Planning a picnic takes a little bit of effort—but the fun of eating outdoors makes it all worthwhile. From putting together a meal that can travel to serving it outside with ease, follow these tips and tricks to pack a better picnic. Plus: the only picnic checklist you'll ever need!

Family Picnic

Plan Your Picnic Menu
Think beyond sandwiches and chips! Pasta and potato salads, chicken, tortilla wraps, and hearty veggies with dips all hold up well. Start with our collection of the best picnic recipes, from portable BLT pockets to peanut-coated drumsticks. And don’t forget dessert!

Watch the Weather
If it’s windy, consider using bowls instead of plates, and think about what objects (shoes, full water bottles) you can use to keep blankets or towels from billowing.

Guard Against Pests
Always have insect repellent on hand, and keep all food containers sealed until you're ready to serve.

Stay Hydrated
Yes, picnic lemonade is delicious, but don't forget to pack water, too. Plan to bring several bottles per person, along with other beverages. For easy carrying, look for collapsible bottles that lay flat once they’re empty.

Pack for Transport  
Hot and cold liquids belong in thermoses. Messy foods should go into tightly sealed plastic containers. Dry items, like potato chips, travel well in plastic bags.

Know How to Pack a Cooler
Place large, heavy items in the bottom and smaller, lighter ones on top. Ice packs between containers stop them from moving and keep contents fresh.

Be a Picnic Food-Safety Expert
Don’t risk spoiling food: As a rule of thumb, once the ice in the cooler is melted, the food has likely reached an unsafe temperature and it’s time to toss it.

 

The Ultimate Picnic Checklist
Bring these essentials along and you’ll be prepared for anything.

  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Insect repellent
  • Small knife (wrap a paper towel or cloth napkin around the blade and tie)
  • Napkins (paper or cloth)
  • Wet wipes or moistened paper towels (in a plastic bag) for cleaning dirty or sticky hands
  • Cups
  • Plates
  • Forks and knives
  • Extra plastic bags (for collecting and disposing trash)
  • Beach umbrella, if you’d like to keep your food in the shade
  • Blanket or extra-large beach towels
  • Corkscrew or bottle opener (if wine or beer are allowed where you’re picnicking)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Any condiments the group might need
  • Picnic basket, bag or other carrier