The Ultimate Summer Picnic Guide

Whether you want to have an intimate one-on-one stargazing experience, a romantic evening, or a family activity at a park, picnics are a must during warmer weather. Picnics are day-cations away from home, and they are perfect outings for friends and family. This summer picnic guide will help make your next picnic in the great outdoors easier and more relaxing.

What to Pack for a Picnic

What to Pack

Packing for any picnic can be quite daunting. Being away from home and not having the right utensils or other items can be a real stressor. This handy checklist with absolutely necessary items should make your next outing relatively stress-free.

Blankets or Towels (depending on your location)
o You want somewhere to sit. Comforters are a fluffy and cozy choice, but they are bulky and hard to pack. Consider using something that can roll up easily and won’t weigh you down.
Plates, Cups, and Utensils
o Always be prepared by bringing more than one for each person, just in case Aunt Sally brings her neighbor along or there’s some spillage.
o Try to plan a menu that doesn’t require utensils. Finger foods, like sandwiches, might be a logical choice.
o Serving ware is important if your menu calls for it. Either way, it’s good to have it on hand. You never know if one of those rare people who eats pizza with a fork and knife will join your picnic group.
Folded Napkins
o Whether you use reusable or disposable, bring them – they are always needed.
Paper Towels
o Paper towels can be used to clean up spills and wipe down plates/utensils before leaving.
Trash Bags
o Every picnic will generate trash, including plates and packaging. Pack out like you packed in. You don’t want to be one of those people who doesn’t clean up after themselves. Leave no trace (link) after your picnic.
Corkscrew or Bottle Opener
o Don’t forget this if you have any wine or beer with you.
Lemon Oil/Citronella Candles
o Depending on your location, you may have to ward off mosquitoes, ants, or spiders. Lemon oil or even natural lemons can ward off unwelcome critters.
o Good sunscreen is an absolute must. No matter whether it’s a cloudy or sunny day, a minimum 30 SPF sunscreen can prevent serious burns. Just remember to reapply after water contact or as noted on your sunscreen of choice.
Flashlights or Solar-powered Lanterns
o If you plan on staying past sunset, make sure you have a good source of light to keep everyone safe and comfortable. Don’t forget to check the batteries.

What to Eat

For picnics, it’s always easier to bring finger foods. They are compact and portable, and they don’t require very much plating and presentation. Plenty of finger foods and snacks hold up well, no matter how long the picnic.

Fruit with a Peel
o Think watermelon, oranges, pears, and apples. They are portable and hold up well, and they won’t attract bugs.
Salads with Vinegar/Oil Dressings
o This is a great alternative to the famous potato salad. Salad requires no refrigeration, and it can be dressed at the last minute. Pack your oil and vinegar in a Mason jar and shake it before adding.
o This under-rated, low-calorie snack is light, portable, and tasty! You can add some chili powder for a kick or some parmesan cheese and granulated garlic for an Italian twist.
Sliced Cheese
o The last thing you need is to lug around a cutting board and sharp knife. Slice and cut anything that needs to be cut before you leave so it is easy to serve and eat.
Sliced Meats
o Most sliced meats hold up well at room temperature for about 1 hour. Pack an ice pack to keep them cool, or prepare your sandwiches in advance.

What NOT to Eat

Some items really should not be on your picnic menu due to the lack of refrigeration and other things:

Soda or Sweetened Drinks
o Sweet drinks can become a sticky mess in hot weather and can lose carbonation.
Mayonnaise-based Foods
o If your menu item includes mayonnaise, try to find an alternative. Mayonnaise needs to stay consistently refrigerated at 40ºF (4.4ºC).
Soft Fruits
o Fruits like bananas and berries can get bruised and bumped around in your picnic basket.
Melting Cheeses
o Cheddar and American cheeses don’t belong in the outdoors. Try to stick to Brie and Camembert, which are compatible with warm weather. Melting cheeses will become oily and dry.
Bottled Condiments
o Mayo, ketchup, and mustard shouldn’t come with you unless they are in individual packs. Bottled condiments can be very heavy, and they might spoil faster than you can use them. You can find individual condiment packets in most grocery stores, helping save your back and your stomach.

What to Eat on a Picnic


By now, we all know that we should drink lots of water every day. However, enjoying the outdoors and connecting with nature is the perfect opportunity to enjoy drinks that might be closer to your surroundings.

Infused Water
o You can plan ahead and prepare some fruit- or citrus-infused waters for your picnic. Fruit-infused waters allow you and your family to stay hydrated and provide an alternative to sugary drinks.
Iced Teas
o Teas hold up no matter where you are. Add fruit to your favorite tea, and watch your family light up.
Fruit Juices
o Individually packed juices are a great choice for children because they don’t require refrigeration, and they are lightweight and compact.
o It’s important to remember that many beaches, parks, and federal lands have restrictions on alcohol consumption. If a glass of red is part of your picnic plans, research your desired destination’s rules regarding alcoholic beverages and glass use. You may need to pack plastic cups or rebottle your alcohol to comply with state/federal laws.

What to Do

You’re in the outdoors. Now what? Try some of the following fun picnic activities.

Activities with the Family

o These are fun and light to carry. You can hold a hula-hoop contest that will have the whole family laughing.
o This old favorite is something that anyone can do. Frisbees are portable and light, and they can get everyone moving.
Kite Flying
o Building a kite is a breeze and is easy for the whole family. See your family’s smiles widen and their moods soar as their kite takes to the skies.
Flashlight Silhouettes
o If you are picnicking after dark, get the kids involved in a game of Guess that Shadow. All you need is a flashlight and a solid background.

Activities for Two

Star Gazing
o Gazing at the stars can be romantic and educational. If you never took an astronomy course, there’s no need to worry. You can now find apps that show you what constellation you are looking at when you point your phone at the sky. Really!
Beer/Wine Tasting
o Bring a couple of different beers or wines from around the world and enjoy your around-the-world tour.
Blindfolded Taste Test
o Have each person bring four or five culinary items packed separately. Pack a scarf or napkin, and enjoy the fun of watching your guests describe tastes and textures as they attempt to guess what they are eating.
Guess that Song
o Bring a battery-powered speaker and play your favorite music. Try to guess that tune or challenge each other to guess one another’s favorite song in high school. Even better, bring along some lightweight instruments and create your own music!
What Activities to do on a Picnic

Where to Go

There are so many destination options, from the beach and the mountains to your own back yard. The possibilities are truly endless. Why not try some of these locations next?

  • Beach (maybe with a bonfire!)
  • Lakeside
  • Park
  • Rooftop
  • Mountain top (a perfect place for star gazing)
  • In the snow (make sure to bring some hot chocolate)
  • Vineyard

There is more to warmer weather than barbecues and hanging out at the beach. Picnics offer affordable, fun ways to have an amazing time with your loved ones. In the end, isn’t spending time with friends and family what life is all about?

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