The only thing better than planning a picnic is being invited to one, but the most important thing is to know what to bring on a picnic. Last-minute picnics are the most fun. Best of all, remember that bad picnics do not exist. Ask any kid you know. Yes, even picnics in the rain can be romantic and memorable. Whether a picnic after a hike, at the beach, or on a sheet in your front yard, it’s a time for special treats and treasured company. Grab and go picnics are easy and simple. Here’s a list of things to consider bringing to a picnic.
Best Go-To List Of What To Bring For A Picnic
Quick What To Bring To A Picnic Checklist:
- Picnic basket
- Plates, cups, and utensils
- Umbrella (for shade)
- Meats: Deli slices, salami, pepperoni, chicken slices
- Cheese Slices: Swiss, cheddar, havarti, pepper jack
- Soft Cheese for spreading on crackers or bread: Brie, burrata, feta, cream cheese
- Veggies: carrots, tomatoes, snap peas, broccoli and cauliflower florets
- Fruit: Berries, sliced apples, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew
- Chips and/or crackers
- Dips and/or salsas
- Bread – Sliced to make sandwiches, french bread, baguettes
- Music/Bluetooth speaker to connect to your phone
- Sports equipment
You can pack a snack basket, a dessert only basket, or a gourmet dinner basket. What you bring to eat will depend on your personality and your time. Yogi Bear’s basket was full of simple sandwiches and Little Red just had bread and butter. We won’t judge you if your picnic basket has vending machine goodies and cans of pop.
Bring a bit of everything, or whatever is almost finished in your pantry. If you’re looking for something fancy, order from your favorite specialty shop or favorite restaurant. Trader Joe’s has great premade gourmet options like premium salads, European finger desserts, and delicious dips, and grab and go wraps.
Freezing water bottles the night before is clever to keep food cool, but they won’t be ready to drink for a few hours. If you’re bringing the kids, pack juice boxes or specialty drinks that are easily disposable. Pack clean ice for your drinks in a separate bag that will only be used to fill the cups. Sometimes bringing whatever you have on hand is perfect. It might be the special occasion picnic to open that Merlot you’ve been saving. Don’t forget the bottle opener. A nice jug of homemade strawberry lemonade is always a hit, especially if you add slices of berries. Remember to pack paper cups, reusable water bottles, or wine glasses.
3. Blanket/ Seating
After you have decided on your picnic location, think about what you will sit on and how many will attend. Any old blanket, top sheet (the bottom mattress sheet will not lie flat), or beach towel will get the job done. Add more fun to your atmosphere and bring a whimsical or character printed sheet rather than a white or bleach stained extra. Shop your local thrift store for an inexpensive, colorful quilt or gingham tablecloth. You can even find picnic pads, which are blankets with a waterproof outer layer to protect your blanket from moisture from the ground. These usually have straps that allow you to fold it up easily and carry it with the attached handles. Consider the weather, too. Along with compact folding chairs, bring a beach umbrella for shade. Bring extra throws or blankets to keep you warm if the weather changes.
4. Napkins/ Plates/ Paper Products
Bring the stack of mixed party napkins you have collected and have fun sharing memories or splurge on those extra fancy, white embossed dinner napkins. You will need something to eat on or with. Packing pretty paper plates will make the picnic pop and will level up the occasion. If it’s just fruit and finger snacks, then paper towels will suffice just fine.
Don’t forget forks, spoons, or knives for each course. Mix and match from your “extras” drawer. Discount stores have convenient variety boxes and dollar stores have a super selection of plastic flatware and service utensils.
6. Trash Bags/ Plastic Bags
Pack a few different sized bags to keep organized. Count the bags needed for trash, take home and for guests to use, too. Bringing a kitchen trash bag is useful but you want to keep things tidy with leftovers and avoid the mess of leaking lids.
7. Picnic Basket/ Cooler/ Hot & Cold Insulated Bag
The rule is you don’t need to own a traditional basket to have a picnic. If you don’t own a basket, don’t worry. You have lots of options. However, if you’re going to be outside in higher heat, then maybe a cooler is your best choice. Rolling coolers have more space and can serve as a tabletop or extra seat. You can bring insulated bags for both hot and cold foods. Insulated lunch bags work great for smaller picnics. An easier option is just to brown bag your meals. Kids will love their “brown bag surprise lunch” especially if you add a toy surprise inside. You can even make it a family affair and have everyone pack their own lunch with favorites.
8. Bug Spray/ Food Covers
If your picnic is outside, then expect curious, hungry pests. You will definitely lose your whipped cream topping if you’re busy waving the flies away. Covering your food on display is a smart way to keep things fresh and bug free.
9. Music/ Portable Bluetooth Speakers
Enhance your picnic with a favorite playlist or have the kids create their very own. You can also download their favorite audio books on a tablet. Portable speakers are everywhere and very affordable. Some coolers come with a charging port and have Bluetooth speakers. Music just makes it easy to create magical and memorable moments.
10. Wet Wipes
You may not have access to running water. Bringing baby wipes or travel sized disinfecting wipes will help save time and keep hands germ free.
11. Games/ Sports Equipment
Bringing easy games is just a good idea. Pack playing cards. Even adults get a kick out of playing Old Maid. Having a ball to kick around or field equipment will entice everyone to participate and start new family traditions.
Pro Tip: Bring a tablecloth even when you’re certain there is a seating area. You will want to cover the mess from birds and any yukky gunk left behind. Paper is sturdier than plastic. Paper tablecloths also add elegance to your setup and are not see through.
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Cindy is an OC native fond of PCH road trips to places like Santa Rosa or Carmel. She’s a mother of three spending her free time baking apple pies, cooking green enchiladas, and listening to 80s music. She’s a beach girl at heart and Cancun is her go to paradise.