How to Plan a Perfect Picnic—Anywhere

Take these picnic tips with you on your next summer adventure.

Picnic Spot: The Beach

Base Layer

Picnic on something that resists sand better than a wet towel, such as a woven mat, slick-backed blanket, plastic tablecloth or fitted bed sheet (tuck beach bags and coolers into each corner to form a sand-blocking rim). Some beach blankets have built-in sand pockets designed to weigh the blanket down—a convenient option for windy days.

Go Grain-Free

Pack baby powder and a few hand towels for essential pre-meal sand removal. Shake the powder onto wet, sandy limbs, then brush with a dry towel.

Whole Approach

Bring along whole (versus cut-up) fruit. One person munching on an apple, banana or pear, for example, works better than lots of beachy hands digging into a communal bowl of melon or pineapple chunks.

Picnic Spot: The Pool

Go Solo

Pack meals in individual lunch bags or boxes, or just divvy food into single servings, allowing picnickers to easily grab and eat whenever they please on their own chairs or towels. Skewers work great for creating single-serve portions of diced fruits and veggies.

Stay Cool

If you’re serious about keeping your frozen treats cold on a hot summer day, tote along a small cooler stocked with dry ice. It’s relatively inexpensive, is often available at local groceries and home superstores, and will keep popsicles frozen solid, even poolside. (Of course, handling the cooler is adults-only.)

Cool Off

Layer a bunch of wet washcloths in a zip-top baggie and stash them in the cooler. Use the chilly cloths for heat relief, to wipe off ice cream-covered hands—or both!

Picnic Spot: The Hiking Trail

Pack Smart

When loading up individual day packs, add quick, energy-building snacks last, or stash them in a separate, easily accessible pocket. Some good options include jerky, nuts, dried fruit and energy bars, though take care with the chocolate variety if the weather’s warm.

Lighten Up

The lighter the pack, the easier the hike. Streamline by repackaging or storing foods in plastic baggies. Use a straw to inflate bags holding chips and other crushable items to give them a little cushion.

Chill Out

If you’re bringing food that should stay cold, freeze water bottles (plastic or the collapsible, reusable type) to use as ice packs. After they’ve done their job, you’ll have cool water to drink (and no ice packs weighing you down).

Picnic Spot: A Music Fest

Plan Ahead

Hydrating throughout the day is key, especially if it’s hot out. Get more bang for each swig with coconut water or regular water enhanced with electrolyte tablets, available at running or natural foods stores.

Make Shade

Stash your sunscreen in a bag in the cooler. Not only will it feel good going on, its active ingredients won’t break down in the heat. Also, consider bringing lotion versus spray, which a breeze can too easily sprinkle all over your food.

Picnic Responsibly

Stock your cooler with ice packs instead of ice so you don’t leave a puddle behind in the grass. And don’t forget two empty bags—one for garbage and one for recycling.