9 Must-Have Items for the Perfect Picnic

9 Must-Have Items for the Perfect Picnic

We have the essential list for everything you need to enjoy food and fun outside.

By Heather Chaet

When it comes down to it, nothing says “Hello, warm weather!” like a good, old-fashioned picnic. But when toting food to the park or the beach, you have to be sure you are toting all of the stuff you need. Here, the essential checklist of must-have items (some obvious, some not so much) for a perfect picnic.

1. A blanket. You may think, “Well, of course we need something to sit on,” but often, it’s the one thing that’s forgotten. The best kind of blanket has a waterproof side, which helps protect your backsides from any damp spots on the ground. What else can be used to provide some comfy areas to sit if you don’t have a proper picnic blanket? Think beach towels, a sleeping bag, or an outdoor tablecloth.

2. Easy food. All of us know to avoid bringing anything with mayonnaise or other food that can spoil in the heat, but there are other considerations when packing that picnic basket. Try to keep your menu to finger foods (so you don’t need utensils) and simple, light fare. Watermelon and other fruit, chips and salsa, and baby carrots and veggies are all great picnic munchies.

If you want heartier food ideas, wraps and crunchy breads with dips can be quite filling without creating a big mess (which always attracts creepy crawlies). And for dessert? Avoid anything that can melt (right, that means chocolate and ice cream are a no-go). Instead, whip up a batch of lemon squares or cookies that can be easily toted.

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3. Hand wipes, napkins, and paper towels. Another oft-forgotten necessity: what you need to mop up spills and de-stickify those little hands. Also in that paper product group? Toilet paper. You never know if the public restrooms are stocked!

4. Water. Being out in the sun means you need to stay hydrated. Though sodas and lemonade are tasty, nothing is as important as basic water to keep your bodies running on all cylinders. Bonus picnic hint: Put some water bottles in the freezer and partially freeze them before heading out. This will keep them nice and cool for longer.

5. Trash bags. Again, this is an item you may remember after you are already en route to your destination. Cleaning up is not only good for the environment, but also teaches your kiddos how to not be litterbugs. Stash a few trash bags in your trunk to always have on hand for your summer excursions.


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6. Something to weigh down flyaway items. Instead of having to hunt around for a rock to use in case it gets windy, bring something from home to place on the edges of the blanket, as well as on stacks of paper goods. For instance, dig into that toy chest and gather four or five blocks or just nab a few books from the shelf. Trust me, you’ll be so thankful when you don’t have to chase those napkins down the beach.

7. Sunscreen and bug spray. Though you may all get slathered up at home before you leave, reapplying sunscreen, especially if the kiddos have been in the water, is the key to preventing a sunburn. With tick and mosquito season upon us, having bug spray handy will keep everyone safe from bites. Even with the use of bug spray, be sure to check your family for ticks and other bites when they get home.

8. A sweatshirt or a change of clothes. If you plan on being out for most of the day, the temperature may drop at some point. Right, no one has fun while shivering. Tossing an extra sweater or windbreaker in your bag is an easy way to avoid having a chilly kiddo. Same goes for a change of clothes, especially if you are having a beach picnic and have to deal with wet or sandy swimsuits.

9. Some portable fun. Being outside and running around should be enough to avoid the “I’m bored!” whines, but just in case, bringing along some balls for a game of catch or a deck of cards for a few rounds of “Go Fish!” is a good idea. Also, when the yellows and pinks of the sunset or that interesting-looking tree provide some artistic inspiration, having the kids draw what they see is a cool way to spend the end of picnic time, so consider having a sketchpad and pencils or crayons on hand.

What are must-haves for your picnic?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/Squaredpixels

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