plastic grocery bag or gallon zippered bag for trash, take out samples of salt and pepper.

This is the bare essential version of an all-purpose picnic kit, but feel free to add other items your family needs to ensure a safe and fun outing.

Diaper bags for big kids -- Once children are potty-trained, parents often don't feel the need to carry underwear or a change of clothes any longer. But long days away from home can invite all sorts of accidents into the lives of an otherwise fun day for you and your family.

Face these surprises head on with a bag filled with clean underwear, change of clothes, socks and wipes. Roll or fold flat and stuff into a gallon zippered bag, then store discreetly in the trunk of your car so as not to embarrass your "big kid" or even bigger spouse. There's nothing wrong with taking extra clothes to prepare for a soccer game that turns muddy, or a favorite blouse that is christened with baby's spitup. Diaper bags aren't just for babies any more.

Entertainment kits -- I fondly refer this to The Restaurant Bag, but feel free to use it for movies, church, theater or any other quiet place you take your young child. Keep a canvas book bag or small backpack stocked with food and toys that your kids can use to entertainment themselves with quietly as you wait for food, watch a show or listen to an aria.

A snack of peanut butter and crackers, juice box, crayons and paper, toy car and small books provide quite a few minutes of entertainment for your little one, and buy you some time before they get fidgety once again. Toss in a cup of milk or water, and Junior has dinner to go while you wait for your gourmet meal in a grownup restaurant.

Spending time with your friends and family doesn't have to be hot and tiring all summer long. By having a few emergency kits ready for action, you will be prepared for just about anything that comes your way this summer. And before you know it, school will start up again and the kids will leave you with an empty house once again. (Now how many days is that, or are you counting?)

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