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What you need to plan the perfect summer picnic

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a picnic in the park or right in your own backyard.

How to pack a perfect picnic

With long days, warm temperatures and no school, it’s the perfect opportunity to gather with friends and enjoy a picnic in the beautiful outdoors.

Food is probably what comes to mind first when planning a picnic, but it’s not necessarily the most important. You’ll remember the time you spent with your loved ones much more than what you ate. If you choose the perfect location, fun games and a simple seasonal menu, you’ll have everything you need for a memorable summer picnic.

Shop this article: Picnic Time Boardwalk Picnic BasketPicnic at Ascot Deluxe 4-Person Picnic Backpack Cooler and Klean Kanteen Classic 18-Ounce Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Picnic location

Whether you’re meeting at the nearest park or hiking to the coast, the location will determine the type of gear you need for a successful picnic. If your destination has picnic tables, you’ll want a tablecloth; if not, you’ll need enough sturdy picnic blankets to seat all your guests. Pack a few camping chairs for guests who have trouble sitting on the ground.

Keeping everyone safe is as important as having fun, especially on a hot summer day. Check the conditions of your location, and pack bug spray, a first-aid kit and plenty of sunscreen, even if you're staying in the shade. Have lots of water on hand to keep your guests hydrated.

Summer picnic menu

With so much fresh produce in season during the summer, your picnic menu can go beyond the usual pasta salad. A cheese plate is always a popular choice for a picnic, so accompany yours with fresh seasonal berries and cherry tomatoes. Alternatively, serve fried chicken along with a fresh corn salad. Hummus and pita, wrap sandwiches, fruit salad and caprese sandwiches also make simple yet tasty picnic fare.

Depending on where you’re going, you may prefer to transport your food in a picnic backpack over the classic basket. Picnic backpacks have comfy straps to help you go long distances, and they’re often insulated to keep your food at a safe temperature. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re bringing enough flatware, plates, cups and napkins for all your guests.

Summer sips

For some, it isn’t a summer picnic without iced tea or lemonade. Others may be looking forward to something stronger — just make sure it’s not against the rules to drink alcohol at your picnic location and consume it safely.

Elevate pitchers of lemonade or iced tea by dropping in berries, sliced peaches or plums and/or herbs, such as lavender, mint or basil. For a special treat, bring these ingredients in their own containers and let guests customize their drinks. Transport beverages in insulated vacuum bottles to keep them refreshingly cold.

Picnic entertainment

Make your picnic memorable by bringing some activities or asking your guests to share their favorite games. Pack a variety of portable card games and yard games, such as bocce ball, to play once everyone is done eating. If your guest list includes kids, pick a picnic location with a playground or a safe place to splash in the water. You can bring water toys or even a remote control boat for the kids to play with. Consider documenting your day together with an instant film camera.

Best picnic products

Top picnic baskets

Picnic Time Boardwalk Picnic Basket

This classic wicker picnic basket upgrades the traditional experience with a canvas exterior and full service for two. It comes with shatter-resistant plastic wine glasses, porcelain plates, flatware and even a corkscrew, all of which store neatly inside with hook-and-loop straps.

Sold by Amazon

Picnic Time Country Picnic Basket

This vintage-style basket has an oval shape and comes with a machine-washable fabric liner and a split wooden lid. It’s the perfect size for a picnic for two. The split lid forms a level surface on which to serve food. The fabric liner comes in three color choices.

Sold by Amazon

Picnic at Ascot Collapsible Picnic Basket Cooler

Keep your picnic food fresh in this insulated cooler shaped like a classic picnic basket. It folds flat and reassembles easily with its flexible, built-in side supports. It comes with service for four, including coordinating napkins.

Sold by Amazon and Macy’s

Top picnic backpacks

Picnic at Ascot Deluxe 4-Person Picnic Backpack Cooler

This stylish backpack cooler comes with everything you need for a picnic, including service for four, a cheese board and a fleece picnic blanket that straps to the side. The well-constructed canvas backpack contains stainless steel cutlery, acrylic wine glasses, melamine plates, napkins, napkin rings and more. Its zippered pockets can hold a large bottle as well as items like keys.

Sold by Amazon and Macy’s

Picnic Time Colorado Picnic Cooler Backpack

Sleek and surprisingly roomy, this backpack comes with a 20-can capacity and service for two. Its main compartment is fully insulated, while the front flap section holds plates, wine glasses, napkins, flatware for two, a corkscrew and salt and pepper shakers.

Sold by Amazon and Macy’s

Top water bottles

Iron Flask 64-Ounce Sports Water Bottle

Fill this stainless steel, vacuum-insulated water bottle with your favorite beverage to keep it cold for up to 24 hours. It comes with three different lids, so you can sip all day or easily pour out servings for your guests. Additionally, this extra-large bottle comes in 12 colors.

Sold by Amazon

Klean Kanteen Classic 18-Ounce Stainless Steel Water Bottle

This durable water bottle features a spill-proof sport cap and a wide mouth to accommodate ice cubes. It’s not insulated, but its 18/8 stainless steel is lightweight and keeps water tasting fresh.

Sold by Amazon

Top picnic blankets

Oniva Outdoor Blanket

For easier portability, this blanket folds up into a tote with a carry strap. It’s made from polyester fleece with water-resistant backing, and it measures 80 inches by 70 inches. It comes in six outdoorsy plaid and stripe patterns.

Sold by Amazon

Kelty Bestie Blanket

For a perfect summer day with a friend or partner, this soft, synthetic down-filled blanket provides a cute and comfortable place to sit. It measures 76 inches by 42 inches and features a slip-resistant backing.

Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon

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Laura Duerr writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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