How to Pack the Perfect Picnic

From over-the-top feasts to simple pick-ups, picnics are the perfect way to celebrate summer. Use our tips, secrets, and recipes to make yours memorable.

  • No-Risk Picnics

    No-Risk Picnics

    Follow simple safety tips when packing picnics to ensure that the only bugs around your picnics are the jealous mosquitoes. When planning your picnic, scan our 16-item checklist to make sure you've covered the basics of keeping food properly chilled, handling leftovers, and ensuring that your eating area and hands are clean. A good rule of thumb? Upon returning home, if the ice in the cooler has melted, the leftovers are likely no longer cool enough to be considered safe to eat.

  • On-the-Go Picnic

    On-the-Go Picnic

    For mid-trek meals, follow tips from Real Simple to lighten your knapsack's load with handheld food that doesn't need an ice pack.
    • Store water in a collapsible bottle–They're 80% lighter than the hard-plastic variety.
    • Pack crushable food (think chips) in zip-top bags filled with air to create a cushion and prevent crushing.
    • Pack double-duty items, like a sandwich sleeve that doubles as a place mat or napkin.
    Follow the Picnic Packing Checklist from to ensure you don't find yourself ready to eat, but lacking plates.

  • Portable Picnic Chicken

    Portable Picnic Chicken

    Skip the go-to PBJ and pack picnic fare that's guaranteed to please. Browse our 8 best chicken picks, made for on-the-go munching. Cold chicken is always tasty, but if you'd rather pack a sandwich, be cautious of dishes made with mayonnaise or other ingredients that may spoil in the heat. Go for vinegar-based salads and spreads, which keep well in the cooler and shave a few calories, too.

  • Summer Pasta Salads

    Summer Pasta Salads

    Depending on your tastes, and your crowd, pasta salads make a great side dish or main course for outdoor gatherings. Bring a large batch of one of our 12 delicious pasta salad recipes to the next neighborhood block party or casual park gathering. Keep salads cool by nestling serving bowls in store-bought bowl chillers or our homemade version–a larger serving bowl filled with ice.

  • A Day at the Beach

    A Day at the Beach

    Follow tips from Real Simple on how to pack enough for a day without overloading your basket.
    • Use multipurpose utensils to save space and reduce to risk of misplacing a utensil beneath the blanket.
    • Easier to manage than a cooler but less bulky than a classic wicker tote, insulated baskets keep food cool then collapse when they're empty.
    • Carry drinks in a handy tote. Packing drinks separately saves you space and lightens the load of the picnic basket.
    Be sure to check out our list of Must-Eat Bikini Body Foods to get in your best swimsuit shape.

  • Sweet Victory: Treats for Tailgating

    Sweet Victory: Treats for Tailgating

    Packing a picnic for a summer sporting event? Don't stop with the main dish; rally the troops in the last inning with portable treats that pack well and require no refrigeration. Cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and peanut brittle are all fun-to-make and easy-to-transport ideas. Check out our 10 best crowd pleasers.

  • Brown Bag Alternatives

    Brown Bag Alternatives

    If the occasion calls for sandwiches, break out of the everyday ham-cheese-spread mold and serve one of our 5 favorite gourmet-style stackers. From Peanut Butter-Banana Spirals to BLT Wraps, these stackers are anything but square.

  • Make a Night of It

    Make a Night of It

    Transform your picnic into an elegant affair by following tips from Real Simple .
    • Sittings is for sissies–Encourage lounging with weather-resistant pillows spread around the blanket.
    •Sip in style with shatterproof wine glasses that feature removable stems. Nothing says "upscale" like ditching the plastic cups.
    •Add mood lighting with a tealight lantern, or a pretty cintronella candle that casts a lovely glow while keeping the bugs away.
    Check out our collection of summer appetizers, perfect for a night on the lawn or an evening on the back porch.

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