9 Ways to Upgrade Your Picnic

June 18th is International Picnic Day. Celebrate in style with these simple tips for adding classy comfort to your next outdoor meal.

Combine all the perks of a picnic—fresh air, blue sky and plenty of room for pre-dinner cartwheel contests—with a few little luxuries from home. A couple choice touches can nudge your meal into memorable party territory. Steal some of our favorite ideas and start packing that basket.

1. Lay good groundwork.

Start with a cozy blanket or pretty tablecloth, depending on your dining situation. Picnic-specific blankets are great, as they generally zip into themselves for easy transport and feature a water-resistant backing, which protects against dew, dirt and insects. Consider tossing in some pillows and extra blankets.

2. Set the ambience.

For the most part, nature’s got this covered—that’s one of the chief beauties of the picnic, after all. But a few thoughtful details can certainly contribute to your already stellar setting. Think picnic tunes, battery-powered candles or lanterns, bottles of bubbles or a jarful of fresh flowers.

3. Skip disposables.

Cloth napkins and “real” dishes, cups and utensils feel special in a situation where throwaways are expected. (Of course, they’re also more eco-friendly.) Pre-wet washcloths, transported in a snap-top container, help with post-dinner washups too.

4. Pick a dining theme.

A theme provides planning focus and makes the meal feel special. It’s extremely potluck-friendly too. A few to consider: breakfast (including muffins, yogurt parfaits and a thermos of coffee), a French countryside picnic (complete with fruit, cheese and croissants), build-your-own wrap, a fancy finger-food buffet or desserts only.

5. Start with an appetizer.

Choose something easy and elegant, like sliced raw vegetables and dip or an array of cheeses, cured meats and dried fruit. Just like dining out in a restaurant, pre-meal conversation and nibbling sets a nice, leisurely pace.

6. Bring a signature drink.

For a pretty effect, fill a clear glass bottle (with a leakproof stopper, of course) with lemonade and ginger simple syrup or bruised basil, or add fresh mint to home-brewed iced tea. For extra cushioning during transport, pack the bottle in a wine carrier or wrap it in a fluffy towel and tote in a backpack. You could also pack a small carton of peach, pomegranate or another favorite juice for spiking sparkling water or wine. Add tiny umbrellas and pretty straws for extra fanciness.

7. Upgrade your entrée.

Instead of heading straight for traditional picnic standbys, spend a little time considering out-of-the-box picnic food. A big bowl of chilled shrimp or savory prebaked hand pies, for example, are easy and picnic-friendly. You can always integrate takeout from your favorite restaurant, too, whether in a starring role or just to round things out.

8. Consider presentation.

Layer salads or fruit parfaits into single-serve glass canning jars. Skewer veggie chunks and serve with individual cups of dipping sauce. Wrap sandwiches in parchment paper and tie with colorful baker’s twine. (Bonus: The paper can then serve as a plate.) Prettier and easier to eat? Win-win!

9. Remember the little things.

Imagine the picnic unfolding and brainstorm additional items that will make it more comfortable. Some great ideas include clips or weights to keep the tablecloth or blanket in place, extra napkins, a knife and cutting board, salt and pepper, a bottle opener, sunscreen and bug repellent.