Pool Bag Essentials {+ The BEST Sunscreens}

Hello Summer!! If you live in Houston, you have to LOVE summertime because, well, we have a LONG summer and then of course, second summer around late September! Look, ya’ll, I have lived in the Houston area all my life and have learned to embrace the heat and enjoy all water activities. It’s what we do, amiright? So, summer is here to stay for a while and it will be another hot one!

I always have a pool bag ready to go, because long summer days usually consist of friends texting plans to head to the pool! I am always ready to head out in a moments notice because, ya’ll, I am all for anything that entertains the kids for hours, plus swim time always makes them hungry and sleepy! Never underestimate the power of a good lunch and a nap! Here are some of my favorite finds and must haves for the best, pool/beach days! Let’s pack our bag for some Summer fun!

1.  The Best Bag Ever: I remember the year I got married, I sauntered over to Macy’s and bought the most darling little beach bag for my honeymoon. It was terry cloth pink on the inside and a basket weave on the outside and it could carry my tiny bathing suit that fit my precious body, a towel and SPF 4 tanning oi! No more, ladies! That ship has sailed! I have purchased many a good poolside/beach bag and I have to say, The Foundary, All the Things Bag (suitably named) is my absolute favorite. First of all, it’s enormous. I can literally fit ALL the things, and for the mom who carries all the things for 3+ humans, this bag is a god-send! It has large pockets on the inside to keep all the things organized. One holds all the sunscreens, the other, snacks, the other goggles and toys and cool towels and the ginormous pool towels in the middle and it zips close. I don’t think I will ever buy another kind of bag again.

striped pool bag with a sign that reads "To the pool"

2.  Sunscreen: The most important thing to remember to bring on a pool or beach day is sunscreen!  Those days of Tanning Oil or, yikes, baby oil are no more! In fact the other day one of my kids, complaining about sunscreen, said, “But mom, I never burn!” Well, of course not little ingrate, that is because your mama makes you reapply and protects your skin more than her own! One thing I did learn this year though…Sunscreens have expiration dates! Oops! Don’t think I have ever checked those. So if you happen to find a few half used bottles from 2018…maybe get some new ones.

In the past few years there has been a lot of talk about sunscreens and what is best. If you are like me, you definitely want the best for your family, but you need the simple list without getting bogged down by all the research. It’s summertime not research time! Well, here you are friends, EWG’s 2022 Sunscreen Guide including the Best Recreational Sunscreen, and Best Baby and Kids Sunscreen.  One thing to note is that while convenient, spray sunscreens are not ideal for little ones.  They are not as effective in protecting every inch of skin on their delicate bodies and can easily be inhaled in their lungs.

Some faves of mine that made the good list include Honest Company Sunscreen and stick  and Beautycounter Sunscreen, and Cerave for my sensitive skinned babes.

Pool Bag Essentials Sunscreen

To make your sunscreen buying process even more confusing {you can thank me later}, download the Think Dirty app to find and use products rated 5 and less.

3.  Drawstring Storage bags: I like to have a few of these drawstring storage bags to keep the larger bag organized. I keep small things like phone, keys, wallet in the small bags, hairbands in one, sunscreens in another, and another for grocery bags to put wet clothes, suits, or even trash in. Side note, we use a large, laundry size mesh bag for sand toys. Throw them all in the bag, rinse in the ocean real quick, shake off as much sand as possible and it makes for very easy clean up when everyone is beached out and ready to go home.

4. Waterproof Phone Pouches: This is a lifesaver, especially if you are hitting any of the local Waterparks! With all the teenagers and all the phones, I bought a bunch of these phone pouches so that everyone can keep connected and keep the phones dry, plus, everyone can take pics with these, because a day at the beach should be captured with more pictures and less sand in your phone!

5.  Diapers & Wipes: We have been out of the diaper phase for a while, but if you are still there, don’t forget your swim diapers, wipes, and a regular diaper for afterwards (and put them in those drawstring bags!)  Not sure if there is anything new under the sun as far as swim diapers are concerned, but if you have found any faves, leave it in the comments!

6.  ‘Not your Mama’s’ Fanny Pack: I know, I know…fanny packs are back. But, they are now termed waist packs or crossbody bags and they really are kinda’ great. All your essentials in one small bag around your waist, especially great for those waterpark days. Plus Herschel has some really cute ones in different colors!

fanny pack

7.  Headphones: You may be an air pod person, I am not. Not because I don’t want to be, but because I am afraid of losing them. However, a friend turned me on to these wanna be air pods and ya’ll, for $35 I can replace them when I lose them without any problems! Because a day by the pool, listening to good tunes on Spotify and with every intention of turning over every thirty minutes…oh wait, I have kids, never mind…

8.  Hats & Sunglasses: So Hats and Sunglasses are a must because we gotta’ keep the face young! I am a straw hat kind a girl for the beach and a baseball cap for the pool! Head to your local Painted Tree and find some really cute, boutique hats. As far as sunglasses, I think polarized glasses are the way to go especially when battling that bright summer sunshine. And those of us with astigmatism, polarized sunglasses are a game changer!

beach hat and baseball cap

9.  Towels: You can never have too many. The towels that have lasted me the longest are from my local Sam’s club or TJMaxx stores. They are the best. Also, think about adding Cool Towels to your gear (especially for those headed to Disney anytime soon, but that’s another post for another day)! All you do is get these wet, wring the water and they get colder and colder as the day goes.

10.  Book: Beach reads are a must! I mean, audible is good too, but maybe, just maybe, you can take 30 minutes sitting in the sand while the kids build a castle or bury dad and you can escape to a sleepy southern beach town with a meet cute and a happy ending! Need some recommendations? Vogue has 7 best reads of 2022 or these 40 Can’t miss beach reads from Country Living.

Other items to consider: Pool toys, change of clothes, pool floats, flip flops, nursing cover…so many things! The MOST essential however, is to remember to CELEBRATE summer time: laugh a lot, eat good food, play with your family, REST and enjoy these long, lazy days of summer!

Did I forget anything in my bag?  Be sure and leave a comment with your favorite pool bag essentials too!

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Andrea Portilla
Andrea is a true Houston native! Other than her college years at Baylor and a few summers with family in Guatemala, she has lived around the Houston area forever and cannot imagine living anywhere else. Especially because of family nearby as built in babysitters, so many friendships built throughout the years, and the great people of this city, Houston is so dear to her heart. In junior high her family moved to the Sugar Land area, but she attended a high school in town and spent as much time as possible at the Galleria in the 90s! After graduating from Baylor University with a degree in Secondary Education, she married her high school sweetheart, Orlando, and they moved to the Richmond area where they have been ever since and where she homeschools their son and 2 daughters, ages 15, 12 & 9. Andrea is very active in Women’s ministry at her church and in her community. She began writing for more therapeutic reasons when the kids were small and soon began writing publicly, remembering her love for writing and realizing the gift and calling that it was in her life. She published her first book, Breathless: Prayers from a Mother Learning to Exhale in 2018, a devotional last year and is currently working on a few new projects. In her down time, Andrea loves alone time, especially because she’s an enneagram 4! She also loves coffee, hanging out with her family and friends, traveling, New York City, musicals, especially Hamilton, fair trade jewelry, and charcuterie boards! You can find her writing at www.andreaportilla.com or follow her on Instagram @dreaportilla and on Facebook.


  1. Awesome list! I totally downloaded that Think Dirty app, I can’t wait to go scan my bathroom! The only thing I would add is a small travel size of a GOOD lotion. The chlorine dries my skin out something awful and the cheap stuff just gets my skin too slick to hold on to anything plus it doesn’t even sola into my skin so I STILL feel dry.

  2. Beach toys, baby powder (makes it easier to get sand off) & I also bring Avon Bug Repellent. We usually stay into the evening and mosquitoes love the taste of my kiddos and we’re not messing with West Nile . Great list.


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