The Essential Summer Picnic Checklist

By Rachel Castro /

We’ve all seen picnics in the movies. The revelers frolic on picturesque rolling plains, clink their wine glasses, jump into the local watering hole for a swim, and still manage to leave the scene in clean, unwrinkled garments. Is this real life?

Image: Kim Vargo, Yellow Brick Home


Dining outdoors is a lot of fun — except when it’s not. Picnics can be absolutely delightful … or positively horrible. Your picnic may never achieve cinematic perfection, but it can be a memorable, highly enjoyable event.

Let’s face it: The impromptu picnic is a domestic myth. The difference is planning.

We’ve gleaned the best tricks and tips from expert outdoor foodies to create this essential checklist.

Choose a Location.

When choosing your picnic location, be sure to visit beforehand if possible and scope out the lay of the land. Is there access to fresh water for drinking and cleaning? Restroom facilities? Shelter if the weather turns? Electrical inputs? Can you spy the perfect tree under which to spread your fabulous feast?

Image: Kim Vargo, Yellow Brick Home

Depending on the accommodations, you’ll want to consider bringing the following items:

Keep picnics simple!

A loaf of rustic bread along with a variety of cheeses, sausages, olives, and sweet and savory spreads can make quite a meal. It’s time to raid your larder. Grab that jar of strawberry preserves you snagged at the farmers market, and lather it on fresh bread with a soft, creamy cheese. Store cheeses and other perishables in the cooler, and keep unopened jars, breads and other nonperishables in the basket or hamper.


Image: Bree Hester, Baked Bree


For a more filling feast, pair your goodies with a slow cooker filled with chili, stew or baked beans. If summer’s in full swing, make a big batch of gazpacho or another chilled soup, and store it in a large thermos — you can even serve it in paper cups! If you won’t be dining right away, freeze a bit of the broth in ice trays to keep the soup cold longer. Slice fresh avocado on the spot for garnish. Don’t forget to bring a watermelon or two. This fruit is perfect for outdoor consumption and will help keep everyone well hydrated.

Don’t forsake safety.

Many outdoor soirees are spoiled by minor injuries, such as burns or cuts that can be treated if you have a simple kit with the following items:


Bring enough hats to help keep everyone cool. Spare socks are handy as well — wet ones can really spoil the fun. And, speaking of fun, try to focus in on a theme or two. Don’t load the car with every recreational item you own, but plan for a few activities and pack accordingly. Involve the whole group in deciding. Frisbee, kiting, soccer and volleyball make great outdoor activities. Chess and card games are nice in the shade.


Images: Eden Passante, Sugar and Charm

Appoint an official photographer or two so you can relive your fun later and share memories with friends and family. Make sure you get a few shots of the picnic table before the action sets in.

Image: © Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2016

Most importantly, have fun and don’t stress. Happy picnicking!

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