A little preparation could be the key to getting you outdoors this summer.

When we aren’t in the midst of those few gloriously pleasant weeks of spring or fall, being outside can present its fair share of annoyances.

The summer months, in particular, boast a whole host of seasonal concerns: mosquitoes, sunburn, overheating, sweating, fatigue. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t let these bother me (or they wouldn’t exist). But in this imperfect world, I know that I often decide not to go outside precisely because of them. However, while I mostly prefer my climate-controlled home with my beloved amenities at my fingertips, the world outside beckons; it’s good for physical and mental health—and, even for indoorsy people like me, it’s fun.

Let’s spend a few minutes planning so that we’re able to soak up the sunshine with a smile—and not let bugs and burns dictate our summer activities.

01. Gather your gear.

Invest in a warm-weather uniform that you know you feel good in—down to your hair and your toes and your scent.

I’m as much a fan of shorts and tank tops as the next girl, but consider the fact that every inch of skin you bare is an inch exposed to UV rays and wildlife. There’s a reason that the prototypical desert uniform utilizes a lot of fabric! Some fabrics such as linen can help wick away sweat from your skin, making you feel cooler and drier. This makes a simple shift dress or a pair of palazzo pants a godsend in the summer months.

Lean into oversized accessories. Choose sunglasses that cover half of your face. Did you know that your eyeballs can get sunburned? Neither did I. Cover ‘em up. Personally, I think it’s time to bring back the parasol, but if that feels like a little much, consider at least getting a very large hat.

My quest to always smell good can get complicated in the summer months. Instead of bulking up on products, I’ve found it easiest and most effective to simplify. Peppermint oil is especially effective. Quick dabs on the wrists and back of your neck make for an inexpensive summer scent, with the added bonus of insect-repellent, cooling, and anti-swelling properties. Put your perfumes away and consider this your official invitation to smell like a candy cane from now through September!

Other summer essentials to keep on your person at all times: your favorite sunscreen and a good aloe gel for the aftermath. And always remember there’s no shame in using the products the way they’re supposed to be used. Apply before you step out into the sun, and reapply as often and as enthusiastically as you can.

02. Choose your activities wisely.

If you’re going along on a group outing, you may have less say in the whens and wheres of your summer activity, but if you’re proactive you might be able to scout ahead and save yourself some headaches. Do some research, and know in advance which parks have shade and shelters.

When you’re invited to a high-energy activity in the sun, know yourself and give yourself the grace of a break if you need one. I know that I overheat ridiculously easily, so I often run around in the sun for a few minutes to get my heart rate up and have fun with my friends—but then accept my role as hospitality and snack manager, which is way more fun than it sounds. (Everyone loves the girl with the cooler full of life-giving water and delicious treats.) Keep a good beach read in your bag, as well—it can make taking breaks feel more intentional and less like you’re missing out.

03. Plan for spontaneity.

The idea here is to make spontaneity non-spontaneous—as if any invite that comes your way is for an event you already knew about and then had casually forgotten.

Make a “summer bag” with a light blanket or sheet in it, as well as aforementioned lotions, potions, and books, and keep it by your door or in your car. Watch the weather forecast, and consider your specific region’s atmospheric quirks—whether it be Florida’s penchant for two-minute thunderstorms or the dry heat of the Southwest.

Because being out in the sun will be a billion times more bearable if you’re prepped for recuperation at home, keep your house—and your refrigerator—ready for your future self. Get a cheap pitcher and always have lemonade, iced tea, or iced coffee in it. (I like The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for cold brew, and it lasts forever.) Even fancier water is worth the extra effort, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Just throw your strawberry tops, greenery and all, into the freezer, and then make strawberry top water—one of those excellent drinks where the recipe is in the name. It’ll taste delicious, and you can feel proud for squeezing that much more value out of your summer grocery haul.

As an awesome bonus, this helps keep you and your home primed for hospitality. This makes it even easier to issue a (seemingly) spontaneous invite for drinks after the volleyball game, which ensures that you and your loved ones have a chance to decompress and relax together in a way that’s—wait for it—indoors.

04. Avoid hanger at all costs.

Being hungry will turn any and all summer irritants into full-blown summer calamities, and that’s on a good day. Good news, though: combating hanger is quite simple, especially when you have a plethora of in-season fruits and veggies to choose from.

Perfect the art of the simple but delicious ultraportable picnic (my staple: good bread with good things, like strawberry preserves or basil and tomatoes). Additionally, drink more liquids than you think you need. But just so that you’re not eternally carrying around fifty-pound jugs of water, know that you can also get water out of things like berries and various other fruits and veggies. Prioritize packing foods that double as hydration mechanisms instead of bags of chips. And, if you need a secret ingredient, remember that in your time of trouble coconut water is nature’s Gatorade. Stay hydrated!

05. Anticipate wisely.

It’s contentment psychology 101: Happiness is reality minus expectations. Know that you’re going to get bitten, that you may just wake up the next morning with bright red shoulders, and that these are just part of the summertime experience. Keep your hopes and dreams for summertime enjoyment on the realistic side of things, and your experience will automatically be that much better.

It may seem like a lot of work upfront, but the best part of the summer is being able to be outdoors with your people. We have a whole host of tricks and tips up our sleeves to make survivability in the winter enjoyable; why does it have to be different in the summer months? Putting just a little preparation in place gives you the freedom to look forward to summertime spontaneity—and, trust me, the warm memories you’ll have in the frigidity of January will be more than worth it. 

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