Spring is here and summer is nearly upon us, which means picnic season is in full swing. And actually, right now is an ideal time to picnic, before the weather is too hot and bugs are out in full force. To make your picnic a great experience, here are some helpful picnic ideas:

1. Keep the Food Simple.

Picnic Ideas- How to Plan the Perfect Picnic - Keep the Food Simple

A picnic is all about the environment and the experience of eating outside, so there’s no need to go crazy with fancy food prep unless you want to. You can enjoy the scenery and fresh air as well while eating a salad or sandwiches as you could while eating caviar.

2. Keep Cold Food Cold.

How to Plan the Perfect Picnic - Keep Cold Food Cold

Picnics tend to happen in warm weather, so make sure that you bring enough ice packs and coolers to keep your food at safe temperatures. This is especially important for items like lunch meat or potato salad, which tend to go bad quickly at warm temperatures.

If you’re going to be at your picnic spot for a while before or after your meal, put your cooler in a shady spot rather than in your car, as the shade will help your cooler remain cold longer.

3. Remember Plates, Silverware, and Napkins.

Picnic Ideas- How to Plan the Perfect Picnic - Remember Plates, Silverware, and Napkins

This seems obvious, I know, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve forgotten to bring silverware. So be smarter than me and remember to pack utensils! If you want to make your picnic a little more luxurious-feeling (and greener to boot), bring reusable plates and silverware.

We bought some plastic dishes from Goodwill for picnics and we just throw them in a bag whenever we’re heading out to eat all fresco. And we bring regular silverware from our kitchen. Another idea: pack sandwiches in containers that can double as plates. For instance, a sandwich can be packed in a square Rubbermaid container, and then the lid can serve as a plate.

4. Consider Seating.

If your picnic spot has benches and tables, you’re good to go. But if not, bring a large blanket and/or lawn chairs so you’ve got a comfy place to eat and enjoy the outdoors.

how to plan the perfect picnic

5. Bring Some Just-in-Case Items.

Picnic Ideas- How to Plan the Perfect Picnic - Bring Some just In Case Items

You don’t need to bring something for every possible situation, but here are a few helpful extras:

  • A washcloth for sticky messes napkins can’t handle
  • Extra water for rinsing hands and washing small sticky faces
  • Bug repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Band-aids

6. Pack Bags/Containers for Leftovers.

Picnic Ideas- How to Plan the Perfect Picnic - Bring Some just In Case Items - Pack Bags/Containers for Leftovers

You’ll probably have at least a little bit of food leftover, so make sure you have proper food storage containers for taking items home. (You won’t want to put leftover grilled hamburgers in the same bag that held the raw hamburgers, for instance.)

Chip clips for bags are helpful, and bring a container you don’t mind getting dirty if you’re bringing home used flatware and serving utensils.

5. Think Outside the “Lunch” Box.

Most picnics do happen at lunchtime, but there’s no reason to limit outdoor eating to the noon meal! During the heat of the summer, my kids and I sometimes have a breakfast picnic (baked oatmeal, muffins, yogurt, and fruit are all good portable breakfast foods.)

Picnic Ideas: How to Plan the Perfect Picnic

Another good strategy for hot days is to have a late evening dessert picnic. Head out late in the day when the weather is cooler but it’s still light out and have some wine (or sparkling juice) and a dessert.

Fall and winter will be here again before we know it, so get out there and take advantage of the warmth while you can!

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Picnic Ideas- How to Plan the Perfect Picnic