Washington, DC (written by Courtney Messenbaugh/Special for USA Today) -- With summer here, parents have to be prepared for anything the season's heat may bring. Sure, you've got the kids enrolled in a few camps and sporting adventures, secured your pool membership and know where every playground within reach is, but are you and your car really summer-ready?
You'll likely be spending more time in the car going to and from these various camps, pools and playgrounds. As such, the car doubles as a storage place for the necessities these activities require.
Here's a list of items to keep in the car this summer:
"Summer maintenance kit:" All you need is three items: a can of tire inflater, a jug of coolant and some protectant wipes. This magical trio will ensure that you won't be stuck on the side of the road with cranky kids and a flat. Overheating radiators will get relief. And your car's plastic and leather surfaces look good despite the punishing heat.
Sunscreen: Skin cancer is on the rise in young adults, and the crying of a sunburned child is traumatizing on many levels. In addition to a bottle of sunscreen spray or lotion, you also might consider a sunscreen stick as it doesn't seem to melt in the car and makes application - especially on the face - easy and fun for kids.
First-aid kit: Summer is also a time of skinned knees, cuts and bug bites. A well-stocked first-aid kit ensures that a boo-boo won't bring an early end to a day at the beach.
Towels: Whether you find yourself at the beach, the pool, a spray park in the city or in a mountain stream, keeping extra towels in the car is a must. They even come in handy for mess mitigation if it rains and the kids get all wet and muddy.
Baby powder: An ingenious antidote to the sand that sticks to all parts of little bodies whether you're at the beach or your neighborhood sandbox. Baby powder gets rid of the sand and makes for a cleaner and more comfortable ride home.
An umbrella: Not only for the rain, but also to shade yourself from the sun.
A blanket: For picnics, to sit on at soccer or baseball games, or just warming up during those inevitable summer rainstorms. It's all the better if it's waterproof.
A cash stash: Instantly transform yourself into parent of the year with some extra dollar bills for impromptu ice cream purchases. Some places don't take debit cards. The kids will love it and it will give you a few blissful minutes of peace. Works like a charm every time.
Of course, with all that we suggest you should keep in the car, there are a few things we recommend you definitely should not keep in the car during the summer.
No crayons, lest you desire some permanent abstract wax art in your car.
No dairy products unless you're trying some sort of science experiment and enjoy the stench of curdling milk.
And finally, no bottled water since hot water begins to taste like dust and scalding water definitely does not satisfy thirsty little palates.